Cope with game audio layoffs - with Brian Schmidt Asbjoern Andersen


Working in game audio offers some fantastic opportunities and experiences, but game development is also a volatile industry where mass layoffs and sudden studio closures are all-too-frequent. This series is dedicated to helping you prepare for, cope with and bounce back from layoffs when working in audio.

We're looking at it from a game audio perspective, but the vast majority of advice in this series will apply to anyone working in audio:


By Jennifer Walden and Asbjoern Andersen
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In this installment, we talk to Brian Schmidt — creator of GameSoundCon (held this year from Oct. 29 – 30 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, CA). He’s also a frequent keynote speaker at other game industry and sound-related conferences, like Game Developers Conference, Montreal Interactive Games Summit, and the Audio Engineering Society Conference.

Schmidt has been in the game sound industry for over 30 years and has worked on over 140 titles. His clients include major game studios like Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Sony, Capcom, Namco, Zynga, and Sega to name a few. He’s even an inventor of audio and game technology, with about 20 patents to his name. Schmidt was the 2008 recipient of the Game Audio Network Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Here, Schmidt discusses ways to prepare for and power through a layoff in the game audio industry:
 

Should game audio pros automatically plan for a layoff, even if their job seems stable?
Brian Schmidt (BS): The video game industry can be volatile. Even large companies like Microsoft or Amazon can have layoffs in their game audio groups. Or new management decides to outsource work that was previously done by in-house employees. Or a small company discovers it’s burned through its capital faster than they thought and the hammer falls. So it definitely makes sense to always keep that in the back of your mind to be ready in case it happens.
 

What can they do to prepare ahead of time?
BS: 1) Stay informed: Keep in touch with what’s going on in the game industry overall, and in game audio in particular.

2) Stay current: Are you up on the latest tools and tech? If your studio is a hardcore Pro Tools + FMOD shop, see what the latest version of Wwise, Fabric, ADX or CRI has to offer.

3) Stay connected: It’s very easy to become disconnected with the community at large when you work in-house; you already have co-workers to keep you social, so don’t let the fact you have a great in-house position keep you from hitting the local audio meet-ups.

4) Get Visible: If you’re working in-house, especially on a reasonably well known title, don’t be afraid to parlay that cache to benefit your own personal brand. Apply to be a speaker at conferences (GDC, GameSoundCon, AES, etc.), and get to be known external to the company, especially if there are interesting or unique things you are doing.

 

When a layoff happens, what are some things to do immediately to help soften the blow? Do you have any strategies for finding a new position?
BS: There are obvious financial things you should take care of pretty quickly. Hopefully you had previously set aside an emergency fund to help soften the blow (for some great overall financial advice, I’m a big fan of Jill Schlesinger’s site and podcast). Or receive a bit of a severance package to help things.

Give yourself a few days to settle down, but I’d say within a week, start your new ‘job’ of ‘finding your new job.’

If the company is large enough, they may have resources to help you find employment elsewhere. Make use of them. That’s what they’re there for.

Give yourself a few days to settle down, but I’d say within a week, start your new ‘job’ of ‘finding your new job.’

Your job of finding your job can take several forms. For example:

• Update your demo reel: Make a great demo reel, showing off your most recent achievements and/or things you’re especially proud of.

• Block out some number of hours each day for skills improvement: Never played with Unity or Unreal? Go through the audio tutorials. Pick up a “Making Unity Games for Dummies” book and work through it. Set up that orchestral template you’ve been meaning to. Dive into parts of your DAW you haven’t before.

Kick the tires at video editing (videos can make demo reels). We have a great advantage that the tools needed for game audio are either free (Unity, Unreal, FMOD, Wwise, etc.) or reasonably priced (Reaper, Avid Media Composer First, etc.). Always been meaning to get Wwise certified? Now’s the perfect time to go through all their tutorials.

Or dive into the innards of Excel or Google Sheets (Yes, I know someone who got a gig partly because she was one of the only applicants to have successfully worked through the full Excel part of the sound design take home test she was given).

• Look for networking opportunities: Both anecdotally and more formal surveys seem to show that most game audio gigs are gotten through networking or referral. So check your local scene for both audio and game developer hangouts, meet-ups, conferences, seminars, etc. Get out there and be seen/heard.

• Look for actual job listings: Even using the right keywords in a source like Indeed can show a lot of openings. One of the best sites out there for audio job listings is www.soundlister.com, which is constantly being updated.

• If you don’t’ have a website, now’s the perfect time to create one: I’m partial to Wix, but I’ve also heard that Squarespace and Weebly are very easy to use.

