Ric, what’s your background and how did you get started in the world of sound design and recording?
I fell into sound design by chance. I started off as a location sound mixer doing film and television work. In the evenings, I would mess around with Sound Forge (version 4.5 at the time) for kicks and grins. I wanted to play around more with sound effects, so I asked my wife to get me some sound effects CDs for Christmas. When I listened to the “professional sound effects”, I was disappointed. The quality wasn’t very good – at least not what I would have expected. So, I borrowed a DAT recorder from one of the companies I freelanced for and started recording my own sound effects.
At the beginning, it was just for fun. I love gear, so the whole process of recording and editing sounds was more of a hobby. After about a year or so, I realized that I had created over a thousand sound effects. I figured someone out there would be interested in buying them. I made a call to Sound Ideas and sent them a demo. They were so impressed with my work that they immediately hired me to work on a CD called “Impact Effects”. The whole process was amazing, but nothing is cooler than getting a CD that has your name in the liner notes! It was validating in some way. For the first time, I realized that this could be more than just a hobby. Now, it’s my career. It’s my job. But even after all these years, I still catch myself recording and editing sounds on the weekends – just for fun. So, I guess it’s still my hobby.
You founded and own ‘The Detroit Chop Shop’. Can you tell us a little more about what it is and what you do?
Freelancing as a location sound mixer meant long days and frequent travel. I loved the work, but I’m a family guy and didn’t want to be away from home too much, so I decided to start my own studio so that I could control my hours and travel. It originally started off as a project studio so that I could make sound libraries, but we branched out over the years. I love working on film projects and 6 out of the last 7 films we’ve worked on have won awards. That’s very satisfying.
So you’ve created the sound effects for many major film and television productions, can you tell us a little more about a typical day working on such a production?
Actually, the major films and television productions that use my effects get them from sources like SoundScalpel.com! There are times when I’m contacted directly by a sound supervisor to provide certain sounds, but our main business is producing sound effects libraries that are helpful resources for filmmakers.
Some sounds must be very difficult to record/create. Are there any particular sound effects you have had to make that stand out as problematic and what was involved in creating them?
Designing sound effects is relatively easy - not super easy, but easier than the recording process. This all hinges on the ingredients, just like baking a cake. The fresher the ingredients you have, the better tasting cake you’ll make. So, the ingredients are paramount. You have to work hard to record the best source material. The problems I encounter are almost always isolating a sound from its environment. Studio recording is less troublesome because you can control the environment, but in the field – anything goes! Choosing the right location to record is a critical decision when planning. That one decision will determine the outcome of your recordings. No matter how expensive your mics and recorders are, if the background is noisy then the recordings will be noisy too.
What advice would you give to any talented aspiring sound designers?
Experiment! Always try new things. It’s important to learn from the pros by studying and listening to their work, but remember that just because they created a sound effect a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the only way to create it. If you come across a brick wall, go over it, go under it, or knock it down and go through it! Keep trying until you find what you’re after. Often the coolest sounds come from the simplest sources. Above all else, it’s important to have fun with your work. Go crazy!
Can you tell us a little more about your book ‘The Sound Effects Bible’?
The Sound Effects Bible aims to be an all-in-one resource for getting started in sound effects. It covers sound basics, field packages, DAWs, Foley stages and, of course, techniques on making sound effects. The response to the book has been great. Schools and colleges around the world are using the book to teach students. That’s really cool! We set up a website and a Facebook page where readers can shoot me questions about gear and tips. It’s fun to help out next generation sound designers.
You’ve just about finished your second book? What’s that about?
Ah, that’s a secret… Okay, fine. You got me! I can’t keep a secret. My next book is about Location Sound for Film and Television. It covers everything from mic techniques to mixers, recorders, and set etiquette for ENG and Film work. I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a complete guide to location sound out there - even more surprised than I was about sound effects books. Location sound work is not just for the pros doing high-end jobs. Independent filmmakers, corporate video departments and even wedding videographers need to know and understand location audio.
What’s next for Ric Viers?
Like a rolling stone, I hate staying in the same spot for too long. I’m always looking for the next fun and creative project, video, book, whatever! If I’m not having fun then my work suffers. So, I try to stay inspired.
About Ric Viers
Ric Viers owns The Detroit Chop Shop, a post production facility that operates three state of the art sound design studios, three sound editing suites, a voice-over booth and Michigan’s only Foley sound stage. Ric is also a successful author and his first book, The Sound Effects Bible is available now. Also check out his Facebook page.
His sound effects can be purchased at soundscalpel.com
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