How To Get Work In Video Game Audio
Lesson 2: Showreels
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Introduction


It is often expected that you will provide a showreel as part of your pitch. This can be daunting, especially if you are new to the industry and have very little to show in the realm of professional work. However, there are still things you can do to create an enticing showreel. Even those of you who do have some professional work to show off can refine your showreels to stand out from the pool of other sound designers.

In this interview, Clair Fitch talks about how to approach audio replacement in a game, and the importance of paying close attention to scene you are creating sound for.

VIDEO: Claire Fitch - Starting out in the industry

Something Claire mentions is silence and, more importantly, the lack thereof. It is incredibly rare to have true silence in a video game. Even if the scene is implying silence, often there will be some environment sounds, or other sound effects, that create a sparse texture. You are a creative, so use sound effects to your advantage. Create an audio world that sits within the scene to heighten the visuals.

VIDEO: Gina - The first steps to get a career in game audio

Another crucial tip is being precise with your pitch. Claire talks about linking to specific tracks that match your pitch, instead of sending out the same track regardless of genre.

REMEMBER! A client is unlikely to have the same musical or audio training that you do. When they listen to your reel they will struggle to think:

“Well, even though this isn’t the same genre I’m looking for, I can tell they able to use their DAW effectively and clearly show a creative use of stereo space in their sound design and music.”

Instead they are going to be thinking:

“Can I imagine these sounds in my game?”

The further you stray from the type of stuff they’re looking for, the less likely they are going to be able to picture your work in their project. By being specific with your pitch, you are maximizing your chances of striking a chord (no pun-intended) with the client and having them be able to picture your style of work within their game/project.

VIDEO: Mark Angus

Equally as important as the creative is the technical side of your showreel. By keeping a consistent output level to your showreel, you show clients that you are aware of more than just the creative, and know how to keep a well-balanced collection of assets. This is also apparent in the choice of tracks/sequences to present. If you have a very slow build up, it is unlikely that someone listening is going to want to wait for it to kick in! Keep the introductions to your tracks/sequences short, or provide cut down versions of them. You can always provide full versions upon request.

When showing what you can do to a client, you may be expected to demonstrate an assortment of skills. This can range from track lays (the process of creating sounds or music to a piece of a video game footage, as if it was a short movie) to technical demonstrations inside a game engine of audio middleware. Stephen has had plenty of experience both giving these tasks, as well as completing them. Listen to his thoughts on showreels and applying for jobs.

VIDEO: Stephen Baysted Interview #2

Knowing how much ‘stuff’ to put in your showreel is another important point. Do you pack it with all your biggest moments, or fill your showreel with long, environment sound scenes? Matt Lightbound believes a good showreel is somewhere in-between. Potential clients/employers will want to see how you deal with big epic scenes and environments, but they’ll also want to see your approach to more subtle scenes too, since these can often be as important as the bigger set-pieces.

VIDEO: Matt Lightbound Interview #2

Another good point from Matt in this interview is, don’t do audio replacement for big movies and video games that your client will have seen countless times before!

Look through steam or find indie films that the client won’t have seen before. This way they’re not expecting to hear familiar sounds of music.

Conclusion


The next step now is to go out and start preparing yourself! Here’s a quick recap on some of the main points:

Jobs and Skills


Work on your craft: If you can’t create good sounds, then you’re going to struggle to get work. This is priority number one!

Indie games vs AAA games: Gain experience on smaller projects and learn how the process works. By the time to get to applying for larger, high profile companies, you’ll have a wealth of experience to draw from.

Be diverse: Learn about sound design, implementation, dialogue editing, and all you can about game audio. The more skills you have, the more jobs you may find yourself suitable for. But don’t stretch yourself too thin. It’s better to do one or two things really well than lots of things to a mediocre level!

Showreel


Audio Replacements: Pay close attention to the details. Most scenes are going to have environment sounds, character sounds, background noise and much more. If you just provide audio for the bare minimum, the client may not know if you have left that out by choice or due to lack of awareness of what a scene needs.

Big movies and games: Don’t submit audio replacements of Star Wars, or other big movies. Just… don’t!

Showreel length: Keep your showreel at around 2-3 minutes. In that time, put your best work first and let the client get an idea as to your style and strengths. Show what you can do in the subtle scenes, as well as the epic ones.

Implementation: Your showreel can always contain video demonstrations of implementation. Import some of your sounds into FMOD or Wwise and show how you can work within the software. This is a crucial skill that a client is going to want to see.

If you want to develop some of these skills further, we offer a postgraduate degree course in Sound Design for Video Games. Game audio is rapidly growing to be a great source of income and job opportunities for composers and sound designers, and our online course focus on employable and current skills to allow you to work with current games companies and clients. We teach the creative side of sound design, as well as technical implementation in FMOD, Wwise and game engines such as Unity and Wwise. All of this is taught from top professional sound designers and is combined with over 1000 videos covering topics from all areas of the industry, including exclusive content from events such as ‘Develop Brighton’ and the ‘Ludomusicology’ conference.

If you’d like more information, feel free to get in touch at contact@thinkspaceeducation.com – We’d be happy to talk to you about the course and your future as a sound designer!

Have you seen our master's degree in Sound Design For Video Games?
  • Learn to use industry standard technology from active sound design and music veterans to get the most relevant learning experience possible.
  • Find your voice as a sound designer, with help from leaders in the field.
  • Learn to create work in an adaptive and interactive genre, tackling challenges unique to video games.
  • Personal 1-to-1 tuition from top professional sound designers.
  • Regular online workshops and tutorial groups, forum discussions and exclusive webinars.
Course Tutors
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Stephen Baysted
Award-winning British Film, TV and Video Game composer, audio director and Sound Designer for projects including: Project Cars, Project Cars 2, Need For Speed: Shift, The Walking Dead: Assault
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Gina Zdanowicz
Emmy Nominated Composer and Sound Designer working on projects such as: Bioshock 2, Just Cause 3 and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
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Mark Angus
An award-winning video game audio director and linear sound designer who has worked on projects such as: Alien Isolation, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and SimCity