Traveling around South-East Asia to meet clients, learning to love sound design, adopting a dog from a rescue shelter, and having more speakers, headphones and hard drives than you can throw a stick at. This week we meet Chris Gear (OhmLab) from AudioJungle.
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Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?
My name is Chris Gear and I am from Portland, Oregon here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where I currently live with my wonderful wife, Danielle. I run a sound design and audio production studio called OhmLab, which also provides custom training and free daily tutorials for many different programs. I currently manage several sound design and music production websites, as well.
I have always been a musician and sound fanatic, but I have also had several different professional career paths over the years including working as a classically trained chef, Apple (computer) specialist and small business owner. I guess you can call me a man of many passions.
Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?
Currently I am only selling audio through AudioJungle, but have big plans to move into the Tuts+ Marketplace, as well as PhotoDune and GraphicRiver.
The type of audio files available on AudioJungle from OhmLab range from epic cinematic scores and family-friendly children’s tunes to hard-hitting electronic club music and even downright frightful horror and sci-fi background pieces. I also have many audio logos, sound FX and show themes available for download there.
I was out of the country for the last year, and wasn’t able to upload much in that time. So I now have literally hundreds of song ideas and sounds swimming around in my head that need to be produced in the next few months. It will be quite the process to sort through them, prioritize them and see which ones make it into the portfolio first! So for all you OhmLab fans out there, stay tuned for a whole lot of new files coming your way very soon!
How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?
I have been making and learning about music ever since I first discovered it as a very young child. I have played many instruments throughout the years, from saxophone and guitar to keyboards and drums. I have even been known to play a kazoo. For many years drums were my favorite by far to play in bands, but I feel like higher level sound design has slowly overtaken them as my favorite auditory endeavor.
I also really enjoy teaching others, as I am a firm believer that there is no point in holding onto knowledge without sharing it. Every time I teach, I learn. And I have a true lust and fascination for learning of all kinds.
Describe your home workspace.
My workspace has been downsized recently after returning from a year-long adventure in SE Asia, and still being put back together. We lived full-time in Northern Thailand, in the wonderful city of Chiang Mai for many months and had incredible adventures in neighboring countries that will never be forgotten.
While on the road, I learned to be more efficient in, and tolerant of, small spaces. As many of you who are familiar with production studios, and the artists that run them, we like our space. But I’ve adapted to less, which fits my professional reputation of “less is more”. I enjoy doing more with less in many different ways, so I guess this is just one more step in that direction.
I use a 24″ iMac and a 15″ MacBook Pro, both fully loaded with the very latest technologies and truly incredible tools. I also use a wide range of software and hardware on a daily basis to accomplish my tasks. As you may expect, most of what Native Instruments has to offer. I also love the supporting ‘smaller’ guys out there like SonicCouture, Sonokinetik, Soundiron and 8Dio (the last two are formally known as Tonehammer) to name a few. I have a lot of rare and eclectic samples that are customized and used as instruments, as well as plenty that I have designed from scratch from found sounds captured and collected over the years.
As far as ‘real world’ instruments go, I have a couple of guitars (acoustic Yamaha and electric Fender), keyboards (Axiom Pro 49 and Axiom 61), hand drums (too many to name), acoustic (Mapex Mars Pro Series, cherry wood) and electronic drum sets (Roland TD-12), HD audio recorder (Zoom H4n) and other fun toys of the trade.
If you were to walk into the studio right now, you may be surprised at how many speakers, headphones and hard drives one person can actually put to good use. I guess I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to testing out sounds on a wide array of playback devices and situations before bouncing my final projects for clients. And as a reformed tech industry guy, I can never seem to have enough backups and cloned drives handy.
Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?
Wow. I remember this question from the first time you interviewed me a couple of years ago, Adrian. It varies I guess. I really depends upon what exactly the task in front of me is.
If it happens to be a custom order from a client, them I try my best to get as many examples from them, in regards to what they actually want before beginning my work. If it is something I am making for a website, tutorial or marketing uses, I usually have a specific sound in my mind that I work towards. And other times I simply sit down and begin to play randomly, and slowly begin the process of designing new and interesting sounds.
I guess most people would be interested in the music and backgrounds that I create, so I’ll touch on that a bit. I often begin with a sound. I may not have any idea what that sound is when I start, but it quickly begins to take shape. Once I like the core elements I move quickly onto the next sound or instrument to be used in the mix. Only after I have a basic structure and melody do I move into the processing of the sounds, and this is because I like to keep things moving forward and try not to get too hung up on things that are not necessary at first. I feel it can hamper the creative process of songwriting if done differently.
