Asbjoern Andersen


Welcome to the 2nd installment in our Sound Success series; a series dedicated to helping you to grow - or kickstart - your audio business, learn new areas of audio-related work, and give you multiple revenue streams to insulate you from the ups and downs of the audio industry.

In these 3 interviews, you'll hear what it takes to get started and succeed in UI/UX sound design from Henry Daw, ADR recording from Emma Butt, and Audio Programming from Adam Croft.


By Jennifer Walden and Asbjoern Andersen. Images courtesy of Henry Daw, Emma Butt, and Adam Croft.
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UX/UI Sound Design – insights from Henry Daw:

A man with a beard and glasses smiles.• What working in UX/UI sound design entails:

UX/UI sound design is highly focused and detailed sound design, a crucial part of the user experience for the technology of today — think of advanced wearables, smart home devices, medical devices, or mobiles and tablets.

If we break it down, UI sound design can be defined as audio feedback within a digital user interface. When we talk about UX/UI sound design, we’re simply talking about UI sound design as part of a product user experience. UI sound design isn’t a standalone entity; it’s a vital part of the user experience, and should undergo the same level of focus and scrutiny as any other product design element (for example: UI, Interaction, or Motion Design).
 

• What it takes in terms of skills and gear:

Creating UI sounds is a very specialist expertise. It involves designing user feedback sound to the finest detail. It takes a very meticulous mind-set and it’s absolutely crucial that you don’t over design, considering the function and user at all times. In most cases you will need to go as minimal as you can, only drawing as much attention to the sound as is needed. This is actually a lot more challenging than you might think.

In most cases you will need to go as minimal as you can, only drawing as much attention to the sound as is needed. This is actually a lot more challenging than you might think.

In terms of gear, apart from a good DAW setup you’re likely to need some suitable devices to test your sounds on. UI sounds are commonly for small speakers, so you can’t just produce sounds using your headphones or large monitor speakers and hope for the best.
The sounds would need to work optimally with a lot less bandwidth. If it’s not possible to test on the actual device they are intended for, then laptop speakers are usually a good first test, followed by a variety of mobile speakers.
 

• How to learn it:

Through experience you will learn what type of sounds and tonalities work well as a UI sound, considering the small speaker context especially. As a creative and sound designer, there will always be a desire to learn, so even after you’ve been in the industry as long as I have, it’s important to continually look for new tools, seek new source material, or master a new technique. On the other hand, when you discover sounds and techniques that work really well, don’t be afraid to keep re-using them. In most cases, UI sounds simply need to do their job and blend beautifully into the UX, so it’s wrong to think you need to continually make big and unique statements with UI sounds.

Good learning can also come from simply listening out for good and bad examples of UI sound. For example, are the sounds you hear demanding the appropriate amount of attention? Can the sounds be designed differently/more effectively? I find myself doing this almost daily, living in the cauldron of noise that is London.
 

• How to find work:

The larger tech companies may advertise for jobs that demand expertise in this area, even though the job title might be called something else (i.e. Interaction Sound Designer, UX Sound Designer, or Product Sound Designer). It’s worth keeping a look out, using the resources on this website as a starting point.

At the other end of the scale, it might be worth networking in the tech start-up community. The smaller companies will often have a need for UI sound design, although you may have to convince them to invest.
 

• Essential advice for working and making it in UX/UI sound design:

As with every facet of sound design work, it’s important to build up a portfolio and highlight your skills. In this case you need to showcase the meticulous touch required to create product UI sounds. If you have a gaming background, then you can highlight some UI work there, but be careful not to present over-the-top or ‘showy’ sounds. In most cases this is the antithesis of what UX/UI sound design should be.

In these technology-saturated days, great design goes far beyond how something looks. It should stand for how we interact with a product, and how it makes us feel. Expertly crafted sound design can play a massive role in these factors, enhancing the user experience and improving the usability

Besides this, I’d say it’s important to have a genuine passion for great design. World-class design can come down to the finest details, embodying a sophisticated, refined, and modern approach — three principles that should be firmly etched into the work of a UX/UI sound designer. In these technology-saturated days, great design goes far beyond how something looks. It should stand for how we interact with a product, and how it makes us feel. Expertly crafted sound design can play a massive role in these factors, enhancing the user experience and improving the usability. If you feel passionately about this, it should come through in your work.
 

