Asbjoern Andersen


Sound designer Charles Maynes has worked on blockbusters like the Spider-Man series, Total Recall, After Earth and a myriad of others. He’s also a noted sound effects recordist for film and video games such as Call of Duty, Metal of Honor, BLACK and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series.

Today, I’m delighted to present this guest post from him here on A Sound Effect, where he shares the 10 notions he finds essential to great sound design.

 

Asbjoern asked me to contribute a musing about the concept of ‘Sound Design’ and what I thought were important considerations for the A Sound Effect visitors.

After reflecting on what I might think was valuable – and what my heroes think about the idea – I came up with the following notions or suggestions for all of us in the world of the sonic arts.

It was good fun, and I hope it is of some interest.

I have to thank so sincerely all of those folks who have provided me both mentoring and inspiration.

Specifically, these would be Randy Thom, Stephen Hunter Flick, Ron Bochar, Jon Johnson, Skip Lievsey, Jay Wilkinson, Bill Jacobs, Charles Deenen, Ann Kroeber, Gary Rydstrom and David Yewdall. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for being both great artists, and inspirations.

Below, I present my chosen notions – with explanations on why I think they’re so important to the work we do as sound designers.
 

But first: What IS a Sound Designer anyway?

A quick preamble which addresses a continuing Pandora’s box in our community:

There has been much talk about “what” a “Sound Designer” is.

I could write pages on the discussion, but I largely feel that it comes down to two basic distinctions which I label the “upper” and “lower” case description of the job.

In the “upper” case “Sound Designer” variant, I would say this has been best described by Randy Thom (who definitely fits in this realm) as something akin to a “Sound Director”. Ie. someone who is really defining the true aesthetic of the project.

Classic examples would be the work of Walter Murch, especially in films such as “Apocalypse Now”, “The Conversation” and “American Grafitti”.

The Sound Designer will be using ALL of the sound groups to accomplish this task

With this, it is important to say that the Sound Designer will be using ALL of the sound groups to accomplish this task; Dialog, Music, Sound Effects, Foley, and special sound design.

The sound designer will usually have a significant role in the mixing of the elements to achieve the vision of the director, and will be participating in the decision making at the level of the Picture Editor and Cinematographer.

The second, what I call the “lower-case” “sound designer”, is what might better be described as a sound effects designer- ie. someone who creates sound effects for a certain action or space, but doesn’t have that larger imprint on how (or if) it will be used.

At one point, there was more of a division with this and sound effects editing, but I believe that distinction has largely disappeared for the most part, as we sound editors are almost constantly having to create effects where existing material might be not available.

So, with that being said.. off we go!
 

1: “No matter how much experience you have, you do good art by making lots of mistakes and learning from them. That’s the way it happens early in your career, and it changes very little even after several decades.” – Randy Thom

Randy is just an amazing, amazing man. What he says in this comment is the mark of his humility, and in that comment we do confront the classical business issue of “Fast/Cheap/Good” which is omnipresent in our western society.

The problem with that paradigm is that “Art” doesn’t mind timetables well, and if we are hoping to create “Art” which is new, and original, it sometimes takes some time to formulate those ideas. That is why most commercials and short turnaround work usually sounds like other things you have heard before.

When we look at films like “The Matrix” or “Gravity”, we see daring choices that were dangerous and thought-provoking. These choices though were ultimately agreed upon and approved by people other than the “Sound Designer”. We are hired to serve our collaborators in our work, so their viewpoint will indeed dictate the degree of freedom and latitude we have in our work.

An attachment to this would be to realize that is that the brilliant ideas we come up with might be discarded like the pristinely perfect parsley that comes with a fine meal. This is not an indictment on the quality of our contribution though.
 

2: ‘Never use the “right” sound for an action’ 
-A concept from Treg Brown, legendary sound designer for the original Warner Brothers cartoons

Treg Brown is probably one of the most important figures in sound design history. His work redefined animated sounds, and his work is truly foundational to modern sound design.

And when we read about Gary Rydstrom using the sound of dog food being sucked out of a can for the sound of the Terminator going through prison bars, we can trace the thinking in that exploration back to Mr. Brown’s sweeping influence on our art form.

I have always considered this to be a literary parallel to sound: When we metaphorically approach the sound we are envisioning. So thinking in the terms of metaphor and simile can be terrifically useful in creating an emotionally compelling aural experience.
 

