Hollywood Sound Designer / Mixer Charles Deenan Talks Shop
From the hottest video games and theatrical trailers, to movies, commercials and even virtual reality - sound designer/engineer/mixer Charles Deenen rarely has time to sleep! His diverse credit list includes the likes of Star Wars Battlefront, Skylanders, Call of Duty, game trailers for Tomb Raider, Forza, Battlefield, Doom, Halo, commercials for Audi & BMW, and dozens of theatrical trailers. We spoke to him recently at his home-based 'Source Sound' in sunny Woodland Hills California, about how Sonnox plug-ins fit into that dynamic workflow.
How did you get started in the gaming business?
Around 1984, I was lucky to be one of the pioneers in a small group of folks to do sound for games. Games at that point were definitely not a big deal yet. They were like 10 dollars each. There were maybe 8 or 10 people that were doing sound for games on a high level as a profession. In 1991, I got picked up by a company in the US who then said, "Hey, we want to have audio in our game that sounds like you guys do!". So I moved over to the US from my home in the Netherlands. Thirty years later, I'm still here!
In 2003, I was hired by EA Games as Creative Director for audio on the Racing franchise, and stayed at EA for nine years.
I then teamed up with my partner, Tim, who had opened Source Sound ten years before that and was doing a lot of feature film trailers. There wasn't really a wing yet that dealt with the games side, so I came onboard and we were very fortunate that it took off like crazy! Recently we took on all the VR projects as well and have teamed up with a company called Jaunt, who is basically one of the main providers for VR content. VR is now another part of our business that's been expanding. We have a great team of people here at Source Sound, including editors, sound designers, and assistants, and mixers.
Tell us about your Pro Tools rig?
In my studio, it's Pro Tools HDX3 with an Avid S6-M40. There are way too many screens around (laughs). Our team runs Pro Tools HDX2 or Native with a plethora of plug-ins.
One of the things that we often have to do is dialog clean-up. In the film world and also in the game world when production happens on noisier stages or outside, some dialogue just doesn't sound good. So, if they haven't done any ADR yet, we have to try to improve the raw material. Our job is to make that dialog shine so that when you finally see it on a trailer, commercial or even game cinematics, the audio then sounds incredibly clean and punchy. We have a few folks on here that really specialize in that, who take the audio, apply some magic and make it super-clean and very mixable. Sonnox plug-ins play a big part in that process.
So which Sonnox plug-ins do you use?
Pretty much the whole arsenal, but lately it's specifically been elements of the Sonnox Restore Suite. I really like the DeClicker - we use it to clean up recordings with clicky transients, little ticks of maybe dust or sand that will roll around. We often do car commercials, and the cars need to be cleaned up aurally. That's where I use the DeClicker, DeBuzzer and DeNoiser.
One of the odd ball things that I use the decrackle section in the Oxford DeClicker for, is "bigganizing" (a term invented by Dave Farmer, giving credit where credit is due!). People will ask me, "Hey, how do you get that to sound so big, even when played quietly?!" Well, it's a perception of the ear. The ear thinks it's actually distorting it but it really isn't. I'll go in and gain-clip it 20dB and then 'decrackle' it. You're then left with was the perception of a distorted sound that still sounds clean, thereby making the ear believe that it's really loud and punchy!
Give us an example of a sound you would do that on...
Explosions, gunshots, etc. Almost anything that needs power or perception of loudness. The DeClicker, Inflator and Limiter from Sonnox are magic for me.
You also use the Limiter?
Oh yes, and the Inflator! The Limiter is literally on every single game trailer mix of ours. I haven't found anything yet that will limit things as nicely and at the same time, allow us to get some extra volume out of it.
Interview and editorial provided by Rich Tozzoli