• Further reading and resources:

The existing reading material on UX/UI sound design is fairly scarce. However one author to look out for is Amber Case. Her first book ‘Calm Technology’ highlights good practice for UI sound design and notifications in general. Case has recently published her follow-up book, ‘Designing With Sound’, in collaboration with Aaron Day. The book focuses on how products and services can improve their sound. It comes at a very relevant time and I expect it to further elevate our industry. I’d also recommend looking for online articles, which highlight existing case studies or cover the field as a whole. One example is an article I wrote for the awwwards.com website, ‘Being Smart with Sound’. Another useful resource is my keynote talk from The Next Web 2017 conference, ‘The Small Sounds That Make a Big Difference’. In the talk I highlight principles for successful UI sound design, as well as make the point that the field of UX/UI Sound Design is relatively new. Hopefully there will be a few people here who can help it grow!


About Henry Daw:

Henry Daw is a London-based sound designer and audio branding consultant. He’s created sounds for billions of devices worldwide, including the most recent versions of the infamous Nokia Tune and the Microsoft Lumia Default ringtone. Henry worked for 13 years as an in-house sound designer for Nokia and Microsoft before setting up his own company Oblique Sound in 2015.

Website: www.obliquesound.com
Twitter: twitter.com/obliquesound

 

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

 

Latest releases:  
  • Ambisonics Ambisonic – Transportation Play Track 68 sounds included, 314 mins total $136 $99

    Ambisonic – Transportation is a great collection of ambisonic ambiences recordings performed at various transportation scenarios.
    It is aimed to provide you with great spherical content to wrap your dialogue or main focus content, allowing you to create a conniving and immersing soundtrack.
    You will find recordings such as a Train car interior, Jumbo jet interior, multiple cars interior under different driving conditions,
    Bus interior, public transportation stations and much more.

    This collection is great for post-production, VR/AR interactive sound-design, game developers and any real-time 3D audio engine.
    All files are tagged and categorized for your convenience – supporting multiple tag filtering browsing applications.

    A Sennheiser Ambeo microphone paired with Zoom H8 was used to create this product.

    This package includes 68 Samples – 136 Files.
    A total 2h 37m of content.
    First Order AmbiX B-Format and Stereo @ 96Khz / 24bit.

    Download a Demo here:
    Want to hear an example of the included recordings? Download the B-format Demo Here

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  • Foley Footstep Loops II Play Track 663 sounds included $75 $49

    Editing footsteps in audio post-production can be time-consuming. Footstep Loops II is a sound library that delivers a comprehensive kit of footstep sound effects made to ease your daily work.

    The collection contains footstep sounds of various shoes and surfaces, recorded in different paces and edited to continuous but lively 30-second sound loops.

    VARIETY

    The Footstep Loops II Sound Library covers a wide range of different footsteps:

    Barefoot, Socks, Slippers, Flip-Flops, Sneakers on Wood, Sneakers on Concrete, Boots on Wood, Boots on Concrete, Heels on Wood, Heels on Stone;
    Grass, Gravel, Forest, Foliage, Dry Foliage, Stones, Puddle, Mud, Snow;
    Stairs up + down: Wooden Stairs, Metal Stairs, Stone Stairs



    PACE

    Each type of footsteps is available as a set of 13 sound files that represent a range from walking very slowly up to very speedy. Paces are sorted by Footsteps per Minute (FPM):

    Ground Footsteps: from 40 FPM to 160 FPM
    Stairs Footsteps: from 60 FPM to 180 FPM (up) / from 80 FPM to 200 FPM (down)



    LAYERS

    Since all (ground) footstep loops have the same FPM paces, they can be layered easily. E.g. you can add a puddle sound element to sneakers walking on concrete etc.



    CLOTHING

    You can add clothing as a layer to make the movements sound more natural. The sounds of jeans & jacket fit to all ground footsteps. Furthermore, versions with well-balanced clothing sounds of all main footstep loops are already included as ready-to-use files!



    ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS

    Some experimental elements are also included in the library:
    2 layers of floor creaks and one layer that adds the sound of keys in the pocket while walking.



    TIME-COMPRESS

    Paces of the sound loops included in the Footstep Loops II sound library increase in steps of 10 FPM each. If you need a value in between, time-compress the file just a tiny bit – the quality loss is almost inaudible in modern digital audio workstations.



    ONLINE FOOTSTEPS GENERATOR

    To get an impression of what you get with the Footstep Loops II sound library, go HERE and play around with footsteps online.


