Archive for the ‘Audio Engineering’ Category

Interview with Cogswell Digital Audio student Randy Greer

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Randy Greer - Image from: randygreermusic.com

The Cogswell Pulse interviewed senior Digital Audio Technology student Randy Greer about the creation of his compilation album that was released last semester.  Randy began studying classical music in 2007, under DR. Scott K Bowen, Travis Silvers and Aaron Garner. He later shifted his focus from classical music to digital music while at Cogswell College. We asked about his experience in producing an album and the journey that he went through.

Q: What is the inspiration for your music?

A: The inspiration varies from song to song really. Because the songs have to cover a wide variety of styles, I have to draw inspiration from all over. I might listen to jazz and country back-to-back for a week straight in while I’m working on a rock song. I got one of my catchiest melodies “glock jams” from a mechanic who was whistling to my music as I wrote with my window open.

Q: What project did you create your music for? Why did you create your album?

A: I created an album for my Portfolio II class. It’s license free music to hand out to businesses to help get my name out there as a composer.

Q: How long did it take you to create? What software did you use?

A: It took me the whole semester to create the album. I wrote about 3 songs a week, but some of the songs had to be recorded. All songs had to be edited, mixed, and mastered.  The album art and website had to be created as well. I used Pro Tools 10 a lot. I also used a MIDI notation program called Guitar Pro, mastering was done with iZotope, and I used Propellerhead Reason 5 for a lot of my electronic sounds.

Q: What is your favorite part about the album?

A: My favorite part of the album was probably the country song. I had to learn to play the banjo just for that song and I fell in love with the instrument and its unique characteristics.

Q: What was the most challenging part about creating the album?

A: The most challenging part, believe it or not, was not the time constraints. It was not knowing how the music will be used. This meant I had to make music without direction even though it still had to fit parameters to stay as useful as possible.

Q: What did you learn while creating this?

A: I learned that although the people guiding you have knowledge, it is often faster and more consistent to execute your own decisions – with confidence and reason. I learned how to write a simple work-for-hire contract. I learned how to play the banjo, and I also learned how to prep meals for marathon work sessions. That might not be important to everyone but I don’t believe it’s necessary to kill your body to make good work while meeting tight deadlines.

Q: Did you create the album with the help of other people? If so, how did they contribute?

A: Having outside help was a must. I have original music falling out of my ears to the point where it’s a distraction on any given day. But finding ways to manage and present the music can be overwhelming with 45 songs at a time. I had to use other students in the audio department for mixing and mastering: Justin Floyd,  Joey White, Marc Rivas, and Andrew Wilkins were all a huge help. Often times, the school’s studios were overbooked, or equipment I reserved was rented out to someone else when I had booked a session with a professional musician.  Those other students pulled through to help me out in emergencies.

My whole class also helped with feedback on songs and how they might need reworking. It was a critical listening process. Also Katie Fortune was a huge help, she worked with me remotely to get the album art to present in a professional way.Q: What was your experience with working with other people on a project like this?  What did you learn?  What were the benefits and challenges?

A: Most of the people I worked with who were also Cogswell students were reliable and fast, however most of the people who were not from the school – like my session musicians – were flaky. They were willing to commit but reluctant to execute, without some coaxing and encouragement. The best thing I did was playing the instruments myself. I made recordings by myself. I mixed by myself. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to work with these people, but when I’m on a timeline and being graded and they are not, I can’t expect them to put the same amount of care and determination into a piece of work that I would.

Q: What would you do differently for your next album?

A: Hands down, I would write for a project that had a specific need. I like to make music that is uniform and collectively representational. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll write anything for the right price, but I only had a week to formulate this project.  At the time, I was also doing work with MediaWorks. That said, I’m currently working on an app that requires a diversity of music. Funny how that works I guess.Q: What career do you hope to get into?

A: As far as careers go, my first choice would be to create original music and sound effects for video games, followed by movies or television. I’d also be happy to be hired to write music for apps, commercials, online videos and startup promotions. Ideally I would like to work full-time for a company that has good benefits. I’m not sure how many 9-to-5′s are out there that fit that description, but I my goal is to one day start a family.  I want to be able to support them without compromise and I will need a job that can ensure that that happens.

Kegan Chau, Cogswell Audio Student, Attends AES

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Cogswell’s own Kegan Chau attended the AES (Audio Engineering Society) convention this year, gaining valuable knowledge and insights about his future career. Being both a student at Cogswell and a member of the student AES chapter at Cogswell, Kegan expresses how well prepared he felt while taking on this year’s AES. Kegan is a Digital Audio Technology student at Cogswell and has been a part of several large projects at the College. Currently, he’s working with on-campus animation studio, Star Thief Studio, as both composer and sound designer.

