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For those of you who have made sound design your career of choice, is there anything you would have done differently along the way? Are there certain choices you're especially glad you made? Would you rather have gone freelance/studio, film/games, east coast/west coast, local/international, analog/digital, etc.?

More than anything, I'm interested in hindsight.

And to make things more interesting, I've included a bounty.

10

What I wish I had done more of:

  • Take more risks
  • Do more free work
  • Record more material on my own time to build up my FX library early
  • Invest in quality microphones that will always be useful
  • Ask more questions
  • Heed more advice

What I'm glad I did:

  • Take on an unpaid internship
  • Ask the questions that I did ask
  • Befriend the most talented people I worked under
  • Learn and become fluent in several workstations
  • Listen more and speak less
  • Write things down
  • Do you wish you would have done more free work because it would have given you more experience or because it would have aligned you better with other budding artists? – Karol Urban Mar 19 '13 at 21:57
  • @MixingManiac, both. – Jay Jennings Mar 19 '13 at 22:22
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I just answered some questions on the soundesign blog, and one question relates loosely to your question. The questions was:

What would you suggest to young people wishing to become a sound designer? Which one is the never-without tool?

This is a question that I can personally relate to as I recently have reached a point in my career where I am working on projects that I find personally and professionally fulfilling.

Things I have learned: Always have a sound design project to work on; try get it out there and seek feedback; share your knowledge; call yourself a sound designer; charge for your sound design (even just a bit); the web can be your mentor.

  • The best way to learn is by doing. By participating in projects, you will learn new techniques and develop skills for future projects. If you work in a team, you also can build working relationships.
  • Sharing knowledge forces you to absorb and apply what you have learned and encourages other people to share their knowledge with you.
  • If you call yourself a sound designer, people will treat you as a sound designer.
  • Don’t be shy to charge for your skills as a sound designer. People will try to get you to work for free, but you are offering a valuable service. Once you start charging for your skills, you are considered a professional sound designer. Initially it’s difficult to get away from the free work. It took me a long time to get over the I have no value and I should work for free attitude.
  • Mentors are sadly hard to find, but we are lucky to have the web. There is a huge online community that is eager to help. There is a huge amount of knowledge that is distributed for free, it is up to you to find and make something out of it.

The main tool in your arsenal is your ability to work with others. Becoming the sound designer people want to work with will serve you well. If you’re that person, you will work your way up quickly. As sound designer you will more than likely be dependent on a team. You need to have a production to earn money, or you need a good script to do a good sound design. This should get the ball rolling: When people want to work with you, you will earn money to buy equipment. When you have the equipment, people will hire you for bigger projects and you will get better at sound.

There are also some really good answers on this thread if you haven't seen it and care to read more.

  • I wish I could give more up-votes to this post.. Valuable info here. – EMV May 5 '10 at 11:31
  • @EMV Glad you find it valuable. – Andrew Spitz May 5 '10 at 12:26
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One important thing I have learned during my adventure is to "Focus" on one thing.

Instead of being jack of all trades, and doing the foley, recording, overdubbing, sound cleaning, video games, animations, short movies; just concentrating on one thing made me a better sound designer, instead of being average in each field.

I don't mean that you should not learn or try the other things, but in my opinion knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and sharing them honestly with a client will emphasize your professionalism.

  • Very true! Good point. Although I don't at all follow that :-) I stay focused on one thing for a chunk of time or a specific project and then I move to something else (to do with sound), most the time I come back to it again later. I love so many aspects of sound that I find that I move a lot from one to an other, I know this means I will never be the best at one thing, but I sure know I will stay entertained and passionate. – Andrew Spitz May 5 '10 at 14:40
  • I didn't want to comment at first because Selcuk's experience works for a lot of people, but I am with Andrew. I've created a career around being an "expert generalist:" I'm not skilled in everything, but I go deep on 1-3 disciplines. Like Andrew, this keeps me fired up and inspired, and I can borrow techniques between disciplines. But this only works for certain folks. Just more proof that there's no one way to approach a career. This is just another POV and in no way invalidates Selcuk's post, which is great advice to a large number of people! – NoiseJockey May 21 '10 at 15:05
  • I'd love to specialise but sadly I've never been given the opportunity. Technically I work fulltime as a mixer but still do all the other stuff as well. I've also had consensus from others that in the current climate you need to keep all your skills up in case you end up losing work. – ianjpalmer May 22 '10 at 9:04
  • Noise Jockey, the perfect thing in your approach is "borrowing tecniques between disciplines". This is so important because it means you don't specialize in 3 disciplines seperately, when you improve yourself, you improve ALL disciplines. This kind of generalism is great in my opinion and needs real skill and hardwork. Thanks a lot for sharing your POV. – Selcuk Can Guven May 22 '10 at 19:00
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I would have started earlier.

Not sure it becomes clear how involved, abstract, and broad, this subject can get. The technical knowledge can be accumulated fairly quickly but lateral thinking, trained ears, aesthetics, and the necessary cultural background don't come as quick. Not to mention the need for people skills and the attitude required towards a sometimes unrewarding job. There's also the issue of having to experiment for a couple of years just to get the basic stuff out of the way and find one's own niche.. And build a library. So yeah. Encourage experiments.

3

If I could time travel I would go back & tell myself: apply for the Berlinale Talent Campus (And if you get tuned down, keep improving you application & keep applying every year until you DO get accepted)

Despite any shortcomings, it was the best experience for - appreciating the role sound plays in film making - appreciating all the other key roles - meeting & freely discussing film/art/sound/music with people from all over the planet - appreciating you are limited by your own experiences - appreciating what travel means ie if you have not travelled & engaged with other cultures, then you are VERY limited!

http://www.berlinale-talentcampus.de/

  • This looks very interesting! I'll definitely keep an eye on it, thanks for mentioning it! – Asimov Mar 18 '13 at 16:39
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I wish that I had concentrated on the one thing.

If I were to do it again I would buy a perfect little boom op rig and work on as many paid and unpaid jobs as I could get hold of. I would not do anything else until I was perfect at that role. Only then would I look for sound mixer work, as everything is about the dialogue, you're either cleaning it or supporting it, through the music or sound effects, and once you understand that, everything else is so much easier.

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