3: “Should” is a dangerous word.
Wow, that’s an ambiguous statement – but it addresses the notion of “Formulaic outcome”, which can often simply be the process of attaching cliché to art.

“Should” is a pretty useful word usually. To really address this sub-topic, we need to ask of if we are working in “high” and “low” art – but we have a difficult condition where “art” isn’t demanded, or even desired, but “craft” is.

Not every project presents itself with the need for creative or abstract sound

Not every project presents itself with the need for creative or abstract sound. In those cases sometimes the dialog is so key that it doesn’t require more, or in other cases, music might be key to the drama.

One example that I think of in this case was the film “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” which had a great score, which drove the emotional tenor of the film. The sound design was actually brilliant, but it was largely overshadowed by the amazing score.
 

4: Your director is the first most important person to want to please. There are others who can see that you are replaced at a whim though.

Our director is the one person who has a singular vision for all the parts that make up his experience. Usually though, he or she will not have absolute control over the end product.

Producers will also have a say in the matter, and will hopefully be communicating those ideas in advance to the Director and Editors involved ahead of us.

We are in the service business, and we serve our work like other businesses make food, or other goods.

Though in many ways, as “sound designers” we are in the same sort of boat as musicians trying to make a living with their work. There are many, many qualified people who do creative work as a simply matter of fact. Sometimes the work we do ends up getting recognition, which might elevate our visibility – and sometimes we do amazing work that is largely unrecognized.


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    • 380 Audio Files (190 original sounds) in High-Quality WAV and MP3 formats
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    • Ready to use – no editing or splicing required
    • Categorized, organized, and individually labeled files for maximum efficiency
    • Unpacked Size: 161 MB | Total Run Time: 23m 48s
    • Drag and Drop Ready Files for seamless integration into your projects!
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    With over 1000 games worth of experience in audio production and a passion for gaming, we understand the importance of high-quality audio in creating immersive experiences. Our library is curated to ensure every sound is top-notch, allowing you to focus on creating unforgettable games that keep players coming back for more.



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5: There are many ways to Mecca, and many are highly compelling.

A quote from General George S. Patton. Actually, he said this:

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

This is a concept which is sort of covered in the others, but it is important to iterate: If we are allowed to be creative, ideally we will not be micro-managed in doing so. Sometimes that’s not the case though – but we can hope for the best.
 

6: Should sound be really cool, or invisible as a component?

Another sort of multi-faceted comment: Will sound make a bad film or whatever be good? Will “bad” sound wreck an otherwise great film or media experience?

What is “good” sound?

Back when I was younger, the phrase “Turd polishing” was sort of popular. On a creative level, doing that is always unsatisfying, because bad stories are generally not going morph into good stories through elaborate adornments.

The obvious thing here though is that we are for-hire labor, so we really don’t always have much of a say as to the quality of our projects when not working is the alternative. So I suppose this should really give us an appreciation of our place in an imperfect world.

When we however look at “good” films, strangely, sound seems less important.

Try to find as much joy in the project as is possible, and to attach as much of yourself to its success as well

Sure, with films like “The Matrix”, “Saving Private Ryan” or “Jurassic Park” sound plays a huge role in the experience, but largely, the experience would be nearly as visceral silent. That is the mark of exquisite film making.

One tool I find very important though is to try to find as much joy in the project as is possible, and to attach as much of yourself to its success as well.

When it misfires at the starting line we may be disappointed, but we will have the satisfaction of knowing the best possible work we could have provided WAS provided.
 

7: Go out and sound explore. Hearing sound in the first person and actively listening is a very important experience.

There is not a lot to add here: Being involved in the real world is a great thing.
 

8: Verbalizing effects is often useful, and sometimes, those effects are actually what’s used in the end.

Perhaps not an obvious thing, but it’s terrifically useful. Especially if you can’t quite get the sound you are looking for via editorial. Many of the biggest names in sound design do this, and though we can sometimes be a little too self-critical, it usually is very useful to do.
 

9: ‘Sound Design, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing are all about Editorial. It is the process of purifying the sonic moment. And often means reducing things, not adding more.’ – Randy Thom

Randy is always very eloquent, and I would be reluctant to add much to his comment on this. I will say that it is difficult to be too critical with our own work though.
 

10: A second quote from General George S. Patton, and one I hold quite dearly: ‘Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.’

