Did you attend school for an audio-related degree? If so, what school and degree?
School: Columbia College Chicago
Degree: B.A. Audio for Visual Media
What inspired you to work with sound?
It’s really hard for me to narrow this down to one thing. I was always into watching the “behind the scenes” content on DVDs and videogames. For some reason a Halo video showing the foley team making footsteps with melons sticks out in my mind at the moment. It was videos like this that helped me come to the realization that so much sound in film and games is created. Of course this is obvious to people in this field, but I never used to think about things like that. People hear the Star Wars Blaster Rifle and don’t think twice about it. To the general viewer, that’s just what a Blaster Rifle sounds like. The power sound has over an audience continually amazes me.
How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
20. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in this field until I attended Columbia’s open house. Meeting people who made a living making funny sounds was both fascinating and a huge relief for me (and my parents!)
Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
School was definitely the first step for me. The fundamental concepts I learned in school continue to help in learning new software/techniques/etc.
What is your specialty/preference of the sound fields (sound design, music, recording, audio programming, implementation, etc)? What do you like most about it?
Sound Design! There’s something about creating personalized sounds that will (hopefully) be perceived as reality that keeps me coming back for more. I also love just messing with sounds in general. I’m always looking for new programs/plugins/sound libraries to break.
What sound tools did you learn in your school curriculum?
When it comes to audio, Columbia works with Pro Tools. However, the focus was really on understanding core concepts and techniques of audio post production. The knowledge we gained translates into just about any piece of audio software out there.
What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
Our projects covered many different aspects of audio post production: Dialog Editing, Foley, ADR, Sound Design, Mixing, etc. Most were short films from students in the film department. That was the coolest part about Columbia; working with a team on a “real” film. For all intents and purposes it was just like having a paid job outside of school. Working on another students film provided a personal sense of accountability for the project, rather than just a grade.
Were your teachers audio professionals? Anybody the audience would know?
A few of my teachers were working audio professionals. People might not know their names, but most likely have heard their work. The names that stick out:
Michael Coyle was one of my first teachers. He runs his own division at the Chicago Recording Company. If you watch TV, you’ve heard his commercial work. He is the master of all key commands, and will turn you into one too.
Cory Coken taught a couple of my classes. Cory has worked on just about everything under the sun, or at least it seems that way to me. Some highlights: Apollo 13, Hoop Dreams, Home Alone, Star Wars: Old Republic, and the London 2012 Olympics.
Did you do any side projects during school? If so, what were they like?
I worked on a couple of my own game audio mods. The biggest being Project Portal, my mod for Valve’s ‘Portal’. It ended up being a lot more work than I expected, but was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had. There’s nothing like hearing your own sounds becoming a living part of an interactive experience like Portal.
Other than that most of my “side” projects were at my internship at NoiseFloor. I was lucky enough to work on a number of commercials and short films. It was great to work on projects that were really out there in the real world.
How many of your side projects were published? Any of them turn profitable?
All of the projects I worked on at NoiseFloor were published. What was profitable for me was being able to tell my mom, “Hey, I worked on that commercial!”
How large was your graduating class? Were you all close?
Oh that’s a tough one. I’d have to say around 20 in my specific concentration. We all got pretty close by my last semester. Which is shocking to me seeing how much of a quiet guy I was to start at Columbia.
How often do you work with your old classmates today?
I’ve worked with a lot of them fairly often as many come to intern/freelance at NoiseFloor!
Any old classmates you want to mention? The more the merrier with the audio community!
Lance Ferrell – brews his beer while he works.
Evelyn Arteaga – is currently working on 486 projects.
Katie Waters – is the foley master!
Kelsey Lynch – knows ALL of the Pro Tools bugs.
Drew Webster – has way more plugins than you.
Kendall Williamson – knows a thing or two about keyboards
Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
A thousand times, yes. I think a huge part of going to school for a career like this is networking and learning how to work with other creatives. Columbia gave me just that.
Do you have a website for your portfolio? How often do you blog on it?
I do! Allow me to shamelessly plug www.stosht.com. I usually post around once a month blabbering about stuff I’m working on. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to talk about much lately. Darn contracts!
Do you use social networking? How often, and what communities?
I use Facebook a lot. I eventually gave in to Twitter (happy I did). Does anyone still care about Google Plus… plus…. plus….. plus……? That was an echo!
Any last words for future audio people looking to carve their education and career paths?
Prospective Students – Don’t get suckered in by anyone telling you that you “need” a particular OS or piece of software. Do some research to figure out what works for you.
Current Students – Almost every method taught in school comes from an instructors personal experience. It’s great to learn the way someone works, but don’t think that’s the only technique out there. Again, figure out what works for you.
Graduates – I’m still ironing out the details on this one!
About Sonic Backgrounds
The sound industry is an ever growing field, ranging from linear sound design in film and TV, to interactive audio in games, and from live theatrical sound design to field recording for the creation of custom libraries. It is only recently however, that school programs have begun to offer degrees in the sound-specific variety. Graduates of these new programs are now coming into the industry, and it provokes the interesting question of how these new, specific programs are preparing individuals for the sound world, as opposed to the older approaches of entry, such as pure passion, musical talent, a film degree, or a computer science degree.
“Sonic Backgrounds” is an interview series focused on interviewing recent graduates of these educational sound programs around the globe, to see what exactly they are providing, and how they are shaping the new “academic”-based sound artist.