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.
 


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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:

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

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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

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• 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
 


 
 
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    Great for linear work or games – especially since it includes an easy-to-use Interior vs. Exterior mockup folded down to 2-channel files (ISO’s also included separately).

    This is our premiere foray into sound libraries here at Steamboat Sound, and we worked real hard to make it equally high-quality and easy-to-use – we hope you enjoy!

    Recordings include:

    Mockup channel order (panned, for easy editing in NLE):
    Channel 1 (left) – Exterior
    Channel 2 (right) – Interior

    Isolated tracks of all Exterior and Interior perspectives on idles, revs, engine starts & stops, various speeds, and more!

    Interior knobs, buttons, dials, seatbelts, sunroof, turn signals, buttons, windshield wipers, door open/close.

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    Ends 1591307999
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    Enter the world of MAGIC – ARCANE FORCES, where supernatural entities can be heard raging with ultimate power and fury. The distinctly forceful and kinetic character of this comprehensive sound effects library and its designs is supported by countless pristine source recordings of the elements being pushed to their limits. Whether in post production or sound design for games, MAGIC – ARCANE FORCES gives you the edge on the other side.

    WHAT’S INSIDE:
    INCLUDED SOUNDS – KEYWORDS
    ACID, ARCANE, BARRIER, BREATH, BUFF, CURSED, DEBUFF, DIVINE, ELECTRIC, ENERGY, FIRE, GLASS, ICE, IMPACT, LIGHT, LIQUID, METAL, PROCESSED, PROJECTILE, RUMBLE, SEQUENCE, SUMMON, SWEETENER, SWISH, TELEPORT, TEXTURE, VOICE, WATER, WHOOSH, WIND
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    Both onboard and exterior perspectives are shared in two takes. The exterior perspectives arrange microphones at a mix of distances at the beginning, end, and middle of the racing strip. The onboard microphones were positioned onboard the body and at the jet engine to portray steady fast driving, with bonus custom mixes of the onboard and exhaust tracks.

    The sound library includes iXML, Soundminer, BWAV, and MacOS Finder embedded metadata, metadata keyword import files for 7 languages, and Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions.

 
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