Again things that have been mentioned speak to this. But in the end, it speaks to education. We can learn tons by reading and listening to those who went before us. As Shakespeare said, “there are no new ideas under the sun”. We can take those previous approaches and mix them up to suit the needs of the project.

A bonus suggestion: Take everything you hear from your peers and colleagues with a pound of salt.
 

– Charles Maynes
Sound Designer, field recordist and hopeful activist.

 


 
A big thanks to Charles Maynes for his insights!

 

Please share this:


 



 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:

  • Car Sound Effects Extreme Drift Play Track 360 sounds included, 220 mins total $49

    The Extreme Drift SFX library includes 360 HQ (24bit/96kHz) close and distant range perspective, auto racing recordings. Audio material of vehicles, drifting and maneuvering around race tracks at various speeds and densities taking corners and speeding on long straightaways.

    You will find idle engine sounds, powerful engine revs, slow and fast starts, crazy accelerations and wild breaking, roaring overtakings, tandem battles, tire screeches and skids echoing beautifully in the air. The audio found in our library is not limited to startups, shutdowns and gear shifts, but also offers ambiences of pit lane and working team crews.

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    The intention wasn’t to cover vehicles driving, but to get isolated and very closely recorded mechanical elements of engines and exhaust pipes as a source material for sound design. There are many starts, idles, revs, offs, RPMs variations, backfires etc. Some are heavy and large sounding, some are small and funny. Tractors were captured EXT and most of stationary engines INT, but since they are very closely recorded there is just a little amount of reverb on most of them.

    Most of engines are 1 or 2 cylinders and low horse power and their RPMs are also low. Thanks to this, many of those sounds aren’t tonal and can easily be used as additional layer with other design elements. They work great for adding vintage character, designing junky or funny vehicles, crazy huge steampunk machines or engines malfunction.

    Sounds were recorded using multi-mic setup: Sanken CO-100k (most of the time pointing mechanical parts), Sennheiser MKH-8060 (mainly for isolated exhaust pipe), Schoeps CMC6XT mk41/mk8 (general image) and part also with Trance Audio Inducer contact mics (adding unique mechanical perspective).

    The library is delivered as multitrack 192kHz files, as well as stereo mix of all microphones. Thanks to using microphones with extended frequency range, drastic pitch changes can be applied.
    All files have extensive metadata created in Soundminer, including leg picker with microphone labels.

    Demo files include pitched sounds, which are not delivered with library.

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    CASUAL UI | Sound Effects | Trailer

    Upgrade your UI

    CASUAL UI covers a wide spectrum of sounds specifically designed for every aspect of a user interface and brings a playful dose of life into every tap, swipe, and click. With 15 categories, these high-quality, diverse sounds are created to be your UI sound foundation, providing you with the immediate flexibility you need to create an engaging auditory landscape.

    Feedback sounds

    Gaming and interactive content rely on sound to give feedback for actions and information. This casual games sound effects library was curated to give everything you need to build a positive and easy-going sonic base for your UI. From the excitement of discovering new game levels to achieving major milestones, these sounds transform user interactions into fun, memorable moments and keep audiences eager for more.

    From arcade to how-to
    With sounds that span from quirky and playful to neatly informative, CASUAL UI is a treasure trove designed to meet diverse creative needs – from positive videos to explainer content, and more – making it an indispensable tool in any content creator’s arsenal.

    INCLUDED SOUNDS – KEYWORDS
    CLICK, PLOP, WIPE, WHOOSH, CARD, COIN, POOF, EXPLOSION, IMPACT, SHIMMER, RATTLE, EFFECT, MATERIAL WOOD, MATERIAL PAPER, MATERIAL LIQUID, MATERIAL ROCK, UI, GAME, INTERFACE, MOBILE

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  • Embark on an auditory journey into the heart of Asian gambling with our meticulously crafted collection of royalty-free music and sound effects. Immerse your players in a world of captivating audio that’ll leave them craving more!

     

    WHAT’S INSIDE?

    Delve into the authentic sounds of Asia with our comprehensive library, featuring a diverse array of audio assets meticulously tailored for the most beloved Asian gambling games, including:

    🀄 Mahjong: Experience the timeless allure of this classic game with custom tile sounds, winning effects, and atmospheric background music that perfectly captures the essence of traditional gameplay.

