Working as a Sound Designer during my studies

Audio Engineering and Sound Production student Bart landed the role of Sound Designer for the Stage Comedy ‘Zom-Com’ show and it sounds fascinating!  


We caught up with him to find out about his role and how he is juggling study with work.

Bart! How did you get into Audio? 

Getting into audio as a profession was a very 'spur-of-the-moment' sort of thing - I saw the advertisement for JMC's audio engineering course at Frankston High School's careers expo in year 12, and it sort of clicked that I wanted to do something in the realm of audio. I had always been a massive music buff, reading Wikipedia articles about my favourite albums, then trying to find interviews with artists and engineers about how they got certain sounds, what working with a band is like, ect. I've also always been into video games and interactive entertainment, and how sound works in a 3D space is something I've always been interested in. Additionally, I've worked with my long-time band, Cyprus, in a production and audio role, doing their house mixing as well as their production and sound design (I'm the one in the funky blue sweater!).

How did you get the position on ‘Anno Zombie’?

I was recommended this position after I did some stagehand work on an outdoor production of The Tempest by Sly Rat Theatre - the sound designer for that show, Andy Harmsen and I got along very well, and I was contacted after the show and recommended to the team at Anno Zombie. Ultimately it came down to not only knowing how to do sound design, but also making friends within the industry and being willing to take on extra work when others are not available. Stories like this are how I get around 90% of my work both in theatre, as well as mixing and mastering - people are always willing to give work and recommend those they already know, rather than complete strangers. 

So, what do you do as the sound designer?

As a sound designer, the duties I hold involve reading the script with the director and determining what sounds are required, to start with. This is done scene-by-scene, and can involve anything from ambient sound beds, soundscapes, to sound effects and pre-recorded dialogue for playback on show nights. I then write up a master list of every effect I need, as well as whether these effects require continuity between scenes.

For example, one character may have a musical theme that evolves and varies depending on their current mood, or situation that they are in during a particular segment of the play. In some instances, I simply source pre-recorded music that has been licensed for the show - there is a lot of 'WHAM!' in this production! After organizing all the different sounds and effects I need, I get right into the production aspect of things. I mainly use Native Instruments and Arturia VST instruments inside Ableton Live to lay down ideas, but I have also been incorporating a lot of guitar and vocal work into this project. Once I am happy with a sample's basic sonic direction, I'll import a bunch of different snippits into Pro Tools, and edit them together to creative a cohesive piece of sound or music. I'll then mix and master the sounds to make sure they all play back at the same level on the night, so it's as easy for the sound operator as it can be - they already have enough to worry about with their cues without needing to normalize sound levels on the fly! 

How do you juggle your work with your study?

Course work, for me at least, isn't particularly taxing, as I enjoy writing and researching topics that are related to audio engineering. It also helps that since the majority of my work is in audio, I'm able to supplement my theory learning with practical skills that I pick up while working. All this being said, the biggest help I ever received for writing essays and reports is having completed literature and media units during my high school studies! 

How are you finding your time studying Audio?

Personally, I find that the main resource JMC provides for work in the industry is it's high caliber of lecturers. Every teacher and mentor I have had during my coursework has had an interesting story to tell from their own experiences within the industry, and it's these sort of perspectives that really enhance the theory elements of the course.

For example, learning how to record an orchestra is great when you are watching a video on Youtube, but having your lecturer who records orchestras on a weekly basis since before you were born is a humbling, not to mention invaluable educational experience. Being able to go along to a recording and have them step through every aspect of producing a professional sounding production, then being able to use that as part of your industry portfolio is practically priceless, since it would be very difficult to achieve that level of access to such high-end equipment and musicians this early in my career. This is just one of many opportunities that I've been offered at JMC that have helped shape my skills as an audio professional.

I'd say this is also my favourite thing about JMC - having the equipment and opportunities to create professional products before even starting out in the industry is an amazing opportunity to create a great impression on potential clients before even stepping foot outside of an educational institution. 

What do you hope to do after graduation?

My goals after graduation are to continue in audio in both a technical and creative sense - I would love to do more work in theatrical shows, as well as studio and live work due as I enjoy working in a multitude of different environments. I'm also hoping to do some more work in the promotions side of the music industry to get a deeper understanding of how all of it works in terms of organizing things from a logistical perspective. 

UPDATE: Bart successfully graduated in 2017 and is currently working full time at Encore Event Technologies as an Audio/Visual Technician, delivering event services to venues such as Park Hyatt, MCG and Crown Melbourne. Bart also does freelance work at recording studios across Melbourne and regularly mixes live shows around the city.

Find out more about studying Audio Engineering and Sound Production.