Watch the interview on YouTube here: Kegan Chau, Digital Audio Student, Attends AES

Marc Farly, Senior Sound Designer at Sony Playstation

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Cogswell AES Student Chapter Presents: Marc Farly
Monday, December 1th
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Dragon’s Den

Are you interested in sound design? What about sound design Sony Playstation? Senior Sound Designer Marc Farly is coming to Cogswell College to share his experiences and background, then open the floor to give  students a chance to have their real world questions answered.  Don’t miss it!

iPhone Apps for Professional Audio Engineers

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

From games to networking to organization tools, the number of apps available for the iPhone are almost endless and grow exponentially every year. The majority of apps have been fitted for enthusiasts, however, recently there’s been a rise in iPhone apps for professional audio engineers. These apps vary in price, from the free with advertising, to the eye-opening expensive. These apps make the everyday jobs of recording, editing, and exporting easier for audio engineers.

The three most abundant types of Pro-Audio iPhone apps are field recorders, portable digital audio workstations and remote controls.

Field Recorders

Many audio recorders apps lack the features found in traditional field recorders. However some have recently become available on the market that allow the engineer to conveniently capture a professional quality recording without having to purchase a separate device. Here are just a few:

  • Hindenburg Field Recorder
  • RODE Rec
  • iSLR Field Recorder

Portable Workstations

Utilizing the iPhone’s built-in audio interface, these apps are in essence simplified digital audio workstations used to record or program multi-track song ideas. The tracks can then be exported to a computer for later editing. They include:

  • Cleartune Chromatic Tuner
  • ioMetrics GigBaby!
  • Novation Automap 3
  • Sonoma Wire Works FourTrack
  • Thezi Studio Metronome TS

Remote Control Apps

These apps allow Pro-Audio engineers to control digital audio workstations (DAWs) or other hardware devices from the iPhone. They are specific to the DAWs in use, and have the ability to control the various virtual knobs, fader and buttons. Some of the more popular are:

  • Far Out Labs ProRemote
  • Hexler TouchOSC
  • Steinberg Cubase iC

Tell us what you think!

Which Pro-Audio iPhone apps have you used and which can you not live without?

Interested in becoming an audio engineer? Learn more about Cogswell’s Digital Audio Technology bachelor degree programs at http://www.cogswell.edu/programs/digital-audio-technology.php

Sound Design: An Ear for Detail

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Crash, Bang, Boom, – Snap, Crackle, Pop – Slam, Bam, Shazam – Not only are these onomatopoetic, but also harmonic gold to sound designers and editors alike. Sounds often make or break video content, and knowing what works takes more than just a keen ear for detail. Sound designers combine the art and science of sound to create the perfect fit for television, film, and video game content.

Editor vs. Designer

Recently, the lines between a sound director and that of a sound editor have been blurred. The major difference being that a sound director is a glorified editor of sorts. A sound editor is responsible for the existing sound – i.e. editing of the dialogue syncing, and removal of extraneous background noise.

On larger budget productions a sound designer is brought in to not only oversee the work of the sound editors, but is also responsible for crafting new sounds – i.e. laser gun fights, cars exploding, tornado wind storms, etc.  Sound designers are also responsible for creating the overall emotional atmosphere of the scene. What sound additions/subtractions would create more tension, suspense, or comedy?

Job Description

Sound designers tend to work long hours with strict deadlines. Depending on a production’s budget, sound designers may start their work months in advance of filming. There is a large level of strategy and organization required in order to conceptualize the production in its entirety. A sound designer must forecast and plan out what sounds he or she will have to create, verses what can be shot organically.

A vast technical knowledge is required in order to digitally create, mix, edit, and distort sound. Sound effects are then layered into the production along with dialogue and music. On the flip side, a vast creative knowledge is also required for designers to fashion new sounds where one had not yet existed. Designers get innovative, and use everyday objects to create new sounds – i.e. crunching cellophane to imitate a fire crackling, or flexing a large sheet of aluminum to replicate thunder.

Sound design is a highly competitive area, and jobs are based on experience. Education is vital to develop an ear for detail. Interested in a career in sound editing or design? Check out Cogswell’s Digital Audio Technology program to develop and fine tune your skills!

Audio Fills Us With a Sense of Time and Place

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

As you listen to the sound of wind in the trees, the gentle burble of a nearby stream or the chirp of birds, you might physically be sitting in your living room but mentally you are far away. In this beautifully written article in Gamasutra by Sound Designer Damian Kastbauer, you are given the opportunity to take a look at his vision of the future of interactive audio experiences.

