The Sound Architect speaks with renowned Sound Designer at Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC, Erick Ocampo. Erick is a fantastic sound designer who has lent his skills to huge game titles such as The Last of Us, Uncharted 3 Drake’s Deception, God of War: Ascension, and Starhawk. We ask Erick about his career path, his process and gain an insight in how to apply for jobs in the industry. 


Let’s start from the beginning, how did you get into sound design?

Various musicians inspired me to pick up an instrument and start writing music around the age of 12. My Dad being a musician was also inspiring, which led to playing in several punk bands, which then led to tracking music. Also as early as I can remember my Dad would have Star Wars or Indiana Jones on repeat, making me think it really does sound that cool when you punch someone in the face!

Around the age of 20 audio recording started to become more of a passionate interest. So I originally thought my profession would be more of an audio engineer then a sound designer. About 5 years after that I became more intrigued with recording more than just my guitar and started recording sound effects. From there I started capturing game and movie trailers and adding my own sound effects, which is a great exercise that many inspiring sound designers practice. It then became very apparent to me that sound design was a passion I never knew… I always had? This brought out all these early childhood influences from watching movies with great sound.

I came very close to enrolling myself in a school that offers pro audio training when an opportunity came up in game audio. From then on sound design completely took over the artistic side of me, and I became more and more intrigued with the technical side of game audio as well.


How long have you been a sound designer now?

Professionally I’ve been a sound designer for the last 8 years. As you could gather from the previous question, I guess you could say I’ve been doing sound most of my life.


Have you always wanted to work in sound design for games?

No, as I mentioned above I had no idea I would ever become a sound designer for games! Growing up as a gamer going back to playing on my Commodore 64, Atari, Nintendo, etc… I would have never thought I’d actually be a part of the development cycle. It’s interesting how most of the events in our lives seem trivial at the time, but end up leading us to great things!


What has been your most challenging project so far?

Every project I’ve worked on has similar challenges, but they all have some different ones from one aspect to another. It depends on the projects budget, time, technical support, available resources, and your team members. So in other words, some projects will allow you more time with a larger budget for things like field recording sessions, audio gear, etc… while others have a much smaller budget and less time.


What project are you most proud of?

Every project I’ve been a part of has given me something to be proud of, so it’s tough to single one out. For every project there are some specific sounds that I’m most proud of. Most recently the infected on The Last of Us, Kratos’ weapons and magic on God of War: Ascension, weapons on Starhawk, and many more.


What would be your dream project?

Being a total weapons guy, I’ve always wanted to work on a first person shooter. There’s a few out there that have totally inspired me, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity to get really creative depending on the aesthetic while having a very dynamic mix. Also I think it would be awesome to work on a film. I’ve yet to work on one!


Is there a sound you’ve created that you’ll always remember?

So many! But if there’s one I know I’ll always remember, and I often share this story with family. When my son was an infant I would record him crying (which was a lot) – hoping that the hours of baby recordings would come in handy someday. When I was on The Last of Us, I was trying to come up with a unique and disturbing sound for The Bloater, (he is the last stage of the infected.) After a few iterations, I took those baby recordings, slowed them down by using various pitch techniques. When I listened back it made me cringe, also because that’s my kid making that disgusting disturbing sound ha! That actually turned out to be the foundation layer of the Bloater. So all those recordings you think are useless will find its way into your project eventually!


What software do you use?

I use Pro Tools as my main DAW, Sound Forge, various plug-ins and VST’s. It really all depends on what you are trying to accomplish and what you’re comfortable using. I’ve always said, It doesn’t matter what software you use or your method of sound design… At the end of the day, all that matters is… does it sound good?


As an aspiring games sound designer, where do I start?

Get familiar with the basics of game audio. Whether you are new to sound design or come from TV/Film, game audio has a much different approach. Start thinking about how your sounds will be used systemically and try designing a tool kit of audio assets, get granular when printing out your sounds. Also start getting a feel for how audio implementation works by taking a look at some sound engines like Wwise or Fmod. Reach out to as many game sound designers as you can via social media, build relationships by asking for constructive feedback.



What are your major Do’s and Don’ts for applications?

It’s always great to have a well composed cover letter tailored to the position you are applying for. I’d want to hear something personal about yourself and why you want to work in game audio, and explain how you can be a crucial part of the team. Also put together a solid demo reel and try to keep it short and to the point. If you really want to stand out, tailor your reel too! Capture video of some games the developer has shipped, create your own sounds to show how you would approach the sound design on their games. I’d say don’t add music in your sound demo. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s awesome if you have music composition skills, but it could be unclear as to what position you’re after. If not, I would suggest having two separate mixes, one with music and one without.


What was your first “Big Break”?

Probably when I made the transition to Sony. It was a really exciting time, relocating to Los Angeles and knowing I was going to work on some amazing projects!


Finally, what is your top tip for aspiring sound designers out there who want to get into the games industry?

Like I was suggesting before, make yourself a solid demo reel. Go get yourself a portable recorder, and use as many authentic recordings as possible when making your demo. Take some time to learn the general concept of how game audio works by noodling around with any audio system and take a look at some game engines too. Keep applying to developers, even if there isn’t a job ad up. Now that there’s so many indie developers, try connecting with some of them – express how passionate you are about games and audio.


Erick is currently working on DLC for The Last of Us, which we very much look forward to! Check out his brilliant site here: for examples of his work. 


Interview by Sam Hughes


Uploaded 25/11/13

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