    • 663 audio files
    • 331 minutes total runtime
    • all files contain meta-data / keywords for easy search


    All sounds from this library are included in:
    Diversity

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  • Environments Stream River & Waterfall vol.2 Play Track 88 sounds included $59 $46.20

    43 locations from various perspectives.

    STREAM / RIVER & WATERFALL features WATER MOVEMENT from JAPAN and NEW ZEALAND.
    Each STREAM and RIVER have their unique flows, and varieties of topographies gives each its characteristic sound – and WATERFALLS from small to medium adds nature feeling to it.
    In addition, the library also features places where SPRING WATER GUSHES in Japan, and huge ELECTRIC WATER PUMP from New Zealand and more.

    Recorded @ 24 Bit / 96 kHz with ortf, spaced omni, XY and carefully edited.

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  • Cars Renault Master IV 2.3 DCI 165 Play Track 80+ sounds included, 88 mins total $130 $117

    The Renault Master IV 2.3 DCI 165 sound library features 76 high-quality files recorded with a multi-mic setup. The engine was recorded in sync with cabin interior ambients, and you can expect different styles of driving, from casual city driving, through accelerations on a highway up to rpm ramps and constant rpm loops for game audio.

    In addition to engine recordings, this sound effects library features exterior passes, whooshes and other road-related sounds recorded in mono and stereo. Last but not least, different foley recordings covering exterior and interior sound effects.

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  • Destruction & Impact Rock Brick and Dirt 3 Play Track 500+ sounds included, 17 mins total $27

    Rock, Brick and Dirt 3 is the third of the series! This bundle includes all remastered sounds from RBD 1 and 2. With more than 100 new files recorded and designed. It’s a package of impact, Smash, Crumbling, Scratching, Landfall and more rock debris sounds. The library contains 333 files of various recording texture and perspective.

    A good package to add a dirty texture to your production.

    Each sound has been meticulously edited individually, All files were recorded and are delivered in 24bit 96kHz Broadcast Wave files, all embedded with metadata information for easy import and ensure fast and easy workflow.

    Add to cart

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  • City Life Night Cityscapes Play Track 67 sounds included, 186 mins total $65 $20

    Night Cityscapes delivers the urban sounds of a sleeping city. The collection includes more than 3 hours of night and early morning ambiences that are recorded in Sofia, Bulgaria. All recordings were made between 01:30 and 05:30 am. This collection will uncover city in a way you may not know.

    You will find atmospheres of quiet and empty small streets in the city center, where can be heard some air conditioners, urban hum and light traffic in the far background.

    Lonely sounds of traffic lights. One single taxi passes and disappears into the night, and then it is followed by silence. Empty streets and squares with distant voices and footsteps going somewhere. Major boulevards with light night traffic. Industrial empty streets, where electric buzz and big air conditioners can be heard.

    Very, very early morning atmospheres filled with singing birds eager to foreshadow the beginning of a new day.

    ‘Night Cityscapes’ will fill the missing part of your nocturnal urban atmospheres.

    Gear used: Sound Devices 633, Neumann KM184 in ORTF configuration

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  • Environments Ocean Ambience 1 Caves, Crevices and Waves Play Track 186 sounds included, 121 mins total $19.99

    Small Cave Ambiences / Big Wave Crashes / Coquina Rock Hits
    If you’re in need of an Ocean/Beach library, this is it. The library covers a range of material from small enclosed spaces with the sound of distant waves droning to massive waves crashing against the coquina rock.

    Although it is, in essence, an ambience library I recorded and edited material for maximum flexibility for further sound design capabilities.

    The library was recorded over a period of 4-weekend trips to Washington Oaks State Park near Flagler Beach, FL.

    Types of Recordings:

    • Small Cave & Rocky Crevice Ambience (Wet and Dry)
    • Ocean Waves Crashing on Rocks / Varying Perspectives
    • Coquina Rock Hits / Smashes
    • Isolated Individual Wave Crashes
    • Shell / Rock Splashes

    Bonus Forge / Reaktor Sample Maps Also Included

    Add to cart
  • Environments Spirit of Sound Effects: Thunder Volume 1 Play Track 102 sounds included, 55 mins total $150 $77

    Here is the thunder I recorded in 1988, to DAT with an ORTF pair of Schoeps MK-4s, which includes a strike from ~12′ away!  Hair standing up on end and everything.  You may know some of this material as what I released through “The Hollywood Edge Signature Series” back in 1993.  Well, a lot has changed.  More than half the material was then unusable back then due to rain ‘ruining’ the recordings.  Not so with Izotope RX 7 Advanced.  Rain?  What rain?  Not a drop survived.  Not.  A.  Drop.

