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nsmadsen

Member Since 22 Feb 2006
Offline Last Active Yesterday, 10:59 AM

#5184633 State of the industry

Posted by nsmadsen on 02 October 2014 - 02:27 PM

I've had periods of feast and periods of famine. Right now it's sorta middle of the road for me. I do well enough to get by, which is great and I do feel blessed and lucky, but by no means do I make what someone with my credentials should be making. At least when I research it, my earnings always seem below what someone with 9 years and 140+ titles claims to be making. tongue.png

 

A few quick thoughts before I go teach some piano lessons: 

 

1) Diversify. 

 

On top of being a composer, I also work in sound design and voice overs. Recording saxophone parts and doing concert recordings is also another way I make ends meet. Finally, I teach saxophone and piano lessons out of my house a few days a week. In the past I've also freelanced out of studios as a sound engineer. If I tried to make my living solely as a composer, it wouldn't work out very well. 

 

2) Be okay with feast and famine. 

 

It happens to everyone. I once had about 14-15 months of steady work. Each month I had 2-4 projects on my plate at one time. It was great! It was followed by 3-4 months were I had maybe 2 projects. It's easy to ride the wave when things are great and even easier to forget about the good times when work is thin. 

 

3) Clients get what they pay for. 

 

I've been under bid many times. I know there are many guys (and gals!) much cheaper than I am. There are also folks working for free. In a few experiences where I was undercut by a freebie or really young guy, the client actually came back to me and asked to pay my normal rate. They describe the nightmarish experience of having a composer who was flakey or horrible to work with. That client recognized the value of hiring someone who meant business and paying a premium for that. Are there folks that work for peanuts or free to break in and do great work? Absolutely! But too often I've run across cheap composers who lack professionalism in how they conduct themselves and their business. 

 

4) Be flexible

 

If you go long enough with no bites or without landing any work, be willing to reorganize your plan. Change how you're promoting yourself. Figure out a new way to market yourself or interact with the dev community. 3-4 months without work isn't uncommon from what I've heard. But 8-12 months is definitely a sign that something's amiss. 

 

5) The work IS out there. 

 

You just have to figure out how to make yourself stand out from others. Part of our job as audio folks is to be known. Making great audio is the easy (and first step). Being known and being the type of guy or gal that folks wanna work with is the hard part! 




#5184608 What do you guys think would work better in a VG Reel?

Posted by nsmadsen on 02 October 2014 - 12:04 PM


What do you think? Or for a VG reel it might be wiser to just focus on VG music VS a more ecclectic approach?

 

What's worked well for me was to have genre specific reels and make it easy for various types of clients to browse them. Your music sounds wonderful by the way! 

 

Nate




#5183358 Original Soundtracks and Sound Design production for Game developer

Posted by nsmadsen on 27 September 2014 - 04:45 PM

Please use the classifieds section, as per the forum guidelines. 

 

Thanks!

 

Nate




#5180719 Contest Value

Posted by nsmadsen on 16 September 2014 - 09:28 AM

Well, more specifically, what I meant is the more people and times you have to figure out what someone wants and meet those needs, the better. It's great that you're already getting some exposure with your internship but why not increase the amount of experience and exposure you have to working with others. Perhaps you feel that you have enough experience in this field already but, at least for me, I'm still learning new approaches and tricks after 9 years and over 140 projects. I'm much better at it now than when I first started but there's always something to learn and make better!

 

After all, it's much more about how well you work with people and less about making audio. Many can make great audio - less can be great to actually work with. Nobody wants to work with a jerk. tongue.png




#5180683 Feedback on some orchestral pieces / Steam Greenlight campaign

Posted by nsmadsen on 16 September 2014 - 07:54 AM

Hey,

 

Overall, I really liked your music in the trailer. Good use of call and response between sections (like the brass and the strings). A few critiques:

 

- The transition from the epic/heroic section into the combat section at 0:22 could have been better prepared, in my opinion. It felt a little rushed and hacked together instead of a really intentional transition. You gave it, by my count, two beats of transition. I'd be curious how it would sound if you gave it a full measure or even two full measures to build up into that new section.

 

- And the ending didn't feel as large and impactful as it could have been. Experiment with ways you can raise that climatic point a bit more, via both actual composition and production.

 

Thanks for sharing - the game looks cool.

