INTERVIEW WITH LIVE FOLEY ARTIST: DARREN LODWICK
How did you become involved with Earbud Theater?
I think I got involved when I started hanging out with Nick and talking about fantasy writing. We’d geek out about this or that, and then he mentioned he could use some help with the audio on something. I offered to help.
What was your first introduction to Radio Plays?
I used to help with foley in a Hollywood studio and I got my degree in audio production, so my awareness of them started as more of a historical sense. It was an awesome old practice that still carries over into a lot of foley art today!
What is your biggest challenge in audio special effects for radio?
Finding the line for imagination. Foley for radio wasn’t perfect. It didn’t really need to be. The listeners were already using their imaginations, so the sound didn’t have to be a perfect car crash or thunder roll, as it would be heard in nature. It could be imperfect, but still capture the essence of the sound, and it would work wonderfully. Nowadays, we have sampled sounds that can be made perfect, but that defeats the purpose of the performance in the context of a radio show.
What made you want to be a sound designer/audio engineer?
I was a classically trained composer, realized that I wanted a more technical education to compliment my classical one, got my degree in audio production, and along the way developed a taste for sound engineering. That or I’m a pod-person, having replaced the younger me.
What would you consider the most influential and inspiring sound mixes of all time?
Oh jeez. Well, just about ANYTHING by Ben Burtt. And you can’t mention sound design without mentioning the Mecca of sound design; Wall-E. There’s barely any dialogue in that movie, and yet Ben Burtt still can convey emotion in the sound, which is kind of the true goal of good sound design. I do mostly video game audio now, to my pleasure, and there are too many wonderful soundscapes in games to count. While sound design and audio engineering may be very technical fields, they are still ultimately art, designed to illicit a reaction; for that reason, there isn’t a “perfect” or “of all time” one.
When designing a soundscape, what is the most difficult part of the process?
It depends on the designer. Some people are more skilled at one thing than another. It also depends quite heavily on the medium; radio, games, film, etc. In the context of a show like this, it’s probably knowing our limitations and trying not to overstep them too much in the foley. We have limited mics, limited hands, and limited props. We don’t have the luxury of a wind machine or old engine rotor, and so on. Finding a happy medium is taking up most of the work.
Of all your projects you’ve worked in the past, which is your favorite and why?
Tough one. The project I’m still currently on, Titan: Dawn, is probably my favorite. It’s a video game where I’ve been handling literally every aspect of the audio and the integration into the game engine itself. Very fun, and a wonderful team.
You’ve had a large variety of jobs, from creating original pieces of music to designing sound for video games. What is your favorite role to play in the world of sound?
I hate this question, because I’m not sure. I think I have to say sound design for games, but I also have a real passion for doing orchestral music. I don’t like dialogue editing, I can tell you that right now. But I like working with actors and dialogue directing, so I’ll put up with it if I’m doing that too. I like change, so doing a lot of different things is kind of part of being happy for me.
Where do your ideas come from?
My gut. You start with what feels right and what you hear in your head, and then you PLAN PLAN PLAN. Pre-production is almost more important than “where the sounds come from.”
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? Into a Blastoise, after many hard battles against trainers and gym leaders. Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure. I’ve become more proficient in my craft in a lot of ways. I will say that probably the biggest difference between me now and me years ago is my circle of friends. Life really is about the people around you, not so much what you do.
How do you go about finding projects?
Oh god, I’m not even sure these days. Honestly, most of it is referrals from friends. When things are slow, or I’ve got a creative itch to scratch, I just make my own projects to do. Passion projects are important for keeping those creative juices flowing. People who work and only work, spending all of their own time on less productive things, tend to burn out and associate something they used to love as just work.
What advice would you give to those looking to dabble into sound design?
Well, that’s a tough one. If it was visual art, I’d say go buy some paper, pencils, google instructions for what you want to do, and practice practice practice. If it was acting, I’d say join a club or group or class and practice practice practice. The challenge with sound design is that it’s hard to get around cost of necessary equipment. It’s not an easy thing to “dabble” in because it’s so expensive and takes so long. If you’ve got the income to afford a hobby that involves microphones and gear, awesome! Good for you! If you don’t, get Audacity (a free recording software) and a cheap USB mic and just start doing it. You’ll be very limited, but it’s a start, and starting is always the hardest part. It’s even better if you can find someone with more experience than you, even if it’s just the guitarist and lead singer for a neighborhood garage band or something. That person can help you learn the basics, which are often the hardest to grasp right away. Unless you’re used to using your ears in a very critical and discerning way, you’ll need a lot of ear-practice. Even some basic musicianship classes will help with that ear training.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
Working on a game audio team. I’ve been a lone wolf on the sound for projects so much that I really want to have coworkers again. I like people and I find it more important to be around people that make your life better. I like being my own boss, don’t get me wrong, but I like people more.