One almost silly sounding recommendation while doing the above is: Get up in the morning. Get dressed and “go to work” (presumably in your home office or studio) with a reasonable, consistent schedule, putting in a full work-day

One almost silly sounding recommendation while doing the above is: Get up in the morning. Get dressed and “go to work” (presumably in your home office or studio) with a reasonable, consistent schedule, putting in a full work-day.
Not only can that make you more likely to follow-through, but it also means that when your workday is done, you can stop and not feel like you should still be looking for a gig.
 


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

Latest releases:  
  • Destruction & Impact Debris – Ambisonic Play Track 110+ sounds included, 17 mins total $90 incl. vat

    Get all sorts of ambisonic debris recordings in this release from Spheric Collection – perfect for earthquakes, landslides, explosions and beyond. Debris is the material you will need for a house and gallery collapsing. From very small stone and dust to large rocks, this collection is a good set of mineral sounds – covering everything from impacts, continuous falling debris, rocks poured from various heights, light and heavy falling debris sounds, a number of falling rock sounds, to rocky explosions and blasts, glass sounds and more. Always immersive all sounds are ambisonic recordings.

    About Ambisonics:
    This is an Ambisonics sound effects library - and by using the free SoundField SurroundZone 2 plugin you can convert the B-format files into your preferred format (stereo, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0 or 7.1 surround). Note: The library also contains ready-made stereo mixdowns for your convenience.
    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Affright Play Track 208 sounds included, 45 mins total $36 $18 incl. vat

    Affright” is a collection of 208 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to induce tension, fear and urgency in horror productions.

    You will find looped percussive elements (clocks, metals, hits, alarms, musical elements and more at 75 bpm), designed rhythmic elements (75 bpm) and fx (atmospheric elements, reverses, noises, risers, drops).

    If you are a musician who wants to define the building blocks of an intense horror track or maybe you are a sound designer who needs to create a musical moment in a scene from a sound design perspective, this library can help you to achieve those things.

    Metals, vinyl noises, voices, ukuleles, flutes, guitars and clocks were used to create this intense pack of 164 loops and 44 Fx.

    Check the main demo!! It was created very quickly using only the sounds of the pack with NO ADDED EFFECTS, only mixing the levels of the sounds and shows you the intensity of what you can create with this library!!

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  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Vintage Film Tech Effects Play Track 206 sounds included, 5 mins total $144 $118.80 incl. vat

    Vintage Film Tech Effects features Slate claps, Beeps, Bloops, Film leader tone, Static, 2 Pops, digital dropouts, record player noise and much more. We’ve collected these vintage sounds from old Hollywood dailies reels, and film stock. 206 tracks that recreate the sound of the lost art of classic Film, TV and radio production.

    18 %
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    Ends 1569016799
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  • City Life Transit: Japan Play Track 40 sounds included, 2.75 hrs mins total $36 $18 incl. vat

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    This is a purely recorded sound pack. Nothing is synthetic or layered here. What you hear is exactly what was captured on location. We edited and mastered the files to bring out the best parts of the recordings. Most of the recordings have been ready-made into loops for ease of use. As always, we have embedded the files with detailed metadata for easy database searches.

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    Ends 1569967199
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  • Foley Wooden Ship Ambiences Play Track 50 sounds included, 85 mins total $179.99 $119.99 incl. vat

    Ahoy Mateys! Step aboard the finest sailing ship sound effects library in the land.

    Whether you’re working on an exciting Pirates of the Caribbean style video game or a relaxing sea-faring romance, the hours of exceptional background loops and additional cutting edge ship sounds contained within this sound pack will set your project on a course to excellence!

    EXPLORE AN ENTIRE SHIP

    Whether your adventure takes place in the MAIN DECK, CABIN, BELOW DECK, atop the CROWS NEST, in a MEDIEVAL PORT, or on a DISTANT SHIP in the HIGH SEAS we’ve got you covered! Each ambience contains MULTIPLE VARIATIONS, ALL WEATHER CONDITIONS, and MULTIPLE INTENSITIES to cover each and every part of the ship, on the rough and calm seas, this sound effects library is perfect for every situation you need.

    A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

    Our expert team of sound designers have meticulously crafted each ambience into CONTINUOUS, NON-REPETITIVE, DRAG AND DROP-READY LOOPS that will serve as perfect background audio for your game, film, animation, live event, or even as relaxing background audio! We have even included FULL and SIMPLIFIED MIXES, ISOLATED WEATHER, OCEAN and WOOD CRACKING versions, SHORT and LONG non-repetitive variants, and numerous other options for your convenience!

