Audio extra: Q&A with lead audio designer Dorian Pareis

What was your route into working with audio?

I grew up studying music and had a strong interest in both film and games. As a kid I was playing in bands, messing around with synths and recording on 4-tracks. I attended Vancouver Film School which has an excellent Sound Design program. From there I progressed to working for EA and also in film.

Were you always working on video game audio projects? 

Yes, the majority of my career has been spent on game audio. I was recruited into EA Blackbox as an intern upon graduation from school. Having a chance to work for Charles Deenen and Lance Brown at EA Blackbox on Skate and Need for Speed was impossible to turn down. I did take a hiatus early on to work in film and TV, which I found to be a very valuable experience. I then transitioned back to games as Vancouver had a lot of opportunities in games at the time. After 12 years working at EA, Ubisoft Vancouver and Slant Six, I joined Reflections in 2017.

What qualifications or experience do people looking to get an audio-related job in the games industry need?
Above all, anyone wanting to get an audio job in the games industry needs passion and initiative. A great sounding demo reel is now compulsory, as is some demonstration of technical audio design in the form of integration skills. When recruiting, we are looking for people with great ears and good taste when it comes to sound choices. Your character is extremely important too; stay humble, keen and open to criticism.

How does working in the games industry differ from other industries you’ve worked in?

It requires resilience. Game audio, in particular, can present an ongoing series of challenges, both technically and logistically. To be successful you will need to keep pushing for progress and stay positive and motivated.

What kind of facilities/hardware do you work with and do they require any special expertise?

Potential audio candidates will need basic computer/file management skills on both Mac and PC. Microphone, signal flow and audio hardware skills are always required. We spend most of our time in the software world, however. All studios will want you to have implementation experience: Wwise is the dominant middleware. Some studios require solid MS Excel/Access skills and learning some scripting can be very handy too. I recommend Python.

What would be your advice to people looking to get an audio job in the games industry?

If it were me, I would first take some online training to see how I like the work. Have a look at the School of Video Game Audio run by the excellent Leonard Paul. From there, someone who is interested in pursuing this as a career might consider a longer stint at a post-secondary programme like the VFS sound design course. It’s essential to design your own, fresh sounds. Either by getting out and recording or by synthesising – usually both.

It shows initiative and industry pros have heard all of the library samples, so we want to hear something new. Then demonstrate an understanding of integration by implementing these assets in a game. Wwise offers free access to their middleware as well as a demo game called Cube. Sound design for games is a highly competitive field. My advice would be to outperform and over-deliver. Be approachable and friendly, work hard and deliver some great content and you’ll do well.

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