George Vlad interview

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Brief list of credits

Door Kickers, Imagine Nations, V: Dusk Falling, War for the Overworld, Dark Age Wars

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?

I’m George Vlad and I like to think of myself as an all round audio professional. I’m the founder and only member of game sounds dot com, an Edinburgh based company which provides full audio development for video games. I started writing electronic music more than a decade ago and I slowly added to my bag of tricks over time. Nowadays I keep writing music, I record, edit and design sound, I mix and master music, I edit dialogue, I program soft synths and I implement audio in video games.

I’m also 4th year on the Sound Design BSc at Edinburgh University which provides a decent amount of challenge as I already have my day job.

What is your niche or speciality that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?

Nowadays it’s difficult to work in such a dynamic field and only know one aspect of it. Although I’m focused on sound design, my speciality is being “the audio guy”. As a result last year I took upon myself to learn audio programming, I started to do a lot more field recording and I actively chase implementation tasks. In my spare time I also study psychoacoustics, sound therapy and general purpose programming.

Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?

I work on a PC based workstation and a Macbook Pro. For monitoring I use a pair of M-Audio BX8s and Sony 7506 headpones. I record on a Fostex FR2 LE and Sound Devices 302 combo. My ever growing mic collection comprises of a Sennheiser MKH 416, a pair of DPA 4061s, a rode NT1A, Jez Riley French contact mic and hydrophone, Rode and Rycote wind protection, shockmounts and stands of various sizes.

I also collect interesting sounding props that I record when I get the time. Only yesterday I bought a set of ratchet wrenches that sound great and will never be used for their intended purposes.

What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)

I use Pro Tools for mixing/mastering and Ableton Live for creative tasks. I also make heavy use of Adobe Audition for sound design as I find that being limited to linear editing and only a handful of plugins actually benefits my creativity. My go to synth is Sylenth which I know inside out, and I also use Kontakt libraries from Heavyocity, Cinesamples, Soundiron and others.

I generally try to use the tools that come with the DAWs fully before trying anything else. I’m more than satisfied with the synths in Ableton Live and the Max4Live packs that I get with the Suite version.

When do you find you are most creative?

Right before a deadline! Unless my ears are really tired I can usually focus my creativity when I need to. I usually have several projects I’m working on at the same time so if I don’t feel like writing a particular music track I just do sound design or editing for a while and then I get back to it. I also don’t underestimate the power of taking breaks. Working for hours on end is not always the best way to do things.

What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?

I always insist on getting a playable build before starting to work on a game, no matter how rough and/or buggy. If that’s not possible then I spend a lot of time chatting with developers and throwing ideas back and forth. Artwork always helps too.

Once I get a feel of the game I start translating that into sound. Audio for games is usually an iterative process so I don’t always nail it the first time. Another thing that comes into play is how efficient communication between me and the developers is. Knowing what questions to ask a non-audio professional is a skill in itself sometimes.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

There’s a thing called The Paralysis of Choice. This happens when you have so many options that you don’t know what to choose. I limit myself as much as I can and this has a great effect on creativity. Linear editing is one aspect of it. Using only 2 synths and native plugins in a track is another. Recording quality sound effects with a handheld recorder is yet another, and the list can go on.

Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?

Do I! Being self-taught is a roller coaster of trial and error and surprises. One of the most interesting things that I’ve used is granular synthesis, specifically Granulator II. You can get the most unexpected results just by throwing in various samples and tweaking parameters.

Another thing that I love doing is firing up Basehead and looking for sounds based on associations. This is how I found that vegetable sounds are awesome bases for clicks and all kinds of UI effects.

Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?

If you want to work on video games be sure to play as much of these as you can.
If you freelance never work without a well thought out contract.
Be prepared for setbacks and failure. It’s all part of the process.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

This may sound cheesy, but nothing is out of reach. 10 years ago I would have never imagined that I could do what I loved most and be paid for it. I had done unrelated jobs for 7 years before I got my first gig and I worked on indie games that never paid a dime for a few more years afterwards. It’s all hard work and perseverance.

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