Sebastian Pohle interview

Sebastian Pohle

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

My name is Sebastian Pohle, 34 years old and I´m from Germany. I am Sr. Sound Designer at MachineGames in Sweden currently working on Wolfenstein: The New Order.

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

There is nothing what makes me stand out from the rest of the audio guys, which also would be blunt to say looking at this huge amount of talents out there. What maybe makes me a bit special that I got experience in film sound, game audio and field recording. In 2002 I started as in-house Sound Designer in the films industry, went freelance after six years to record and design sound libraries before I took on an in-house position at a AAA games studio.

That “cross” knowledge for example comes handy in a Foley recording session because not every Foley artist and recordist are that experienced in creating game relevant content. It’s good to know how they usually work and makes guiding and translating easier to archive the content you are looking for. When it comes to storytelling through audio I also benefit a lot from my years in film having worked with directors.

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

When I’m aiming to record stuff I want to tweak a lot afterwards I use a Sound Devices 702 and a stereo pair of Sennheiser 8040 which are capturing hypersonic frequencies above 20k. I also like to use them for ambience recordings. My favourite good to go mic is the Sennheiser 416. In my opinion one of the best mics ever made always gives me good results. When I travel I swear on the Sony D-50.

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

I´m using Pro Tools on Mac. My go-to plugins are good old Waves, iZotope Trash 2, GRM tools, Sound Toys, Native Instruments Komplete and Altiverb. Of course it always depends on what you are working on but can find an L316 and DMGEQuality on the master bus in almost every session.

When do you find you are most creative?

I guess that is when I find myself in the “the zone”. When you are fully focused and its fun and kind of easy to rattle out good stuff. This happens to me often when I´m bit under pressure, working on an upcoming milestone or similar. Whereas crazy pressure can lead to the contrary and you get blocked.

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

Everything starts out in pre-production with the discussion about the general sound identity of the project and what the team wants to achieve. Pooling material from movies or games to superimpose and get inspiration is a good method to determine the sound style of the project. That can take several months if you have the time. When this is set I go through the walkthroughs and create a huge list what might be handy to have recorded.

The current game I´m working on for example is set in a ‘larger than live’ industrial world with a scifi touch. For this case we recorded tons of mechanics and heavy metal stuff in a big Foley session and in the field. After this I start creating sounds from that material. I usually capture a video from what I want to create sounds for and work from that point in Pro Tools. When I´m done I implement it in the games engine. Sounds easy but making a game is maybe one of the most complicated things out there and three years is not a long time for that process at all.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

Yes, but it’s a secret… But seriously there is no such thing.

I believe that there are ways to develop and push your creativity. And it’s not sitting in front of the computer and fiddling with plugins all the time. For example I like to cook. First I look out for good quality ingredients and try out different techniques and recipes all the time. That’s kind of the same approach how I am design sounds. Being inspired by different creative stuff like photography or music can open up new grounds and push your sound design further. But this is very subjective and everybody will have different fields of interest. I can say that I made my biggest step in developing my sound design when I started to record sounds myself. I get best results when I’m designing from recordings I did for a desired sound rather than just using existing library stuff and tweak as long until you get what you were aiming for. A combination of both is where I am ending up most of the time.

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

Whilst recording black powder salute guns, the gun operator put some saw dust and paper on top of the gun powder and did not fully compress the load. That resulted in a very cool whirring sound.

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

It’s a good thing to structure and organize a project right from the start. Keeping track and document everything in excel lists is maybe boring or annoying but so you can avoid that at one point you are the only person who can find stuff in the impenetrably jungle of assets you have created over time. The other team members will appreciate it and so will the contractor who helps finish the project.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

Listen to feedback and do not avoid discussions. When it’s done properly you only can learn or get another perspective on things. Whilst working a long time on a certain set of sounds you easily can get lost and feedback is good to make sure if you are on the right track.

If you give feedback make sure it’s constructive including a suggestion for different approaches. Just saying “That sounds shit” is not enough. It’s also good to have a healthy social live beside your work. A partnership and friends will make life easier when you are going through frustrating times at work. One more thing would be to go abroad. Seeing new places, countries and meet new people always helped me to have a fresh and new view on things and of course reloads your batteries