Gilbert, Ariz., Oct. 26, 2017 - It’s not often when a childhood love of video games can be turned into a career as an adult. But in Noah Sandifer’s case, he followed his dream and made it a reality with determination, hard work, and patience.
As a sound designer with Hi-Rez Studios, an independent, privately held video-game developer based in Alpharetta, Georgia, Sandifer loves to go to work every day. Why wouldn’t he? His life and career revolves around what he loves to do.
It’s an interesting story, to say the least, of how he can now go about listing sound designer for the acclaimed Paladins video game on his resume, as well as many other well known titles. A large piece of the puzzle was put into place when he was educated on Audiokinetic Wwise software at The Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences (CRAS), which was the audio institution that first developed Wwise training and was the first school to train its students on Wwise.
However, his love of the craft came years earlier, which lead him on a collision course with CRAS and, ultimately, Hi-Rez Studios.
“Since I could sit up on my dad’s lap, I was a part of his video game hobby,” said Sandifer, now age 24. “It carried over to me and as a result, it became more than just a hobby. It was part of who I was.”
His father is a lighting designer and teacher at Florida State University and his mother is a traveling Nursing Informaticist. Growing up in Florida, Sandifer went through most of his pre-college schooling in New Port Richey, Fla. at J.W. Mitchell High School. Although his childhood seemed quite hectic as his parents divorced when he was young and so he traveled between them quite often, he began to see a career goal emerge as he navigated his way through school. During those later years is when he began teaching himself all things audio, really turning it up a notch in his junior year of high school. After high school, he then moved to Tallahassee to attend community college at TCC.
“Once out of high school, I wanted to get professional training on my audio habits and most schools were either too expensive or didn’t seem to cover enough in a real studio environment,” Sandifer explained. That’s when he discovered CRAS (www.cras.edu).
Sandifer realized that an actual career in video game audio was a possibility after he had started at CRAS and had gone through the video game course. “The Open House presentation opened my eyes to it being a field of audio, but I only thought I could make a habit out of it. I began to really appreciate how the course progresses. The instructors start you with the most basic concepts, and you can feel yourself grow throughout the 10-month program. They don’t insult your intelligence, but don’t take much nonsense, either. They teach you to buckle down and focus.”
Noah’s instructors saw that determination in him early on. “Noah was a driven student that demonstrated great determination and focus which landed him his dream job at Hi-Rez studios,” said Dave Kalberg, CRASGame Audio / Mastering Instructor.
After going through the game audio class, Sandifer set his sights on Hi-Rez Studios for his mandatory internship. At first, it was not an immediate success.
“I tried to get an internship with Hi-Rez in their broadcast department but I didn’t make the cut,” he explained. “I kept trying other game studios in the area, reaching out to them every week with improved experience with games as I was practicing with Wwise and game engines in my own time. It wasn’t panning out, and I was starting to get deflated.”
Sandifer didn’t give up. “So, I looked up who composed SMITE's music and thought I could help him with different composing tasks, organizing projects or clients, or just helping with any talent he may bring in. His name is Chris Rickwood and he responded to me saying he wasn’t interested in anything I had offered. But, he was interested in the Wwise experience I had listed on my resume and wanted to see more of my sound design and general audio experience. I sent him my CUBE demo and we met up at a GGDA (Georgia Game Developer Association) meeting. After our meeting, I started interning with him, doing small tasks on multiple games such as Killing Floor 2, Brawlhalla, casino games, and SMITE. I got hired on after my internship and continued to work for him for over a year, mostly on SMITE. At one point, I was asked to work on site on their new game, Paladins. I've been working on Paladins since then, about a year and a half. I then got hired on by Hi-Rez studios officially in February of this year.”
As a sound designer on Paladins, Sandifer designed a large portion of the sounds that go into the game for characters, maps, weapons, etc. He also implemented them and fixed bugs, as well as help coordinate tasks between other sound designers to make sure they meet deadlines and have lots of unique, quality assets.
“Noah is an impressive, fast learner and excels at everything he tackles and works on,” said Gregory Allen, Lead Audio at Hi-Rez Studios. “His technical sound design and artistic sound design improve with every patch we work on. I have worked with a lot of Jr. Sound and Sr. Sound Designers in my 25-year career and I can say Noah’s education and pure drive for excellence has impressed me more than any newbie to this industry I have encountered. The rock solid skills he learned in school truly helped him be prepared for the workload he is tackling today. Paladins audio would not be where it is at today without Noah.”
Besides Paladins, Sandifer has been the sound designer on various games, slot machines, and the like. He was the junior sound designer on SMITE, including sound designer for various skins and characters. And besides his sound design duties, he has become somewhat of a recruiter for High-Rez Studios, which has taken on CRAS student Garrett Turner as its latest intern when Sandifer recommended Turner after visiting CRAS recently and meeting and discussing potential industry opportunities with him.
Sandifer said if he had one piece of advice for those looking to start a career in audio, whether it be gaming, recording, broadcast or any other field, it would be to, “Keep your head down. It can get really rough. I had to go back to tossing pizzas for a little while to pay the bills during my internship. Just because someone tells you ‘No’, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I failed to acquire the internship at Hi-Rez initially, and had to find a backdoor. In the end, I got to create the job position I had wanted all along. The job position I aspired to have didn’t exist before I arrived, and I was there at the right time and place, with the right skills, to be the man they wanted when the job position was created. Make yourself valuable to those you want to work for, and make sure you are the best choice for the job.”
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