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Tag: creativity

How barriers helps to make good decisions

If you ask a hundred “sound person” about their needs, about their working structure, probably most of them will tell you that the best would be if we have no barriers. If we could have unlimited resources, unlimited tracks, etc. But is this really the best way? I know we live in a quite limitless world, but in our vocation, in my opinion, many times barriers are good things.

Welcome to the ancient world of CD players

As you might know, I’d been working for a big theatre for many years. There were many different challenges there, but to make the long story short, for the live job, we only had 2–3 cd players. Why was it a problem? Because we have plays where we needed to perform more than 200 effects during the acts, all “synced” to action on stage.

This immediately pose a few problems. You need precision and need huge amount of flexibility. CD is not really flexible. You must follow the rules of the Red Book, so even a tiny short sound effect track must be at least 4 seconds long. And this 4 seconds brings up another major problem. If you have a chain of effects, you must spread them across multiple players. One would say no big deal, but actually it was a big deal. There were two ways to do it. One is to cut the effects together and play it as a single track. But very often you cannot do this as the action on stage require separate effects. In this case you grab a piece of paper and a pencil and start to plan your effects. Not only track by track, but logically think through many ways, and orchestrate your effects so you’ll be able to play them at the right order in the right moment.

This means you have limited space and time (remember the Red Book). First I was doomed. Many times I said that it’s impossible to do this. Probably only a very few times I was right. And this is where barriers actually sparks creativity. You are forced to make more evocative, more meaningful effects, forced to organise them in a much better way.

It’s hard, sometimes very hard, but most of the times achievable. But you have to stick with the problem and reorder your effects again and again and again. I guess you already know what I wanted to tell you. With this process, your brain start to work very hard to figure out the best solution for the given problems.

When you’re ready with the solution, tried it and proved that it is actually working, you’ve achieved much more than a few well organised cds. Because of the hard work you put into it, at the end you have much more meaningful, evocative sound effects, and you have an unbeatable structure, a logical way when you can safely play the effects “synced” to action.

Of course this does not mean I would always like to work with cd players. All I want to say is that many times these limits can actually nurture your creativity and teach you many things. Even if your logical brain will tell you right away that this is impossible, stick with the problem. There’s a chance that it is impossible, but if there is a little chance then you’re able to solve the puzzle if you’re persistent enough. Remember, we can benefit from the barriers.

So don’t be lazy and remember these cliches, which are true:

Less is more. Simple is good.

After a few occasions, you’ll discover much more than you’ve imagined.

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Creativity wins

Many of us search for inspiration not only in sound. Interesting, inspiring photos, videos, paintings, or any other thing that help us maintain or fuel our creativity is good. Not only good, it’s necessary and refreshing.

I would like to share with you two little things that may be interesting for the creative person:

Seth Godin quote

The first is a quote from author, blogger, etc. Seth Godin about care:

Caring gives you a compass, a direction to head and most of all, a reason to do the work you do in the first place.
Care More.
It’s only two words, but it’s hard to think of a better mantra for the organization that is smart enough to understand the core underpinning of their business, as well as one in search of a reason for being. No need to get all tied up in subcycles of this leads to this which leads to that so therefore I care… Instead, there’s the opportunity to follow the direct and difficult road of someone who truly cares about what’s being made and who it is for.

You can find the whole blog entry here.

A TED video

Everybody can be creative, no exception.


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Being creative from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Of course the title is half joke, but still, half serious. Being burdened with multiple tight deadlines in the last two weeks I often contemplated about the process of getting into the creative mood/process. It is not something you can precisely plan ahead.

Many times I wish it could be as simple as a morning routine:
  • wake up
  • make breakfast for the family
  • shave
  • shower
  • go to work
  • and then, simply be creative
But this is not how life works. Sometimes creativity just here with me, no need to wait, no need to try things, just go on and work. These are the good moments or days. But there are those other days, when creativity seems to take a “vacation” and doesn’t want to be with me.
When the deadlines are here to make me mad, I have to do something to open up the door, and let creativity come in. Obviously it’s not an easy task, but I have some tips that helps me, and might help you to get over the hard times.

1. get over it, accept it

Getting mad won’t help you out. Yes, it always feels like one of the most hopeless thing, but we all know that it will end, and eventually creativity is going to come back from its “vacation”. If you constantly focusing on the problem, it will get worse, and if it get worse you’ll be getting more furious, which inevitably will make the situation even harder to treat. Instead of anger try to focus on some little good things (tea, weather, music, anything really), but make sure you try to stimulate your brain with some positive attitude.

2. get a break, but not from the job

Maybe the best thing in these hard times would be to go away and do something completely different, but unfortunately deadlines are not such free creations, they are mandatory.
To break this, simply start doing it. If that day your job is to cut some ambiences, do it. If you need to create something special, do it.
I know it may sound stupid, but this is one the best method. Do not concentrate on the bad things, just do what you have to do.
Alternatively try to audition sound effects randomly. Don’t force yourself to search for specific categories, or something closely related to the current job, just listen, wander through the libraries. Many times, you’ll find some really interesting sounds, and probably uncounsciously your brain will start to connect the sonics with the project.

3. be prepared for these scenarios

Make no mistake, these moments will happen. The best thing we can do is to prepare ourselves, to arm our mind with the necessary weapons to fight them. I usually try to build a schedule which contain so called “experimental times”. These experiments literally push me through the “hole”. It may sound strange as experimentation is already a part of our job, our daily life, but still, under pressure it is so easy to forget these simple necessities.

4. be curious as a child

Be curious! I know it sounds obvious, but really, seriously press yourself toward the unknown, be curious about that “unknown” and try to discover as many aspects of that “unknown” as you can. This is almost the same as try to experiment as much as possible. This way, again, your brain will start to connect the dots without you noticing it, and it is possible that you will be back on the track before you realize it.

5. An invaluable tip from Shaun Farley (see comments)

“if you have time, sometimes it’s more efficient to start over than try to fix something that isn’t working.”
Consider it, because this one can easily save you days of struggling and frustration. Not to mention the fact that it is almost impossible to fix a “sequence” which is on the wrong track for far too long. The restart can free you up, inspire, so this might be the ticket for success.
These are not de facto recipies for success, but likely to help me/you to get over the bad, and continue to create when you have to.
For closing thougts, I’m going to quote one of my favourite little advice list from Randy Thom, which helped me many times, so I keep these notes with me all the time:
“So, Uncle Randy’s simple rules for being more creative are:
1. Learn your craft thoroughly, reading everything you can about the traditions and conventions of the craft, as well as experiments on the modern cutting edge.
2. Begin each project with few assumptions about the methods you will use. Let the needs of the project, most of which  you won’t know until after you’ve gotten your feet wet, determine your approach.
3. Experiment as early and as often and as inexpensively as possible. Make lots of mistakes when mistakes are cheap.”
Randy Thom