An interview by in 8-19-2001

Joe Romersa recently took some time out to do an interview with us about the voice acting profession, and then supplied us with a great piece on making a demo tape (priceless if you're looking to get into voice acting). Well, he's back with a new interview! This time I talked to him about another area of voice work, Sound Engineering. Since even I am new to this area, I'm gonna quit with my ramblings and get on to the interview! Enjoy!

First off, please explain what exactly a sound engineer does.

A sound engineer records a voice or instrument on to tape or computer hard drive, and there are many different kinds of sound engineers. Music engineers, Post Production engineers, each have their own special requirements. Post Production is different from music because you are "locked" to video. The sound must follow the picture consistently. Where music is just the ears, post production is eyes and ears. The Post engineer needs to be familiar with Time Code and Frame Rates as well as how to make things sound good.

When working on different projects or at different studios, does your job change much? For instance, do you have more to do on one show/movie over another?

As a Post Production engineer, some movies are just people talking in natural voices,"talking heads". In other films, an effect must be added to the voices because they're aliens or something, this is labor intensive. Basically, sci-fi movies have more sound work than your typical Soap Opera where you just put up a microphone, fade music in and out, and your done.

What kind of education is required to become a sound engineer?

I had a 10 week course on sound recording, but the 'thirst to learn' carried on long after the course had ended. Most my experience is from working under the demands of pro engineers as a "Second Engineer". Job description for a second engineer ranges from getting sandwiches to setting up mics and rapping cords, but you learn a lot by watching and asking a few questions here and there. If you ask too many questions you become a bother, so learn to be invisible, keep your eyes and ears open, be helpful, and your on your way. An over opinionated sound engineer with lots of input and suggestions either becomes a Director, or becomes unemployed, depending on the results of their input.

Many voice actors begin their careers in areas like sound engineering or other technical work in animation. Do you feel it's easier to learn the "art" of voice acting if you begin in a different field around it?

The above professions are jobs closer to the Industry than Burger King is, but getting into the Voice Over business is the same as any of the creative arts. First you need talent, then you need nerves of steel, THEN with a little luck and a GOOD ATTITUDE, you might get in.

Does it complicate your job more to be working as a voice actor and a sound engineer at the same time on the same show?

I've engineered my own voice many times, and it's is not a pretty picture. It's hard! When I was working on "Fist of the North Star", playing the part of Zaria, I had to engineer myself that day because the engineer had gone home sick and studio time was ticking away, so I threw off my shirt and proceeded to record by myself right there in the control room. The studio owner walked in, saw what I was doing and said "I do not see this....I do not see this!", shook his head and walked out. It was pretty self indulgent to Direct, Voice, and sound engineer at the same time, but the studio was booked and the job needed to be done then and there.

Why did you originally decide to become a sound engineer?

To get free studio time for my Rock Band at the time. It was also a thirst for knowledge. I wanted to know how all those cool effects that were achieved on Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Beatles records. These special "Tripped Out" effects translate well to creating demon voices or angelic dreamlike voices. My personal favorite vocal effects I've done you might want to check out.... 1. the voice of Rose in "Street Fighter Alpha" 2. Devil Reverse in "Fist of the North Star" 3. the sound of voices tuning in and out at the beginning of "Ghost in the Shell" was my tribute to The Beatles "Revolution #9" 4. All of the Bugrom and strange voice effects in El Hazard.

Thanks again for your time. If there's anything you want to add please feel free to add it!

I've made a living as a sound engineer working on Records and Movies for most of my life, and the best projects I've worked on have always had creative people who want something better and are willing to take the time to do things right. In the Anime and Movie work that I've done, the people at Magnitude 8 Post, Zro Limit Productions, and Animaze are top notch professionals at producing great sounding product. Their standard for quality is Number #1 in my book. I am grateful to them for letting me do my thing in their studios. Rock on Dudes!