We have sound editors coming in to test for us on a regular basis. The single most common difference between an editor who has worked largely alone versus one that has worked within a sound team is the lack of knowledge when it comes to the basics. There are three concepts I consider essential that I ask edit testers about right off the bat: Perspective Cutting, Stair Stepping, Color Coding. I can learn a lot about their familiarity with these concepts based on their response. Even a slight hesitance to answer is a dead giveaway; you’ve only worked alone and without much direction.
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I've been in the industry long enough to notice some trends among successful sound editors. Those that stick around and do well for themselves, ensuring the longer term show placements, share a handful of characteristics. Here are some traits I've found have served all of us well here at Boom Box Post.
We recently said goodbye to another class of interns here at Boom Box Post and the timing seems right to bring up a theme we get from a lot of the talent that complete our program. They want to know how to avoid getting fired when beginning their careers. While this is in fact a very smart question to ask, I thought I’d spin things in a more positive light and collect some ideas not simply avoiding termination but truly impressing on the job.
Working in post audio has been an excuse to purchase all kinds of audio toys. As one of my good friends once observed, I seem to suffer from G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I've spent years building up an arsenal of tools to add to my creative routine, pining over the latest and greatest software, synthesizer or control interface. That said, as I grow older and more patient, I have narrowed my focus.
Which brings me to the Avid Artist Control. It had been a while since I invested in something new and frankly, I was feeling some gear-based FOMO. So I researched like crazy (a big part of the fun for me) and decided to go for it. As it turns out, this little piece of gear packs a huge punch in my day to day workflow. Here's how I've customized this beauty to utilize it's very deep skill set.
In the world of freelance sound design, it's likely you will be hired to do a job remotely. The internet allows us to share our talents on all kinds of projects without ever meeting face to face. The advantage here is a vast network of sound professionals that can very easily utilize your services. Here’s the downside; short of a few email exchanges, you are communicating skill and professionalism entirely through your completed work.
On the most basic level, a lot can be said by how your sessions are laid out. Experienced editors know that following a few basic steps to ensure compatibility and expediency down the line proves not only helpful, but a very succinct way of showing you know what you’re doing. Expanding on a previous post I wrote about "thinking downstream," (i.e. thinking beyond yourself to each subsequent step in the post audio workflow) here a few basics tenets of smart sound editorial layout which will scream THIS IS THE WORK OF A PROFESSIONAL and help set you apart from the pack.
The entertainment industry is hard. There are precious few jobs and far too many applicants to be a viable career option. Yet the crowds keep arriving. Hopeful applicants with a dream of making a life for themselves in the entertainment industry. I was one of them. I moved from Detroit to Los Angeles in a fifteen foot truck (which my wife and I accidentally set on fire in the hills of Colorado, but that’s another story). Waiting for me was an unpaid internship at a music video and commercial production company. Nothing even close to what I was looking for career-wise, but who cared? I was on my way! Wrong. Like anything in life, a successful career path takes forethought, careful planning and execution. Here are my five tips for putting yourself on the right path.
Film is a collaborative medium. We all know this. However, when it comes down to the day to day grind of sound editorial it's very easy to get caught up in the time crunch or creative rabbit holes, ignoring where the work is heading; the mix stage. This is a major mistake. As a sound supervisor, I value collaboration just as much as I do the creative output of my team. And there's a lot that can be done every step of the way to support collaboration in the post sound world. That's why I preach one simple philosophy; think like a mixer.
Unlike in the past, degrees in audio engineering are now quite common, and many universities have added bachelor's as well as master’s degree programs for the specific professional niche of sound design. However, while these programs may teach the latest software and philosophize masterfully about the effects of sound on the human subconscious, surprisingly few degree tracks include the necessary knowledge of how to acquire actual work upon graduation.
In order to best understand the business of getting a job in sound design, you must first understand the types of employment available to you. Although these opportunities may be divided into two categories for tax purposes (independent contractor vs employee), I would like to further divide them into three in order to make important distinctions in business responsibilities in addition to the financial ones.
I've been proselytizing about the wonders of working with an iPad in my sound design career for years. More than just an excuse to get a new Apple product every few years (which admittedly it is), my creativite output and productivity have increased 10 fold with this device. As a tool in the studio, an iPad isn't necessarily cheap, but thes apps all clock in under $30. Compared to stand alone soft synths and plugins, all of these are a steal. Here are my favorite apps and some ways I like to utilize them.
I often find myself creating custom effects as well as discovering hidden gems deep within my library. Sometimes I will go to look for a specific sound and stumble upon an awesome sound which is so randomly labeled, I know I will never be able to find it again. Now maybe you have a photographic memory or an astounding talent for remembering trivial file names. If so, this post probably isn’t for you. But if you’re like me, and memory just isn’t what it used to be, here’s a bit of advice on how I handle labeling my library.
I was recently asked to give a guest lecture on sound design. This caused me to ask myself: if I could impart just a few kernels of advice about our world of sound design, what would I say? After much consideration, I realized that the whole process boiled down to one key moment: the sound spotting session.
Whenever a new pilot, episode, or series comes in, the first thing that I do is meet with the creator, director, and/or executive producer to "spot" the material. This means that we watch it together and discuss what they would like the sound to be both generally and at specific moments.
After being at the helm of these spotting sessions for ten years, I can honestly say that the spot is the moment which decides whether the project will culminate in a final product that surprises and delights or ultimately disappoints.