    Painstakingly remastered to 96kHz 32-bit floating-point (no shortcuts padding it with useless zeros: That would be cheap and lazy).  Embrace it; it’s our near-future and everything I publish from here on out will be as such.

    ​   Hundreds and hundreds of mic capsule failures were repaired along with plenty of distortion – without removing any time; so if you line up the old with the now new, they won’t hold sync for long.  Back then all I could do was cut out time.  No more.  Come hear the utter clarity and crispness of this thunder as it should be.  To differentiate and make it quick and easy for people to cut, I’ve called the very close strikes “Lightning” and the not-as-close strikes “Thunder”.  Already prepped in/for Soundminer ready to go, and a spreadsheet document for those using other systems.

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  • Ambisonics Surround Sound LAB Complete Collection Play Track 4500+ sounds included, +1000 mins total $1,400 $399

    The Surround Sound LAB Complete Collection is a bundle containing the whole Surround Sound Lab Catalog. We offer it as a perpetual audio one-time subscription, getting you 4500+ files, 240+ GB of audio and free updates as the catalog grows! This one-time bundle purchase gives you access to all the Surround Sound LAB libraries, including new future releases!

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By popular demand, the deal on these 4 libraries from Pole Position is back - but please note that the discount is reduced by 20% per day, so the sooner you get the libraries, the more you save:
  • Materials & Texture Car Destruction Play Track 703 sounds included $249 $124.50

    The Car Destruction sound effects collection contains chassis scrapes, dragging, flipping, road rail scratching, multiple car chassis dropping takes include rolling down a slope, falling onto the ground, and impacting other cars.damaged engine idling and slow to fast driving with gearshifts, ramps, and steady RPMs from both onboard and exterior perspectives both on two cylinders and without oil and more.

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  • Environments Snow and Ice Textures Play Track 548+ sounds included, 295 mins total $199 $99.50

    A must-have collection for winter sounds, this library consists of many years' recordings of snow and ice, skiing, textures, ambiences, foley and so on. It contains lots of skiing, jumping, rails, freezing cold winds, ski resort ambiences, lifts, walking in snow and on ice, texture details such as snow spray, tires driving, skidding and spinning on ice and snow, drilling in ice and much more.

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  • Destruction & Impact The Gut-Wrenching Gore Library Play Track 712 sounds included $249 $124.50

    The Gut-Wrenching Gore Library gathers 712 clips in 26.96 gigabytes. Recorded from 6 synchronized perspectives in 192 kHz, it shares horror sound design elements in two themes: male and female vocalizations and fruit destruction.

    The vocalization showcase screams, choking, gurgling, gobbling, teeth and biting, and breathing, each with a variety of takes and performances. Body blows, stabs, hits, and gore were provided by tearing, breaking, and squeezing fruit, vegetables, and other food such as watermelons, leeks, porridge, yogurt, tomatoes and others.

    The package includes Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, and embedded metadata in every clip.

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  • Metal The Junkyard Metal Library Play Track 3183 sounds included $249 $124.50

    The Junkyard Metal sound library includes 3183 clips in 98.49 GB. It collects the sound of metal hits, drops, pick ups, rattles and clatters, rumbles and rummaging, rocking, rolling, and scraping.

    Featuring diverse props ranging from large metal storage containers, diesel tanks, shopping carts, and tractor buckets to to smaller propane tanks, crates, shopping carts, and bolts, nails, and ammunition, the collection provides multiple performances in each clip.

    The sounds were performed from light to heavy intensities and captured at 192 kHz, 24-bit resolution with Sanken, Sennheiser, Neumann, and Schoeps microphones.

    The bundle is delivered with Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, full professional embedded metadata, and metadata keyword import files in 7 languages.

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Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

ADR Recordist – insights from Emma Butt:

A woman with long, straight black hair smiles.• What working as an ADR recordist entails:

An ADR recordist is there to look after the technical side of recording the lines. We need to make sure that the boom mic is placed at the correct distance from the actor so the takes don’t sound like voice over but also don’t pick up too much “room” sound, and that the clip mic (lav mic) is placed correctly on the actor so we can hear the lines clearly but don’t pick up any cloth rustle from his or her clothes. We also handle playing back the takes and “selling” the lines to the client.

