The Highs And Lows Of 2023 From A Pole Position Perspective

December 5, 2023
Posted in Company
December 5, 2023 Paul Virostek

The Highs And Lows Of 2023 From A Pole Position Perspective

An amazing intern, a unique vehicle that didn’t start, curious ants, Jacques Tati moves, a close-to-religious experience, dreams of the new office, wonderful collabs, and, of course, Nordic Spheres – 2023 was an interesting year for the Pole crew.

Without further ado, let us present this year’s…

…best idea I:

Our sound designer, Daniel, who has always been very keen on learning programming, finally decided to go all in and is now up and running as an audio programmer with lots of cool ideas!

…best idea II:

To expand our development team and try to break the market with tech solutions. Getting our internal development going is challenging, but we have started to plan our vision. We have a super exciting idea to find synergies between our external development and internal work. I guess time will tell if this will be fruitful, but it feels like a good idea from where we stand today.

…best idea III:

Let’s kick off Pole Lab with force! Some great ideas are lined up for development.

 …screw up I:

We had a really important recording somewhere in Sweden, so far away from Stockholm that we had to stay at a hotel the night before. The session was pretty complicated and needed a lot of planning ahead, in fact so much planning that I forgot to plan the food and water-supplies. A store was nowhere to be found where we were working, and I found myself looking to a day in excruciating heat with nothing to drink or eat. Luckily someone helped us out eventually, so it turned out fine, but it was a near disaster.

…screw up II:

The recording device decided to screw up and make the day’s recordings unavailable for transfer. Luckily, they were still available for playback, but it took us forever to play them back one by one into the DAW.

…we finally got to record it

Artillery missiles! It had been on our wish list for so long, and finally, it happened! Crazy sounds!

…we finally got to record it vehicle:

I feel very proud of the Jaguar XK120 that we recorded at Lunda airfield earlier this year. That old car is so beautiful-sounding, and it was such a pleasure to be able to capture all the nuances and vibrations of it in high detail. The conditions that day were also extraordinarily good so you can really hear, from my mic-position, the car moving and doing maneuvers down at the end of the runway.

…animal interference during a recording I:

I discovered ants trying to make their way into one of the Ehrlunds on a very early morning recording of hand grenades. Since I was going in 32-bit, recording them might even have been possible, but I got rid of them as quickly as possible.

…animal interference during a recording II:

The early autumn is always the best season to record. Nature has gone quiet, and everything is sort of settling. But… instead there are the flocks of a thousand geese on their way to Africa, all of them chatting, passing over slowly slowly… GAAAH!!!!

…”I’d never thought we’d record this”-recording: 

We have had the pleasure of recording some old race cars which have a very special place in my heart. I’m not allowed to go into details, but it has been a close-to-religious experience.

…newbie:

Intern Lina Dover came in and just owned everything she touched! It’s fantastic to have her onboard!

I second that! Lina has become a wonderful addition to our team. Started as an intern in the spring and really impressed us with her incredible talent and spirit. Lina is now working full-time with us, and we love it!

Me too! We are so happy that we have Lina Dovner on board. She came fresh out of her studies but proved to be one of the sharpest tools in our shed: a fast learner and such a great person. We could not have wished for a better newbie this year.

And me! Lina has impressed us all with her excellent sound design skills at blazing speed!

…favorite equipment I:

Sure, MIxPre-10 II in 32-bit float comes in very handy in many circumstances, but I still love the sound of a Sound Devices 702 and a MKH 418 or 8060.

…favorite equipment II:

We streamlined our SFX recording kit a bit this year. One XY set of Sennheiser 8040s, the ever-best Sennheiser MKH 8060, and the Sanken CO-100k in to either the Sound Devices Scorpio or Sonosax R4+ is a winning rig to record SFX libraries with.

…favorite equipment III:

The ARP 2600 clone is much more fun to play with than I imagined. Late to the party, but I’ve been making up for it in 2023.

…best post production achievement I:

A big part of the company teamed up to work on a pitch for cutscenes, and I’m thrilled with how it all came together. It was an amazing-sounding result, and I think we impressed the customer, too.

I second that, we put much love and effort into a trailer sound design challenge given to us by a client, and we’re proud of the results: a team effort and some really interesting things to design sounds for.

…best post production achievement II:

The team that works on Chief Rebel did some fantastic work on streaming workflows, inventing great procedures for reusing sound without repetition and generally being on top of things in the production.