So after I process the sounds with compression, EQ and effects, I begin to get an ideal mix done. I am not a big fan of the loudness war and what it has done to the dynamics of some music, so I try to keep things as minimal as possible heading into the mastering phase. I master on a day when I have not listened to any music or anything loud for at least a day and try to finish it as quickly as possible. Then begins the process of testing the playback experience on various devices.
If I am creating FX, interface sounds or foley, I usually have a much more focused approach. Simple sounds work the best, in my experience, so I adhere to my more is less rule and compare my sounds to countless others once I’ve completed the first attempt. A one second clip of a basic FX can often times lead to dozens of variations, so then it’s just a matter of selecting what I will use for which purpose.
What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?
Good question. I would suggest focusing on quality over quantity, first and foremost. I am also a very strong believer in being true to one’s ideas. So try to grow your original ideas and approach to what you do and in time this will pay off as you discover and perfect ‘your sound’. Never stop experimenting and playing, because as soon as you do it affects the art. You do not want to sound generic or bored, instead pay attention to the little things like original sound design and proper use of your DAW and other tools.
Just uploading good content to a portfolio is never enough. You also need to maintain a certain level of activity in regards to marketing and making people aware of what you have available. Producing the best song you could ever make isn’t worth much beyond the personal satisfaction and pride if nobody knows it exists.
What do you do to market your files?
This also depends a bit on exactly what the files are. For files available from AudioJungle I would focus on getting them in front of filmmakers, game designer and marketing firms, or others who work in film, video and interactive media. If the files are presets for a synth, there are a lot of ways to get the word out.
I have recently had a sounds I designed for Massive synth announced and released by Native Instruments, which instantly put them into the hands of hundreds of thousands of people all around the world. Facebook and Twitter are also great networks to utilize for marketing, and I have seen a pack of sounds get downloaded over 10,000 times in just a few days only using these two sites.
It’s really all about how you word things, where you place your messaging and how you engage with your immediate network and/or community members to help you in spreading the message beyond your normal reach. In today’s digital age, it is not to hard to imagine a blog post or tweet making it all the way around the world several times in a few days, when it would have taken months and even years prior to the internet being in countless homes and offices on every continent.
What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?
Always a tough question. I’m glad it’s not just one I have to pick! In no particular order I like Epic Orchestral Trailer, Children’s Storytime and Remember When. Now if you asked me again tomorrow, I may just have a different answer.
I like Epic Orchestral Trailer because of the intensity and fast build-up, which is perfect for quick trailer. It’s been used by an amateur filmmaking group, a video games and, of course, movie trailers. It’s always nice to see my work being used by a wide range of people and projects alike.
I like Children’s Storytime because of its simplicity and family-friendly appeal. It has been used in family slideshows, interactive storybooks and films. I think it is a refreshing thing when artists exist outside of a preconceived box and produce music of all kinds. It’s not just a great challenge and accomplishment when pulled off successfully, but it also allows clients to have more of their needs met by one person who works well with them.
I also really like Remember When quite a bit, which was one of my earlier uploads to AudioJungle. It is full of emotion and feeling, as well as a very diverse set of instruments. I’m not sure I’ve heard anything quite like it in the marketplace and expect to make more like it in the future.
Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?
Wow, now that it basically impossible to answer. I’ve been a part of the Envato network since it first began, when I was still working with Apple. And now that there a couple million authors throughout the networks, it’s really difficult keeping track of everyone I like in each marketplace.
AudioJungle is a little easier, because I can stream music in the background while doing other things throughout the day. If I had to pick one person, it would be Gareth Coker right now because of his incredible talents coupled with his constant and consistent willingness to help the other authors around here gain a better understanding of the tools, concepts and different approaches available to the modern musician and/or producer of audio. And he’s a nice guy, and that counts for a lot in my book.
What do you do in your spare time?
Well, as soon as we got back from our trip, we adopted a dog from a rescue shelter. So a lot of free time is spent with that little darling. I also spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen cooking, which is still a passion of mine. I also really enjoy reading, hiking, learning new things of all sorts and spending time with family and friends.
I have a feeling that much of my free time will actually be spent in the studio for a while, getting a lot of those new songs produced. I am also in the midst of designing a bunch of new sounds that will be available soon as samples and synth presets through the OhmLab website and various networks and communities. For those interested in keeping up-to-date with these releases outside of AudioJungle, you can join us on Facebook these and other cool updates not found on the main OhmLab website.