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August 2014
Issue: March 1, 2009

WESTON FONGER WINS 'SONOPEDIA SOUND DESIGN COMPETITION'

By: Marc Loftus
NEW YORK — Post Magazine (www.postmagazine.com) and Blastwave FX (www. blastwavefx.com) are proud to announce the winner of the Sonopedia Sound Design Competition: New York-based Weston Fonger.

The contest challenged sound designers to create an original :30 sound narrative using any of the 40 sound elements made available from the Sonopedia Library. Contestants downloaded the collection of elements from Post's Website and were asked to create an original soundscape, which was then judged by a panel of Oscar-winning sound designers, included Randy Thom, Lon Bender and Richard King.

Fonger, whose "return to the age of the dinosaurs" track caught the attention of our judges, is a life-long audiophile who comes from a musical family and who studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After graduating, he came to New York, working initially for HSR, before moving over the AudioEngine, where he's spent the past three years. His time as an assistant/junior mixer, working on commercial projects, he says, helped considerably when faced with telling a story in just 30 seconds.

"I've always had an interest in sound and textures and timbre, more so than composing," says Fonger. He worked on his submission in AudioEngine's Studio A, where he had access to Digidesign's Pro Tools V.7.4 and a collection of plug-ins.

It was a tuba element that gave Fonger his initial inspiration. When stretched, it took on the semblance of a dinosaur, and he then decided to go with a cataclysmic storyline, where a futuristic society encounters disaster, sending the planet back to the early stages of evolution.

"When I first jumped into it, I wasn't entirely sure what that was going to be," he admits. "I liked that baritone sound of the guy playing tuba, so I took that and stretched it out with time tools and sort of elongated it, and it sounded very dinosaur-esque. I didn't want to just paint a picture of dinosaurs in a jungle, I actually wanted to have a cohesive beginning and end."

Fonger's style draws on the deconstruction of sound. "A lot of times it means pulling it apart until the sound starts to fall apart and speeding it up with time compression or expansion tools, and that's how that baritone piece became the dinosaur. I like to be very sparing on reverb, so a lot of what I do is pitch- or time-based."

He used Waves' Enigma plug-in to manipulate the elements and did most of his mixing within Pro Tools as he was designing. "Once I find an element, along with my idea for that element, part of it includes where I want to put it in a sonic space. The sound, to me, is just as important as where it is placed in the sonic spectrum."

Fonger estimates he used 20 of the 40 provided effects, keeping an ear out for elements with robotic, futuristic or organic qualities. The bulk of the piece was created in about four hours, and another one or two hours was spent tweaking the track, which included adding the "water splash" and "fly" elements at the end.

Blastwave FX says the effects they gathered for the contest spanned the entire Sonopedia library, with at least one element from each volume. Sounds included robot footsteps from "Science Fiction," angry goat bleating from "Animals," an explosion from "Warfare," forest ambience from "Ambience," a voice clip from "Sports," a stalling tractor from "Industry," a snapping rubber band from "Foley," and a monster snarling from "Horror."

Judge Richard King notes that while all of the entries made clever use of the Sonopedia sound library, it was Fonger's that generated the strongest emotional reaction.

"It's clear the sound designer was striving to tell a story — certainly an abstract one, which the listener can interpret in any number of ways, but there's a purposeful development to the sounds. The subtle moments are well done and pleasingly organic, with a very effective use of total silence in one transition, and the louder, denser sections retain their clarity. The sounds chosen stand out for their uniqueness and clarity, and the mix is focused. Very good work!"

As the winner, Fonger will receive Sonopedia, The Encyclopedia of HD Sound Effects, from Blastwave FX. Valued at $4,000, the collection consists of 20,000 HD sound effects, delivered on a 250GB Glyph hard drive.

Entries from Bob Hart and Erik Reimers both placed high in the competition. To hear all three top submissions, check out www.blastwavefx. com/blog.