How Big Is Game Audio Anyway?

Sound for video games is an often overlooked aspect of the audio engineering world. With the first video games, there wasn’t a whole lot of sound involved. Maybe a beep here, a squeak there to support what was happening on the screen, but it wasn’t a whole lot more than a last minute add-on. Eventually games started incorporating more audio, and I would bet that almost any gamer can recall the 8 bit Super Mario Bros theme song by heart.

What do the American Music Awards and CRAS Grads have in common?

CRAS Graduates have received credit working with many of the Artists nominated for this years AMA’s.

The American Music Awards (AMA) are this weekend!  It’s really great to see the accolades CRAS graduates have achieved with the artists that have been nominated for this years AMA’s.

CRAS AMA GRADS 2014

Grad Spotlight : Ian Shedd

Grad Spotlight: Ian Shedd

IanShedd

Recently I had a chance to talk with our grad Ian Shedd and congratulate him on his 50th credit as a sound editor. You can check out all of his credits on his personal IMDB page here! While a lot of our grads go out to work at recording studios and live sound venues, we do have a considerable amount of grads work in the film, TV and post production industry, and that is where Ian spends most of his time.

When did you attend the Conservatory?

Ian Shedd: May – Dec 2010

What is your current job title?

IS: Supervising Dialogue Editor

What industry do you work in?

IS: Post Production/Broadcasting

Where did you complete your internship?

IS: Monkeyland Audio (and I still work there!)

During your internship, what was your most memorable horror story?

IS: I had backed up the mix of a TV pilot we worked on but didn’t double-check that the transfer was successful. A year later when we needed to restore the backup, we discovered that the files were corrupt and could not be restored. Since I didn’t double check the backup, we lost nearly all the of the mix work we put in to the pilot.

How did you end up in your current position?

IS: As an intern, I was expecting to learn sound design and effects editing. However when I learned that Monkeyland was looking for dialog editors, I made it my mission to prioritize learning that. I had little idea of what dialogue editing was at first — let alone if I’d like it — but since I was more likely to get hired for an open position than a closed one, I gunned for it.

The owner then gave me a couple reels from already-completed projects to work on. Dialogue editing proved to be way over my head so after a few tries I gave up on it to edit foley instead. After a few months of experience doing that I felt ready to try dialogue editing again. I think the first big film I worked on as a dialogue editor was Piranha 3DD. By then I had been in LA for just under a year.

Piranha 3DD Ian Shedd

Have you ever found yourself in star struck or in an unreal moment?

IS: While I was an intern I met George Takei. He just walked right up to me, shook my hand, and said “Hi, I’m George Takei”. The next time I saw him I was still nervous and accidentally called him “George” instead of “Mr. Takei”. I kind of remember him sort of scowling at me after I called him by his first name. That was my last interaction with him. Oops!

George Takei Oh My Do you have any words of wisdom for new or current students?

IS: Love what you do. Remember that every achievement and every failure is a learning opportunity. And you’re solely responsible for your own success.

Are there any tips or workflows that made your internship or job easier?

IS: Back when I was 19, the manager from the first job I ever had gave me simple but effective advice that I use to this day: ‘get good, then fast’.

There’s a lot of pressure as an intern to get menial tasks (making / getting coffee, taking out the trash, etc) done quickly, which is fine for those things. However when it comes to editing or recording, essentially the continuation of the CRAS education, it’s important to learn and practice thoroughly with less value placed on how long it takes. Speed comes naturally in time and with experience.

Learning quick-keys and keyboard shortcuts is a great example. Not all of them are entirely intuitive, and doing things like looking them up on the internet or hitting the wrong key by accident all the time can waste a lot of time. But over time they become second nature and when mastered will more than make up for time ‘wasted’ during the learning process.

A specific example I use is recalling memory locations to change which tracks show in the edit window of Pro Tools. Setting memory locations with specific tracks shown and the rest hidden, then recalling them with “period – memory location_number – period” (all on the numpad) makes switching the view between banks of tracks a breeze. I have a memory location to look at dialogue tracks, another to look at ADR tracks, and a third to look at all tracks.

Another similar example is recalling window configurations. Using “period – asterisk – period” (also on the numpad), I can quickly call up multiple AudioSuite plugins at once. Plugin parameters are saved to each configuration, so an EQ can be set up to be all narrow notch filters on one configuration, and the default on another other. No more diving into the plugin’s menu looking for those favorite presets!

What is the one thing that sticks with you the most from your time at CRAS?

IS: Playing with the SSL and other consoles I think was the most fun. As an editor in post, I don’t do a whole lot of fader-work, and if I do it’s with a Command-8. Getting to spend time with the big beasts at school is something I’ll always remember.

Were there any instructors who you felt stood out or imparted some wisdom that stuck with you?

IS: I don’t think I could pick one. I think just the general enthusiasm and constant interest in the work rubbed off on me. Also the attitude of being flexible and always ready to work taught to me by the intern coordinators went a long way towards helping me succeed.

What can you tell us about the body of work you are currently working on?

IS: I recently began work on my 50th Film / TV show. It’s been a busy 3 years since I moved to LA after graduating!

At Monkeyland, we typically work on feature-length films and documentaries. We work on a few TV shows and student thesis films a year as well.

A majority of what I do is dialogue editing, which is cleaning, cutting, and smoothing the audio captured on set. Many of the feature-length projects also require what we call a “dialog assembly”, which involves conforming the raw .wav files from the entire shoot to the picture cut.

During the process you were involved in, what did you find to be interesting or revealing that you wanted to share?

