[We turn to the western United States to our latest interviewee, Ellen Juhlin. With a love for sound design and a discomfort with stock animals sounds, Ellen describes her journey into audio, her productive practices and uses her voice to imitate her interest in sound. Additional video and sound is available at the original source, creatingsound.com]
1) Please describe five things about yourself that help frame your journey into sound design.
2) Five words to summarize that journey are...
Challenge people who prevent improvement.
3) Five sounds that represent that journey are...
1) What four elements need to be in place in order for you to be productive?
2) In an ideal work flow, what would you like to accomplish in four hours?
First pass/sketch of an approximately 30-60 second cue of some complexity, including gathering sounds and general timing/flow.
3) If you had four hours to listen to music/sound design, what would you choose?
I think I would actually prefer to listen to things that help inform good sound design:
1) What three sound design lessons could your younger self learn from your present self?
2) What three library sounds have become cliched for you?
I think these would be animal sounds, namely:
Even within a completely natural setting, one loon sounds much like another, and within recordings that are easily accessible, there seems to very little variation. So, while I often like the idea of using these kinds of sounds, in reality, they require a lot of manipulation in order to be compelling. Please, please prove me wrong by sending me a new loon sound.
3) What three foods or beverages lead to great sound design work?
Coffee, fruit snacks, and (cheese & crackers).
1) What two sound design tools do you use on a consistent basis?
Most of my editing time is spent with Adobe Audition. The noise cancellation function can seem almost magical at times, and the interface is optimized to just get out of my way and let me work quickly.
Also, I’m not really sure that this counts as a tool, but one of the things that is most valuable to me in terms of bringing about improvements is taking a break from whatever I’m working on, even for 10-15 minutes, enough time to clear the expectations out of my head, so that the next time I hear it, I can instantly hear the flaws that I spent the previous hour getting used to. I know that if something keeps catching my attention (in a bad way) when I hear it “fresh”, then I need to go back and fix it before I can really be happy with it. Pretending that I am playing it for someone else can have the same flaw-revealing effect.
2) You have a choice of two hardware devices - what would they be?
I have a pair of HD-1s in my living room. If I ever need to replace them, it will be a very sad day.
3) Record two of your favorite sounds that you can make using only your mouth/voice and describe them.
1) If you could collaborate with any person on a single creative project, with whom would it be and what would be your project?
It’s always tricky to say that you want to work with someone that you’ve never met, but I will venture to say that I would be interested in working on a game with Jonathan Blow, or something that is like a game in that it would be delivered via traditional gaming platforms, but hopefully unique in ways that nobody else has attempted yet, while still being compelling to the general game-playing public.
2) What outstanding quality would that project have?
The story it tells, whatever that story may be, would be the point of the game, and the reason for its existence. "Interactive narrative" is the phrase that comes to mind, but that often seems to imply a click-through movie, and there is a lot of space in between traditional video games and interactive narratives that is still waiting to be explored.
3) If you had one opportunity to present it, how would you choose to do so?
Humans enjoy stories, especially good stories, because they tell us about people like ourselves, and people not like ourselves, and how these people react in different situations. "Suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge monster appeared in front of him!" "What did he do next?" These stories are kind of like vaccines, but for experiences, and by using all of these immersive storytelling tools that the game industry has created, we have the power to magnify this effect a hundred-fold: you are in the story! You get to pick how you react! And if you pick wrong, you get to go back and do it again! This may sound naively simple, but in my opinion, there aren't enough games that are created to help people learn more about themselves, and I would like to change that.