Archive for the ‘Sound Design’ Category

There’s an App For That – Build Your Musical Score

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Some tuplets in Opus Contra Naturam drawn in their prototype renderer.

Orchestral composers are finding that the digital age can make their life easier. Instead of painstakingly writing out each note on its respective staff – now there is an app for that. But building the app was not as straightforward as you might think. (That’s probably true with most app development).

In this Steinberg blog post by Daniel Spreadbury, he describes the process used to develop the app and challenges he and his team encountered along the way.

“When starting a new project from scratch, it’s wise to think carefully about every decision, even the deceptively simple ones. For example, there can be few things more fundamental to an application that works with music notation than how to determine the position on the staff to draw a given note. Such a simple concept actually depends on three or more factors: its sounding pitch, the prevailing clef, the instrument’s transposition, and potentially a further transposition modifier, such as an octave (ottava or 8va) line.”

While the project still needs some work before it is ready for public use – it’s a fascinating read to follow along in their development process.

Do you think this app will make creating an original score for your next film or game project easier?

Cogswell’s MediaWorks Presents its ALearn Corporate Identity Project

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Screen Shot from the ALearn Animated Logo Project

MediaWorks, a project-based, learning program in which student teams engage in audio and visual production projects for real-world clients just completed a flagship corporate identity and messaging project for the Santa Clara-based nonprofit, ALearn.

Check out the project on YouTube.

Cogswell College instructors Julius Dobos and Anthony Dias envisioned the concept and are leading the implementation of the MediaWorks program. Utilizing their industry experience, they oversee student-produced works that include animation, live action footage, sound design and original music. The program’s audio and visual production projects involve real-life client meetings, creative brief and concept generation, participation in the approval process and project and time management.

The ALearn media production, just a little over a minute long, included a newly-animated corporate logo, original music and sound design. A preliminary version of the video was previewed and well-received at ALearn’s annual fundraising dinner in October.

“The MediaWorks program is designed to immerse students in the real world process of audio and visual production,” says Anthony Dias, co-leader for the project and digital audio technology (DAT) instructor at Cogswell. “Our students sat down with the client, listened to their vision and asked them questions aimed at guiding the creative process.”

The class meeting about the project.

MediaWorks has created a shift from the college’s standard semesters-long portfolio classes—some of which can take up to 18 months for completion—to 6-8 week deadline-driven client projects where students work in teams of 12-20. Dias and Dobos, adopted this model in an effort to mimic the experience of working for a large creative agency.

“We wanted the students to feel the pressure of the project’s deadlines, just as they would if they were working in a large creative agency,” says Julius Dobos, distinguished lecturer at Cogswell and MediaWorks’ co-leader for the project  “There’s a big difference between creating sound design for movies and sound design for corporate communications, one is entertainment, the other is advertising.”

Dobos has composed movie scores for Hollywood films and admits that most of the students want to work in Hollywood or a big studio environment creating varying forms of entertainment.

Dobos continues, “Our students have the chance to utilize traditional corporate work as a stepping stone to the entertainment field, which is a lot harder to get into directly. Through MediaWorks, they will have big-name Silicon Valley companies in their portfolios that even industry professionals would envy, which presents a huge edge in the marketplace. Not only being ready to work with a major client but showing the results of having done so makes a significant difference on a job interview or when you are launching your own business.”

The goal of the MediaWorks program is to generate sufficient revenue to provide for student compensation and the ability of the audio, engineering and animation departments to make technology purchases as new industry tools become available.

Cogswell is in talks with several high-visibility Silicon Valley firms for media projects for 2014 and has begun work on a yet-to-be announced multinational corporate client project, currently under non-disclosure.

We look forward to sharing the projects with you as they become available.

Considerations for Creative Audio Field Recording

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Richard Gould

Complete with field recording examples, in this article in Designing Sound, Sound Designer, Richard Gould, discusses the five creative considerations he employs when approaching field recording sessions. He says examining these considerations in light of work in progress, “have helped me consider the vast possibilities when I’m creating and capturing sounds.”

The five considerations he discusses are:

  1. Additive/Subtractive
  2. Shifting Perspective
  3. Context
  4. Technique
  5. Elemental

Gould also talks about the four developmental stages his inner-ear went to become a better field recorder:

  1. Listening for interesting sounds in relation to context
  2. Listening for interesting aspects of a sound, regardless of context
  3. Listening whilst considering the possibilities and later altering sounds to make them interesting
  4. Conceptualizing interesting sounds in my head and creating the conditions to replicate that sound

He explains his creative philosophy as follows, “I find that the more I approach field recording as an art form, with elements of improvisation and performance, the more rewarding the process becomes.”

