Category Archives: EDU

HISSandaROAR Origin Story

If you are a new visitor you might wonder how HISSandaROAR came to be. Who is involved?
And what is their secret agenda?

HISSandaROAR was created by Tim Prebble. So the prehistory of HISSandaROAR is my history and there were a series of events that all accumulated over a period of decades.

Step 1: Finding My Vocation – LIFE ONE

In the mid-1980s I was a student at Canterbury University, in Christchurch, New Zealand, studying towards an Electrical Engineering degree. The further into my studies I got, the less I liked it until in my third year someone helped me realise my future direction in life. A local tech company Tait Electronics would recruit from Engineering School, and so I tagged along with many from my cohort to an interview with their HR person. Thanks to some probing questions, within five minutes he had ascertained I had no desire for EE and we went on to have a conversation about what I did have a passion for: MUSIC!

At this stage I was playing bass guitar in a band, and I had recently applied for a $500 Arts Council Grant to enable our band to record and release a cassette. We couldn’t afford to go into a commercial studio, but our live engineer was a clever guy and he suggested we rent a desk & mics from a PA company, and a 4 track reel to reel from a friend of his. So we proceeded to do exactly that, converting our student house into a makeshift recording studio for a weekend. I learned a lot from this process and it ignited my desire for recording. The drummer in the next band I played in was at Arts School, and he was able to borrow their Nagra 4.2 and MKH416 shotgun mic, so I also began to experiment with field recording and tape splicing. At the time I had a shitty holiday nightshift job at a combined gas station & video rental store, and I still remember some stoners coming in at 2 am to buy munchies, only to find me with the counter covered in bits of 1/4″ tape & the Nagra!

One day I noticed two ads in the newspaper, placed by the Natural History Unit (NZ Government department) and the roles were (1) field recordist for documentaries and (2) sound post audio engineer. I knew I didn’t have enough experience for either but I applied anyway & made a trip down to Dunedin for an interview. I wasn’t surprised I did not get a job offer, but what did surprise me was that a good friend did get the field recordist role! So I got in touch with him to congratulate him & eventually asked the question: why did he get the job? The answer indicated my next step. He had spent the previous year at Film School, training as a production sound recordist. I now knew what I had to do….

Step 2: Film School
I put a CV together & applied to the same Film School, also based in Christchurch and I was invited to come in for an interview. After discussing my background and motivation, they told me that there were over 400 applicants for the course, and only 20 selected. But as discussion continued they revealed out of 400 applicants, I was the only one who specified sound as my core interest. They had a policy of assembling a crew from each intake of students, since we would be making projects during the year. And they needed a sound recordist, so they confirmed me right then & there! Life changing event #1!

Step 3: Finding Work
So I spent all of 1990 as a student again, but pursuing a subject I was profoundly interested in. One of the best aspects of this particular Film School was that it was practical and at the six month point, we had to go & do a week of work experience. I managed to talk my way into visiting a sound post studio in Auckland, who had a stereo Digidesign Sound Tools setup, along with 24 track reel to reel all locked to Umatic video. They were working on a TV series and I found it utterly fascinating to observe how they worked. At the end of the week I thanked them, and asked if I could keep in touch since I would be looking for work when I finished Film School. As luck would have it, the then NZ Labour Government introduced a work scheme where if a new role was created they would pay half the wage for six months, and that was enough: I had my first job, six months as a trainee sound editor!

Step 4: My First Job
1991 I moved from Christchurch to Auckland, just as the studio bought the first ProTools 4 channel system in NZ. I was always good with tech & computers, and I began to edit sound FX and Ambiences for the TV series the studio was working on. Back then, the studio sound library was stored on 1/4″ tape, so if we needed an explosion, we would refer to a printed log and then load the sound library tape, cue it to the sound and record it across to ProTools. Sync and edit it, then record it across to the 24 track.

My first sound library experience: 1992
loading sounds in real time off 1/4″ tape

Around this time the studio got a pro DAT machine with timecode & autolocate. When we finished a TV series and had some down time, my task became to transfer each sound library 1/4″ tape to DAT, logging the timecode as I went. And using a Mac SE30 we also created a FileMaker database. The secondary benefit of this process was that I listened to every sound in the library as it transferred. After a few months, our sound library was all on DAT.

