Audio Engineers/Sound Designers

I was curious as to how many of you work with sound professionally. I was thinking it would be interesting to get a conversation going about careers in sound and share some thoughts/experiences.

  • What field are you in exactly?

  • How does your work effect your music making and vice versa?

  • What are your thoughts on the current state of your industry and it’s future?

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i am an audio engineer/mixer/producer full time freelance in NYC. i run a studio in brooklyn and am staff at a few others. as well as the ever obligatory home set up.

my solo stuff is virtually non existent at this point. rarely is there time to really dive into it. that being said, playing with a few other groups has scratch that itch for a while. when i play with groups live, the arrangement stuff i work on daily helps to clean up performances to translate fairly well onstage. occasionally i do some live sound, which also helps.

it’s also good to have as much live/stage/performance experience to keep in my ear what instruments sound like not from loud speakers. how and why certain sounds/instruments/arrangements/spaces work or don’t work is super fascinating and influences my tracking, mixing, and arranging.

shrug? there will always be studios, and there will always be work for people who are flexible and welcoming. the studio world is a service and experience. as long as we make sure it’s fun people will still come.

home recording is here to stay as well and that makes me excited. i love working on projects that have elements, if not the whole thing, recorded at home. it’s a fun challenge to mix something that was recorded fairly poorly. recently i did a pop punk ep where the drums were tracked at a different studio and the guitars they did at home. while they had some decent home tracking gear, they relied too heavily on distortion pedals for their sound. it led to super flat and non dynamic performances. many rides and a few in studio doublings, we got it to a pretty happy place. the band had a blast and were super happy with the output.

with that in mind, i think i would enjoy to write a little more about how to improve DIY/home recordings. just cuz you do it yourself doesn’t mean it has to suck.

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Fresh out of college with a bachelors in Audio Production from ACM@UCO. I pay my bills doing booking and live sound at VZD’s restaurant and bar.
I’ve been making little monome sketches and beats for some time, but haven’t officially released any music. I probably have 3 albums worth of material on a shelf. Working on starting my own publishing LLC for when I have recordings to release so I might actually make some pennies. Looking for a job that will utilize my degree, and further my passion for music and audio. Worried I might not ever see any profit from my original material do to the state of the music industry and the broken streaming to royalty systems in place. I draw a lot of creative influence from this community. I’ve learned a lot from this community. Babbling… sorry…

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This would be helpful for LCRP participants! Not that anybody around here ever sucks. Folks are pretty amazing, actually. But just talking about it would likely boost folks’ confidence about what they’re doing.

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i personally think i suck consistently haha. how i’ve managed to do this for 6 years is mind blowing and humbling.

always happy to help and give advice. talking audio is a common past time

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I’ll start with some questions:

  • When does mixing stop and mastering start?
  • How can a mix best be prepared for mastering?
  • How do you resolve questions around dynamic range vs. loudness?
  • Especially for diverse compilations?

Or maybe it should be a new thread?

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I do a fair number of audio post-production gigs. They range from film/doco/drama tracklays (dialogue, foley, fx) to CG sound design, to sound mixing for 360 video, to linear surround tracks for e.g. museum exhibits. Sometimes sound code for interactive exhibits. In the past I’d do little music scores for archviz projects but it’s hard to battle with online music libraries these days. I mildly envy those people who have settled into one particular field.

This stuff is intimately connected to music. There’s a rhythm to visuals, and a certain desired musicality to constructed soundscapes. I’ve received so many non-4/4 temp tracks, it’s had a huge influence on my own pattern-making. Studying dynamics for film and TV has had an impact on my own mixes.

The bar for standard in audio post keeps going up; teams seem to increase in size on TV/film productions. Sound for promo videos (CG) etc seems less considerate these days (especially audible in music). Work is harder to find for freelancers who don’t race to the bottom.

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Pro film/game composer. I’m pretty young, so I work for a couple of composers. My main gig is with Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL), and I do a decent amount of sound design/Kontakt instrument building for Inon Zur on the side. I also do a lot of tech consultation for composers around LA, which I really enjoy – there’s something very satisfying about getting a great studio up and running exactly as someone wants it.

I’ve been getting more and more interested in programming (most notably C++ and Max), which is good since this industry is in very, very bad shape. I’m happy to talk about it more, but the bottom line is I wouldn’t recommend that people try to become film composers anymore.

