Designing Sound Libraries for Hyperspace
Krotos are excited to introduce the new Explosive Energy Sound Library: a game-changing Sci-Fi Explosions Sound Effects Library by award-winning sound designer Paul Stoughton (Skywalker Sound / Star Wars VR). After working as Audio Lead in Immersive Audio at Skywalker Sound, Paul embarked on a journey to bring his Sci-Fi sound design explorations to the market. Read the interview below to hear all about it!
1. Hi Paul, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Is it a busy time for you at the moment? What have you been working on recently?
Hey! I’m fortunate to be pretty busy at the moment. I’ve officially launched Penguin Grenade as an audio outsourcing business as well as a sound library provider. I’ve been working with the amazing audio team over at Gearbox for the last few months, and then will be moving on to new exciting projects starting in March.
2. We’re curious to find out a bit more about your background. How did you get into your field, and what made you start Penguin Grenade, and releasing your own libraries?
I went to a small digital arts college in Emeryville, CA called Ex’pression. I had been a musician most of my life and was planning on getting into music recording/production. A while into school, when I found out what sound design was and got my first opportunities to create sound for picture, I was hooked. The last class I took before graduating was game audio. I knew right away that it was what I wanted to do. I loved the process of switching between the creative and the technical, allowing each to inform the other. Right before graduation a friend got me an opportunity to take over his contract as an Audio Support Engineer at EA, helping their interactive teams who at the time were working on games like Dead Space II and Dante’s Inferno. That was the start of the last 11 years, which spanned many studios and teams that I had the great privilege of learning from.
I started making libraries last year partly as a way to get better at specific areas of sound design but mostly to release sound into the wild and unleash its full potential through the creativity of others. An unexpected benefit has been all the sound people that I’ve gotten to talk to who I otherwise wouldn’t have met. I enjoyed that so much that I started a policy where if you purchase a library I’ll jump on a video chat and answer any questions you have about how the content was recorded or designed. Just get in touch after you purchase the library through Krotos!
3. We’d like to hear more about your work on Star Wars VR! What’s it like stepping into the Star Wars Universe as a sound designer?
I learned so much about sound by working on Star Wars VR titles. Doing it as an employee of Skywalker Sound added an extra dimension, since the sonic legacy was all around me. The biggest challenge was maintaining the integrity of the legacy content while giving it the depth and believability needed for something that you can interact within virtual reality. A great example is the light saber. Cutting saber swings to picture is a whole different ball game than designing content for and tuning a dynamic system that responds to your slightest inputs and still “feels” like the user would expect. It takes a while, but you tend to get a sixth sense for what does and doesn’t fit into the universe.
4. Has your work in Immersive Audio and Game Audio influenced your process for creating sound libraries?
My process for library creation is inseparable from my game audio background. The whole idea of making a modular library of interchangeable parts was what started the first library (Pulse Energy Weapons), which was similar to how I’ve designed layered weapon systems in video games. This fit perfectly into the Weaponiser workflow, which to me was similar to what I’d do in game audio middleware. Even in linear design, the speed at which I can generate unique content is greatly improved when I have these kits of modular sonic parts.
5. You’ve just released the Explosive Energy Library for Weaponiser. How did this library come together, and what was your inspiration for it?
Explosive Energy started as a challenge to myself. Sometimes I like to impose strict limitations on what I can use to design something, finding that it can be more inspiring to be backed into a corner than having every tool at your disposal. I wanted to make explosions only from processed source recordings from inside my apartment. Slapping cushions, stomping on the floor, swinging pillowcases, blowing on microphones, anything I could think of was fair game. The design relied heavily on processing since these raw recordings were far from where they needed to end up. For the more synthetic results, wavetables were created from source and used in Serum. At the end of the process I feel like I discovered many more interesting techniques than I would have given no limitations on what I could record.
6. Are there any productions that influenced your approach to Sci-Fi and weapon sound, or anything you’ve seen recently that stood out to you?
I’m a huge fan of the work Travis Naas did on the weapons in COD Advanced Warfare. He was nice enough to share some insight on his process when I reached out, so much of my approach is inspired by him. As for film/tv inspiration, there are too many to name. While I was making the Pulse Energy Weapons Library, I was watching the first season of Altered Carbon on Netflix, and was really impressed by the weapon design in that.
7. As a Weaponiser user, how do you incorporate your Krotos software into your work? Any cool tricks or techniques you could share?
Weaponiser has become an integral part of my workflow for interactive weapon design. You can’t really preview how automatic weapon layers will stack at the proper fire rate without tedious editing in a DAW. With Weaponiser I’m able to drop in the layers and tweak as if I was in a game audio middleware program like Wwise, greatly tightening the iteration loop. As far as cool tricks, I think my approach is pretty straight forward. The most useful instinct I’ve been working on recently is knowing when to add a layer vs. remove one from a sound. More often than not you’ll make the sound better by stripping out something that doesn’t need to be there, rather than adding something that isn’t.
8. And finally, do you have any advice to pass on to those interested in getting into sound library design?
My advice for getting into sound library design is that you should do it for any reason other than making money. Find a subject you’re excited about recording/designing and enjoy the experience of creation. You’ll end up with the best result that way. Maybe pick a category of sound that you’d like to get better at, something you may not currently have a chance to design at work if sound design is your profession.
Explosive Energy for Weaponiser
Paul Stoughton’s Explosive Energy library has now been adapted as a straight out-of-the-box Weaponiser library featuring over 1,000 assets to offer you enhanced explosive power that packs a punch!
Transform this library into your own sound design, or create thousands of unique assets at lightspeed using Weaponiser’s powerful and efficient workflow.
Sci-Fi Explosions Sound Design Contest with Paul Stoughton
To celebrate the new Explosive Energy Sound Library release, we’re running a special sound design contest with Paul Stoughton!
Download the explosion video and create your best sound design for it for a chance to win a number of prizes.
Take part and show us your best explosions!