My second sound library experience: 1994
search FileMaker database, real-time load off DAT

A few years later CD Burners became affordable, and my downtime job became doing another transfer: digitising from DAT to ProTools, and saving the sound library to CDROMs. And our FileMaker Database grew a little smarter. At this point I was preparing to start work on the third series of a TV series we had done, and I suddenly came up with a great idea: what if we could Auto conform ambiences? We were using Digidesign PotsConform app to load production sound, and I spent the next month pursuing my idea. First we restored all the ambience sessions from the previous series and I created 2 minute stereo mix downs for each of the recurring locations, laying them off to timecode DATA. I also built a FileMaker database which I would enter in the timecode of each scene cut, and using the timecode log of my AMB premix DAT I got it to generate an EDL (calculating timecode in FileMaker was a fun challenge, but easily solved by converting to frames, doing the maths, and converting back to timecode format eg TV in NZ is 25fps so = 22 + 5*25 + 3*60*25 + 1*60*60*25 = 94647. Converting back to timecode just required division & formatting.)

My third sound library experience: 1996
audition & load off CD-ROM

Around this time I began to compile my own sound library, as I realised that my job as a sound effects editor went much faster and I achieved much more interesting work if I had access to LOTs of sounds. I began to record as much as I could, although the studio still only had a Nagra 4.2 and MKH416 so I was limited by my budget for tape and batteries.

Step 5: Freelance
In 1995 an incredible opportunity appeared on the horizon. Peter Jackson was making his first film funded by a US studio, and due to the scale of the project they asked my boss if he would go to Wellington to work on the film for six weeks, helping while the main kiwi Sound Supervisor Mike Hopkins was finishing another film project. My boss went down for a visit, but as he had a young family & was running his studio he decided he did not want to go, but he asked if I would be keen. OMG HELL YES!!! So I relocated to Wellington and spent six weeks working out at the Film Unit, on Peter Jacksons film THE FRIGHTENERS. This was an amazing learning experience and I also got to meet the NFU mixing staff – Mike Hedges, John Boswell & manager John Neill, along with the other sound editors, especially the sonic genius Brent Burge, who had worked on all of PJs films. But the best was yet to come!
The US Studio who were funding the film insisted on sending an experienced Sound Designer down to NZ to supervise the film, and it turned out to be none other than Randy Thom, with his brilliant assistant Phil Benson. But Randy wasn’t due to arrive for another month, so I was assigned some great sequences to design, including previz versions of the ‘tunnel of light’ in the film. Some of the previz was literally PJ describing what would happen, but I had a ball creating all sorts of designed sounds for the sequences..

At last the day arrived and Randy & Phil moved into their studios at the NFU. As luck would have it, Randy’s studio was right next door to mine, and the sounds I started hearing through the wall were just incredible!! But I was too shy to go & introduce myself, so I just kept my head down & kept working on my sequences… Towards the end of the day there was a knock on my door, and Randy comes & says hi!

I learned so much from even brief observations of Randy & Phils work, but one revelation I will never forget. Randy played a sequence down in his ProTools rig with just the most amazing sounds, I think it might have been ‘Wallpaper Man’  – visceral complex sounds that fitted the onscreen action perfectly. I just could not work out how these sounds were being achieved, as when I looked at his PT session (16track PT3 TDM back then?) it wasn’t densely edited… But then he switched to volume graphs/automation! Ah so!!! They were intricately shaping elements using volume graphs as envelopes. Of course!!! But the second revelation came later. After the film was finished, Mike Hopkins archived all the recordings & source material, and it was a pleasure to hear some of the raw sounds that Randy & Phil were working with, some they had recorded in the NFU foley studio. Brilliant!

My fourth sound library experience: 1996
opened my mind to the potential for use of organic sounds used in completely different contexts.
Totally reinforced how invaluable the sound library is. Along with authentic natural sound effects & ambiences,
also strange, unusual, unexpected sound sources, used in clever new contexts.

As the sound team on The Frighteners increased in size, someone had the brilliant idea of a ‘group buy’ so we could all get a field recording setup. So at last I had my own recorder: a Tascam DAP1 portable DAT machine. Soon after I bought my first mics: a pair of Okatava mics with omni & cardioid heads.

Soon after this experience I quit working in the Auckland studio and went freelance. In 1997 I was sound designer on my first feature film (SAVING GRACE by Costa Botes) and I spent the next few years alternating between Auckland and Wellington, travelling to wherever the best work was.