IS: I think how fragile the movie-making process is pretty eye-opening. Most of the movies we work on are hoping to just get in to the festival circuits like Sundance and SXSW. Even in the final stages of the sound process nearly all of these projects don’t have distribution deals in place. It can take months or years after the final mix before movies see the light of day.

 

Thanks for sharing all that with us Ian! It’s great to hear a student of ours have as much success as you have! Keep making us proud!

Check out this link to see the specifics on what we teach regarding post production, sound design, and all the other fields we focus on!

Pro Tools Quick Tip: Time Aligning Tracks!

Sound or audio is, by very definition, the changing of atmospheric pressure perceived over time. This also ties into a term known as “phase”. Phase can be described as the time relationship between multiple waveforms, measured by the difference between periods of compression and rarefaction. In our latest Pro Tools Quick Tip, CRAS instructor Phil Nichols shows us how we can use the power of digital audio workstations (DAWs) to time align tracks after they have been recorded. This can provide a fuller, cleaner sounding final product.

Check out this video embedded here, or watch it in full resolution along with our other videos on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/crasaudio!

In this tutorial, we’re going to look at time aligning tracks inside of Pro Tools. Whenever you have multiple mics on the same source, such as multiple mics on a guitar, or maybe you have a bass DI and a mic on the bass amp… If you have close mics, distant mics… In this situation you have a potential for negative phase interaction. Phase interaction isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in some situations, the way that multiple mics can react, especially if there is a time arrival difference between these, it can result in frequency cancellations that are not musically pleasing.

Now ideally, this would be addressed in the recording process when mics are placed. However, in many cases a mix engineer may have no involvement in the recording process. One engineer may record, and then pass that off to another engineer for mixing. In that case, the mix engineer may find that attention to these types of details – mic placement and phase – may not have been thoroughly checked. That results in the mix engineer dealing with what some could call “mistakes” that were made earlier. The phase relationship between things such as the bass DI, the bass amp, close mic, and distant mic, can be adjusted to improve the musical or preferred sound quality. In this session, we are going to look at a bass DI and a bass amp recording.

Now in reality, if you were recording a bass DI and a bass amp, the bass DI signal would technically arrive to the recorder first. With the mic on the bass amp, there is a distance between the speaker and the microphone, and that produces a time delay when compared to the direct connection provided through the DI box. So when trying to adjust the relationship between these two tracks, the bass amp should be shifted to match the bass DI position.

In this session with the bass DI and the bass amp, we will zoom in on these to tracks. At first glance, it may look great, like they are in the same place. But you want to zoom in really close. Even zooming in a little bit closer it may look alright, but as you zoom in even closer you can start to see some discrepancies.

Pro Tools time aligning tracks

 

Zooming in even closer to the waveform at the sample level, you can really see how these interact. For example, on the bass DI, you can see that the peak of the waveform lines up with the trough of the waveform directly below it, on the bass amp track. The corresponding peak is actually to the right, or slightly later in time. That’s caused by the distance between the speaker in the bass amp and the microphone that was used to record it. Ideally, those peaks should be in the same position. And theoretically, that would provide the most complimentary musical sound, but that is strictly personal preference. So to time align these, we would need to shift the bass amp closer to the bass DI. One way, of course, is by using the grabber tool and dragging the audio clip, but I want to look at a different way.

Sync points in Pro Tools allow users to quickly slide or align clips. Now in this case, since I want the bass amp to be adjusted or moved, what I’m going to do is find the beginning of the peak, or the rise. Create a sync point there by pressing Command + ,  (comma). Of course, these are the quick keys you would use for the Mac OS. At the bottom of the track, a small green triangle denotes the sync point. This point is what we would want to align with the corresponding point in the bass DI. So I’d find the same zero crossing (the point in which the waveform crosses the centerline from the trough to the peak) on the bass DI.

Now, we need to move the sync point from the bass DI over to the cursor position of the bass DI. To do this, to move the sync point of the bass amp to the current cursor position on the bass DI, hold Control and Shift while grabbing the bass amp clip. That will immediately shift the sync point of the bass amp clip over to the cursor position of the bass DI clip. You can also create different playlists to compare the two later.

Pro Tools time aligning 2

 

By having multiple playlist, you can quickly toggle between the edits and listen to the sonic difference. Soloing both the original bass DI and the bass amp tracks, you can listen to the initially recorded sound, and then switch playlists to listen to the time aligned version and pick which you prefer.

Pro Tools Time Alignment 3

 

CRAS Phil Nichols Time Align Session

 

There is an obvious sonic difference. Which one sounds better depends on who’s calling the shots. It really has to be taken into context. Listen to it with the other tracks that are in the session, and choose the one that is most complimentary. But even soloing the two tracks, there is a distinct difference between the sound of the unaligned bass amp and DI tracks, versus the aligned. Personally, I find the low frequencies to be more complimentary when they are aligned.  But that’s your call to make in your own unique situation. As you can see, it’s worth checking into. If you get a song to mix that you did not record, or even if you did record it, zoom in to check to see if there is the potential for negative phase interaction.

Spend some time, trust your ears, definitely use your ears…don’t just rely on the visuals

Happy hunting!

Check out more of our tutorial videos on our CRAS YouTube channel here or feel free to look into everything else we offer in our comprehensive curriculum.

How To Be Successful In The Audio Industry – Part 6

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Our final “How To Be Successful In The Audio Industry” Top Ten List is from Greg and Rachel of our very own Internship Department.  Resumes, relocation, interviews, interning, finding jobs and keeping in touch with grads are just a few things that our intern coordinators deal with on the daily. So if anyone is going to have great tips on how to be a successful intern, these are those people!