Team Focus – George Moreland (Halo1m) Jul 18 - Tosh
"I accept no feedback." - The Sound Guy
Welcome back to your
bi-weekly Team Focus update! This week we continue our quest to ask all of the questions about sound, music, and pianos... especially pianos. To answer some of these we're joined by Halo1m A.K.A George Moreland our Audio Engineer here to tell us all about what he does, how he got here, and why he hasn't left yet.
Let’s start with the basics, who are you and what do you do here on the Installation 01 team?
My name is George, and I’m a professional audio engineer. I studied at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, and I currently work in studios with professional musicians in Nashville, Tennessee. I handle all forms of audio that are sent my way. This includes working with sound design/SFX, working with Jafet on the soundtrack, and implementing sounds within the game world.
That's interesting, so you are kind of a mixed bag here and seem to have your fingers in everything Audio related. So tell me, how do you organize, plan, and prioritize your work to get it all done?
Well as an audio engineer I find myself, here and on other development teams, to be a sort of autonomous entity. I typically can float from one part of a project to another seamlessly. If there is something that is demanded from a certain department with a short deadline, I simply knock that out first and then go back to doing what I feel needs to be done. So this allows me to sort of tweak existing sounds, work on something I’m really feeling like working on at the time, and not have as much stress as the rest of the team heheh. All in all, I’d say that I sort of function as my own boss within these sort of teams until somebody absolutely needs me and they throw a task, or many, my way with a hard deadline.
Flowing seamlessly? Your own boss? Low stress? Are you sure you're part of game development? Joking aside, it seems you have a somewhat laid-back approach to this all. Which leads me to a question, in your opinion, what skills and qualities are required to be a successful Audio Engineer?
Well, for the most part, to function well as an audio engineer you’ll need a DAW (digital audio workstation) that can get you by or excel in the field of handling audio, then from there the rest is all on you. You’ll need to know the fundamentals of audio/sound design and learn how they interact with your tools. Once you learn how to craft/manipulate sounds properly to bring your ideas to reality, or someone else’s ideas to reality, then you are an audio engineer. I don’t hold my position as an audio engineer as something only a select few who have gone to some sort of school can understand and do. I believe anybody can do it, so long as they are always open to learning new skills within the field and constantly practice and experiment. Experimentation is always the most useful tool for learning in this field. I’d say I’m my own boss in these sort of development teams because I’m not really held on a tight leash. Many teams I’ve been a part of typically will have no audio engineers or at least people who have been doing this as long as I have. So I sort of have to take point in the audio department. I’d say my most useful ability to assist in me functioning as my own boss/organizer, is being able to slam someone with jargon the second they come asking questions about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. Lol. That typically sends them running for the hills heheh.
Thank you so much for sharing all of this information and insight into the field, I'd like to focus and go into depth with some parts of your answer though. You speak to learning fundamentals of audio/sound design and how they interact with the tools you've been provided, and how school isn't entirely necessary to learning the craft. If you don't mind, what is some advice, tools, or tips you can give to aspiring Audio Engineers that may be reading this?
I’d recommend starting with some sort of DAW that’s easy to work with like Studio One, Ableton, Reaper, or my personal favorite, Pro Tools. I’d use these if you're interested in working with audio someone else is providing or existing audio. If you’re more musically inclined, try to get a DAW that can handle midi programming well. Midi is essentially note programming for virtual instruments. This will allow you to create music/audio and then experiment with it any time you like. I personally use Propellerhead Reason for my midi work. For mixing and mastering audio as well as cleaning up audio, it’s hard to beat Izotope’s software plugins. Once you have some plugins for your DAW of choice, experiment, and practice as much as possible. Make sound FX if you’re not musically inclined, make music if you are.