Step 6: My own Studio – SUBSTATION
By 2000 I made the decision to move to Wellington as that’s where most of the work was being done, and I rented warehouse space in Jessie St in central Wellington. Around this time another formative opportunity appeared: PJ was making Lord of the Rings, and Sound Super Mike Hopkins asked if I was keen for 3+ years work on the project. For a lot of people this could be a career defining project but I had other ideas. I was at a stage where I was sound designer for up & coming directors first NZ films, and the manager of the NFU called me to a meeting, and asked what I planned to do, as there would be no freelance soundies available to do any NZ films if LOTR had their way.

The final straw was when I was offered the film TOY LOVE by a favorite indie director Harry Sinclair. I decided that I did not want to be a small cog in a very big wheel, working as a sound effects editor on the LOTR trilogy. I wanted to work directly with NZ directors and so I made the tough decision to not work on LOTR. This is a decision I have never regretted. I rapidly became the default sound designer on NZ films and completed maybe 6 or 7 indie NZ feature films while my soundie friends worked on LOTR. And those directors that I was loyal to, also became loyal to me. So when LOTR was finished & their sound team were burnt out from working insane hours, I just carried on working and having the best time!
I moved studios a couple of times, first to a huge warehouse space in Miramar and then to a studio space across the road from PJs film post facility Park Road Post. Each project enabled me to upgrade equipment, eventually switching to Sound Devices field recorders, and building up my mic collection. Each film project required recording, whether it was vehicles, props or NZ ambiences  but my work as a sound designer also enabled international travel, including field recording trips to Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Japan.

My fifth sound library experience: 2000
sound library on hard drives +
instant access SoundMiner

Around this time I also had another reminder of just how important access to great recordings is. A local sound team were working on a new film, The Adventures of TinTin, and I was asked to help out for a few weeks on some particular VFX sequences which the director was concerned about. The director requested help from sound designer Gary Rydstrom, who wasn’t available as he was on another project. But he offered to help by providing sounds, so I got to work with a big collection of sounds which they had handpicked for the VFX sequences. Excellent sounds and excellent ideas.

Now while there is no way to gain experience without living it, I wondered how could I, as an indie sound designer ever have access to a sound library like Skywalkers. What would it take?

Three accumulated events proceeded to change the course of my life.

The first event was a slowly accumulated observation: I noticed that each year my film work seemed to be crammed into 8-9 months, and I spent the other 3 months financially treading water, wondering where my next project was coming from.

The second event was also slow: I noticed that I was repeating myself. For example each time we got a film confirmed, I would organise specific prop recording in the studio, as my aspiration was to always be unique. But with some genres of film I noticed some types of sounds were always recurring – horror films is a good example.

The third event was instant and existential – my dear friend Mike Hopkins, who had been my mentor in the early days of film sound & had always encouraged my work died in a freak accident – I know people die in accidents every day, but Hoppy was a role model for me and his death really made me rethink my priorities. What if it had been me? Was I happy with the legacy I would leave?

After much deep thinking I came to the conclusion that I wanted to change modes. I did not want to go to my grave with just a list of credits on other people’s projects. I wanted to create my own projects. So I started to do research.

With the first project I wanted to develop a solution to the two observations ie create something productive to do with my downtime, and find a way to build & share resources, to make my life as a sound designer easier and better. But to also find a way to share it with everyone else.

I knew how to record sounds & build a sound library, and I also knew the shortcomings of CD sound libraries ie limited to 16/44.1 and only enough room for a few takes, leading to the proliferation of cliches. I also had accumulated a long list of sounds to target, based on decades of working in the film industry, having completed 40 feature films by this stage. While I knew WordPress well from running my blog MUSICofSOUND since 2006, it took a lot of work to find a viable Eccomerce solution, that could reliably deliver GBs of audio.

I came up with the name HISSandaROAR after much brainstorming. I knew it had to be ‘catchy’ and memorable – hear it once, never forget it. At one point I even hired a consultant who was recommended to me, who skyped me and helped clarify the core concepts & name.

Slowly all the pieces began to fall into place, and after about 18 months of research & development, the first HISSandaROAR library was ready for release. April 10, 2010, HISSandaROAR release SD001 VEGE VIOLENCE. This was recorded in my studio in Miramar by Park Road Post, using a Sound Devices 722 and Sanken CSS5 shotgun mic. I shot the video with my DV Camera and cut the vid in Final Cut Pro.

After the release, the response was so encouraging. And for anyone reading this who was there at the start, thank you so much for your support. I secretly decided to interpret every purchase of one of my sound libraries as the commissioning of the next one. Psychologically I also noticed a similar phenomena as occurs with my film work: when a project meets its deadline and is finished & released, an incredible change occurs. My brain, psyche & creative energy is suddenly free from that project, and a flood of new ideas arise. So I moved straight into the next library SD002 SEAL VOCALS and researching locations and conditions for recording those cute, stinky little fur seals.

