In this interview, Game Composer, Sound Designer & Voice Actor Alec Shea shares his sound journey, which has taken him from Tasmania to Japan, working in game audio and animation. He also talks about how he uses Dehumaniser 2, Reformer Pro and Weaponiser in his work.
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Alec Shea is a game and animation audio specialist who’s provided music, sound design, voice and more for projects like:
Corpse Factory, Akedo: Ultimate Arcade Warriors, Minions in Minecraft, Kanji Combat, How To Date A Magical Girl & Yandere Simulator.
Maeva Ciavaldini: Hi Alec! What are you working on at the moment?
Alec Shea: Hey! I’m working on a couple of game soundtracks, and I’ve just wrapped up an animated series as well which was cool – so it’s mainly game and animation stuff at the moment, which is nice.
JJ Lyon: Awesome! How did you get started in sound design?
AS: After finishing university where I studied music & audio production, I wanted to freelance. I just started using Freelancer and Upwork, taking any job that would hire me. I had some good experiences, had some pretty bad ones as well! Eventually, you start building up a client base, which is where I am at now. I got to do a song with Emi Evans – an incredible vocalist who sings on the Nier: Automata soundtrack, which was awesome, and that all started from a guy that I met on Upwork. We discovered that we lived in the same city, became friends, and we’ve been working together ever since.
MC: Being based in Japan, have you always worked there or did you start elsewhere?
AS: I started in Tasmania, but I was doing all my of work online as there’s no real sound industry there. I was working part-time at EB Games while building up the freelance business on the side. I moved to Melbourne for a year and a half before I finally decided to move to Japan, where I’ve been for the past four years.
MC: How is japan different work-wise?
AS: Japan’s work culture is definitely pretty tough, but it’s pretty different for me because most of my work is online. I’m kind of lucky that my clients there were familiar with international people, so the business culture still feels more Western than Japanese.
JJ: Have you done more game or video work?
AS: I’ve definitely worked on more games, but at least in the last year, my biggest project has been this animated series. It took over six months, but it’s still one project, whereas I get lots of game projects but they’re usually smaller.
JJ: Depending on whether you’re working in video or whether you’re working in games, do you find that your approach to sound design & composition changes?
AS: It changes a little bit for sure. With video, particularly for writing music, you have to do it to the scene, so I’ll put it into Logic and the music will at one point, and end at another with changes following the scene. So even though my approach is probably not that different in terms of how to go about finding sounds and working out what kind of tone I want, structurally for games, it’s more about making a loop that fits this situation, with freedom in how the loop is structured.
MC: Do you have a favourite sound that you use often?
JJ: That’s a good question! In the Krotos libraries, I’ve got particular ones that I use a lot. Because I do sort of a lot of creature sounds, I use a lot of the sounds from the Wild Animals library. One of my favourite things to do, when doing voice acting is layering myself with that library!
MC: I saw the trailer for Fireborn, the creature sounds were so impressive!
AS: Thanks! That was a lot of fun to make, and it was done through that exact process. If I can make a sound with my voice I will, I’ll just go into the recording booth and see what I can come up with.
JJ: Incorporating your own voice into it helps you to becomes a part of the identity of your sound, I imagine?
AS: Exactly! I think it’s a great way to get some original source material. Jacob Collier – he talks about how his favourite instrument is the voice because it’s so flexible, it’s really impressive what a person’s voice can do.
MC: What would your dream project be?
AS: I’d really love to work on some anime! I met Kevin Penkin who wrote the soundtrack for Made In Abyss, and one of the episodes of Star Wars Visions. He’s an Australian composer who’s working in anime and just following him on social media to see what he’s doing, and it looks like so much fun. I think it’d be a really awesome experience to work on an anime!
JJ: What are your favourite Krotos plugins/libraries?
AS: The first plugin I came across was Reformer Pro and It seemed really interesting. I saw some of the projects that it was being used in – Game of Thrones for example – and I just picked up the 10-day free trial version and messed around with it. I ended up landing a project where I knew it would be cool to use. Then I thought, “if Reformer Pro is this good, maybe the other Krotos stuff is too!” So I picked up Sound Design Bundle 2. You can never have too big a library, and the sound libraries that come with it are awesome!
And because doing monster sound effects and stuff is one of my favourite things to do, and one of the more common sounds I have to design, Dehumaniser 2 has been amazing for that. I used to have to do a lot of it by hand, but now it’s a whole character design in one channel strip.
If you add all those effects, one at a time, you end up with a strip that’s got like 15 plugins on it! I’d rather just have all the effects in one place, then I can then EQ and compress etc. separately.
JJ: You also use Weaponiser – do you use it just for weapons or for other sounds as well?
AS: I love it for weapons, but I also use it for footsteps etc. as well. Weaponiser & Reformer Pro are great for game audio for pumping out a bunch of variations of a particular sound. I’ve been using them both a lot!
MC: What problems do you face in sound design?
AS: It depends on the situation. If I want to pump out a bunch of variations for weapon hits, you’ve got to have a bunch of different variations to play randomly – it can’t be the same sound over and over otherwise it sounds terrible. I can do that with Reformer Pro or Weaponiser, it saves a lot of time. I can just render a bunch of those, rather than dragging each sound in and editing it separately.
But Reformer Pro itself, can create some pretty weird & amazing sounds which you end up keeping for something else just because it sounds so cool! You just end up with an additional bank of sound that you weren’t expecting.
JJ: Before we wrap up, it’d be great to hear about the techniques you employ with Reformer Pro?
AC: I do it in different ways – Live Audio input, MIDI, or pre-existing audio files – for different situations. I love triggering it with other audio samples that I’ve dragged in. Sometimes I might just use some crazy file that I want to mess with and I’ll set Reformer to 100% on the wet/dry, so none of the original sound is there. It’s just for triggering Reformer Pro in dynamic ways. but I also blend the original sound with the sounds coming from reformer as well for entirely new textures!
JJ: Thanks Alec, it’s great to hear new and interesting ways that Krotos can be used!
AS: No worries! I would definitely not have as fast or smooth of a workflow without them!
JJ: Thank you for your time!
AS: Thanks for Having Me!
Alec Shea uses the Krotos Sound Design Bundle 2 in his work, which includes all of our plugins and over 120GB of sound design assets.
For More on Alec Shea:IMDB Website
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