You’ll be able to hone your skills as often as you’d like when you have these. Look up sound engineers online and discover tips and tricks that they use for producing audio. Before the internet, audio engineers were hard to find and never shared their secrets. But nowadays the secrets are all out there. You just have to find it. School is more of a means of having first-hand experience and access to analog mixing and mastering gear that typically can cost a pretty penny. By going to a proper school, you’ll be able to ask questions directly rather than having to google and cross your fingers. I’m extremely glad I did, and I think it’s something that has proven to be an invaluable experience. Most of the software and hardware I use now are things I discovered in my school career. School is a hands-on learning experience, learning from an experienced professor who has done all the researching for you, rather than an autodidactic one. But I assure you, you can obtain the knowledge I know by scouring the net and finding the fundamentals and secrets of audio engineering yourself.
Absolutely fantastic advice, You're clearly quite knowledgeable in the field. I think I can speak on behalf of any aspiring Audio Engineer and thank you for this advice. So I must know, why did you decide to pursue a career as a Sound Engineer, and how did you come into it?
Well it’s funny. I actually went to school my Freshman year as a Mechanical Engineer. I was hoping to become an engineer for businesses like Boeing or some sort of automotive company. I ended up not digging the math (who does) and decided to change my focus to my second passion, making music. I found the science behind audio really interesting and wanted to know more. After joining the audio engineering program, I felt right at home, even meeting others that switched their major for similar reasons. Something that’s nice about audio engineering is the fact that people continuously seek entertainment, whether it be through television, films, or music. Even in gaming, audio engineers can be found making sure that the audible experience is well crafted for the audience’s pleasure. Almost every aspect of media entertainment needs an audio engineer. For music, people come to you as if you’re some sort of gatekeeper to the music industry. For television/broadcasting, people rely on your knowledge of handling physical audio gear in a studio environment. Overall, the field of audio engineering is very versatile.
Another nice thing about audio engineering is that, with us being in a digital era, we can almost all have a crack at it. This means the line between demo and studio recordings is getting more blurred. People can create a music piece or sound effect at home, meeting, and in some cases, exceeding the quality some studios will give you. This all comes down to the person behind the keyboard and his/her knowledge of the skill. These days, I’d say the main reason people record in a studio overdoing the audio engineering yourself, is due to the studios already being in possession of the expensive software, analog mixing gear, and microphones. Not to mention the sound treated recording spaces. Again, the quality found in a lot of these studios can be replicated/met in your own space at home given the proper know-how and effort. I still jerry-rig sound treatment panels from cloth and wood to gain control of my home recording space. Anybody can start doing this at home and on a budget. And I’m sure if someone starts, they won’t stop after finding out how much fun it really is.
So it was a Frankenstein of passions colliding that lead you here to your dream profession? That's amazing honestly. I never realized how much relies on Audio Engineers and how open the field really is, you're kind of unsung heroes. You bring up the differences of Studio and Demo slowly becoming less of an issue making digital and analog closer than ever before. What would you say your favorite type of equipment to work with is so far in your career, do you prefer one over the other? And if so, why?
As far as gear goes. I’d say my favorite microphones I’ve used thus far has to be the AEA R88 and the Neumann U 87. Those are some high-class expensive mics I love to use. But companies have been making some clones for much cheaper. Warm Audio makes great clones for microphones and analog mixing outboard gear. I’d recommend them for choosing a nice mic to work with at home. I still prefer Pro Tools over other DAWs, but I’m starting to broaden my horizons and expand to some new ones. I like to use Reason for my midi work because it’s set up as if you were working with analog synthesized gear. I use a cheap M-Audio controller keyboard for programming my midi notes. It gets me by, and I find it hard to surpass the quality offered by M-Audio keyboards for the price these days. I currently use a Universal Audio Apollo Twin DUO Mark 2 as my dedicated audio interface. I prefer it over other audio interfaces due to its amazing preamps and fantastic virtual console software. It allows me to emulate an analog console on my computer. It’s definitely a cheaper alternative to buying an actual analog console. However, I only recently acquired this.