In 2013 I took another major step towards my future, successfully applying for two Artist Residencies. This coincided with my apartment being forcibly pruchased ny NZTA, to demolish it for a roading project. So I put everything in storeage and went to spend 2 months on the island of Shodoshima, Japan followed by two months in Little Huia, Watakerie Ranges, Auckland NZ. This was an incredible experience and I cannot recommend it enough – I wrote about it HERE

On my arrival back to Wellington at the end of 2013, I managed to find & buy a house in Karehana Bay, Plimmerton and that has been my home & studio ever since.

So that is the origin story of HISSandaROAR and five generations of sound library evolution.
In effect, HISSandaROAR was created to solve my own problems i.e. to enable affordable access to creative high quality and high resolution sounds. And to endlessly research & develop unusual sounds!

Currently in development.

Wise Words 001

“The metaphoric use of sound is one of the most fruitful, flexible and inexpensive means: by choosing carefully what to eliminate, and then adding back sounds that seem at first hearing to be somewhat at odds with the accompanying image, the filmmaker can open up a perceptual vacuum into which the mind of the audience must inevitably rush.
Every successful re-association is a kind of metaphor, and every metaphor is seen momentarily as a mistake, but then suddenly as a deeper truth about the thing named and our relationship to it. The greater the stretch between the “thing” and the “name,” the deeper the potential truth.”

Walter Murch

StartUp Cows

It was my Dads 93rd birthday last Sunday, so to celebrate here is one of the excellent life lessons he gave me.

A friend is going through tough times (is losing his hearing, but cannot afford to get hearing aids) and to try and encourage him to not let a short term problem (can’t afford today) stop him from achieving long term goal (get hearing aids) I recounted a few times in my life where I had to overcome a similar issue.

One of the most important was in my youth, and is 100% down to good parenting. My Dad taught me a simple lesson that set me up with a very specific attitude for life, which has informed almost everything I do. So I will recount it here… And yes, it involved cows.



So I grew up on a farm, and as much as I loved living on a farm I did not want to become a farmer. My older brother did, but I was more of a dreamer. I loved music, and wanted to play in a band. And the final decision was made when I started secondary school: I sat a bursary test and it turned out I had a reasonably high IQ. The teachers discussed with my parents and advised I should not study agriculture (my default at that point), but instead should study Latin. (WTF!?)

So a year or two into high school and I started to learn guitar. But everyone was a guitarist and I liked playing bass more, so one day I asked my Dad if he would buy me a bass guitar and amp. Back then I needed about $1000 for a decent secondhand bass guitar and an amp, so it wasn’t an insignificant amount of money, especially at a young age. Guess what my Dad said?


He offered to buy me five calves. He said if I was prepared to raise the calves, he would let me graze them on the farm for free and in a year or three I could sell them & I would have enough for my bass and amp. Clever right?


If you’ve never raised a calf then maybe this sounds like fun, like raising a kitten or something. But what it actually means is that twice a day, every day without miss, I had to go mix some milk powder up in a bucket and feed one bucket to each of my five calves. Didn’t matter if it was raining, the calves had to be fed. I can still remember the smell of the milk powder.

This carried on for months, until they were big enough to eat grass.
But even then they were still my responsibility. If they broke out of a paddock, it was me who got on the motorbike and got them back to where they were meant to be. Now I knew these calves were going to be slaughtered at some point, so I didn’t get too attached to them, and for some reason I decided to call them all Mogey. Mogey 1, Mogey 2, Mogey 3, Mogey 4, and Mogey 5. (Mogey as in “Moe Ghee”)


A year or three passes, and I still want that bass guitar and amp. My Dad advises me the market is good now and the Mogeys are at their prime, so off they go to become steak and hamburgers.
I could not believe it – I got $3,000 for them! So I bought a better bass guitar than I was planning, and a better amp. And still had funds left over.

Over the following decade I had some of the best times of my life, playing bass in bands.
All thanks to the Mogeys!


So what is it, that my Dad actually did?

1. He taught me that being self motivated to work, with a specific goal, provides rewards that may not otherwise be achievable. Short term pain for long term gain.

2. He taught me when making big purchases it is better to wait and make sure that the big thing you want is a permanent desire, and not just a whim.