Once a take has been recorded that the director, actor, and dialogue supervisor are happy with — depending on if you are working on a one person or two person setup, the ADR recordist will have to quickly edit and fit the take, roughly EQ the line to so that it matches the previous and following lines of on-set dialogue and add a small amount of reverb to help the line sit in. We then play this all back with the guide tracks provided and hope that the line not only syncs up well but that the actor’s tone, pitch and performance match what was done on the day on-set.

It is not the recordist place to make comments about performance but we do need to speak up if the actor is not giving enough projection, or if more movement needs to be put into the line, or if the speed of the line isn’t quite right.
 

• What it takes in terms of skills and gear:

Gear-wise, having the correct mics and a good-sized room are the most important things from a ADR recordist perspective. Ideally, before a session we will always ask what mics were used on the day on-set and try to use the same ones so that the recordings have a better chance of matching. Generally the mics requested are the Sennheiser MKH 50 boom or their 416 Boom, the Sanken COS-11 mic or the DPA 4060. If the ADR is more like voiceover then generally a Neumann U87 is requested.

Whether you are using an open plan room to record — where everyone (director, recordist, actor and dialogue supervisor) are in the same space, or a separate booth and control room, the room needs to have a high ceiling and be a decent size. If the room is too small or the ceiling too low, not enough air will circulate around the mic and so the takes will be harder to match. If it’s an open plan room it needs to be quiet; you don’t want to have the sound of the air con, projector or any equipment being picked up on the mic.

You must know your shortcuts and be able to work quick and efficiently. A client will not have the patience to sit and wait around any longer than 5 minutes for you to fit, EQ and add reverb to a take for playback

Skill-wise, good knowledge of ProTools is key (or whatever software the studio you are using currently has). You must know your shortcuts and be able to work quick and efficiently. A client will not have the patience to sit and wait around any longer than 5 minutes for you to fit, EQ and add reverb to a take for playback. In fact 5 minutes is probably too generous a number.

You also need to know how to use programs like Ediprompt, Colin Broad system, Source Connect, Skype and the basics of an ISDN box as these are all things that might be required for a session.

Personality is a big thing in our job. If you are recording ADR for a long project and could be working with the director and dialogue supervisor for a week, they want someone that they can feel relaxed and comfortable around. ADR can be a really stressful experience for an actor too, and it’s our job to create a comfortable and relaxed space they can walk into and feel at ease.
 

• How to learn it:

Realistically this isn’t something you can learn at home yourself. ADR needs to be learned from hands-on practice and someone training you. I had a more experienced engineer sit behind me for all of my first few sessions in case anything might go wrong. When you introduce added complications, like ISDN or Source Connect, into a session chances are the first time you use it something will go wrong and only through having the practical experience will you learn how to troubleshoot issues that might arise.
 

• How to find work:

If you have no experience as an ADR recordist already then it’s possible you won’t get hired short term for a job as it is a specialized skill that is completely different to voice over recording.

Post houses which offer ADR services are the best place to start looking when trying to get a job. Make sure to sit and learn from any of the engineers who currently record ADR there and if a project comes in that might have a low budget or even be a student short film, ask to take it on with the more experienced engineer present. Doing smaller projects first with someone else present will help build your confidence as an ADR mixer while also helping to improve your skills and speed.
 

• Essential advice for working and making it as an ADR recordist:

Get to know the software! Ediprompt is commonly used as a cueing system in most studios and you can download a free trial version for 3 days from their site. I would encourage anyone starting out to do this and learn the software inside out. They have brilliant YouTube videos explaining how it all works and talks you through the process step by step.

Research studios near you that record ADR and ask to speak to one of the engineers to see if you can sit in on a session. A lot of ADR projects are NDA’d so sitting in sometimes just isn’t possible for practical reasons but projects do arise that might be independent films with no NDA’s and they would be the best to learn on.

As an ADR recordist you are constantly working with new and different people from one day to the next, and you need to be comfortable chatting to a complete stranger within a few minutes of them walking through the door.

Research and learn about the different mics used on-set. Get to know a reverb plug-in really well so that if you are on an ADR session you can quickly pull up a reverb you know will work within a scene.
If you hate networking go out and network. This seems like odd advice, but remember, as an ADR recordist you are constantly working with new and different people from one day to the next, and you need to be comfortable chatting to a complete stranger within a few minutes of them walking through the door.

