Interview with Designing Sound’s Miguel Isaza

You are VERY busy with all of your tremendous audio websites, could you tell us about each one and what the focus of each one would be?

Thanks, Dren! I run four websites:

Designing Sound – Dedicated to sound design for films, video games, tv and visual media in general. There you can find different kinds of content, including news, exclusive articles, interviews, and much more.

Designing Sound TV – Television for sound designers. A place with more than 400 videos about sound design. All the content filtered by films, games, sound persons, crafts, etc.

Sonic Terrain – Dedicated to field recording. There you can find news, articles, interviews, recordings, etc. No matter the discipline (sound art, researching, sound design, music, etc).

Fotograma Sonoro – Spanish blog about sound design. It’s hosted at Hispasonic,com, the biggest spanish audio community in the world. There you can find articles, interviews, tutorials and all kind of sound design stuff in Spanish language.

What was the inspiration to start these sites up, was there just not the amount of coverage from the web focused on sound, sound design, that you wanted to see? And did you have any sort of journalism background when you got started?

I believe that the best way to learn is to share knowledge with others. That’s what Designing Sound is about. A place where everyone share and everyone learn from each other all the time.

In 2009, when I started with the site there were no other sites giving the kind of coverage I wanted to see about sound design on the internet. So, I started a little blog, sharing some stuff. Then I had some opportunities to meet some people and start doing some exclusive content and interviews. Things kept growing and now DS is a big site that takes me many hours a day. I’m really proud of this project.

My inspiration was to develop the place we have now, where everyone shares, everyone learns, and we all have fun listening to other colleagues. It’s fantastic! It’s about using the internet to share ideas together, and then to make combinations from them, creating new ones and expanding our creative worlds.

And yes, I do have a journalism background. I’ve been editor-in-chief at for two years now, and I’m blogging since 2007, so that definitely helped me to start Designing Sound.

From  what I’ve observed, you obviously have some sound design skills of your own. Could you discuss some of the projects you’ve worked on, who you’ve worked with etc?

Thanks! I’m a self taught sound designer. I dropped out of high school and started to learn and practice the craft myself. I try to record and create sounds as best as I can. I’ve participated in some local stuff, but never a big project like a video game or film. I’ve created my own challenges, homework, etc. An autodidactic life, plus all the sites require a lot of dedication, so that’s what keeps me busy everyday.

My goal is to work on cool projects in the future, but I’m not in a hurry to enter in the industry at all. My biggest concerns at this moment are just to learn and practice all the time, make lots of mistakes and work hard to develop my own art. I really didn’t need a big project to be happy with this craft. I love to record and design sounds, no matter if there are for paid jobs, for fun, or whatever. I think this is not about the money or the size of the project. For me it’s about how fun and constructive the project is for my life.

Tell us about the Dogs/Orcs project you did with Chuck Russom’s Dog sound library.

I’m a big fan of the work that these guys are doing with their independent sound effects libraries, so I like to support them from my sites. That includes reviews of some of their libraries, such as the dogs library of Chuck. What I try to do there is a video showing the sounds in a context, processed and approached in different ways.

I like to put some creative challenges in these kinds of projects, so in this case the goal was to design orc vocalizations using only dog sounds from the library. I also recreated the rest of the audio in there, for practicing purposes. The end result was very cool, and Chuck loved it. I did a lot of tweaks to the sounds, and processed it in different ways to get the vocalizations. It was a very cool experiment!

Any highlights/funny stories you’ve collected after interviewing so many fabulous folks?

The funny side of the interviews is always my language. Although it’s better right now, I’ve been made a lot of stupid grammatical mistakes and that stuff. Very funny things.

