One semester down, five to go!

For any of you stumbling upon this now or later, looking for information on what you’re getting into with VFS’ Sound Design for Visual Media program, here are the topics I remember us covering in the last couple of months. If you were hoping to simulate my Term 1 at a library somewhere, you’d want to learn:

VFS Term 1

  • Much on the physics of sound, with some psychoacoustics (the Fletcher-Munson curve, how we perceive stereo delays) and a bunch of digital audio training (definitions on a bit rate, a sample rate, why we choose the ones we do, the advantages of going higher or lower with each, Nyquist’s law, etc.)
  • Lots of history about the start and rise of sound in motion pictures, how it was once recorded and edited, and more than I wanted to know re: framerate conventions and timecode
  • How to break out an ADR cue sheet from a film clip; how to set up a ProTools session to record said ADR session later
  • How to create an EDL (not that the Sound Designer will ever be the one in charge of this); how to stitch together a new production audio track from an EDL you’re given, plus the last day’s recordings
  • A solid familiarity with Pro Tools, including: a ton of common editing shortcuts, basic mixing, cut-pasting automation, how several of the most widely used plug-ins (EQ, Reverb) really work and how to set them up to do what your ear is looking for, creating a mix template and custom I/Os from scratch, track and region management, using AudioSuite vs. RTAS plug-ins, creating submixes, working with time code, good session submission practices
  • Signal flow, bringing the sound you want to record from a microphone all the way through a mixer and a patch bay, into the DAW you’re working with
  • Basic MIDI editing
  • Basic primer on microphones and mic selection

The one thing I didn’t really see stressed in class, but had confirmed, is that these classes won’t teach you everything. Seems obvious, but if everyone were aware of it, our labs after-hours would be a lot fuller than they have been.

So as a tip: you want to stay around the labs and just work and work as much as possible. I’ve had a lot of later-term students come up to me and tell me that Term 1’s for taking it easy to avoid burnout, that there’ll be plenty of nights to work late once things pick up, but I don’t buy it. The class is already starting to stratify a bit, with the real tryhards rising to the top and those who never seem to be around after-hours picking up a reputation for packing up.

I don’t think I’m at the top of the class, but I feel like I’m close, and the people I’m sharing that tier with don’t seem like competition so much as they are motivation – they make me want to work harder, stay later, spend that tuition money wisely, pick up independent projects on the side, explore avenues that we haven’t even covered in class yet and just generally become a badass sound designer far ahead of schedule. I figure, start working this way now so that I’m used to it by the time the program really picks up. It can’t hurt, and I’m feeling more fulfilled with my day-to-day than I have in.. maybe ever? Still having trouble believing that this will be my life once I’m through.

From last time, a little update – the music composition part of things is going well. I guess I’ve approached it before all the other goals because it’s the scariest one, the area in which I feel I’m most “behind.” Every little melody line, successful bunch of chord changes or head-nod from a fellow student feels like a major victory when I’m coming from no history there besides a bunch of long-faded piano lessons!

And just because no one’s finding this site yet, here’s a peek at something I did in a night right before I came home for the break. Needs a lot of work, like me revisiting the clusterfuck at the start of the song that were some chord change ideas with the choir that never got properly timed or cleaned up, and I’m not satisfied with the ending, and the drum pattern variation hasn’t been done all the way yet, but.. it’s something.

Hope we’ll get to cover a bunch of mastering processes in the course of the year; it’d be great to take all this MIDI (which is already written) and get the patches it’s feeding into really sparkling by the end of my time here. If not, I’ll just have to figure it out myself.

Leave a Reply