Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get started?
Don't wait for someone to give you permission to start making things. Start making sounds. Start learning software. Hell, start learning coding if it helps. You're going to need a reel in most hiring scenarios, so get started. There are tons of resources available out there for aspiring sound designers to get their hands dirty. In fact, there are way more now than when I or most of my peers started. Do lots of research. Watch TV and Film. Play games. Learn what you like and what you don't. Reach out to people that are working and request informational interviews.
Do I need a reel?
Each potential employer may request different samples of work or will be looking for different things from any prospective hire. Reels are the best way to showcase that.
What should go into a reel?
It depends on what the job you're applying for is. The number of demos I've listened to for Sound Design positions that also featured composition samples is far too many to count. I'll be brutally honest here. If you're applying to be a Sound Designer or Technical Implementer, I don't give a shit about your composition chops. I just don't. You should have a diverse variety of sample work that you can pick from to tailor a reel towards any job. Personally, I love seeing how you built something more than hearing the final product. I learn so much more about an applicant if they can talk me through something. I've seen some great integration demos with narration alongside the in-game results. That is super compelling to me.
What should I avoid putting into a reel?
Just my opinion, but my biggest pet peeve with reels are linear sound design pieces to well-known Hollywood movies. Your reimagining of Saving Private Ryan isn't as good as the original. And all it does is make me compare you to far more accomplished sound designers. Not a good start.
How long should my reel be?
Again, it depends on what the reel is for. Personally, I start to lose interest between the 1 to 2 minute mark. Having a shorter reel forces you to be very selective in what you showcase.
How should I construct a reel?
The way and the order you show off your work is as important as the work itself. You could put together a 5-minute long epic reel of everything that you've ever made to date, but if the first 10 seconds don't grab me, I start skipping through it. Less is more in this case. Put only the best stuff in there and make sure it's heard early on. Approach your reel like bands approach demos. If the first :30 of the first 3 songs aren't grabbing the attention of the listener, they're not listening to songs 4 and 5.
What do I look for when I'm hiring someone for their first audio job?
I look for someone who is hungry to learn. I'm assuming you have a base education. But, that's all it is. It's a base to build on. Great junior hires are sponges. They want to soak up every bit of knowledge and experience they can. That's what I'm looking for. I want someone to come in with their eyes and ears open, ready to continue their education and grow their skillset.
How should I prep for my interview?
Learn about the studio and the game(s) they make. Haven't played their game or don't have time play it before the interview? Look up playthroughs on YouTube. Get familiar with how the game sounds. Make notes. What did you like? What would you do differently? (More on the latter below.) On the technical side, what software are they using? Do they use middleware? Which one? How well do you know it? I look at this as the bare minimum effort to properly prep for an interview. Take the time and prepare.
Any advice on what I should do in my interview?
Outside of showing up on time and being prepared, have questions for them. Awkward silence at the end of the interview when the interviewer asks "Do you have any questions or me?" is painful. It shows that you are interested and thoughtful. Listen closely to the responses and use it as an opportunity to converse.
Any advice on what NOT to do in my interview?
I've had some cringe-worthy interviews with people who have recently graduated from their institution of choice and just come out swinging telling me how my team or another team did this or that totally wrong and if THEY were in charge, they would have done x, y, and z. Let me stop you right there. Don't be this person. Starting out, your only real job is to soak up as much as you can. Now, if the interviewer asks what your impressions were of their game, you can be honest, just make sure you tell them what you liked also.
Which middleware should I learn?
Most middleware companies have the full version of their toolsets out there that you can grab for free. Try to get a general familiarity with as many as you can. A lot of the principles are transferrable, they're just done in different ways and called different things. Limiting yourself to only learning Wwise or FMOD isn't diversifying your skillsets.
Which DAW to use?
Personally, I couldn't care less. Some studios are very specific about this and are ProTools or Nuendo only, but will call this out in job posting. Some are way more flexible and permit hires to use whatever they're most efficient with. Just please don't get sucked into the "tools" debate.