I’m all but looking to leave film behind (well…Hollywood films, at least; indie can be great but obviously there’s a lot of variables there) for the game world, which has been an overall better experience for me – personality-wise, I think I line up with the majority of the people in the industry more, and my interest in programming goes from being a time suck and liability to an asset, making me extremely valuable (it’s rare to find someone who can wear all three hats of composer/sound designer/audio programmer competently, if at all; I’m not there yet, but the goal is coming along nicely).

I’m in the process of ridding myself of nearly all of my gear and forcing myself to do as much as I can with Max and home-built code, controllers, Eurorack modules, etc. I love the idea of being in control of my tools, much in the same way that an oboe player would craft their own reed. I’m of the opinion that makers of electronic instruments and tools could make an argument for partial authorship of the music, so ideally, working in that domain will affect my music holistically.

In a year, I hope to split my income between composing, designing sound, and building tools (Kontakt instruments, plugins, Max 4 Live devices, etc etc etc). Fun stuff ahead!

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I work in the contemporary theatre. I’m mostly hired as a light designer, but as also have solid background in audio and video.

In some production, I have to work with sound recording / editing, sound design or microphony. Time and money are always tight, so recording can be done on a iPhone. Video as well. With editing, it’s working pretty fine. For me it’s always important to be flexible. If I need a second take, it’s more convenient to use my iPhone than schedule studio time. Even setting up my RME and a good mic isn’t worth it. Of course it depends on what you’ll have to achieve.

When I’m collaborating with other people, like composer, I will always have the final cut. I’ll be in charge to incorporated the music / sound design in the show. Doing so can sometimes be quit radical in equalizing / editing. At a point in the production, we don’t have enough time to send back notes to the composer to get modifications.

The part I really like about sound and contemporary theatre is how subtle you’ll have to be and how to use multi-diffusion in a creative way.

I’ve been hired this year to do only sound design in a production. I’m looking forward to it.

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After a youth playing in bands & studying the wrong things at university, I finally got a start as a sound effects editor after attending film school in 1990… Worked hard, learnt lots… 25 years & 40 feature films later have pretty much retired from film sound, and have moved full circle back to music, composing for film… And during all this also developed a sound library business based on all those years of experience field recording & working on films… If its of any help I wrote a lengthy career advice rant a few years ago, mainly film/tv post focused but maybe its of use?
http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog/career-advice-part-2

Another David Lynch quote:
“Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual.”

amen to that!

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I have dipped my toes into various areas of the music industry - I had work experience in a rehearsal studio when I was teenager, did live sound at a jazz venue when I was at university, played in a ‘shoreditch’ band at that time too. I worked as a transfer engineer for a record label aggregator fresh out of uni and then got my break as assistant to a Grammy winning mastering engineer. I spent five years training with them, getting my critical listening skills up to scratch, learning lots about the business and eventually mastering myself. As the work became more intense and my band split up I hit a slump and decided to stop working at that particular studio. I moved back with my parents for a year and worked as a music studio tech in a local college while looking for better paid jobs. I now work as an audio engineer for a major record label doing occasional light editing and mastering, a LOT of QC/critical listening, and r’n’d for the internal systems and advisory on emerging audio technologies.

For me, it became impossible to be creative in a music making sense whilst working at a studio. The hours were seriously long - typically 14-16 hours a day, and the work so intense and fast paced that all I could do at home was collapse. Also my ears were so burned out on my days off that the last thing I wanted to do was plough more music into them. I think if you are going to work at that top top level of engineering it has to be your entire focus in life. I think as I stopped creating I became more depressed- I was being creative in my work, sure l, but it’s a big difference between helping others realise their artistic vision and realising your own - different mindsets and different types of reward, mentally.
Working in live sound made me never want to do that - many musicians are rude, obnoxious, self righteous and short tempered, couple that with the stress of having to fix things on the fly as they go wrong and it’s not an enjoyable way to work - for me anyways. As a musician I came across many lovely sound guys that did amazing work, and again many that had been soured by the experience and become short tempered themselves.
Now that I am in a role that gives me financial stability AND a life outside of work I have been able to make music again and rediscovered my love for music in general. Funnily enough - fidelity and ‘proper’ technique have been and are such a massive focus for me in my work, that the music I choose to listen and create outside of that is incredibly lo-fi and rough’n’ready for want of a better term. It feels good to make music that I, and others, enjoy that kind of rejects everything we’re taught as being ‘correct procedure’ as engineers. I mean that in terms of workflow, studio technique and sonic quality, but also in terms of promotion/PR/release scheduling and all of that.