    TREASURE APLENTY

    With FREE UPDATES, FOREVER! and FREE BONUS AMBIENCES: MEDIEVAL PORT and isolated, SEA, SAILS and FLAG FLAPPING, Ship’s BELL RINGING, WEATHER and WOOD CRACKING SOUNDS, all supplied in industry standard Hi-Rez WAV and Hi-Quality MP3 formats, there’s no better time to set sail on the high seas with this ONE OF A KIND sound pack!

    So what are you waiting for? Take command of this UNIQUE library and begin your journey on the high seas today!

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Huge variety of Old Wooden Ship Interior and Exterior Ambiences, All Weather Conditions and Additional Useful BONUS Sound Effects for every scene or situation.
    • Multiple variants and intensities for your convenience and additional edit options (lengths, looping versions, stingers, etc.).
    • Ready to use – requires no editing, labelling or splicing. Categorized, organized and individually labeled files for maximum use efficiency
    • All files are included in Hi-Rez WAV, High-Quality WAV and High-Quality MP3 formats
    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     

    33 %
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    Ends 1568757599
    Add to cart

Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

Do you feel that freelancing is a viable path forward?
BS: Freelancing is definitely a viable path. In fact, as a composer, it’s far more likely you get hired as a freelancer than a full-time employee (although that does occur, too). However, freelancing isn’t just working, but for multiple employers. You have to get yourself into an entrepreneurial mindset. Most of the successful freelancers I know either enjoy that aspect of being freelance (to a certain extent), or have partnered with someone who is.
 

More on bouncing back from a layoff – with Damian Kastbauer:

For the first installment in this series, game audio guru Damian Kastbauer was kind enough to share his thoughts on how to land on your feet after a layoff – you can read his insights here.
 

Any other advice you’d like to share on surviving a layoff?
BS: I keep thinking back to the first 2 questions — the best way to survive one is probably to have prepared for it. Perform at your current job with professionalism, integrity and by being a pleasure to work with. The industry’s not large, and people always want to work with people who are great to work with.

I keep thinking back to the first 2 questions — the best way to survive one is probably to have prepared for it

A layoff will no doubt be a stressful time, with a lot of factors that are highly personalized. Don’t be shy to avail yourself of any resources or support that are there for you, be they corporate/professional or personal and family.
 

A big thanks to Brian Schmidt for the insights! Find out more about him and GameSoundCon here.

 

Please share this:


 

 


 


Succeed in sound:

• How to Set (and Get) the Right Price for Your Audio Work

• 10 Essential Tips for Game Audio Freelancers

• How to be a successful sound designer – with Scott Gershin

• 5 Useful Tips for Upcoming Sound Designers and Sound Editors

• Sound Opinions: How to get game audio pricing right

• Building a successful audio post studio – with Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman

• Rebuilding your studio: Goals, tips and lessons learned

• Creating audio for games – with Martin Stig Andersen

• A life in sound: How to foster creativity and protect yourself from burning out – with Chance Thomas

• Tips and thoughts on running your own audio post production house – with William McGuigan

• 7 Sound Alternatives to Working For Free

• Audio Outsourcing Success: Essential Tips, Thoughts and Working Practices from Adele Cutting

 
 
The sound success series:

• How to succeed in UI/UX Sound Design, ADR Recording, & Audio Programming

• How to succeed in sound design for Film, Documentaries, and Trailers

• How to succeed in sound design for Games, Animation, and Television

How to succeed in Field Recording, Foley, and Teaching Sound

• How to succeed in Audio Branding, Music Editing, and sound for VR

• How to succeed in Sound Editing, Sound for Advertising, and Production Sound

 
Breaking into audio – guides and resources:

• The ‘Quit Aspiring’ book – by Adam Croft

• 4 Effective Ways to Break into Game Audio

• Tips for Creating a Perfect Resume for Audio Industry Jobs

• Yet Another Game Audio Hiring Article – by Ariel Gross

• 5 Tips for Getting a Job in the Audio Industry

• Applying for a job in game audio – by Matthew Florianz

• Freelance Game Audio: Getting Started and finding work – by Ashton Morris

• How to get started (and make it) in game audio – 10+ fundamental questions answered by Akash Thakkar

• Courses: How to network and get paid for your work in the game industry – by Akash Thakkar

• How to Craft a Perfect Cover Letter for Audio Industry Jobs
 
 
Finding those audio jobs:

• Get the weekly Audio Jobs newsletter

• Join the Audio Jobs Facebook group
 
 
Showcasing your work:
 
