Week 14 - Using Compression to "Smooth" and "Glue", and EQ to "Warm"

These are some tips I've picked up from some well respected Audio Directors over the years. They're fairly basic and simple, relatively subtle, and a matter of taste. But I'm a big fan of doing things like these to make my sounds feel more cohesive and smooth to the ear.

Here's an example of something I put together which I was really happy with at the time, design wise. I like how it sounds, it syncs well, and has some interesting layers:

Three years ago I would've been good to go with a sound sequence like this. And for most people it's probably fine. But the me from today hears a lot of jagged edges, a trickle of frequencies that jump out of line, and some harsh highs that pop out, especially on the "cocking elbow" bit in the middle.

Here's the same sequence after some compression and EQ thrown in:


This is how some compression can come in handy. Used to taste, it can "tuck in" some of those edges that are popping out of line, smoothing everything out evenly, helping to glue together all these layers so that they feel more like one weapon transforming, instead of a bunch of junk thrown together. After the waveform has been smoothed out a bit, then I like to shelve out some of the highs, depending on the source material, to "warm" it all up a bit. In this piece, there's some somewhat shrill elements at the beginning, and especially when he cocks his elbow that I like to pull back with the shelf. Here's a shot of the FX I used:

High shelf cut

It's worth mentioning that this is not a universal, catch all process. It's a case by case basis, and I apply processing like this only when the piece asks for it, which to my ears, this piece did. At first, the version without processing might sound more enticing, mostly because it's louder, but to my ears it's a bit of a mess. The processed version, to me, sounds much smoother, cleaner, less piercing in the high end, and like it belongs together. Put simply, more cinematic. The unprocessed version has a lot of high frequencies that stand out too much, the biggest culprit being the elbow coking part, which flies right out of the speakers way too aggressively (and can be spotted in the compression screenshot, right in the middle).

I'd like to reiterate that a lot of what I'm saying can be a matter of taste. Just be mindful of any shrill high end frequencies in your work, and try to make your layers glue together to seem more cohesive.

I hope that was helpful to someone, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me!





Week 11 - Landed a job at Microsoft!

I guess hard work has paid off, because I was able to get a job at Microsoft Hololens! My team is called Future Bureau and so far it's been amazing, and crazy. The people are great and I love the environment and the campus life. It wasn't easy but I think if you work hard enough at it, and constantly challenge yourself to improve and add value, something eventually will come. The key is to persevere, and that not only takes time, but it takes work. Make yourself always do something audio related, whether it's a new demo, learning an engine or some middleware, recording, game jams, picking up small freelance bits and pieces, whatever! Always move forward.

I will now challenge myself to keep doing audio related things even when not at work. If sound is your passion, you do it day and night. You breathe it. Now to see where this path takes me.



Week 10 - Picked up Reaper, new Fmod+Unreal demo in the works

As I prepare to one day leave Pro Tools behind because I will never pay its subscription, I've been on a crazy Reaper learning binge. I was scared to jump in but man, I love this piece of software. I'm having fun at this point. A few gripes about it but so far things that just blow my mind how good they are:

-Opens LIGHTNING QUICK. No more cooking dinner waiting for Pro tools to fire up, regardless of how fast my computer is.
-There are no track types! A track is a track and ANYTHING can go in it. Not only that, your regions can be different formats and sample rates, on the same track, no problem. So good.
-Cheapest price ever.
-Multiple projects in tabs, like an internet browser. SO useful for juggling assets and layers.
-Near unlimited amount of plugins per track, I think? Definitely more than 30.
-Unlimited customization. I've created some weird custom actions that would never be remotely possible in Pro Tools.
-Automation is just beautiful. No more hand choosing which parameters to automate, you just flip knobs and they assign themselves on the fly. Adding curves to envelopes is quick, moving clusters around feels natural. And on and on. Makes protools feel outdated.
-Media explorer is great. Makes the protools workspace look bad. You can audition what a sound would sound like through ANY of your current tracks, plugins and all. Pitch knob, can drag a selection directly, etc.
-Option to save your session and tie it to your render, in case you ever want to come back to what a specific render looks like.

Gripes about it so far:

-No Audiosuite. My biggest one. I'm super destructive, gonna miss having it.
-Not enough info columns for files in the media explorer. I want to know the sample rate, channel count, etc of my file on the fly.

So far that's it for gripes, which isn't too bad! Still messing with it but man I wish I had switched earlier. What a cool piece of software. Highly recommend it. If you're coming from Pro Tools let me know and I'll send you my actions list which with the help of a friend, approximates Pro Tools basic hotkeys as much as possible.

On the implementation front, I've been learning FMOD from scratch with the help of Sally Kellaway's tutorials on Youtube. Hooked it up to Unreal, been implementing a bunch of sounds, and now all I have left is to design a bunch of assets and finish implementing them so I can have it see the light of day. I might focus on cooking up a sizzle reel before I finish doing that though.

Keeping super busy!