Which of these considerations do you think will be helpful in your sound design work?

About Richard Gould

Hailing from England, Richard Gould studied sound and music in the United States at Berklee College of Music, focusing on audio for film and games. He has worked on numerous indie game and film titles in a number of capacities and loves to explore the ways in which music and sound can tell stories. Richard Co-Founded the Berklee Sound Design Network and Hexany Audio, an audio post-production company.

An Interview with Sound Designer, Raymond Usher, of Grand Theft Auto

Monday, October 14th, 2013

In this in-depth interview in Designing Sound, sound designer, Raymond Usher, talks about the changes in the game projects he has seen during his career. He started out working exclusively on AAA titles but now has seen a shift toward the majority of his work coming from studios doing small mobile and Facebook games. He estimates that his company, Euphonious, handles 20 to 30 projects a year.

In the article Usher shares his thoughts on industry trends such as the rise in use of audio middleware like Fmod and Wwise, the types of projects that large game studios with in-house audio departments continue to outsource and research into the effect audio has on gameplay.

What other game audio trends to you see in the industry?

Writer and Director Pierce O’Toole Talks About Music and Inspiration

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

According to Pierce O’Toole, writer/director/producer of the web series “The Idle Quest,” music is an integral part of story development for him. In the beginning he uses it to get his creative juices flowing but once the story emerges, then the music he plays needs to match the mood of the script.

In this interview in Designing Sound, Pierce shares how he uses music to convey what he wants the film to achieve. Once production starts, music as becomes a reference point to help actors understand the scope of the performance he is looking for. He believes that capturing the right sound is as important as capturing the right visual.

At the end of the piece Pierce says, “Simply put, sound design is about transporting someone into the world of your story, letting it envelop them, and making them feel something.”

What take-away did you get from the article?

Puzzle Game Project Class Gets Underway

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

In a recent Skype call on a large monitor at the front of the classroom, George Gagnon, Founder of Prairie Rainbow Company, met with students and faculty for an introductory session to clarify parameters for the project and to present the concepts the two student teams developed in a 48 hour turnaround.

The eleven students enrolled in the class were divided into two teams and tasked with creating a video game version of the Rainbow Squares table top game. Rainbow Squares is a puzzle game designed for elementary, secondary or adult learners to use as an individual or group learning tool. The game consists of six squares, each made up of three different rainbow-colored pieces. Each of these pieces can be used to form other squares using two, four, five or six pieces or can be used to learn addition and fractions.

“Rainbow Math Models are designed to engage students and let them learn through the method that is best for them,” said George. “Feelings learners get to build a physical model, image learners can create a visual model, while language learners have the chance to hear, read, or write a number model,” added George.  “I think by offering Rainbow Squares as a virtual learning tool, more students will have access to the learning method that works for them.”

After students introduced themselves, a representative from each team outlined the concepts they were considering for the game design.

The Red Team started with general ideas and then branched out. They thought it was important for the video game to represent the physical game since the product has been so successful. The team’s goal is to make students want to play the game over and over. They also discussed implementing different levels for different shapes such as one level to focus on manipulating squares, another for pentagons and another for triangles. Other ideas involved creating a limited moves mode or an addition mode with each block being assigned a numerical value. The team would also like to explore a multiplayer option.

The Blue Team first wanted to know if George would prefer a more structural approach to presenting the concepts of addition and fractions or would he consider a more spatial representation of the math concepts through graphs or perhaps as weights on a scale. Would he like the final game to be more session-based play or individual play? If he would like a more structural approach to teaching the concepts, then they are thinking about a more traditional approach with something like Tetris.

“I love the creativity the teams have put into the process. I’m excited about what I’ve heard today and can’t wait to see the finished products,” said George.

Using Sound to Draw Your Audience into Your Project

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

If a film were shot from the same camera angle for the entire movie, would the film have the same impact on its audience as one shot from different angles? According to this article in Designing Sound by Jack Menhorn, how an audience hears sounds can either bring them into the action or keep them on the fringes.

The piece explores techniques that create or reinforce a physical sense of space for the listener through the use of spatialized sound. Did you know that a human can ‘calibrate’ the approximate size of a room subconsciously within a few seconds of enter the space? This in-depth article talks about direct vs. reflected sounds, distance vs. ambient miking, proxemic zones and digital signal processing effects and the mix.

What is your biggest take-away from the article?

