2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: A Sound Collaboration - Audio in the Design Process

Written by Megan Simpson | March 3, 2014

At SXSW 2014, Chanel Summers talks about the importance of audio in the design process.

Chanel Summers has worked as a designer and producer of large-budget games involving many different disciplines and competing priorities. She’s also worked as an audio director and sound designer, working with designers and producers to create a sense of priority around the overall sound of a game and the ability for sound to shape the player’s experience. During her career she has been forced to create new methods of project workflow, and has seen first-hand how it can be improved and made more efficient. The focus of this installment of the Session Spotlight is her 2014 SXSW Interactive session, “A Sound Collaboration - Audio in the Design Process.”

SXSW: Can you tell us more about audio in the design process?
Summers: Wondering about the methods and benefits of integrating sound from the very beginning of a production? How to remove the language barrier between you, your composer and sound designer? This presentation will demonstrate how to integrate composers and audio specialists into your projects in the pre-production phase and promote healthy collaborations between the design/production team and the audio team, how to master the art of sound concepting, and what it means to create an audio aesthetic.

SXSW: Have you spoken on this topic before?
Summers: I have spoken on this topic to game industry professionals, aspiring game designers, and producers at industry gatherings and educational institutions around the world. It is always gratifying to me to hear that the ideas explored have opened their eyes to a new way of thinking about audio in the game design process and have changed the way they intended to approach their next project.

SXSW: What kinds of people should plan to attend this session?
Summers: This session is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about how to integrate audio into the creative design process. Creative directors, project managers, game producers, designers, and of course anyone working in the field of audio production will be challenged and invigorated.

SXSW: Why will they want to hear your dual presentation?
Summers: Anyone who wants to learn precisely how to create more compelling projects by integrating audio right from the start, right from the pre-production phase, and by promoting healthy collaborations between the design, production, and audio teams, needs to attend this session. Currently, in various digital and media circles, you might hear many designers, creative directors, and producers opine that the purpose of the audio team is to work miracles quickly and cheaply at the end of production with as little oversight as possible in the early stages of planning. Sound is sadly an afterthought. We will show them how to change this attitude and as a result, optimize their workflow.

SXSW: What will the biggest take-aways from your session be?
Summers: This session will be packed with specific take-aways. After attending our session you'll learn about specific challenges teams face when attempting to integrate sound and audio personnel into the pre-production process; how a creative director or producer can promote healthy collaborations between the design, production, and audio teams; practical exercises that promote better communication and an understanding of the vocabulary used to express concepts to a composer or sound designer; what is meant by sound concepting; and how one goes about creating an audio aesthetic that can enable sound to contribute to a deeper meaning within a project, establishing and reinforcing the core experience that the project is trying to convey.

SXSW: What is the best book or magazine article or web post that you have read in relation to the topic you are speaking about?
Summers: I was recently interviewed for an issue of MusicTech magazine on this topic and participated in a lively discussion with some innovative game audio designers in Vancouver where we discussed a number of relevant points. 

SXSW: Aside from your own, which session at SXSW Interactive 2014 are you most excited about and why?
Summers: I am looking forward to Pete Horner’s session, “The Emotional Language of Film With Skywalker Sound,” as he is also reinforcing the concepts of sound’s power to elicit and influence emotion and be a strong storytelling agent.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. For tips on interesting sessions to attend, visit the new Recommendation page. Register now to attend “A Sound Collaboration - Audio in the Design Process” and other incredible programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.