• Get a free profile on Soundlister

• Upload your demos to Soundcloud

• Upload your demos to ReelCrafter
 
 
Networking:
 
• Find game audio community groups around the world

• Find interesting audio events around the world

• Find other audio pros around the world
 
 
Coping with a layoff - and how to bounce back:

• How to prepare for – and power through – a layoff in the game audio industry, with Brian Schmidt:

• How to Survive a Game Audio Layoff – insights from Damian Kastbauer

• What it’s like to be laid off from your video game studio

• What To Do Before and After Being Laid Off

• Facebook Group: Survival Skills for Creatives
 
 
Education and knowledge:
 
• Get an audio mentor at the Audio Mentoring Project

• How To Learn Game Audio Online – A talk with Game Audio Educator Leonard Paul

• Read the 100s of sound stories and guides on the A Sound Effect blog (search for stories here)

• Browse Industry Data: Game Music and Sound Design Salary Survey Results

• Browse 100+ Sound Design Guides

• Get tips and ideas for making your own sound effects

• Discover 1000s of sound libraries from the independent sound community

• Take online courses in Wwise, FMOD Studio, Unity, Pure Data & Unreal at the School of Video Game Audio
 
 
Getting into independent sound effects:
 
• DIY SFX libraries - Your guide to your first sound effects library

• Sound effects survey results: Here are 90+ ideas for new SFX libraries

• How to create an indie sound bundle

• The quick-start guide to adding sound FX library metadata
 


 
 
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:
 
 
  • Human Swordfighter Play Track 479 sounds included $30 $24 incl. vat

    Swordfighter is a robust package with sharp sounding swords, heaps of variations and all the extras you need to make a fight come alive. Build unique sword swings with various hits, swooshes, schings, different fighter vocals and impacts on various surfaces. All up there are 137 sword sounds, 93 surface impact sounds, 15 knife throwing sounds, 48 swooshes and 180 fighter vocals.

    This version includes two sub-folders: one optimised for a film & TV workflow and the other optimised for video games workflow. Plus a few bonus sounds of a charging army.

    20 %
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    Add to cart
  • Animals & Creatures Zombie Play Track 205 sounds included $24 incl. vat

    In a remote research lab in the north-east of England, scientists have been secretly carrying out experiments on a number of human test subjects. There is no record of what these experiments entailed or who authorized them, but one thing we do know is that something went horrendously wrong and transformed these once-innocent, everyday people into something else entirely… Something inherently evil.

    Herein lies an audio documentation of these wretched beasts as they run amok with only one thing on their minds… To feed and to destroy.

    Zombie contains 205 vocal sounds in the following categories:
    Subject A: 67 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Subject B: 89 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Subject C: Zombie Brat: 18 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Processed: 27 vocal sounds with pitch down and reverb fx
    Layered: 4 layered, looping sequences of Subject A & B
    Add to cart
  • Ice Frozen Play Track 809 sounds included $54 incl. vat

    Frozen is a collection of ice impacts, scrapes, debris, slides and more taken during a miserably cold winter in the arctic tundra of Massachusetts. These recordings were meticulously recorded, edited, named, renamed, edited again, re recorded, then re-renamed (you get the point) to give you the best quality ice library you can get.

    The library roughly is broken into two sections, raw and processed. Raw is designed for sound designers to go wild with: stretch, distort, compress, and more to your hearts content. The processed section is for designers and content creators on the go. If you’re on a tight deadline, pulling some sounds that are already going to get you close to where you need to be is imperative. These processed versions play very nicely even when not designing ice.

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Destruction & Impact Debris – Ambisonic Play Track 110+ sounds included, 17 mins total $90 incl. vat

    Get all sorts of ambisonic debris recordings in this release from Spheric Collection – perfect for earthquakes, landslides, explosions and beyond. Debris is the material you will need for a house and gallery collapsing. From very small stone and dust to large rocks, this collection is a good set of mineral sounds – covering everything from impacts, continuous falling debris, rocks poured from various heights, light and heavy falling debris sounds, a number of falling rock sounds, to rocky explosions and blasts, glass sounds and more. Always immersive all sounds are ambisonic recordings.

    About Ambisonics:
    This is an Ambisonics sound effects library - and by using the free SoundField SurroundZone 2 plugin you can convert the B-format files into your preferred format (stereo, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0 or 7.1 surround). Note: The library also contains ready-made stereo mixdowns for your convenience.
  • Drones & Moods Affright Play Track 208 sounds included, 45 mins total $36 $18 incl. vat

    Affright” is a collection of 208 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to induce tension, fear and urgency in horror productions.

