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:  
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    BEAMS is a comprehensive toolkit for beam sound design. Sounds are separated into activation oneshot, activation/deactivation mechanism, and active loop categories. Each category contains subcategories for small, medium, and large beams. You can design anything from the smallest spy-watch laser cutter to a planet destroying column of chaos. As a bonus, you’ll also get a diverse collection of burning ignition sounds as source for beam environmental destruction.

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    Even if some sounds of the pack are not fully in the theme, I voluntarily left them because they were recorded at the same time and in order to serve the film.

    The most represented sounds in this pack are those recorded in the marina, the wind blowing in the masts of the boats, at the seaside, as well as a detailed recording of the zodiac boat.

    Sounds were recorded using Sound Devices 633, in 24bits 96Khz, Schoeps CCM 21 mic in ORTF, with an extra CCM 41 for the center (LCR), and using an extra contact mic to record the motor of the zodiac boat.

    All the sounds are raw (No EQ, No Compression, No Fx).

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    You will find whooshes, transitions, noises, granular textures, movements, stutters and hits with a powerful Sci-fi feel.

    Special attention was put in the dynamics of the sounds to ensure the creation of an energetic pack aimed to enhance atmospheres, add movement and enrich musical compositions.

    If you liked some of my previous libraries like “Dodge this” and “The Transition” you are gonna love this one.

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  • Huge deep and textural organic whoosh by’s. These are un-altered but a total blast. Want more fun, just (again) compress and pitch to fit, and hell, maybe add a little distortion.

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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.

 

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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

• 30+ year audio veteran Andy Greenberg, on building client relationships in the advertising industry

• 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 Theater Sound Design, Podcast Sound Design, and Podcast Production

• 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

• How to get hired in game audio – thoughts and insights from your potential employer’s perspective

• 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

• Essential books about sound – for film, games and audio post production

• 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:
 
 
  • Sci-Fi Beams Play Track 1139 sounds included $149 $99

    BEAMS is a comprehensive toolkit for beam sound design. Sounds are separated into activation oneshot, activation/deactivation mechanism, and active loop categories. Each category contains subcategories for small, medium, and large beams. You can design anything from the smallest spy-watch laser cutter to a planet destroying column of chaos. As a bonus, you’ll also get a diverse collection of burning ignition sounds as source for beam environmental destruction.

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  • Sci-Fi Polarity Play Track 975 sounds included $90 $67

    Polarity delivers more than 950 sounds of electricity, science and technology – captured in several locations around the world, from electricity museums to science labs. About 50% of the library is all about electricity, with various types of Jacob’s Ladders, Tesla Coils, Ruhmkorff lamp and all sorts of impactful bursts of energy.

    Then we go through welders, plasma spheres, 3D printers, starting to cover a more broad technology theme – like old phones, telegraphs, dynamo wheels, rotary dials, whirling watchers, alarm, lab centrifuges, something scientists call a roller and a rocker, servo sounds, neon lights, a wimshurst machine and sparklers.

    Many sounds in this section were captured from vintage equipment, from a 1928’s tram to old telephone switchboards, high voltage levers and control surfaces.

    All content was recorded at 192KHz with a Sanken CO100K, a couple of Sennheiser 8040 and a Neumann 81i, translating into final assets that have plenty of ultrasonic content, ready for the most extreme manipulation.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
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  • The Audio Hero Western collection features 200 professionally recorded sound effects, ready for use in your productions.  Included in this library are guns and pistols, horses, stagecoaches, steam trains, jail cell doors and much more!  These sounds are all hand-picked from the Hollywood Edge Burtis Bills' Sounds of the American West sound effects collection.

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Sci-Fi Beams Play Track 1139 sounds included $149 $99

    BEAMS is a comprehensive toolkit for beam sound design. Sounds are separated into activation oneshot, activation/deactivation mechanism, and active loop categories. Each category contains subcategories for small, medium, and large beams. You can design anything from the smallest spy-watch laser cutter to a planet destroying column of chaos. As a bonus, you’ll also get a diverse collection of burning ignition sounds as source for beam environmental destruction.

    34 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597442399
  • Metal Smash – What do you get when you go to the junkyard with the best Schoeps Microphones money can buy.

    Every effect is also recorded with a sub sonic microphone to add depth to the smashes. Great complicated crashes with extra metallic details.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597355999
  • The sounds presented in this pack were recorded during the shooting of a short film taking place by the ocean. We shot in different places, in the marina, on a boat, in an industrial harbor area, in a wharehouse of boat maintenance.

    Even if some sounds of the pack are not fully in the theme, I voluntarily left them because they were recorded at the same time and in order to serve the film.

    The most represented sounds in this pack are those recorded in the marina, the wind blowing in the masts of the boats, at the seaside, as well as a detailed recording of the zodiac boat.

    Sounds were recorded using Sound Devices 633, in 24bits 96Khz, Schoeps CCM 21 mic in ORTF, with an extra CCM 41 for the center (LCR), and using an extra contact mic to record the motor of the zodiac boat.

    All the sounds are raw (No EQ, No Compression, No Fx).

    This pack contains 40 sounds, 80 files, for the ambiences.

    It also contains 15 sounds, 39 files for the zodiac boat.

    All embedded with detailed metadata on Soundminer.

  • Welcome to “MOTION MODE”, an intense collection of sounds to induce movement and evoke excitement in your production.

    You will find whooshes, transitions, noises, granular textures, movements, stutters and hits with a powerful Sci-fi feel.

    Special attention was put in the dynamics of the sounds to ensure the creation of an energetic pack aimed to enhance atmospheres, add movement and enrich musical compositions.

    If you liked some of my previous libraries like “Dodge this” and “The Transition” you are gonna love this one.

    29 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597183199
  • Huge deep and textural organic whoosh by’s. These are un-altered but a total blast. Want more fun, just (again) compress and pitch to fit, and hell, maybe add a little distortion.

    A great collection of organic sliding whooshes. They sound great, have lots of movement and are almost always complicated movements not just simple whoosh by’s.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597183199
 
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