Before I used a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio interface, but the drivers for them hardly get updated, so I felt like leaving it behind. It definitely gets the job done and is absolute workhorse. If by some chance you’re reading this and are wanting to buy a Focusrite Interface, do not buy the Focusrite Scarlett Solo. I did, and the preamps in them are actually worse than the rest of the series. But I digress. A simple audio interface and a couple of decent microphones, perhaps a condenser and a dynamic mic, can get you quite far. Audio gear is a money pit. So figuring out how to cut corners and take advantage of less expensive equipment and software is absolutely imperative. Overall I’d have to say that digital is my favorite to work with only because of how convenient it is. I called all of my analog classes in school “Digital Appreciation” because analog can be such a hassle sometimes. I believe that as digital becomes more and more widely accessible, analog will become more and more sought after for nostalgic purposes. So if you want an edge on the music industry, here’s a tip, know how to work with analog music production if you can. Just like vinyl records, it’s coming back.
Well, no one can say you're unequipped! What exactly convinced you into lending your amazing talents towards working on Installation 01, and helping us make this truly sound like a Halo game?
Well I’ve always been a fan of Halo. I got an Xbox when Halo 2 came out and got the first and second Halo with it for free from the guy I bought it from. I played the first one and was immediately taken by the aesthetic and lore. It reminded me of classic 80s sci-fi mixed with modern idealized futuristic visions. I always enjoyed first-person shooters as well so to find all of this rolled into one was like a match made in heaven. I decided to reach out to development teams for games I felt I could understand the vision for. I remembered seeing Installation 01 a while back and when I saw an update video come out a bit ago, I decided to find out how to contact the team. I figured it was a community project made for the Halo community. I wanted to see if I could give back to it for all of the fun and good times its given me.
Not to mention, as I said earlier, audio engineering is quite versatile and I figured I should try to integrate myself into as many forms of audio fields as I can manage to gain experience and networks. There is nothing like a good team with good intentions on your resume. I am thrilled I joined the team as well because It genuinely seems as if everyone here functions like a great big community. All sharing a similar interest.
Ah yes, the good ol' Halo nerd like the rest of us. We're truly grateful you put your time into this, and we're lucky to have you on the team. Though I wonder if It's even worth asking why we're here at this point haha! My only qualm is, I don't know how good our intentions of taking over the world are. Coughs Anyways, what does a typical work week for you here look like?
Well a typical work week for me would be going to the Studio I work for in Nashville, setting up equipment, recording a band/artist, mixing/mastering audio, and coming home to then do some more audio work. Sometimes it can seem a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, I get days off, and I use them to work on passion projects like these. I enjoy working on sound effects and helping Jafet with his soundtrack. I typically reserve these things for the weekend as they can take up to several hours at a time. I’ve found that midi can be challenging to mix, as well as mixing orchestral music, when both are present (Jafet’s Soundtrack work), it can become quite the balancing act.
I find myself spending over 8 hours in a single sitting working on any one of the songs on the soundtrack. It can take some serious time to fine tune these songs. Especially with so much going on within them. When I’m not working on Jafet’s music, I find myself looking into what else can be done. I’ll listen to sound effects existing within the game and see if they can be adjusted to create a better experience for the player. I’ve found myself listening to the same gunshot sound effect over a hundred times just to make a handful of EQ adjustments. This stuff can be taxing so I have to make sure I take breaks in between. If there’s ever any crazy task that needs to be prioritized, as I said, I’ll do it. In some cases that can mean me losing some sleep over it. But I find it worth it for the project. I genuinely enjoy being a part of it.
You're quite the busy man, and your dedication to this project is admirable but taking breaks is key to keeping your sanity! Now that we know why you're here and what it's like on a weekly basis for you, how would you describe working on Installation 01 in one sentence so far?
Fun and professional.
Well, we apparently have very different experiences so far. Alas, all good things must come to an end, let’s end this with one last question. What is your ultimate Halo match?
Halo 3, Infection, any custom map.
That's it for this week, thank you so much for joining me today George, it was an absolute pleasure. If you'd like to follow George's work or just want to listen to some of the stuff he's already done go check him out on his Casting Call page or Soundcloud where you can learn even more about the man, the myth, the sound guy. I'll see you all in two weeks time where we sit down with Jafet, our composer on Installation 01 for a 1 on 1 Q&A session where we talk about puppies, Halo, and music I guess.