Enhanced productivity comes with the best tools.

Downtime 101 For Programmers

netmixTake some time to inspect cables and connectors. Dust off those soldering skills and make any necessary repairs. Properly install any gear that might have been hastily implemented during your last project. If you are using a patch bay, take the time to clean the patch cables and jack field. Make sure that the patch bay labeling and studio wiring documentation are updated, says Pulse Marketing.

Sound effect and sample libraries. Update your databases. Regardless of whichever system you use to keep your sound effects and samples organized, take advantage of downtime to keep them current. Assets recently created for one project could prove to be invaluable for another in the future. Taking the time to catalog and document those elements now can save a lot of headaches and hair pulling later. Nothing is worse than digging through piles of backed-up audio sessions looking for the full-bandwidth version of that killer explosion you created nine months ago.

If you are not currently using an online solution for sound-effect storage and management, you might want to take the time to investigate those options. Software solutions such as SoundLog Pro, NetMix, MTools, and Soundminer all offer darabasing, search, conversion, and export tools for multiple workstations sharing a common library. CDExtract is a similar software package for auditioning, cataloguing, and converting synth sample libraries.

Resource gathering. If you have a Rolodex, make sure you use it. If you don’t have one, then go get one. Use this time to fill it with contact information for current and potential vendors, contractors, musicians, and voice actors. The worst time to be searching for any of those people is amidst a project with a looming deadline.

Training. This can be as involved as taking a class or seminar on a very targeted subject, or as simple as brushing up on a few of the manuals you have been using as a doorstop for the last six months. I have accidentally stumbled upon a variety of amazing features on gear that I use every day by perusing the manual. Also, download demos and evaluate new audio software applications. In addition to keeping current with new technology, it helps you to reevaluate the tools you are currently using.

Consider joining a trade-related organization. Groups such as the AES (Audio Engineering Society), GANG (Game Audio Network Guild), and the IA-SIG (Interactive Audio Special Interest Group) provide online resources, discounts on products and seminars, and a wealth of contacts through other members.

Listening. Take some time to critically evaluate the sound on current games, television, cinema, and albums. This goes beyond just brushing up on the competition and keeping up with the Joneses. As an artist, exposure to other professionals’ works can be an inspiration as well as an education. It is important to look beyond the game industry. Sound design and music provides influence across all forms of media. Styles and trends found in film audio and composition can easily be applied to interactive entertainment.

Exploring. Experiment not only with your creativity but also with the technology with which you surround yourself. Under time constraint we often resolve to using proven methods when developing content. Take the opportunity to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes the new wheel is faster, more efficient, and sounds better.

Productivity in the studio is a byproduct of our own creativity and the tools we use to capture it. The space between gives us the time and opportunity to maintain those tools and refuel our imagination.

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