WildStar Wednesday: Meet a Senior Sound Designer!

Written by David "Scooter" Bass on November 14, 2012

We recently had the chance to sit down with one of the newest members of the Carbine family, Senior Sound Designer Greg Meader. In addition to having tons of experience in the film industry, Greg had some really great stories to share and insight into what it is a sound designer does. Enjoy!

So we've heard you have a very interesting background. Tell us a little about where you worked before coming to Carbine.

Well, I used to be an Imagineer at Disney, working as a sound designer on a bunch of the rides at Disney. There you actually get handed everything involved with sound (not just the design), so you did things like figuring out costs, scheduling dialogue recording, handing things off to composers, and working with producers to finish the entire project on time.

One of my favorites was handling sound design for Food Rocks, a (sadly defunct) attraction at Epcot, which was this rock concert performed by fruits and vegetables. My job was to take the music handed to me and make it sound like you were at a real concert, so I added in things like crowds screaming and cheering and swelling with the various parts of the concert.

I also did all the sound for the Tower of Terror in Florida. The cool thing there is that when you're in the queue and load area, all the sounds you're hearing are from my kitchen.

What's the weirdest sound you've used for your work?

I was picking up two glasses to put into the dishwasher once, and they had these thick bottoms which kind of buzzed together against each other, and it had this really cool sound I hadn't heard before. I wasn't sure what it would be useful for, but I grabbed my recorder and recorded it and held onto it. I ended up working on a film for a ride called SG-3000 (based on the Stargate franchise) and this character flew in and had this circular laser beam which kind of flew over you, and the sound lined up really well, so I tried it out and they liked it and the sound stayed.

You must feel like you're constantly surrounded by interesting sounds and noises.

Every once in a while something will stand out and I'll go, "I want that." I was in China once, heading back to my hotel in the middle of the night, and suddenly noticed this amazing bug ambience. I don't know if it was frogs, crickets, or what, but I grabbed my recorder and sat outside at 1:30 in the morning recording the ambience. I don't know if I'll ever use it, maybe it'll end up in WildStar!

It's funny because almost nothing sounds like what it's being used for… you could hear a sizzle and it could be rain, it could be bacon, it could be so many things. When you're making sounds, the individual layers sound nothing like their end product, but it doesn't matter what you're hearing, it matters what you're seeing. Sound designers will use sounds that have absolutely nothing to do with the thing you're looking at on the screen.

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on some of the abilities and spells for the Skug Queen. One's called "Leeching Spores," where she sprays out these pink exploding spores. One of the interesting things about sound design is that you usually don't end up going with your first instinct. You'd initially think "Oh, this would sound just like steam," so you might try out a fire extinguisher. Or you might think "This is an animal, it needs some sort of burp or screech," so you'll try out interesting things like a mud bubble or a magic marker. Here's what those individual layers sound like:

As you can probably tell, each of the sounds individually don't really fit. But that's when you start tweaking and layering them together. Listen to what it sounds like when all three layers are merged together:

It's still missing a little sound at the beginning, though; you need that initial growl/spray. So I layer on a few more sounds, play around with their levels, and you end up with the finished product:

So as you can see, there's a lot of work that goes into making a single sound effect for just one ability for a creature, and we've got an entire MMO to fill!

Thanks so much to Greg for taking time out of his week to talk with us. We're going to come back to the Audio team in a few weeks to hear a little more about their process here at Carbine as well as what it takes to become a sound designer!

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