If you get a job as an ADR recordist in-house in a post facility get to know your room. If I get the opportunity before starting to work in a new room I will set up the mics and record myself in different places within the room at different projection levels and listen back to the recordings to see where the mics get the best sound and if any particular spots pick up some odd frequencies or hums.
 

• Further reading and resources:

Tonebenders have a great podcast episode with Patrick Christensen and Chris Navarro who are two amazing ADR mixers for the States that I’d highly recommend and talks through the process of how they record. Here it is:

Chris Roberts also wrote a brilliant series of articles on ADR from different perspectives which is on the Resurface website and gives you an insight into the actor, dialogue supervisor and ADR mixer’s perspectives during a session.


About Emma Butt:

Emma is a Freelance Dubbing Mixer, ADR Recordist and Sound Editor with over 11 years experience in post production sound. She’s done everything from sound editing and mixing documentaries and entertainment shows, commercials, short films and animations to ADR recording for dramas and feature films. She’s also a mentor with the Media Trust, helping to support the next generation of filmmakers and creative talent and she’s on the council of Association of Motion Picture Sound Engineers.

Website: www.emmabuttsound.co.uk

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Audio Programming – insights from Adam Croft:

A man with short hair and earrings smiles slightly wryly.• What working in audio programming entails:

Audio Programming — which is not necessarily game audio programming — is, in my opinion, ridiculously broad in scope.

Here’s a small subset of things you can learn to do:

• Make simple stand-alone applications, like a file converter, or a “media” player
• Make your own cross-platform audio apps
• Make a DAW plug-in
• Write custom utilities that extend your favorite software (Reaper scripting, for example) or help your team
• Write frameworks that ease the use of existing audio APIs
• Make or modify web and mobile apps using Web Audio or other, native APIs
• Make programmed music, or use programming tools as instruments
• Program artistic and creative projects with UE4, or other game/audio engines
• Write your own, or modify and customize existing audio engines to create entirely new systems (like, obstruction and occlusion or spatialization)

You are only truly limited by your own imagination with what you can do.

Regarding jobs, an extremely large number of audio programming jobs posted on job boards require C++ programming and Digital Signal Processing experience. This is because anything utilizing heavy DSP, multi-threading, mixing, etc. usually requires low-level programming expertise.

The reward for those willing to do work on their own to learn, or go through school, can be extremely high.

That means that the barrier of entry for a traditional job is extremely high compared to something like, say, web development. There is no such thing as an “audio programming bootcamp” where you can go learn the skills in a few weeks or months and get a six-figure job. But the reward for those willing to do work on their own to learn, or go through school, can be extremely high.

The job market for game audio programmers, for example, is currently inverse that of sound designers. There are more positions available than there are qualified people. While that may sound enticing — also realize that there’s a reason for that — the road isn’t exactly easy for most.
 

• What it takes in terms of skills and gear:

The required “gear” depends entirely on what you’re intending to do. If you’re working with a game engine, you’re going to need a Windows-based computer powerful enough to run the game engine. If you’re looking to build cross-platform applications, you’re either going to need a machine to test each platform, or something powerful enough to run a virtual machine setup. Thankfully, audio programming doesn’t require nearly the amount of gear sound design can rack up. So, go grab that mouse and keyboard that doesn’t give you carpal tunnel!

The required skill set is variable as well. If you’re only intending to do audio on the web or via web-based mobile apps, you might never need to learn C++ programming. But just because you would only be working with things like Web Audio and JavaScript, I wouldn’t say you’re not an “audio programmer.” It would mean, however, that you’re not qualified to apply for most “audio programmer” job listings.

Learning how to interact with things like WASAPI, XAudio2, PortAudio, or even just JUCE are going to put you in the position to be qualified for hire very quickly

Traditionally speaking, you need to learn C++ and start utilizing audio-based tool sets to get an understanding of how audio works at lower levels of programming. Learning how to interact with things like WASAPI, XAudio2, PortAudio, or even just JUCE are going to put you in the position to be qualified for hire very quickly. In fact, as of this writing, most job applications I’ve looked at reference multiple years of C++ programming and knowledge of a framework like JUCE as a requirement.
 

• How to learn it:

There are numerous areas you can invest your time in that will pay off with good results. Learning C++ programming is a good idea, as is Digital Signal Processing. How you go about learning these things is a completely different subject.