    You will find looped percussive elements (clocks, metals, hits, alarms, musical elements and more at 75 bpm), designed rhythmic elements (75 bpm) and fx (atmospheric elements, reverses, noises, risers, drops).

    If you are a musician who wants to define the building blocks of an intense horror track or maybe you are a sound designer who needs to create a musical moment in a scene from a sound design perspective, this library can help you to achieve those things.

    Metals, vinyl noises, voices, ukuleles, flutes, guitars and clocks were used to create this intense pack of 164 loops and 44 Fx.

    Check the main demo!! It was created very quickly using only the sounds of the pack with NO ADDED EFFECTS, only mixing the levels of the sounds and shows you the intensity of what you can create with this library!!

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569707999
  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Vintage Film Tech Effects Play Track 206 sounds included, 5 mins total $144 $118.80 incl. vat

    Vintage Film Tech Effects features Slate claps, Beeps, Bloops, Film leader tone, Static, 2 Pops, digital dropouts, record player noise and much more. We’ve collected these vintage sounds from old Hollywood dailies reels, and film stock. 206 tracks that recreate the sound of the lost art of classic Film, TV and radio production.

    18 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569016799
  • City Life Transit: Japan Play Track 40 sounds included, 2.75 hrs mins total $36 $18 incl. vat

    Looking for authentic ambient sounds of Japanese transportation? Look no further! Field recordist and composer Ryan Ayers travelled to Japan in April of 2019 and captured this wonderful collection. His journey took him from Osaka to Tokyo to Fukuoka and all points in-between. Travel aboard the trains of the JR, the famous Shinkansen, the Hanyu Ferry and more! Explore the train platforms and station terminals of Osaka. Get lost in the Kansai International Airport. There is a subway noodle shop as well as specialty food markets. Authentic walla and natural activity give this collection the ear candy necessary to be an integral part of great soundscapes.

    This is a purely recorded sound pack. Nothing is synthetic or layered here. What you hear is exactly what was captured on location. We edited and mastered the files to bring out the best parts of the recordings. Most of the recordings have been ready-made into loops for ease of use. As always, we have embedded the files with detailed metadata for easy database searches.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569967199
  • Foley Wooden Ship Ambiences Play Track 50 sounds included, 85 mins total $179.99 $119.99 incl. vat

    Ahoy Mateys! Step aboard the finest sailing ship sound effects library in the land.

    Whether you’re working on an exciting Pirates of the Caribbean style video game or a relaxing sea-faring romance, the hours of exceptional background loops and additional cutting edge ship sounds contained within this sound pack will set your project on a course to excellence!

    EXPLORE AN ENTIRE SHIP

    Whether your adventure takes place in the MAIN DECK, CABIN, BELOW DECK, atop the CROWS NEST, in a MEDIEVAL PORT, or on a DISTANT SHIP in the HIGH SEAS we’ve got you covered! Each ambience contains MULTIPLE VARIATIONS, ALL WEATHER CONDITIONS, and MULTIPLE INTENSITIES to cover each and every part of the ship, on the rough and calm seas, this sound effects library is perfect for every situation you need.

    A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

    Our expert team of sound designers have meticulously crafted each ambience into CONTINUOUS, NON-REPETITIVE, DRAG AND DROP-READY LOOPS that will serve as perfect background audio for your game, film, animation, live event, or even as relaxing background audio! We have even included FULL and SIMPLIFIED MIXES, ISOLATED WEATHER, OCEAN and WOOD CRACKING versions, SHORT and LONG non-repetitive variants, and numerous other options for your convenience!

    TREASURE APLENTY

    With FREE UPDATES, FOREVER! and FREE BONUS AMBIENCES: MEDIEVAL PORT and isolated, SEA, SAILS and FLAG FLAPPING, Ship’s BELL RINGING, WEATHER and WOOD CRACKING SOUNDS, all supplied in industry standard Hi-Rez WAV and Hi-Quality MP3 formats, there’s no better time to set sail on the high seas with this ONE OF A KIND sound pack!

    So what are you waiting for? Take command of this UNIQUE library and begin your journey on the high seas today!

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Huge variety of Old Wooden Ship Interior and Exterior Ambiences, All Weather Conditions and Additional Useful BONUS Sound Effects for every scene or situation.
    • Multiple variants and intensities for your convenience and additional edit options (lengths, looping versions, stingers, etc.).
    • Ready to use – requires no editing, labelling or splicing. Categorized, organized and individually labeled files for maximum use efficiency
    • All files are included in Hi-Rez WAV, High-Quality WAV and High-Quality MP3 formats
    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1568757599
 
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