Sean Doyle is a sound professional with as diverse a skill set as possible. Between music production, dialogue editing, sound effects and his current work at ABC, he cites his upbringing and acceptance of different roles as the key to his continued work.
These days, being in “sound” or “audio” as a profession can mean a number of things. With creative work so important to so many industries, the demand for sound engineers, artists, and producers is skyrocketing, and at the same time, the young people entering the industry are finding that the more extensive your skills are. , the better able you will be to respond to inquiries from potential customers.
Sean Doyle is a figure that fits this mold. His career to date involves positions at ABC and Fox Sports, in music production and promotion, event production, art, etc. He backed this up with a certificate in audio engineering and most recently a master’s degree in sound from the Australian School of Film, Television and Radio (AFTRS).
We caught up with Doyle to discuss all things audio, learn more about his work portfolio, and get some tips for anyone interested in following a similar path to his.
HAPPY: Hi Sean, how are you? What are you doing at the moment?
SEA : Things are going well, even with the lockdown. After graduation I worked tirelessly on jobs across the discipline of sound. I thumped Questions and answers at ABC, working on this year’s cohort master’s student films, and producing and editing podcasts. I’ve even taken advantage of other roles I’ve fallen into, such as communications engineer for ABC studios, and helping a well-known cultural institution with its music content marketing strategy.
Apart from film and television, I’m also a music producer and DJ in 8bit and hardcore scenes. I organize underground raves and develop a series of audiovisual works of art for streaming and IRL. So yeah, I’ve been pretty busy.
HAPPY: Can you tell us how you got into sound as a career?
SEA : After working in Japan as a TESOL teacher, I returned to Australia and moved to Sydney in 2007. I was in love with Sydney’s experimental electronic music scene and got into electronic music production. . In 2009, I did a Cert IV in sound engineering, just to improve my music. It was my gateway to my love for sound. From there I took an entry-level position at a TV station and worked the next two years at that company trying to evolve into a job in audio. Finally, I got the job of full-time audio director for Fox Sports News, where I mixed the news live for almost five years.
When the channel was sold and I was fired, I had to rethink my career options. And after a short stint as a video automation pilot, I realized I had to seize the opportunity and prepare for the job of my dreams, which was to edit and mix post-production audio content. So yes, my love for sound came from my desire to improve my music, and I have always been curious to learn and expand my skills.
HAPPY: You are particularly interested in the human voice, where and when did this passion start to form?
SEA : I was a singer in a metal band when I was 18, and when I was a kid I always liked doing silly accents and vocals. I have spent years cutting vocal samples from films for my dance pieces. So I think I accidentally taught myself to edit dialogue while making music. But I was fortunate enough to refine this with the TV News audio experience. Someone pointed out to me that my dad was a radio host for 20 years and it’s probably in my genes, I couldn’t help myself.
HAPPY: What would be the ideal job for you? Why?
SEA : Well, one of my dream jobs would be to work in ABC’s post-production to be a promo producer and voiceover recorder. Having said that, I learned that for me, I prefer to focus on sound work that has a creative aspect, to balance the technical and the creative. For this reason, I still produce music and work in AR / VR where I think I can discover and experience new sound experiences. There is a great trend towards immersion and auditory perspective thanks to ambisonic sound, made possible by the Unreal in-game audio engine. I invest time and experience this, and how virtual expressions of culture and identity can change our relationships with the way we see ourselves.
HAPPY: You currently do a very wide range of work – is that useful for your skills, or is it more simply the result of being a freelance writer?
SEA : That’s a very good question. I think there is a period after school where you have to decide how much free work you are going to do, before you are ready to put your own skills to use. The approach I take is either to offer my skills for free if it is to learn and I see this as an investment in my skills, or to charge industry rates for roles in which I have experience. So I accept the roles of sound recordist on television. at industry rates, but also do things like volunteer for roles like re-recording mixer. I try to avoid reducing my rate or my value.
HAPPY: You have also completed a mastery of sound. First, how has it evolved your technical understanding of the field, and second, has it provided any inside information on how it works on the industry side?
SEA : The masters program has helped me develop my art by working with amazing up-and-coming designers, being pushed by my teachers, and having an environment that reflects what it would be like in the industry. The course often focused on emulating the working conditions of professional industry. It helped me identify which part of the production chain I want to focus on and even introduced me to a few roles that I hadn’t explored.
I got to work on three big projects with some of the best student directors in the country; Izzy Khan, Jenny Hicks and Jayden Rathsam Hua. My sound teachers Stephen Murphy and Mark Ward have inspired us to consider possibilities for innovation in advanced technologies like 3D sound. These ambisonic sound explorations opened my mind to the immersion potential and auditory perspectives offered by this emerging technology. It’s really inspiring, and I would love to continue teaching the subject in the future. Plus, you start to feel incredibly grateful to the Mix Theater. This piece is amazing!
I still need to do an internship. It would be my dream to work in one of the sound houses, like Big Bang Sound Design, Cutting Edge or Spectrum Films, because they represent the best of the Australian film industry. I plan to continue trying for an internship or entry level position there.
HAPPY: Do you think bonding is an important part of undertaking formal study in a creative field?
SEA : Absolutely. Hope I bonded for life throughout the course. The strategies for choosing your collaborators in the master’s course were essential to ensure that your learning and personal goals were met. I enjoy working and contributing to creative teams, just as I enjoy working with up-and-coming artists, such as composer Scott Majidi, production designer Calum Wilson-Austin, director David Robinson-Smith, and documentary director Adam Finney.
I love the idea of receiving additional mentorship, and I’m also very open to helping other people new to sound and sharing some of my experience. So yes, working collaboratively, also supporting your peers so they can gain experience, and critically analyze your heroes is pretty important to my approach.
HAPPY: What kind of work do you have ahead?
SEA : Well, I juggle paid work and invest my free time in projects that I can train on. I edit podcasts at home, I do digital marketing for these podcasts, I have three shorts I’m doing sound effects for this year, I have freelance audio work for TV for ABC and others, I’m launching a new music collective in Sydney and I’m developing a new AV / VR facility I’m super excited. I mean, would my career be any easier if I could stick to just one discipline? Probably! Haha. But I am not creatively enriched by this process. How can you explore the potential interdependence of disparate concepts, if you accept the box they put you in?
HAPPY: Solid response! And finally, do you have any advice for someone who might just be starting a career similar to yours?
SEA : There are probably a million things I could say. If you treat your peers like competitors, they won’t drag you up, they’ll just push you down. Other than that, be comfortable in your own skin, as in, be comfortable with self-criticism without being self-destructive. Valuing your own tastes is what brought you here. Your work will not be compared to that of your idols, and that’s okay. It is because you have an impeccable taste for idols. In the future, if you continue to practice your craft, you will have the experience and skills to express your tastes as they can.
Learn from everyone. Be comfortable accepting that the opposite of what you think is true. Ask for help. Pass on and be generous with your experience. Balance paid work and dream work. Challenge yourself creatively every time. And contribute to projects of independent creative teams, because they are the engine of innovation.
Applications for the Son 2022 program at AFTRS are now open. Learn more here.