You can get a degree in computer science to learn programming skills, and it would be a great thing to have on your resume. However, numerous Bachelor’s-level CS programs don’t have a C++ component. Electrical Engineering is a great degree that will usually teach you signal processing — but this can lack any interaction with programming. Another degree to look into is Music Technology — but again there’s no clear “standard” curriculum for this, and it is a less useful degree for fallback opportunities.

There are a few “game audio programming” courses and degrees opening, notably at Digipen. But many true “audio programmers” that I know have a computer science background and explored the audio topics they were interested in largely on their own.

There are a number of fantastic books available – the Game Audio Programming series by Guy Somberg has a large number of contributions from industry veterans. Will Pirkle’s programming books are where I started plucking away at the topic.

There are also several other great resources online including Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Kadenze.com, and the Audio Developer’s Conference (which posts its talks free on YouTube). There’s even a free online DSP book at dspguide.com if you can get through it!

You need to decide what you’re interested in and combine multiple areas of knowledge

I find that the biggest hurdle most people encounter is they want one definitive course or book — maybe two resources at max where they can learn everything. That doesn’t really exist. Instead you need to decide what you’re interested in and combine multiple areas of knowledge.

To me, that is one of the most fun parts about programming audio-related projects. There are so many different applications of audio within programming, that it’s kind of hard to even have it all covered in one book or course!
 

• How to find work:

All sorts of jobs seem to be available — and this is one of the most frustrating topics to me when it comes to individuals who work in games who want to do “audio programming.”

Game audio programmers usually work on game engines — whether a proprietary sound engine, modifying and customizing middleware, or even a stock engine’s audio system. There are audio programmers who create each of these audio engines — there are a handful of individuals who work on UE4’s audio system, for example.

But, there are also teams who make Adobe Audition and Pro Tools. There are people who work on OS-level audio systems. There are people who make plug-ins and desktop applications. There are people who work on audio for the web and work mostly in JavaScript. There are people who work on spatialization algorithms at big VR companies. There are people who even make interactive art installations that incorporate interactive audio!

I’m sure I’m not even covering most of the opportunities that have to do with programming and audio. Not all of them are just working on a game engine. Nothing against those who do work on game engines — I envy their level of knowledge!

I’ve found that, much like audio in general, the more interesting and awesome projects you do, the more you attract eyeballs, and attract people who want to work with you

Regarding where to find these jobs, I’ve found listings in the usual job boards (i.e., LinkedIn). Also, it seems to pay off to create your own projects, share them online, and maybe even have a public project or two in GitHub. I’ve found that, much like audio in general, the more interesting and awesome projects you do, the more you attract eyeballs, and attract people who want to work with you.
 

• Essential advice for working and making it in audio programming:

Just get started. Like anything else. There are many reasons why audio programming seems to have more jobs available than employees available — one of the reasons being it isn’t easy for someone to learn this engineering from scratch on their own.

The discipline also seems to sit in an interesting middle ground where developers who have solid educational backgrounds in computer science can get paid more if they do something other than audio.
But there’s plenty of opportunity. You just need to decide what you want to do at first, start, and keep going.
 

• Further reading and resources:

Game Audio Programming series (currently 2 books) by Guy Somberg
DSP Guide by Steven W. Smith Ph.D.
• The many courses at Kadenze.com
• The website for Standford’s CCRMA group and Julius O. Smith’s page
• Will Pirkle’s Designing Audio Effect Plug-ins and Designing Software Synthesizer Plug-Ins books
• The many YouTube videos on frameworks like JUCE, SDL2, OpenFrameworks, Cinder, the new UE4 audio engine, and the Audio Developer’s Conference
• You can also get a 12-page resource guide if you sign up for the email list on my website: adamtcroft.com.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the guidance of Aaron McLeran at Epic and Nick Bygrave of 343 Industries as well. They have turned me and a number of others onto many of these resources initially. In no way have I come across all this on my own.


About Adam Croft:

Adam T. Croft is a zealous audio and software professional out of Seattle, WA. He’s helped bring ideas to life with PopCap Games, 343 Industries, Turn 10 Studios, and Bungie. Adam could be described as a BBQ snob and commits to making ridiculous ideas a reality. You can find his rants, books, courses, and software products at adamtcroft.com

 

A big thanks to Henry Daw, Emma Butt, and Adam Croft for sharing with us their valuable insights!

 

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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

• 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

 
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