Sound Designer

  • Sound Designer

The work of a sound designer in the video game development industry is not dissimilar to that of film and television or live production. Both are charged with establishing the overall aural aesthetic of the product, but the game sound designer does not work from a single established script; rather he or she creates an auditory world that changes, evolves, and is manipulated through the player’s experience.


Duties

In the early development stage of a video game, the sound designer participates in concept meetings with the creative director, game designers, producer, and other senior development staff. He or she may be a full-time member of the studio or be hired by the producer as a freelance artist. The sound designer first must identify the key qualities of the game that will influence his or her design: These include story, location, characters, environment, creatures, vehicles, weapons, and the overall style of the game. Game writers will supply whatever written material has been produced to guide the story’s progression, as well as the script for cinematics.

With a rough idea in mind of what the game should sound like, the designer returns to his or her own studio to begin breaking down the game into detailed categories of sound effects, voices, ambient sound, and music. Every game will have a different set of requirements, but generally, the designer is concerned with creating or supervising the creation of all audio assets. He or she sifts through catalogs of existing audio files that may suit the game, and engineers supplemental sounds as needed. Games that include a heavy inventory of weapons or vehicles often necessitate going into the field to record real-life audio that is later manipulated to produce a unique effect for the game. During the asset collection and creation process, the sound designer will continue to communicate with other designers and staff to ensure that the audio being produced complements the visuals. This person must also interface with audio programmers to see that sounds are effectively executing in the game engine.

Skills & Education

A college degree in game design, recording arts, or a related field is recommended. The sound designer should understand the constraints of current-generation game platforms, as well as the capabilities of multiple game engines. Knowledge of audio editing software like Pro Tools is required, as is proficiency with recording and mixing consoles. Not only must the designer have the ability to create balanced, quality sound, he or she should also have the creative talent to imagine an entirely new aural world, like the unique sound of a light saber or a dinosaur wail.  Efficient management of departmental staff and effective communication are requirements of this position.

What to Expect

The sound designer is a senior-level developer responsible for supervising the creation of all audio assets from the game, as well as mitigating all problems that may arise during production. As a leader, he or she accepts ultimate responsibility for the quality of work of all audio staff, and takes the initiative to coach team members toward furthering their skills. The designer sets forth an example of positive collaboration and communication, while responsibly dealing with interpersonal conflict within the staff. To reach this position, at least three years of experience and credit on two shipped titles is expected. Familiarity with game development pipelines is necessary, though audio post-production experience in film, television, or live production is useful. Prior employment in audio programming or as an audio lead is beneficial, as is work as a Foley artist, recording engineer, mix engineer, or production sound mixer.

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