Circuit-Bend Electronic Toys into Sonic Monsters

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Cogswell students with a laser harp they built

Tinkering with electronic audio gadgets seems to be in the DNA of most audio engineers or sound designers. The mindset seems to be – this is good, but I’ll bet I can make it better. Experimentation is a key characteristic of this group. This article in eMusician, examines the process of circuit bending.

The term “circuit bending” was coined in 1992 when Reed Ghazala began publishing a series of articles in the Experimental Musical Instruments Quarterly Journal titled “Circuit Bending and Living Instruments.” Circuit bending describes the modification of an electronic sound device beyond the designer’s intentions, adding new sonic and functional possibilities.

At Cogswell College our Digital Audio Technology students are encouraged to experiment as they participate in a full-range of hands on projects.

Electronic Music Thrives at Cogswell College

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Late last spring we shared information about some of the unique classes available to Cogswell students over the Summer and “Ultimate Electronic Music Production” was one of them.

Now that it is winding down for this term, we would like give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the class, which was a combination of research, practical learning and great fun. This VIDEO demonstrates the amazing opportunity electronic musicians have when they study at Cogswell.

“The main focus of the class is to teach the ideology and culture behind electronic music, and not focus on any particular style. I wanted to create an overview of compositional and musical sound design approaches and processes, go beyond just sharing tips and tricks, and let students develop their own, original methods that they can apply to any electronic music project. Another major consideration was to give students some experience with using the tools of a working electronic music studio via various hands-on assignments,” said Julius Dobos, Distinguished Lecturer at Cogswell.

The class did spend time listening to Musique Concrete works, Jarre and Kraftwerk albums, followed by one of their assignments where students had to create a Kraftwerk sound-alike piece – not recreate a particular song, but apply the unique style to a brand new composition. Kraftwerk was a German quartet that laid the groundwork for most electronic- and synth-based artists that followed them in the 1970’s and 1980’s and even today. Students started with a blank canvas, designed their own sounds and used them to composed the music as a group.

The primary takeaway Dobos hopes students receive from this course is “the discovery of an unexpected diversity in this segment of musical art which we call Electronic Music. It’s not a style, but an ever-evolving combination of compositional, musical sound design and intellectual elements. Understanding and recreating the approaches from historic to modern, learning about the evolution of music technology and the pioneers of electronic music, including those lesser known in the United States, would greatly expand the creative horizon of any composer – not to mention Cogswell’s talented students with a particular interest in electronic music.”

“I took the class to widen my skill set and palette,” said student, Robert Kirby. “The class looked like a great way to expand my understanding of the genre. The advantage of electronic music is the wide range of sounds at your fingertips. Using the synthesizers I achieved some pretty cool things. I was happy with the class after the first assignment.”

Besides teaching at Cogswell, Mr. Dobos is the Founding Composer of The Creative Shop, a music production studio with a clientele that has included Sony Entertainment, The Discovery Channel, Nokia and other high-profile clients. Having been composing since age 9, Mr. Dobos has released seven musical albums in various electronic music styles, among them the platinum-selling Connecting Images. His music has been featured in major motion pictures including You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Zookeeper, as well as a variety of television programs, advertising campaigns, exhibitions and sound installations in the United States and Europe. In 2012, Dobos was invited to move his vast Studio CS to Cogswell to give students access to a level of equipment that many professionals only dream about. Some of the synthesizers are truly unique pieces, such as the rare Crumar Spirit (one of the 260 units ever built), the Ensoniq Fizmo, and the coveted Yamaha CS-60. (Check out the Studio CS equipment list.)

“It’s actually not the gear, but the concept that really matters. Technology can be impressive and even overwhelming, but there is no substitute for meaning & feel when it comes to textures and sounds.
More than being the core part of my career, electronic music has been my passion for as long as I can remember – I have been living and working in the world of sounds and music for close to three decades. Sharing this world and my passion within the structure of a special topic course with a select group of students who have expressed a deep interest in electronic music, seemed like a unique opportunity for them and was a great new experience for me as well.”

“Julius knows everything there is to know about electronic music so working with him was a chance to work with a master, plus the chance to experiment on all this amazing equipment,” said student, Daniel McFarren.

An Inside Look at Audio Mastering Techniques

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Students mastering a video in Cogswell's Post Production Studio

The goal of the audio engineer when mastering a recording is to make sure it sounds better going out the door than it did coming in. This detailed article on Discmakers features excerpts from Mastering with Ozone: 2013 Edition and is filled with helpful insights into the mastering process.

From “it all begins with the mix” to “diagnosing common problems” to “mastering quick tips” audio enthusiasts are sure to find something of interest here.

What mastering tips would you share?