Confessions of a Small Working Studio—Cracking the Code: Breaking Into Game Sound

Mar 2, 2010 7:12 PM, By Kevin Hill and Lisa Horan

Studio X Labs has worked on such videogames as <I>Turok</i>.

Studio X Labs has worked on such videogames as Turok.

Knowing What You’re Getting Into
You also have to know what you’re getting yourself into. “This is a very subjective business, and the worst thing you can do is take criticism personally,” says Kwasneski. “You may pour your soul into a group of sounds and still get ‘re-do’ requests that are not worded in the nicest way, but you can’t take it to heart. It’s how you react in the face of negativity that can make or break you.” In fact, Fraser says one of the biggest challenges in doing music or sound design for games is dealing with rejection. “When you do work that you’re proud of and others aren’t picking up on it, you have to take it in stride. It’s really not uncommon to have your work blasted apart, but at the end of the day, you have to remember that you have a job to do and your focus has to remain on the client’s vision, not your own.”

Another prerequisite is having the wherewithal to work under intense pressure situations. “Most of the time, doing sound design on a game requires that you accomplish a lot of work in a short amount of time, so the pressure can get pretty hard-core,” says Fraser. “You can get fried easily if you aren’t careful.”

It’s also vital that you have a grip on your limitations. “It’s your job to make the client look good, so be realistic,” says Ruskay. It’s crucial to learn how to harmonize the client’s vision with their resources and be willing to say no if something’s not going to work, but back it up with practical alternatives.

“You’re not going to know everything out of the gate; there will be things that will surprise you and things that you have to adapt to, and failure will come from time to time,” says Ruskay. “However, there are a lot of positive lessons that can come out of difficult situations, so just remember that it’s all a part of the process and can only help you to run a more efficient and productive studio environment.”


Kevin Hill is the owner/engineer and Lisa Horan is the creative director of Studio Unknown, a full-service audio post-production facility and recording studio that specializes in helping clients discover creative sound for film, video, Web, gaming and artist projects.






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