Currently about 90% of the music I am consuming is from bandcamp, a platform I love because it is ALMOST completely devoid of promotion, taste making and faux ‘discovery’ algorithms found in spotify/iTunes/Amazon etc. It puts the search and discovery back into finding music. I have also started collecting tapes from artists on there - I was never into vinyl as a kid, but did have several tapes, so the nostalgia element comes in strong for me there, also the limited nature of the releases makes them fun to collect.

I rambled too much now I can’t remember if I covered the op’s questions. :flushed:

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What field are you in exactly?
I work in the games industry

How does your work effect your music making and vice versa?
Well… I stopped making any music because of my work. Then again I´m happy to make sound design for a living.

What are your thoughts on the current state of your industry and it’s future?
Given how the past 6-7 years have gone so far, It´s looking like I wont be making music anytime soon. I got into euroracking last year so I can still noodle around at work which is super nice. It´s not all noodling though…

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Any advice for people trying to break into the game audio arena?

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Learn middleware audio software like wwise or fmod and engine like unity or unreal. Connect with industry people. Build a portfolio with good examples of your skills. Develop your professional skills to a level that´s competitive with everyone else whos looking to get a shot at game industry. Work hard, always do the extra mile even when it´s not required from you.

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I’m a recording engineer/freelancer field recordist for films. I mostly record classical and jazz, both in studio and live concert, with a small number of contemporary music. As a freelancer recordist, I’ve worked with local and non-local filmmakers who are filming in Indiana and nearby states.

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what is your opinion on redesigning sounds for existing video games in order to build a portfolio if I am in the process of looking for my first game audio job? I studies FMod and learned Unity by going through the tutorials, but I still need to take that first step.

Thanks,

totally a layperson, so can’t comment on how it would look in a portfolio, but this sounds like an excellent project in terms of skill development.

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“Now that I am in a role that gives me financial stability AND a life outside of work I have been able to make music again and rediscovered my love for music in general.”

Would you mind talking about what this role is? Would love to hear where you ended up.

Sure! So my title now is ‘Audio Engineer Team Lead’ for a department within one of the major record labels that basically looks after the QC & storage of all the sub-labels’ assets (loosely music, video, graphics). I sit at a super powerful computer with a nice DAW, soundcard and pair of headphones listening to music, both new and old (reissues, analog transfers, remasters etc) as it is delivered from mastering studios worldwide and make notes on the quality to sit alongside the masters in our asset management system. I will also reject/report masters should any gross ‘non-creative’ errors be present in them. I also teach our procedures via documents and in person to other engineers. On top of that I am the company’s subject matter expert on studio and consumer audio file formats, physical media, emerging trends in music consumption relating to that etc. I also do R’n’D on our internal systems with the programmers that handle them from a kind of ‘super user’ point of view. System users from my department probably get the most extensive use out of them, so we’re good to test enhancements or suggest workflow improvements. Due to my mastering background i am also on hand for edits, restoration, mastering etc. I will sometimes be asked to analyse formats (recently MQA for example).
Considering I have very few transferable skills, I’m glad my knowledge of digital audio, vinyl/CD/tape manufacturing, and the production process from recording through to manufacture can be put to use!
The biggest benefit for working for this type of company is clocking in/out on regular hours - sure I occasionally need to work late but nothing like the 14/16 hour shifts I was doing before. Like I mentioned previously I can go home at a regular time, make dinner with my partner, switch on the modular and record some stuff, do some mixing or whatever and not be burnt out - that’s the most important thing to me now.

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Hoping to revive this thread.

It seems like community building online is more important than ever in the age of covids.

I’m a product designer for a DAW. It’s a great gig!
I went the starving musician → struggling audio engineer → well fed audio software designer route… but managed to stop playing music along the way. I guess it was hard to stomach looking at a DAW outside of work after looking at it in some capacity all day.

After a long sabbatical from making music, I started to crave it again a few years ago and build a DAW-less setup. Now I am having the best time I’ve ever had playing tons of music!!

This forum has been great! Lots of really cool process related topics that are so up my alley! So I thought I’d say hi and connect with some folks!

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