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Hi all

I´ve often wondered how everybody else feels like, when listening to sound they have done for animations, games, features etc. I have a tendency to feel like my work is not very interesting when listening back to it. Like it misses creativity and personality. Its almost like listening to my own voice, recorded. I get that..."whats that.. Its that my voice? DO I sound like that? ".

It could just be poor sound design, but it could hopefuly be beacause I have listened to the piece a thousands times, and know every building block in the track.

What do you feel like?

Best wishes,

Mikkel

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9 Answers 9

Working on films I don't tend to have this problem too much, not because of the work I personally do but because of the process. Let me explain: I work hard for months preparing sounds, but I know the only value they have is in the context of the final mix. So no matter how hard I work on any one sound, it may turn out in the final mix that the scene plays better without it. It means you have to constantly care passionately about doing your best work, but also be open minded about how it will be used. Another important part of the process is working with experienced re-recording mixers, eg during predubs: I have worked hard to achieve balances within my elements while editing but great re-recording mixers take that work and make it so much better. I love hearing a mixer rework my tracks and fully realising them... But that is still just stage 1. Stage 2 is the final mix, and no matter how I thought a scene would play, or even what was discussed with the director previously, now we are all hearing it all for real and the mix decisions are a group effort with the director leading the re-recording mixers to dramatically focus the soundtrack, moment by moment, scene by scene. Again the sounds I've spent ages preparing become more & more interesting. The quietest sound might become a pivotal element or the absence of 'real' sound may emotionally say more than a barrage of loud FX. So a month after we started predubs, 'my' sound design has been melded with all the elements into 'our' soundtrack and it is very, very rare for that to be less than what I imagined, simply because it is so much more complex and highly evolved, and the director has clarified the emotional intent of all of the elements.

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I think it's really helpful to listen to your work with someone else. I find it boosts my critical thinking. The same way you could see yourself topless in the mirror every day, but then go to the beach and think "wow i need to work out".

After a while one tends to lose perspective, so it's vital to bring in the director, fellow sound professionals; the editor is another great person to consult as they've crafted the rhythm and tempo of the piece.

In the end, i find that the jobs i feel the most insecure about in the mix end up being the best. The more you put your work under a critical microscope, the more you get out of it.

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I know the feeling all too well... it's weird because sometimes I feel pleasantly surprised when listening to it, but most the time I cringe. No idea if that's my gut feeling being right, or just a delusion.

Often, when I'm showing someone my work, I feel hypercritical at that specific moment, and hate it and feel embarrassed. Then if I listen to it again months down the line I don't mind it. As you say, it's probably due to knowing the material all to well. With time it starts feeling fresh again.

Curious to see what others have to say.

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Like Andrew said, often when I view my own work (with other people), I feel embarrassed for no real reason. Inevitably in every piece there's one part that I really love - an explosion that just rocks you in your seat, a fight scene with natural sounding punches - but for the most part, I'm just tired of hearing the same effect and especially the same dialog over and over. My wife says she can quote every movie I've mixed since we've been together since she usually has to hear the dialog looping for hours on end as well.

The other thing that tends to skew my experience is where the film is being shown. Everything sound good through my sound setup, and I know it's correct. Some theaters, expecially the smaller film festival setups in hotel ball rooms, etc, are not so good. For example, I did a nice mix for an action short. The director (without my knowledge), put in a piece of music that was 1) integrated into the mixed too loud, and 2) was very bass heavy. The room we screened in was completely skewed towards the low end resulting in not just the nuances of the mix being lost, but the dialog itself was nearly impossible to hear. I was mortified since I had been introducing myself as the post-production sound guy before the screening.

Regardless of how you feel, get some ears - both experienced and novice - on your work to make sure you're as on track as you feel.

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It's funny that everyone seems to have the same feeling. Like others, I often think my work is missing a certain punch. But to some extent we are all perfectionists looking to create the perfect soundtrack, whether it be for film, games or other platforms. I think the fundamental problem is that when working on a project we listen to the same thing hundreds, even thousands of times and often make minor tweaks and adjustments along the way. The audience will perceive the sound in a completely different way, heavily influenced by the fact that it is all new to their ears, whereas we have listened to it over and over again.

When time permits I find it's a good idea to walk away from what you're doing and come back hopefully refreshed. This can often help in hearing the work more objectively. Also, I often find pleasure in listening to something I've done a long time after it has been completed (i.e. after having worked on many other projects). Most of the time I will prefer what I hear at this much later stage than just after completing the work.

I'm not sure if it's entirely related but there is a very interesting book by Daniel Levitin called This is Your Brain on Music that covers a lot on how our brain interprets sound. If I remember correctly there's a section on repetition that could be related to how some of us feel about our own work. Anyway, it's a fascinating read and, although predominantly covering music, a lot of what is discussed can be applied to our work.

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Exactly like what you describe. When it comes to that i try to get someone to give me honest feedback and try to move on.

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Thanks alot all, for chiming in. Means alot to me, seeing that Im not lone on this. Also nice to hear about how to get around it.

Mikkel

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1  
No worries man. Remember it's a good thing! When i'm satisfied with a soundscape...that's when i worry. –  Roger Middenway May 24 '10 at 21:03

i find it valuable to visit one's work after sufficient time has passed so the wiring to the mental patterns which lead to one's creative choices has been altered or altogether destroyed. the more detached from your own work, the more you're likely to find it fascinating (or bad if it is so). i hope this makes sense, as it's only a recent conclusion i've reached (i guess i'm a bit slow), and am still refining it in my own thoughts.... if anyone has an example of philosophical theory behind this kind of thinking, please share.

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every artist is somewhat skeptical to their own work. I am all the time. It also suck that general people don't notice sound within movies to give you valuable feedback. I listen to movies I worked on a long time ago and I am surprised at certain sounds I created, sounds I first really hated.

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