 

Nate




#5180682 Contest Value

Posted by nsmadsen on 16 September 2014 - 07:44 AM

...especially in art stuff were there is a part of the result that is completly up to personnal preference from the jury.

 

Keep in mind that once you start working for clients, you also have to appease their personal preferences as well. So contests like this are really good practice. You get to read a brief or see a picture/video and then attempt to make sound that matches the stated direction. Aside from contract negoitation and payment, the only thing missing from contests versus the client relationship is the ability to get feedback and take additional stabs at the audio.




#5180593 Contest Value

Posted by nsmadsen on 15 September 2014 - 07:36 PM

Do contests add to your resume? Not really. But the lessons/techniques learned and contacts you make from contests can definitely help! 




#5179468 How to start?

Posted by nsmadsen on 10 September 2014 - 08:01 PM

If you don't know anything about music yet, composition can be quite challenging. My suggestion would be to start with taking either: 

 

- piano lessons

- guitar lessons

- a music theory course (or even just working out of one of those Freshman college music theory books)

 

The idea is once you begin to understand how to play music on an instrument (especially guitar or piano which can do chords and/or melodies) then you can start to develop an ear for how songs are put together. To just jump right into composition without any foundation could be hard but it's definitely not impossible. Learning how to play music does so many things, from learning all of the building blocks to developing an understanding of how music behaves and impacts you as well as others.

 

The other suggestion would be to use a DAW and then take MIDI tracks of songs you know and enjoy then modify them. Basically making new arrangements of them where explore what changing certain notes, chords or rhythms would do. Just be advised, all of this can take some serious time before you'll be really happy with your own music. And that's completely okay!




#5178749 Why Orchestral music is best for video games?

Posted by nsmadsen on 07 September 2014 - 03:41 PM


I believe that Nate has listened to the AC video with the view that no Sound design or sound effects should be prevalent. The Music is mixed up as it should be for a demo because there is nothing else for it to compete with. No dialogue, sound design, foley, etc. 

 

No, that's not at all what I mean. I was saying that your mixing of the music itself differed from segment A (ambient) and segment B (combat). That's not a good thing if you're going to toggle between the two. I then referenced some games that have done this VERY well in hopes that you'd do some research and see how interactive music (to this degree) was accomplished. Furthermore, the implementation of the music via middleware was sloppy. This is my opinion. If you disagree with it, that's completely fine. 

 


Also, that recording was a live ensemble mixed by a professional film/game scoring engineer, so to say it sounds fake in parts sort of has me question your credibility a tad. biggrin.png

 

I knew you had some real players in the mix along with some virtual. You seem to gloss over the other points I brought up and want to take this to a personal level. I don't. I'm simply giving my input and, in general, your post seemed to be more about promoting yourself and spamming this board than an actual discussion. Feel free to question my credibility all you want. I'll let my work and my credentials speak for themselves.

 

I stand by my comments and know that I offered them up to you in a critical but constructive manner. In other words - take it or leave it. Have a good one.

 

Thanks!

 

Nate




#5176342 How do I bring the sound of an orchestra forward, and crisper?

Posted by nsmadsen on 26 August 2014 - 08:50 PM

Happy to help!




#5176053 How do I bring the sound of an orchestra forward, and crisper?

Posted by nsmadsen on 25 August 2014 - 01:39 PM

A few ideas: 

 

Mic positions: Many VST libraries offer this feature but sometimes it's in the premium versions of their libraries (i.e. Platinum or Complete, etc). If your current libraries offer mic positions, then try selecting the close option. 

 

Reverb mix: there's a lot of reverb, as you said. I'd experiment with the wet versus dry ratio some. 

 

Panning: When listening to your track, I can hear a lot of the same instruments in either channel. This gives the illusion, at least to me, of being a listener in the back of the hall. Instead try and pan/structure your sounds like a conductor would hear them - up close and personal. Dbl basses to the far right, high violins to the left (if you wanted to follow that particular seating arrangement of the symphony). 

 

Low end: Once the reverb issue is tweaked/fixed try raising the low end of some of the ensemble. Let your percussion really have some kick, etc. 

 

Have you considered/experimented with the EQ setting on the actual reverb itself? That way there's a tail but not one that's super overpowering? 

