As sound editors, speaking about sound design with clients requires a kind of foreign language. I often find myself making silly noises in an effort to either interpret what a client is looking for or to pitch an idea of my own. There’s a shorthand however, that both editor and filmmaker are aware of. An entire language has been laid out for us in the incredible work of sound designers past. I’m talking about films that are ‘in the canon’ for having memorable sound design moments.
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If you’re a creative working professional, it’s likely you don’t have time for your work-life to be a mess. Co-owning a sound design company, Boom Box Post, I quickly realized that simply skating by with a handful of half baked systems was not going to cut it. I needed help to be sure important threads both creatively and professionally did not get lost. Phone calls to return, projects to review, notes to give, even remembering to stand up (of course there’s an app for that). There's a lot to keep track of and a lot that can get lost.
A quick search in the Mac App Store for ‘productivity’ currently shows 158 results. There are a TON of tools out there to help you try and organize your life. Here are a few tools for Mac, iPhone and iPad with my thoughts on how I’ve used them to make my work life run smoother; leaving more time to focus on the creative.
When we hit the studio or the field to record sound effects, we want to leave with the best material possible. Not only do we want recordings that enhance our current project, we want additional material that we can use to build our libraries. We want to optimize our time to create the best possible ratio of useable recordings to useless takes. We want to take our material back into the studio, throw it into the DAW, hit play and say “Wow! That whoopee cushion sounds incredible!”
In our BBP blog, we spend a lot of time talking about how to make cool sounds and when to cut those sounds. But, there's one key element to artful sound design that we don't often talk about: when not to cut any sound. I'm not talking about utter silence. I'm talking about choosing which moments you highlight with sound and which you allow the picture alone to carry. And how do you decide? This question is often one of the biggest issues that new and seasoned editors alike have and one that gets surprisingly little attention.
The first piece of advice I give any new sound editor is to get Pro Tools and learn the keyboard shortcuts. Forget proficiency in typing, that's child's play. In order to compete in the real world of post production sound, you need to be FAST. Knowing your way around the keyboard doesn't just shorten your workday, it tells the clients - who expect requests to be carried out quickly - that you are on top of your game.
Basic keyboard shortcuts - switching the tools, changing the view - need to be second nature. But with literally hundreds to learn, there's bound to be a few that have slipped through the cracks. Here are some of the best 'lesser-known' Pro Tools keyboard shortcuts to help speed up your workflow.
We've all been there: all year long, we pine for a vacation and some time to ourselves. But then when an unsolicited break from work arrives, we spend the entire time stressing about all the work we're not doing, or about whether or not a new project will come along, and we forget to enjoy it. Furthermore, when we start back again, it's as if we have forgotten how to do our jobs.
After eleven years in the business of seasonal sound work, I've developed some skills as to how to take a break from work and come back fresh (instead of reeling to catch up). I'd love to share them with you:
Dialogue is king. To perfectly record dialogue, especially for film, has been the common goal amongst dialogue recordists and recording engineers since the birth of audio recording in the early 1900s. In working as a dialogue editor, it is a constant journey to adapt to the ever-changing market of audio recording gear. When considering building your own voice-over chain, there are many available options. Here, I’ve narrowed it down to just a few.
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.
In today's digital age, what better place to look for professional resources than the internet? Not only is the internet probably the most abundant collection of useful information, it is also the most accessible given the fact that we already spend nearly all day tethered to a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Why not take a quick break from your work and learn something of use rather than perusing the latest cat vids (although I am by no means against wonderfully indulgent cat videos)? Below are my absolute favorite online resources for sound designers. They span the breadth of online content from sound effects library downloads, technical support forums, mixing videos, and even mini documentaries to keep you current on the latest movie sound design trends. Enjoy, and internet away!
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.
From the subtle to the bombastic and the all out weird, sound design approaches to robots have taken many forms over the years. With this month’s release of Ex Machina (which has some pretty amazing android sound design) here are my ten favorite takes on robot sounds.