Creating Sound: 3x5 Interview with David Nichols

It's Track Time Audio week on We kick it off with a 3x5 interview with David Nichols.

3x5 interview with David Nichols

[Track Time Audio week on kicks off with the recurring 3x5 interview by George Hufnagl. The team at loves the sound of cars. So shift gear, put your foot on the pedal and join us as we venture into the burning rubber smoke.]

Website | Twitter: @TrackTimeAudio


1) Starting with the word “one” and increasing by increments of one thereafter, list 5 points that describe yourself.

Once a day I make sure to eat yogurt. Cherry is the best flavor. It’s super delicious and good for you.

Two of my favorite microphones are the Heil PR20 and PR40.

Three car shows per month in Minneapolis is how many I attend on average.

Four sounds a lot like forza, which is so far my favorite racing game to play.

Five is the optimal number of speakers (plus a sub) for gaming, especially when properly set up.

2) If you could have a five-finger discount on any piece of software, what would it be?

That’s a tough question... I really wish Soundminer was free since $500 for a metadata system is REALLY steep for someone like me.

3) Describe what the number 5 would sound like if it were in human form.

Fat in the gut and really nasally, I think. The character I most similarly attribute to it would be the guy in Hey, Arnold! who had a head shaped like a soup can.


1) If you were to replace one of the Beatles, who would it be? Who would you put in his place?

None of them... replacing any of them would have lost the magic.

2) What are your four favorite sound design tools?

Waves’ Doppler

Apple’s Space Designer (and accompanying IR tools)

Audioease’s RiverRun

And a tie between Apple’s Logic 9 and Adobe’s Audition.

3) Finish the countdown: 4...3...2...1...

GREEN GREEN GREEN! (Boogity boogity boogity always optional.)


1) What are three reasons you’re working with sound?

Because I really feed off the subtlety of emotion connected to sound versus picture,

Because the kind of creativity that closely links itself to technology intrigues me,

And because the sound of a car is the most defining character trait of a car.

2) Of the following, what would you buy if you had a spare $100 and why? 3-piece suit, 3 super cheap mics, 3 blind mice?

3-piece suit so I could nail some job interviews, definitely!

3) What are three games that are your go-to examples for great sound design?

Racing-themed? Forza 4, Dirt 3, Formula 1 2011. Non-racing? I like older things... Total Annihilation (the redbook usage was great), Command & Conquer: Renegade (the little “boink” when you got someone in multiplayer was the most satisfying sound in the world), and Mech Warrior 4 (the weight of everything came through reall well).


1) Two issues that invariably come up when working are...

Not enough time, and


2) What are two pieces of advice you would give to someone eager to get into sound design?

Just do it! The most important thing is playing with noise makers. Learning how to get all the sound you can out of an object is great. Knowing how to get the sound in your head onto a recording is even better. You can only hone those skills by practicing.

Also, read as much as you can about other people who do what you do. With the advent of design blogs like this and like there’s no reason not to be learning and listening to your peers. You have an awesome opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes, so capitalize on it! If you can afford to, go to conferences like AES or GDC where your idols go, and take every opportunity to learn as much as you can from them.

3) Finish the line: “Two sound designers walk into a bar...”

and spend the rest of the night annoying the rest of the patrons by tuning their glasses into 2-tone chords.


1) Name one sound design task that could be improved with technology.

In video games, it’s already started with the advent of some plugins the music world gets to use finding their way into real-time game environments. In terms of sound design as a whole, I think most of the improvements are going to come in the spatial field, including “smart” phasing/delaying for pan control using something like the Kinect to determine playback speaker distance.

2) “This one time, I was working on a project and...”

I was recording clips at a car show. This guy in a replica Shelby Cobra decided he wanted to have some fun and give me some good tire squealing sounds right in front of me and without my knowing. I handled that fine, but his driving abilities were not as good as he thought. He ended up spinning the car (his hat went flying down the road) and hit the curb side-on, bending a wheel and damaging a body panel. Luckily he laughed it off, but I wasn’t quite as nonchalant!

3) What is the first thing you do after completing a project?

“Completing” a project is sort of a never-ending goal, isn’t it? The first thing I do nowadays is figure out how to write about it on TTA and/or how it can be integrated into a demo reel.


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