…workflow improvement:

Some clever in-house scripts for Reaper and having SoundFlow connect the dots in between. A comfortable workflow can’t be overrated.

…loudest recording I:

We have done several weapon sessions this year, and they must be the loudest by far.

…loudest recording II:

We did one recording session of a fairly big turbojet twin-engine airplane. The location was sort of located in a kettle, with walls surrounding the tarmac where we were recording. When the two engines were running at full speed there was absolutely no escaping the winds that were whipping the air. And the sound was thunderous. Difficult one but it turned out really good.

…most unusual recording situation I:

I was dragging a large car tire by a strap around my waist while holding the mics with both hands. Since I had to walk backward, I couldn’t see where I was going. Curious bystanders said I looked like Jacques Tati (French mime, actor, and filmmaker) at his worst.

…most unusual recording situation II:

We got to travel to Tuscany in Italy for a bit of recording in the early summer. The location was in the outskirts of a small town way out in the countryside, among the hills and forests. There are times when you almost need to pinch yourself, and this was one such occasion. The whole trip as a matter of fact was a blast, we had the ever so great Lorenzo with us, who knew all the good places to eat and what to order. So apart from being an amazing recording trip it also turned out to be a marvellous culinary experience.

…collaboration I:

Each customer is a unique collaboration, and we are super grateful for all of them! We learn from each, grow with each, and enjoy them all!

…collaboration II:

Interviewing the team for the blog articles – Max, Niklas, Mats, Robin, Johann, Lorenzo, Eric – looking forward to interviewing more of the team in the coming year.

…collaboration III:

We’ve had almost a year of amazing collaboration with a studio in southern Sweden. It was a stellar team spirit!

…best music composition I: 

Mats has again done some fantastic tracks for our Chief Rebel project.

…best music composition II:

Mats’s score for a set of different dungeons is terrific.

…best music composition III: 

There’s been quite a bit of music that has been written and produced this year. What I am the proudest of are the combat-tracks that I have been composing for a game that I’ve been working on for some time. The title of the game is still unannounced so it will be exciting to see what the world will think of it once it’s out in the open. High hopes for this one!

…Pole breakthrough I:

Bought our own office and got to start building the studios. Since Covid, we have been working from home and we really have missed working together. Finally being able to do that rates as one of our most significant “breakthroughs” of 2023. Even if we still have a considerable stretch before everything is ready, the work has begun.

…Pole breakthrough II:

We have finally wrapped up the new catalogue of 50k sound effects for our sub-label Front Row SFX!

…smallest object or individual recorded I:

For The Tonal Colors Library, we recorded a tiny, tiny bell.

…smallest object or individual recorded II:

Some 9mm shells on different surfaces. The ones on grass produced so tiny hits that you had some severe sculpting work to do in RX.

…biggest object or individual recorded: 

Also, for the Tonal Colors, we recorded a saw blade with a diameter of 1 meter. Huge for being a saw blade.

…grasped opportunity:

We have finally decided to get our own studio place, a three-story building located centrally in Stockholm. We are very excited about it, but it’s a long way before it’s fully finished. First on the building list are a studio and recording rooms.

…missed opportunity I:

We had two games canceled this year following the turbulence in the industry. We had spent a lot of love on two very promising titles, and I sure hope they will get to see the light of day one way or the other later on.

…missed opportunity II:

We went to the UK to record a very unique vehicle, and it didn’t start. I still cry myself to sleep over that.

…most challenging request:

We got the opportunity to help out on a very iconic IP with a well-established audio verse, but Magnus and Eric did a great job meeting expectations!

…most surprising result of a recording:

We dropped rifle shells on military jackets for soft cloth landings, and the recording unexpectedly produced one of the beefiest kick drum sounds we’ve heard.

…most scary recording:

Robin hitting a golf ball with nuclear force just a couple of inches from the mics and my head. It actually sounded much scarier live than on the recording. To be continued…

…technological progress:

Machine learning and neural networks are giving us new tools at an increasing pace. Voice cloning, reverb canceling, smart de-essing, and noise reduction, among many things. We’re actively looking into the possibilities.

…surprised bystander:

The musicians at the studio lounge couldn’t believe their eyes as the three of us walked in the door carrying more than ten different firearms for recording.

…studio improvement I:

The PSI AVAA’s did a great job of further flattening the low end in my room. It’s surprising how something that small can make a difference in a room.

…studio improvement II: 

Well… we have bought a place that eventually will be our new studios. So that’s an improvement, right?

