Chase Bethea is a freelance Composer/Sound Designer working on video games and a variety of other media. Some of his credits include ‘I Can’t Escape’, ‘Cubic Climber’, ‘Deity Quest’ and ‘Super Happy Fun Block’. We talked with him about his career so far and his latest project, a visual novel game called ‘</reality>’.
First things first, tell us a little about yourself and what motivated you to take Audio Engineering at the Los Angeles Recording School?
I was born and raised in Chicago and I am a very passionate about video games. I have three degrees and I currently live in Los Angeles. I have been working in the video game industry for six years. When I was a senior in High School, I went on a studio tour to the Los Angeles Recording School. I was not interested in going to the same colleges like my peers. I wanted to learn and work on a craft that excited me and that I would be most interested in. I really disliked when school forced me to take some classes that were not transferable to life. I felt very strongly that by learning these musical technical skills that it would push my production to the next level. The tour exhibited all the on-location quality resources such as Neve, SSL, and 5.1 Pro-Tools labs, multiple top tier microphones as well as technical information and that is what sold me to attend LARS (The Los Angeles Recording School.)
While you were still in school, you interned at Mobotory Games. How did that opportunity come about? And what was it like trying to juggle school and work at the same time?
Yes, I was attending Moorpark College and I was enrolled in my last music theory class there. I was working with a friend at Lenscrafters and he introduced me to his uncle. His uncle worked at Mobotory and set me up with the internship. It was very difficult to juggle school, work and the internship. Many nights, I would come home and sometimes be too tired to change out of my clothes or I would fall asleep on top of all of my homework as well as sleep through my alarms. I wanted nothing more than to go to Mobotory more than once a week every Thursday. Unfortunately, that was all I could contribute. Nonetheless, I made the most of it and I learned a lot, especially about my limits.
While working on the sound design for video games, how do you decide which sound takes priority for the player?
Great question! Depending on the project I am on, I think about the purpose of action for the sound. If it is a UI sound then, I like to make it interesting but unobtrusive. Spell and impact sounds are important because you want to give the player a sense of aural gratification. The CEO and Project lead at Mobotory, Alex Bortoluzzi, taught me a few techniques on how to study sound in games and create ear candy. I carried these skills over into all of my projects and as I play games I study them very meticulously. I pay attention to how the sound design is implemented and the purpose. Most importantly, I stay cognizant of volume because it plays a big role in immersion. This also ties into what sound takes priority. If I want the player to not be distracted by certain sounds, then they sit lower in the game engine mix via implementation.
One of your latest projects was a visual novel game called </reality> by Fancy Fish Games. How did this opportunity come about?
I have been working with Fancy Fish Games for the past six years. So, when they had a new project, they contacted me to see if I was available and interested. I read through the game design document and was moved by the concept. So, I agreed to sign on to the project.
How did you approach creating the sound design for </reality>? Did the developers give you some direction or did they leave it open for you to interpret as you saw fit?
Most of the sound design in < /reality> was straightforward. Basic Foley sounds such as doors closing, ascending stair footsteps, chair scrapes etc. So, there was not much direction there. The sounds that really needed to stand out were the decision making ones. I crafted those using some vocal samples, which is something I had never done before. As I always do for any project, I asked for detailed descriptions for the sound effects, to minimize revisions but ultimately Fancy Fish Games left the creativity door open for me. This is how I was able to achieve the three decision sound effects and couple others such as the level up and private chat messages.
In addition to the sound design, you also composed the sound track for </reality>. What inspired you the most while creating the music for the game?
When I read the game design document, I became enamored with the characters background stories. The themes for these characters came to me naturally. Since we are on the early horizon of Virtual Reality, I was able to tap into some of the cool musical ideas that I had been withholding for the right project. The concept of < /reality> focused heavily on virtual reality so that played a part in my inspiration too.
Do you work from library sources for your sound effects, or do you record your own sounds?
Depending on the project, I use some library sources, but ever since the “ I Can’t Escape: Darkness“ project, I had to build a mini Foley stage because the library source sounds I needed did not exist. Since then, I have mostly been recording my own sounds.
If you could have any sound design job in the world, what would your dream job be?
My dream sound design job would be to work for a company that respects audio (i.e. puts aside a proper budget, does not leave audio to be an after-thought) and trusts the work I do to create super awesome sounds that enhance the media experience.
And finally, what’s your best advice to those looking to break into the sound design industry?
Stay passionate and sincere about doing sound design. Do not look to join the industry just because it is lucrative. Really love it! The more passionate someone is about the industry the more the craft will shine and will be recognized.
Sound Ideas would like to thank Chase Bethea for taking the time to answer our questions for this interview!
To view Chase’s past and current projects, visit his website: