Durk Kooistra interview

Durk-KooistraFind Durk @
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Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?
I’m Durk Kooistra a sound designer hailing from The Netherlands. I am co-founder of Audiomotif an audio services outfit. We do sound design, music production and audio post-production. We have worked on many exciting projects, ranging from triple A game titles to a Shakespeare opera. I also mix, remix and produce music for clients in the electronic music scene. At the moment of writing I am in the middle of launching VI-sounds. Providing presets, virtual instruments and SFX libraries for music and post production. I also work for music software developers and Sample labels for bespoke content and presets.

What is your niche or speciality, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?
There a couple of things I have spent many hours perfecting. Synthesis , with a special ear for bass sounds and making larger than life sounds. My background is in sampled music. I used ‘found sounds’ to make my music and learned how to clean up samples, shape everyday sounds to work in a new context. That background has helped me greatly with doing sound design, where sometimes you have to create sounds that have no relation to ‘real life’ or you need to use something else to simulate a sound you see in a game or film.

Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?
My PC is the centre piece of my studio. I have a small 25 key keyboard right under my qwerty keyboard on my desk and 61 key in the back. An RME audio card, a collection of mic’s and Focal CMS series monitors on monitor stands and a big black desk. On the desk I have a 22inch Dell multi touch screen on an A-frame at a 30-45 degree angle, as well as a ‘regular’ 22 inch screen. It’s a really modest set up, but I love it that way. All prop’s microphones, stands, instruments are neatly tucked away in a cupboard incl a room divider covered in acoustic material I use for recording foley sound etc. I need a clutter free environment. The simplicity of my desk makes up for the ever growing list of VST’s. People tend to advocate knowing less tools very well is better then knowing a lot of them just a little. I agree. But over time the list of VST’s I know by heart is getting rather long. When I need to record instruments I simply visit a befriended studio. The great thing about that is that there is a guy (Bart Knol) who can actually play the instruments too.

What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)
So much toys, so little time. It’s easy to get lost in the plethora of plugins these days. I love the freedom proprietary software tools like Reaktor and Kontakt for ease of use and quality building blocks. I also highly appreciate open source projects like Csound and Pd. I am also a big fan of wavetable synthesis. A great starting point for exploring this is NI’s Massive. Super intuitive and combining excellent routing of audio and modulation with one of the best UI’s I know.

For post production ProTools is still simply the quickest for me, while for music production and sound design I use Ableton Live 8 and FL studio. In terms of mixing tools Jeroen Breebaart’s Tonebooster plugins and Izotope are personal favourites. A big love is also Variety of Sound. A win only free VST initiative by a super talented coder. Sound toys make fantastic sounding plugins. The Image line plugins like Harmor and Vocodex are very nice also – Harmor is even multi touch enabled. For video I use Sony Vegas 10. Batch audio and wave editing Sony SoundForge 7.

When do you find you are most creative?
I don’t have a certain time of day that I feel more or less creative. But I think sleep plays a big role in it. If it isn’t for creativity than at least for concentration. It can be so tempting to stay up working on a project all night, while stopping early and getting up early sometimes is the best choice.

What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?
Once I know all I need to know about the project I start planning. I ask which elements need to be done first, that way I can prioritize in way that’s helpful for the client. Then comes opening up the project. That’s often the first hurdle. Did the OMF translate OK, does the build of the game work properly etc. Depending on budget and scope of the project I either start with sourcing sounds or recording them. Everything gets loaded up in the DAW I use for the project. From there it’s shaping and sculpting it.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?
No secrets. I do tutoring and try to share everything that I know. I can’t tell my students a secret method, but I can explain techniques and ideas. Knowing the theory behind the way sound behaves is important. But put sound through extreme manipulation results in things I think theory simply can’t convey with words or formulas. Just never stop trying to improve and learn new things. It sounds cheezy, but it’s true I guess.

Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?
Well recently I have been focussing on interface design. Mostly on multi touch and gesture to control parameters intuitively. Thing’s I get really excited about are stuff like Surface (piezo conductor to midi), Usine (make your own touch UI + scripting) and Leap motion (gesture control).
Having more intuitive control over parameters really enhances the end result, not just the user experience that comes with these touch and gesture devices. That’s what we are trying to do at VI-sounds right now – creating tools that improve the end result by offering a new work-flow.

Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
More of a general one, one that I learned very early on. Devil is in the detail. Every project has their own caveats. In retrospect these details are part of your daily routine and you most likely cringe just thinking about how you once might have been oblivious of these things. The details I am talking about here might be related to boring things like file formats, the fact FTP’s can not be trusted, naming conventions, time difference of clients etc. It’s something so obvious and routine for people doing it everyday. Being a freelancer makes this process somewhat scarier I imagine. I have been fortunate enough to work with fantastic sound designers teaching me all the industry specifics you never think of when your getting started. So make sure to find a peer who has been trough it all!

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
To be perfectly honest I don’t feel I am the person to be giving life lessons here. I do however have plenty of tips and tricks I share on my blog (http://durkkooistra.com/category/blog/). One thing that’s always good advice is; never give up. If you want to make a living doing what you love it sometimes means you will be disappointed, put down or get frustrated with yourself. Persistence pays of.