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Feature: Face-To-Face Client Feedback Essential For Audio Designers

To avoid oversaturation and creative fatigue, audio designers must gather feedback from a variety of sources. Sound director Bridgett explains why client feedback
Audio designers can easily develop fatigue over the course of a grueling project. Of course, so do designers of all disciplines, but to an audio designer, oversaturation and creative fatigue actually ruin the ability to listen. This kind of fatigue "may manifest itself as an inability to hear or recognize the obvious -- mainly because you have become used to them, or their sound," writes veteran sound director Rob Bridgett in today's Gamasutra feature. "For example, there may be placeholder sounds in your game that you quickly wrangled in, and that have just 'stuck.'" It's this loss of the ability to hear problems that makes getting feedback from a wide variety of sources such a crucial part of a sound designer's process, Bridgett says. One of the most critical feedback sources are clients, he writes; "in fact it is the very nature of a client / vendor relationship, and therefore the very nature of sound's relationship with the game or image." "Whether the feedback is in-house, in the form of colleagues, producers and designers, or whether it is from a freelancer's viewpoint actually working with the developer as a client is in some sense largely irrelevant to the process of getting the feedback you need to continue to do your job," Bridgett says. "As a freelancer, feedback may come in thick and fast at various points of exchange, or it may not materialize at all." Bridgett recommends doing as much of the feedback process as possible with the client in person: "From my own standpoint, I have always found it better to receive and talk about feedback with a client or team colleague face-to-face, even though it is often easier as a client to create a 'hit-list' in an email," he says. "It is tempting upon receiving such a list of feedback to address those issues in the same way on paper or via email, however, if time allows, ask to go over the list in person, or at the very least over the phone, by setting up a meeting," he says. "A lot of feedback -- particularly feedback on sound -- gets confused and is easily misinterpreted through the overuse of examples from movies or reliance on particular vernacular that is borrowed from other media," Bridgett explains. "It could be that the client is very comfortable giving feedback and has a lot of experience in it, but it is not always the case," he adds. "Often times feedback can have a tone to it that is perhaps unintentional, and it is actually the job of the vendor or the audio guy undertaking the work (That's YOU!) to step back, attempt to unpick the salient points, try to remove any negative connotations or personal feeling from the text, and set up a phone call or face-to-face meeting to discuss the feedback in context." This means listening to the sounds or music in the context of the gameplay, he adds, because without context, the client or vendor won't have any indication of whether the direction is working with the other design elements. In the full feature, Bridgett discusses other sources of feedback for audio designers, and explains ideal methods of gathering feedback.

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