And highlights… there are several important things that I’ve learned from having interviews with these guys:

– Be Yourself. The only way to be a great professional in sound (or any kind of creative job) is to develop your personal artistic style. By reading those interviews you can realize about the many different approaches these guys give to their sound craft.
– Passion is first before anything else.
– Experimentation and exploring new ways of doing things is very important. Don’t follow the rules. Follow your own mind.
– I’ve learned that there is a technical side, but also an artistic side of sound design, which depends on your ideas and creativity. So, the way you live you analyze the world, your experiences, the places you visit, etc. Everything you experience changes the way you do things in life,and in this case sound.
– I’ve read a lot of stories of how the careers of these professionals have grown. That has helped me to stay focused and keep in mind that there is a normal way of learning and growing each day, that mistakes are important and hard work is the key.

You don’t exactly live in an ‘audio hub’ of the world. How did you find your way into sound design, interactive audio etc?

I find my way using the internet. My training has been very different than one had by someone in other country. We all learn in different ways, but here, I don’t see anyone recording sounds in the field, I don’t know about any kind of dedicated audio post facility here, etc, so I do a lot of things with my own methods and ways. What I have here is a lot of limitations, which forces me to think different and find new ways of create sound and show my work. Here you will not find the same benefits of living in L.A, but without living here I’d never learned to be what I am now.

Fortunately I can use the internet, which gives me the opportunity to know people from all parts of the world, share ideas and learn a lot. The sites play an important role in this, because they bring me the opportunity to meet people, learn a lot and stay focused in what I want. I not only learn on the posts, but also in the comments, tweets, messages, etc. It’s really cool.

One crazy thing about living here is the vocabulary. Being a native spanish speaker and trying to search for elements (in English) to make a sound, makes you to make lots of different decisions. I mean, there are a lot of times that I know I need a specific sound, but I don’t know how to say that in English, or how to describe things I thinking of. That gives me some interesting vocabulary journeys that end up with very cool results. There are also bad moments, when I can’t find something for the moment, but well, I can handle it. It’s something that could sound strange, but really makes a big change in the sounds I create.

Do you have any long term goals in starting up these sites up? It seems like you are really creating a well rounded hub of interesting sites.

Thanks again, Dren! I like to do changes in the site all the time, so when I finish a step I’m already working on the next one. My goal is to make the sites even better each day. There are several cool things coming for Designing Sound: I’m working hard on a new section that’s coming in January 2011. There’s also a competition coming early in that year, and of course we’ll keep doing the special feature each month and interviews with latest films and games, more news. etc.

Also, there are plans for another site for 2011 and I’m thinking about different ways of connecting all the sites together. That would be very cool, to link different articles and things published between these sites and other cool projects on the web. That would be fun.

And for Sonic Terrain, we’re going to develop some new stuff, including new sections, articles, more interviews, guests, and more!

What games are you playing these days, and how often do you play a game, just to get the audio experience?

I like to play both new and old games. One day you can find me playing the new Need for Speed and tomorrow you could find me enjoying the crazy worlds of F-Zero in the SNES. I don’t play video games just to get the audio experience. I play because I’ve loved them ever since I was a kid. Video games are so magical and fun! You travel around worlds, experience a lot, accomplish tons of goals, learn things, and more. I consider video games as grandioso story and emotional carriers.

I play pretty often. when work allows it, of course. These days I’ve been playing NFS Hot Pursuit, Black Ops and The Force Unleashed 2. I’m also hooked with FIFA11. I don’t like real football, but the virtual one is terrific! 😀 I’m also a big fan of RTS titles, so games such as Starcraft, Warhammer, Supreme Commander, etc are always in my list. At the moment I’m also reviving cool memories with Dungeon Keeper in the PC. What a fantastic game!

I also have gaming nights with my friends, where we like play some golden-era retro games such as Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat, Top Gear, Mario Bros, Contra, etc. That generation came with several of my favorite games ever. I’m a big fan of SNES graphics and music, so I really love to play that stuff.

What do you love most about sound design?

I love how it changes the way you think about sound. I’m constantly amazed about how sound designers have the opportunity to do a lot of things with sound in their different projects. I simply love the idea of, literally, creating new worlds of sound.

Sound designers are true wizards! You can share ideas by using sound. You can scare people by using sound. You can tell a history by using sound. You can take people to any place by using sound. That’s why I love this craft.

Interview written/edited by Dren McDonald, exclusively for