Last month, it was our pleasure to be part of WAMCon Los Angeles: Sound for Picture. The conference serves women (cis-gender and trans, as well as non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals) who are interested in the recording arts and particularly the field of sound for picture. It was incredibly flattering to be a part of this sold-out event with talented men and women from Disney, Warner Bros, Skywalker Sound, and Dolby.
A Little about Women’s audio mission
If you don’t already know, Women’s Audio Mission (WAM) is a non-profit organization based out of San Francisco/Oakland which offers a working recording studio operated by women as well as multiple training programs, classes, and a kick-ass internship program. They offer a safe and comfortable space for women to learn the craft of audio, and actively work to place those newly trained women. Although it remains that the field of audio engineering is only five percent women, WAM has been doing their best to single-handedly tick that number upward by placing over 700 women into paid audio positions across the U.S.
A Little About Boom Box Post
Here at Boom Box Post, from the very beginning, Jeff and I have set out to create a studio which nurtures and embraces men, women, and gender non-conforming individuals equally. We are proud to always strive to have a creative team that is 50/50 women and men, something almost unheard of in the audio world. Right now we just happen to be skewed more toward 60/40 women to men, but that balance is always shifting since we focus on keeping our interview pool balanced and then always choose the best candidate, regardless of any other factors.
We’ve all heard the old adage: be the change you want to see in the world. Jeff and I take this responsibility extremely seriously. We may only be one small studio in Burbank, CA, but we are doing our best to aid in the visibility of women as smart, capable, and creative audio professionals. We sleep well at night knowing that we are giving opportunities to deserving individuals and we’re doing it in an environment of respect and appreciation.
So you can see that taking part of WAMCon was a natural extension of our company ethos. We could not be more proud that they asked us to be part of it.
Sound Design Demo & Discussion by Boom Box Post
We participated by leading a sound design demo and discussion on the first evening of the conference. Katie Maynard (sound effects editor on DuckTales, Hot Streets, and more) and I presented together, and we had an amazing time!
We started by a brief discussion about what exactly sound design is (I mean, there are SO many different definitions implied by the way this term is thrown around). Then, we talked about all of the different post-production jobs/roles that go into creating sound design for an animated television series. Once the audience had the roles down, we gave an overview of the post-production sound process from top to bottom.
After that, we were all on the same page about sound design as a career and the audience was ready to get into the nitty gritty of the creative process! Katie and I each broke down a real clip from one of our series and talked about all of the different parts that make up the full sound design package. We ended by engaging the audience in a Q&A.
That’s the overview, but here are some pictures from the event that further break down our presentation. We wish you had all been able to attend. But, since that wasn’t possible, here’s the the e-version!
To get everyone on the same page, we started by defining what exactly sound design is. It seems like nearly everyone uses the term to mean something slightly different. We found this standard definition on Wikipedia and although it’s a bit complicated, it does seem to cover all the bases.
Then, I tried to answer the question we get all of the time from friends, family, and sometimes even clients, “But where do you get the sounds?!?!” The answer: our sound effects library, synthesis, and field recordings. Often, it’s a mixture of several or all of these resources which are then layered together which create the most inventive sound design. Sound design is more than just paint-by-numbers editorial using a library. Instead, it’s about storing your life’s experiences as sonic memories, recalling them as needed, and then breaking those memories down into searchable elements you can use to design with. That’s a high level concept, so Katie and I used clips of two different shows to demonstrate.
Katie walked the audience through everything that went into a specific clip from Disney’s DuckTales, from the dialogue editorial, foley, backgrounds and ambiences, to transitional elements and major sound effects design moments.
She played the same short clip over and over and soloed different layers to not only show all of the jobs that were performed, but then talked about how each editor went about his/her job.
This DuckTales clip was an epic example of how hours and hours of work from multiple people can go into one tiny scene of a television series.
Then, I presented a clip from Disney’s Penn Zero: Part-time Hero. Where Katie showed all of the different jobs performed in a scene, I dove super deep into the exact thought process in designing some very specific sound effects moments.
My Penn Zero clip involved a scenario where a portal opened to another dimension, and then the characters had to spin a sci-fi top which could close the portal with a super-powered electrical forcefield. None of those things exist in the real world! So this was an absolute from-scratch sound design playground. I talked about layering textures as well as frequencies to make your mixer happy, and tapping into your sonic memories to help brainstorm library search terms like you would use a thesaurus.
Then, we opened it up for an audience Q&A. We loved the huge variety of questions and could have easily stayed much longer talking about our passion for sound design and hearing from aspiring and seasoned professionals alike in the audience. You are all an inspiration to us!
And finally, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a shot of all of our Boom Box Post team members who attended the conference. From left to right, Carol Ma (foley editor), Katie Maynard (sound effects editor), BriElle Achterhoff (sound effects editor), Sam Busekrus (assistant editor and office manager), and myself (co-owner, supervising sound editor, re-recording mixer). We all had a blast!