 

Are you applying reverb to every track? Even the master? I agree with your concern, it's washed out and could have much more impact with less reverb all over the place. Musically, the piece sounded great! 




#5175487 Why Orchestral music is best for video games?

Posted by nsmadsen on 22 August 2014 - 09:10 AM

About the piece you linked: the ambient parts sounded much more realistic to my ear than the action parts did. The mix was also better during the ambient sections than during the combat ones. Overall, however, I didn't feel a strong connection between the game's visuals and the music composed for this video. There was also quite a bit of bleeding over, which could be really cool when done well but in this video it felt sloppy. At least to my ears. The space that your percussion "lived in" felt very different from the space the other instruments, particularly the woodwinds, lived in. So what we're left with, as players, is several streams of music that sound different from each other (even down to the types of reverb and balance of the ensemble). That takes me out of the experience and draws attention to what's happening behind the curtain, instead of not even noticing it. And that's the real goal - isn't it? I remember an interview with one of the leads at Pixar who said (and I'm paraphrasing) "if you do your job right, the audience won't even notice your work." In other words, it wont draw attention to itself but will just exists, perfectly, in the world you're creating. 

 

Jack Wall did an amazing talk about interactive music and how he and his team got Wwise to seamlessly transition from various cues based on game events in a way that really felt organic. It felt like the music was composed that way. It was always supposed to go from A to B. Then on another play through you'd hear it from A to C and it also felt very natural and like that was the natural course of the music. 

 

Just my thoughts!

 

Thanks, 

 

Nate




#5175468 Why Orchestral music is best for video games?

Posted by nsmadsen on 22 August 2014 - 07:45 AM

I think many people give up the idea of having orchestral music for their game because they think of budget. You don't need a full live orchestra hired for your game to make it sound nearly as good. All you need is a few soloist players, hitting on what my previous article talked about... Cello is very common in game scores. One solo cellist over a "mocked up" orchestra can mean a lot for emotion's sake. The emotional and sonic depth that is attributed to orchestras can drastically change how someone views the game, let alone how they remember it.

 

 

You could be making a huge assumption here. Perhaps the game developer never felt orchestral music was the right direction for their project in the first place? About your last sentence: "The emotional and sonic depth that is attributed to orchestras can drastically change how someone views the game, let alone how they remember it." then why do so many of us 20-30 something year olds have such fond, strong, nostalgia towards the chip tunes of the NES and SNES days? It all comes down to the quality of the music and it's production. Much more than the actual sounds or ensemble setting used. 

 

 

1. Live orchestral music is unthinkable (except for the poshest AAA titles).

2. Sampled orchestral music sounds more 'fake' than sampled electronic / popish sounds.

 

With the powerful virtual instrument libraries these days, it can be hard to tell the difference. Sometimes at least. This all comes down to how good at production someone is because you can buy all of the sample libraries in the world but if you don't know how to use them effectively, it will always sound fake. It becomes the composer's job to create that emotion into the MIDI tracks. This is done very carefully employing many tricks and methods to create as much life into that performance as possible. And yes, hiring a few live musicians here and there can really help too. 

 

But, much of this thread (and the OP) is focused on orchestral music. The very same principles apply to any style of music. I can write really crappy rock music via MIDI and VSTs or I can write amazing rock music. I can compose stale polka music the same way or use all of my tricks and knowledge to bring it life. 




#5175466 Why Orchestral music is best for video games?

Posted by nsmadsen on 22 August 2014 - 07:40 AM

Why Orchestral music is best for video games?

 

It's not. 




#5174610 Tips on mixing my track?

Posted by nsmadsen on 18 August 2014 - 08:46 PM


I think I know what you mean as far as the string thinness and center panning go, but now you've got me scratching my chin over whether to go 'Film' sound or 'Ensemble' sound:

 

What I mean is film composers can usually get away with very unique sounds and textures that more traditional venues cannot. Here are some good examples: 

 

Listen to how Newman uses unusual sounds, even power tools like drills, to create a unique soundscape. Sure, you could do this in a traditional concert venue but you don't really see it that often. 

 

Or how Zimmer used much more brass than what would appear in a traditional symphony for the Time cue from Inception: 

 

The same is true of game music in many cases. So experiment! Go beyond the norms of traditional orchestration if you want to do film and game work. Combine unusual instruments.






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