    🎰 Pachinko: Feel the electric buzz of the arcade with dynamic sound effects that bring the thrill of pachinko machines to life. From bouncing balls to jackpot celebrations, our library has it all!

    🃏 Baccarat: Immerse yourself in the sophistication of the casino floor with elegant card shuffling, dealing, and winning effects that add an extra layer of excitement to every hand.

    But wait, there’s more! Our library also includes audio assets perfect for other popular Asian gambling games such as SIC BO, TAI SAI, FAN-TAN, DRAGON TIGER, CHO-HAN, KENO, PAI GOW POKER, and many more. Plus, enjoy a selection of card, dice, and poker chip sounds, as well as win jingles and music loops – complimentary gifts from some of our related products!


    ASIAN GAMBLING GAMES at a Glance:

    • 380 Audio Files (190 original sounds) in High-Quality WAV and MP3 formats
    • Sound Effects and Foley Recordings for every table and machine game mentioned
    • Background Environment Loops, short Music Jingles, and Loops included
    • Ready to use – no editing or splicing required
    • Categorized, organized, and individually labeled files for maximum efficiency
    • Unpacked Size: 161 MB | Total Run Time: 23m 48s
    • Drag and Drop Ready Files for seamless integration into your projects!
    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     


    With over 1000 games worth of experience in audio production and a passion for gaming, we understand the importance of high-quality audio in creating immersive experiences. Our library is curated to ensure every sound is top-notch, allowing you to focus on creating unforgettable games that keep players coming back for more.



    READY TO ELEVATE YOUR GAMING PROJECTS TO NEW HEIGHTS?

    DON’T DELAY – DOWNLOAD NOW AND IMMERSE YOUR PLAYERS IN THE ULTIMATE ASIAN GAMBLING EXPERIENCE!

     

     

    Need more card, dice, chip, and coin sounds? Looking for additional table game sounds or Asian casino music? Explore our related products below:

    👉 Cards, Chips, and Dice Sound Effects with Dealer Voiceovers
    👉 Scratch Card Sound Effects and Music
    👉 Roulette Sound Effects with Dealer Voiceovers
    👉 Slots of Asia: China and Japan
    👉 Progressive Slots and Classic Fruit Machines

    GRAB YOURS NOW AND LET THE SOUNDS OF ASIA INSPIRE YOUR NEXT GAMING MASTERPIECE!

    17 %
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  • Royal Cannon is a mini sound library created by sound designer Barney Oram. It features recordings of a British royal cannon salute, fired by six WW1 field guns in February of 2020, to mark the 68th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. All sounds in the library are contained within one single 192kHz 24bit WAV file, with 23 individual takes contained within.

    These recordings were made using the Neumann 191, and have been decoded into a stereo file. The recordings have had some light cleanup but have been left mostly natural, with the sounds of the soldiers shouting and reloading the guns still audible.

    This library includes detailed SoundMiner metadata and utilizes the UCS system for ease of integration into your library.

    Behind the Scenes Video:


    Royal Cannon


    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1714514399
  • Over 375 sounds of creaking materials, including breaking cables, ropes under tension and about to split, wires and strings under stress, metal friction causing tension. Recorded with a combination of Sanken CO100K and Nevaton microphones for full frequency sound content. Saved as 192KHz these files allow for high resolution editing. Useful for impact sounds in cinema, games or documentary, but also for cartoon sounds or even creature sounds as many of the recordings contain vowel-like screeching and scraping.

    Imagine a scene where a rope is about to break over an edge, an object being torn by a huge cable, a wooden structure about to collapse under stress and so on… Our brain is triggered by those rattling sounds or spine-breaking cracks coming from little fibers being split apart, parts of the structure creaking, wires scraping over edges…

    These sounds can be perceived as delicate but have a great psychological impact as we interpret these and know what is about to happen. So suspense is built with both background and close-up sounds. Useful when building tension, when creating a sense of upcoming climax, these sonic elements will work out to amplify the details that are often important but not always visible for the eye.

    All the source material and recording are acoustic, there are no digital effects applied. This guarantees natural organic harmonics, even way beyond our hearing. Pitching down the 192 KHz files will let you discover another collection of sounds!

     

  • This pack includes 13 magic sounds, including fireball, water, lightning, curse and healing spells. Elevate your game’s enchanting atmosphere instantly with this expertly crafted sound collection.

    30 %
    OFF

   

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