Sound has the ability to put us in a specific time and place associated with that sound. In the article he says, “I remain lost in thought as the sound of rushing water catches my memory. My mind is transported to a sunny day from my past. A reunion has brought family members together…”

The piece is an introduction to his Oxford Handbook of Interactive Audio (due 2014) in which he imagines the ability to synthesize the long-ago sounds of earth circa 2012 and the technology it took to get to this point. “It was during this time in simulation technology that our industry was just beginning to iron out inconsistencies inherent within the burgeoning field of procedural audio, synthesis, and the advanced manipulation of dynamic sound: baby steps toward the expansive fully realized simulation I’m testing today.”

Can you think of a time that sound has taken you to a different time and place?

Sound Designing for the Video Game Tearaway

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Fascinating commentary by Kenny Young, Head of Audio at Media Molecule, gives you an inside look at the joys and challenges of designing sound from the bottom up for a video game in this article in Designing Sound. He discusses his work on Tearaway and offers several opinions about creating the audio for video games in general. For instance:

“Those of us who work in games have a massive advantage over those who work in traditional linear media – even if audio tends to be brought in later than other disciplines, the constant iteration and flux of a game during development provides opportunities for audio to influence the project.”

“If there is one thing that is missing in the early stage of a game’s development it is well-defined and reliable context, even more so when developing a new intellectual property from scratch… There is a leap of faith required whereby you need to let go of creating anything coherent and embrace your inner incompetent audio designer – kiss goodbye to doing any work that chimes on multiple levels. It’s like being a beginner all over again, only more painful because you have the curse of knowing what it feels like to do good work.

“Sounds thrown at a prototype by a programmer are not going to develop and improve over time which prevents a more sophisticated audio aesthetic from emerging.”

The article includes samples of work throughout to demonstrate the techniques used or solutions developed. He also talks at length about the decisions that went into creating what seemed like a simple idea – give players the chance to touch the record to make the music stop, scratch the record to scratch the music and have fun doing so – but it wasn’t as simple as it sounded.

After reading the piece do you agree/disagree with any of his ideas?

The Engineering Behind Making Cool Sounds on Your Guitar

Monday, January 27th, 2014

At Cogswell students are given the flexibility to weave personal interests into class projects as long as they are relevant. Engineering student, Edward Aslanian, turned his passion for guitar and playing around with creating different sounds into an interest in engineering.

For one of his final class presentations, he explored how analog delay impacts the sounds produced by his guitar. This short video gives you an overview of his presentation and findings.

Programming the Video Game “Wizard’s Prison”

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Video game creation has a lot of moving parts and the need for people with specialized skill sets – producers, game designers, artists, animators, programmers and sound designers. At Cogswell College we offer specialized degree programs in each of these areas and bring teams of students together to work on projects.

Our Game Studio project-based class spent a semester building a video game. The result was Wizard’s Prison – a retro shoot-em-up PC game where you play as the evil wizard and escape the dreadful prison.

Recent grad, Kaleb Grace who was a Digital Audio Technology major, was the programmer on the team. In this short video he talks about how sound impacts the player’s experience and the types of programming challenges he faced to achieve the results the team wanted.

Kaleb also just released an album, “Monocle Man Original & Arranged Soundtrack” from other projects he worked on while at Cogswell. Click here to learn more about our Digital Audio Technology Program.

Panel Discussion on Tips for Being a Successful Game Audio Contractor

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Interested in getting into the Game Audio field? This video in GameSause from the Casual Connect Conference offers an in-depth look at the business by four industry panelists and moderator, Aaron Walz.

Aaron Walz owns Walz Music & Sound. He recently scored the top-ranking Facebook adventure, Ravenwood Fair and has received several awards for his audio work including “Best Game” at the Independent Game Festival and Game Tunnel’s “Best Sound” as well as being nominated for “Best Game Audio” by GDC Online.

Panelists include:

  • Rich Vreeland (also known as Disasterpeace), an award-winning freelance composer and sound designer based in Berkeley, CA, with a focus in producing and directing dynamic sound treatments for games.
  • Barry Dowsett who created original audio content for an array of cool projects for developers and publishers such as Activision, Popcap, Electronic Arts, THQ/Dreamworks, F9, Eidos, Gree, Playdom, Griptonite, Microsoft Game Studios, iWin, Disney Interactive, Google and many more.
  • Dren McDonald is an experienced game audio composer, sound designer and audio director with over 30 shipped titles.
  • Nick Thomas began his career as lead Engineer/Mixer for Sony Music artists, including Destiny’s Child, Celine Dion, Carlos Santana, Jessica Simpson, Michael Jackson and Ricky Martin. In 2003, Nick joined with Kane Minkus to open SomaTone Interactive and has spent the last 10 years producing the highest quality audio and art content for Gaming.

During the video these five share their experiences working on game audio, the challenges they’ve faced and tips for advancing in the industry.

What is your biggest take-away from the discussion?