What is your take-out meal of choice when faced with an all-nighter at the sound board?
Now THAT is a great question! Honestly, I tend to forget to eat when I’m working that intensely. And when I do eat, I use it as an excuse to take a break and decompress for a moment. Buffalo chicken or stuffed jalapenos are always good. That and some ice-cold tea.
Do you have a secret favorite sound you like to throw into your mix as an inside joke, or something that just makes you smile? If so, what is it and where can we find it?
You know, not really, no. I’m never really that bored, I guess! I have libraries of sounds that I’ve collected, which I frequently reuse because they’re good sounds. Oh! Actually, a crappy 505 synth kick drum. It’s a sound designed to be heard on even the crappiest of speakers, and so it’s great for adding extra “oomf” to your impacts. I put it everywhere, games put it everywhere, everyone puts it everywhere. It’s shameful but wonderful.
What’s your favorite sounding video game?
What’s that? What game should get honorable mention for going the extra mile with the audio? Oh good, what a great question. I was worried you were going to ask me an impossible question like “what is my favorite sounding video game?” Phew! Lord of the Rings Online. It’s rare that an online game like that goes to great levels in the ambient sound design. Usually they rely on music to carry that. Not Lord of the Rings Online. I cranks the ambient sound up on that game because it just made the world feel alive!
What game(s) are you playing right now?
None. I’m answering these questions right now. *snark snark snark* I’m playing Cities: Skylines (surprisingly well done audio for a city-builder), Heroes & Generals (surprisingly horrible sound in that one), and a collection of others more sparingly.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Hard to say. I really feel like I did almost everything I could, and that the consequent failures and-… yeah, let’s say successes, were what shaped me into a better person.
So, what projects have you worked on? What are your current projects?
The biggest project to date is Titan: Dawn, an action role playing game for PC, in which I’ve done all the audio. I’ve also done some sound design for Shadow Puppeteer, an indie game currently available on Steam. And lots of other stuff, including personal projects. I recently did some sound design for a neat zombie-survival card card (the digital version) called “Z.” It can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/downwardviral/z-2
Where can we listen/experience them?
Shadow Puppeteer can be purchased on Steam. The “Z.” demo just wrapped up at New York Comic Con, and I don’t know where they’ll be going next as of yet. Titan: Dawn can be heard at the website, http://www.titandawn.com, where the old open beta and extra goodies are available!
How can listeners discover more about you and you work?
Thanks for asking! There’s always my website, http://www.LodwickSound.com, where there is always work samples and more information about me and my work! There is also my sound Twitter, @LodwickSound.
Information about the upcoming Halloween production of EARBUD THEATER: LIVE
HALLOWEEN PRODUCTION OF EARBUD THEATER: LIVE
Laguna Hills, CA – Laguna Hills Community Center
This October 30th at 7pm, and October 31st at 4pm & 7pm, On The Edge Theatre Productions and Earbud Theater join together at the Laguna Hills Community Center to present a Halloween event unlike any other….
EARBUD THEATER: LIVE is a radio play performance of two unique stories. THE SOUNDS BELOW, a chilling tale about a man in a strange little shop down a lost night street who attempts to make a bargain with his fears, with soul-shattering results. The second show is a world premiere script entitled BONEY MCGEE, debuting exclusively in Laguna Hills, where it will be recorded for later release, with the audience members’ reactions becoming part of the show! So dim the lights, turn up the volume. Let Earbud tell you a story. And if you find yourself wondering, or worrying, or just staring at our strange world from newly un-scaled eyes, just remember – it’s all in your head…
Tickets are $15 general admission, 12 and under are free with paying adult, and available by registering online at www.ci.laguna-hills.ca.us, or purchasing them, cash only, at the door on show days. Seat reservations may be made by contacting OTE at (949) 458-2243 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Laguna Hills Community Center is located at 25555 Alicia Parkway in Laguna Hills, CA. For further information on this program and other exciting classes offered by the Laguna Hills Community Center, please call 949-707-2680.