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3×5 Game Audio Interview with Call Of Duty's Mark Kilborn

Homemade bullet whizbys, Call of Duty and Wind Beneath My Wings and more make up the latest 3x5 Interview with Mark Kilborn!

George Hufnagl

November 12, 2012

5 Min Read

This blog was originally posted on Creating Sound. Additional information about the website can be found at CreatingSound.com

3x5 Interview with Mark Kilborn

Mark Kilborn's Website | Mark on Twitter 


1) Using the word “sound” in each description (in any tense or plurality), list five points that describe yourself.

  • Sounds like he plays too many video games, because it’s all he ever talks about.

  • Is pretty sound in the kitchen.

  • Decided at the age of five that he wanted to work in the gaming industry, his parents thought he sounded crazy.

  • Uses his wife as a sounding board when coming up with answers to weird questions.

  • Thinks wings and beer sound great for lunch.

2) What are three accomplishments of which your five-year-old self would be proud?

  • I’ve worked on some incredibly successful video games, including one or two cult hits.

  • I’ve recorded and released some of my own music.


3) What are five words that you hope will describe your future?

  • Peaceful.

  • Liberated.

  • Satisfying.

  • Creative.

  • Hoverboarding.


1) In your opinion, what are four characteristics that an audiophile should have?

  • Good ears. Most of the strong sound designers I know, especially those better than me, are amazing critics of sound.

  • Thick skin. You must be able to accept criticism in stride and always do what’s best for the game.

  • Creative. You have to think outside of literal sound and do things that impact your listeners in the right way.

  • Positive attitude. We’re at the end of the pipeline, $&#@ always rolls downhill, so you have to be able to roll with the punches and keep a good attitude.

2) What are four aspects you’re listening for in other people’s work?

  • Personality. If things sound too literal, I get bored. Even realistic games can (and should) sound unique and interesting. Mix some elephant farts into your grenade explosions. And don’t ever, ever, ever ever ever just yank a sound from a library and put it into your game.

  • Power. The days of flat-sounding video games are over. I want to hear dynamic range. I want some contrast. I want your rocket impact sound to burn my eyebrows off.

  • Detail. Don’t just kick off a linear asset for a big scene, or a background loop for an environment. I want to hear all the moving parts flying around. If I turn my camera around, I want to hear the depth of the world around me.

  • Clarity. I want to hear thousands of moving pieces, but I want to always hear what’s important at any given time. I want a clean and elegant mix that keeps me focused without frequency masking, obvious ducking (ducking is not mixing!), lost sounds, etc.

3) What are four aspects of your work that you hope people can hear?

  • Tight implementation. I’m a guy who’s not afraid to dig into code if necessary to implement sound very tightly with the game. Honestly, if I’m doing this well, people SHOULDN’T really hear it.

  • Strong mix. I believe run-time mixing is the next major frontier in game audio, and I try to achieve as much as possible with the tools at my disposal. I hope the scenes I mix leave people feeling exhilarated.

  • Focus. I’m always trying to make sure the player is hearing whatever she needs to hear at any given moment. I hope people never feel like they don’t know what they should be hearing.

  • Love. I love what I do, I put a lot of effort into it, and I hope that comes through.


1) In three days’ time, you will have finished: Processing a ton of VO, establishing a production plan for one of our projects, breathing 69,120 times.  

2) In three months’ time, you hope to have finished: Our next milestone, a new vehicle sound system, wrapping Christmas gifts.

3) In three decades’ time, you wish you would have: Inspired others to do great things, raised our little boy to be an amazing gentleman, bought a flying car.


1) Who are two people playing in sound that you admire?

  • Jamie Watts (aka Kilowatts)

  • Richard King

2) What two projects of theirs do you admire?

  • RawQ

  • The Dark Knight

3) How might you sonically show your appreciation for them? Show up at their homes at 3AM, hold a candle and sing “Wind Beneath My Wings”? I know I’d feel appreciated if I woke up to that :) Also, cheating a bit, but Alan Splet is without question my biggest sound design hero. But sadly he passed away years ago, therefore he’s not currently playing in sound.


1) Create a recording of yourself doing a sonic interpretation of this word: "XxxooO"

Mark Kilborn - "XxxooO"

2) After hearing yourself, how might you expect this sound to be used? Probably as a bullet whizby layer in a slow motion sequence, though I’d have to pitch shift it a bit.

3) How might you use the sound in an unexpected way? I could call you in the middle of the night and play it over the phone to you. Creepy, but unexpected.

About the 3x5 Interview

The "3x5” is a non-traditional interview series that encourages creative and personal responses from its participants. While the core structure remains intact, I occasionally update the sets of questions to keep interviewees and readers engaged. Although the resultant replies of the participating audiophiles may be informative or instructive, my hope is that the interview will encourage conversation and a sense of camaraderie within the sound design community.

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