Gina Zdanowicz is an award winning sound designer and composer for film and video games, and owner of Seriallab Studios in New York. Her work can be heard on such award winning AAA titles as Bioshock 2, XCOM, CrimeCraft, Motion Explosion and HyperSpace Madness, as well as casual games like ESPN Arcade games, Puzzle Sphere and Mahjong Vacation. Gina is also an instructor for Berklee College of Music's online Introduction to Game Audio course. I recently had the opportunity to interview Gina about her experiences in the video game industry:
Nick Dolan: To start off, tell us a little about your musical background.
Gina Zdanowicz: My parents were very supportive of my early desire to create music. They gave me opportunities to learn piano, guitar and concert snare starting at the age of 7. When I got my first synthesizers I would spend hours in my room creating sounds and music. In order to pursue my passion for music, I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA and received a B.M. in Music Synthesis.
ND: You started working in the entertainment industry by working in TV and commercials - was working with video games always the ultimate goal?
GZ: My first few projects were cable TV commercials and student films. I grew up playing games so creating audio for games was always a dream of mine but ultimately I always knew I wanted to create audio for media whether it was film or video games.
ND: Can you tell us about your first experience working with video games?
GZ: I was very fortunate to have a friend in the game industry that was willing to recommend me to her team to compose music for a Nintendo DS game. The gig was a dream come true and I was able to launch that into a career through the years. I expanded into sound design, voice over recording/editing and, eventually, audio implementation.
ND: What is a "normal" routine when you're working on a video game project?
GZ: Typically I receive a (GDD) game design document and a build of the game. I will play through the build and work with the developer to create a sound asset list and decide on a soundscape that works best for the game.
At that point I get started composing music and setting up Foley sessions for the sound effects and any ambience for the game.
As I deliver assets for the game I ask the developer for additional builds so I can make sure the audio is set up exactly as I envisioned it in game. I will make any necessary revisions and then do a final QA to make sure all the audio is polished.
ND: What is your most memorable experience?
GZ: It’s hard to pick one as I have had a lot of memorable experiences through the years working in-house for game developers and as a contractor. I have met a lot of great people and had the opportunity to work on some really great projects.
ND: You teach the video game audio class at Berklee's online school - does this ever affect your own creativity on projects?
GZ: Teaching game audio at Berklee’s online school has been a great opportunity. The course doesn’t affect my creativity but it does help me stay focused on my skill sets and techniques. I am always in a process of learning and re-constructing my workflow and I share those learning experiences with students.
ND: What skills do you think are required for working as a composer and sound designer?
GZ: A composer and sound designer in the industry today needs to have a good technical understanding of the tools, not only the recording tools but also game engines. The more you understand how the audio is being implemented into the game the more control you have over how the final product sounds. It’s also great to be flexible in writing or designing sounds for different types of styles and genres.
ND: Where do you see the industry moving in the future?
GZ: I think indie games will continue to grow and that will offer developers a lot more freedom in terms of what type of game they put out there. It will be interesting to see how mobile games continue to advance and push the limits of the devices.
ND: And what is next for you?
GZ: I have several game projects going on at the moment that I am pretty excited about and I am set to score a feature film for 221 Films at the end of this year.
Thank you Gina for taking the time to share your experiences!
For more information on Gina and Seriallab Studios: www.seriallab.com
Film | Music
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