…best meeting I:

The Pole AI Conference.

 …best meeting II:

We finally got to meet parts of the amazing C77 team IRL at GDC!

…countries visited:

Italy, UK, USA, and Germany.

…most challenging sound design:

The reverse engineering of some well-known sounds for a new project. Some creative use of bird sounds finally made things come together nicely.

…best moment:

There have been several of those this year. We’ve been approached by people offering opportunities that are in the dream-come-true realm.

…personal achievement I:

Finally getting into Unreal Engine blurring scripting, I’m pretty proud of myself for learning and progressing as a technical sound designer.

…personal achievement II:

Finished editing 50,000 sounds for our upcoming sub-label library.

…personal achievement III:

Celebrating 40 joyful years of designing sound professionally! That’s quite something when you think of it.

…greatest inspiration I:

Usually, this would be one of the industry giants like Richard King for me, but this year, the greatest inspiration has been my Pole colleagues. So much talent focused in one place – it’s amazing!

…greatest inspiration II:

Life and love in general have been the theme of the year.

…new knowledge acquired:

This year, we ported our Dolby Atmos experience from the linear world to the game middleware. New things to learn and new possibilities.

…best software for sound design I:

Being an old fart, I still use good old Pro Tools, and I love it.

Valhalla Supermassive is a very nice delay plugin that can easily be used as a reverb with that warp knob. Even better… It’s free!

…best software for sound design III:

Phase Plant, Soundminer.

…best software for sound design IV:

SoundWeaver, Unfiltered Audio Spec Ops. None of these are new for 2023, but I have rediscovered them in 2023, and they’ve delivered some great sounds.

…best software for sound design V:

For this one I of course have to say Nordic Spheres, the Kontakt plug-in that we have developed and released together with Sonsucore. It really is great at creating otherworldly sounds and effects using granular synthesis and audio designed by me and Amina Hocine. I actually used it tonight for a thing: we have recorded the Swedish war alarm-sirens, so you can play the siren sounds with Nordic Sphere’s granular engine and that way musically control how the alarm-waves moves back and forth. It’s a really cool effect, very eerie.

…best software for sound design VI:

The one little plugin that I have been the most excited about, for creating sound effects and musical instruments, is Kilohearts Phase Plant. It’s really nifty and intuitive with all its possibilities with mixing different waveforms, wavetables, samples, granular synthesis and effects. Stellar!

…helping hand from a Pole colleague I:

With so many things going on within the company, the libraries, the projects, and all the maintenance it takes, Paul jumped in to take over most of the administrative work related to the library releases. Thank you, Paul, I love you!

…helping hand from a Pole colleague II:

Learning from Niklas how to de-noise using Waves C4.

…helping hand from a Pole colleague III:

Robin’s tips for mastering gun sound effects.

…helping hand from a Pole colleague IV:

For this one I have to say when the Nordic Spheres deadline was coming nearer, and Amina really helped pull the project through. Always fantastic sound design and clever ideas. Overall, I must say that the atmosphere in Pole is that everyone steps in and help whenever help is needed. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy working with this company so much.

…wish for next year I:

To make new friends within the industry, meet new customers, and work on new cool projects and IPs.

…wish for next year II:

That we will finally be allowed to talk about a really cool project or two that we’ve been involved in. And that the new office will be as amazing as we’ve imagined.

…release of audio software I:

iZotope RX 10’s new dynamic de-hum.

Eventide’s immersive versions of Blackhole and MicroPitch.
Waves Silk was a pleasant surprise as well.

And let’s not forget the lovely FabFfilter Pro-R 2. It speaks IR now!

Altiverb 8! Did you hear?

…re-sparked love with old gear:

Omnisphere! It’s old as hills but still offers some amazing granular sound design madness possibilities. I’ve rediscovered it this year for tons of fun!

…proudest moment I: 

The team is getting so much customer praise in emails, Slack, and meetings, and those are my proudest moments. I am so incredibly grateful for the skilled team we have at Pole!

…proudest moment II: 

When the client returned, saying they were impressed by our approach to the very tricky sound design challenge they gave us. Given the nature of the challenge, this is a real highlight!

…most hectic recording:

All recordings are hectic, and with their circumstances, sometimes, they seem impossible. Follow us out, and you will see.

…quote of the year:

“We are still very good friends, we just need some time away from each other” – Johann after spending a bit too much time listening to grains while working on code for our granular pitching tool.

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