3. He taught me to value what I had worked hard to achieve. I took care of that bass guitar and amp.

4. He taught me the solution to a problem often lies outside the world of the problem.

5. He taught me to invest time and effort into creating something, that over time would grow in value.
He taught me to be an entrepreneur!



Thanks to rampant capitalism I suspect a lot of people think they are expressing their love by being extremely generous with gifts to their kids. The latest iPhone, Playstation etc..
What a missed opportunity!


Thanks Dad!




Working with Silence

Working as a film sound designer, over the years I slowly developed lots of ideas to help clarify the directors intent for the soundtrack during our first spotting session, and one I used to really enjoy was I would ask them what they thought the loudest moment in the entire film would be. They would usually have no trouble identifying loud moments/scenes as they were usually based in action, and action scenes take a lot of planning & shooting…

Next I’d ask them what they thought the quietest moment might be. This often made them pause to think much harder. I had often already come up with a few potential moments and I would pitch them, with the aim that we not just have quiet moments but aim to reach complete silence, motivated by character & emotion… And in many, many films I worked on, we found a moment of silence in the final mix. And later, reliving and experiencing that effect with an audience is so powerful.

One favourite was in a film by Gaylene Preston ‘Perfect Strangers’ (2003) and we went from the loudest moment in the film to silence across a single action sequence where a fishing boat is swamped at sea during a storm… It took a lot of work in the final mix to shape all the elements and slowly deconstruct the soundtrack but OMG that moment hits emotionally like a ton of bricks!

In a later film O le Tulafale (The Orator) (2011) I had some ideas about where we could push to silence but the director and I hadn’t committed to any… But the FX mixer came up with an idea and again it was near a very dramatic loud moment: the hero is digging a grave for his wife, hoping to bury her body before her family come & try to take her body back… The shot is from deep in the grave watching him work digging, and a spot of rain hits. For a moment all falls silent – no ambience, foley, nothing. (This makes the audience suddenly listen like the protagonist… what is coming?) Then one of those torrrential storms begins that you only get in the Pacific islands (they sound like a freight train!) and he proceeds to fight for his life as the grave fills with water & starts to collapse around him.

Of course, having a brief moment of silence before an explosion is also an overused film sound technique, but for different reasons (ie briefly relieving your ear, to maximise dynamics)

It still amuses me but many years ago I mentioned this approach in a ‘sound design’ forum and received a lot of unwanted and misguided advice and I realised people are almost afraid of silence eg “You can’t go to complete silence – people will think its a mistake” Me: FFS, no one is randomly cutting to silence. Rerecording mixers are artists and they can make anything happen, given the right resources and a director who is open to such approaches. The transition as a dense soundtrack is stripped away with a form & shape that makes emotional & story sense, is what I consider some of the best work I’ve ever been involved with.

But I also noticed it with music. Also many years ago I was in Japan and saw a fantastic lineup of what I considered some of the leading minimalist touring musicians (not Japanese) so I went to the gig with great expectations, and left somewhat disappointed: every track by every artist started, varied and ended. And at no point was silence even approached, let alone engaged. All spaces were filled. I wondered if this aversion was more a practical issue/fear live eg will people think this track is over if I place silence in it? idk.

One last anecdote: I remember reading Jim Morrison talking about The Doors and with that song When the Musics Over and how when they played it live they would keep extending the gap just before the crescendo… and the greater that gap became, the crazier the audience became…

“We want the world and we want it…


In film sound design silence is perhaps ‘easier’ to engage, as there is no master tempo telling you when the next note or bar should fall… With that Doors song, you would expect the gap to be x beats long, and extending that is potentially breaking tempo and delaying the instant gratification of a crescendo that every fan knows…

powerful psyops!!

Current Field Recording Setup

Kahurangi National Park, Karamea – at the end of the road, by Box Canyon Cave

As people often ask what mic stands etc I’m using I thought I would document my current field recording setup. I came across the photo above & while its from before the pandemic, it shows all of my mics & stands etc..

For a long time now I have been using the Manfrotto Nano stands – in the photo above, the big Sennheiser MKH70 mics are on Manfrotto 5001b stands which have longer legs making them more stable.

The MKH8050, MKH8040x2 and MKH8020x2 are all on Manfrotto 156 stands which have a smaller footprint & work fine other than in strong wind…

For the Sanken CUX100K mics (not in the photo) I bought a pair of the new Nano MS049c carbon fibre stands which have as much reach and stability as the big 5001 stands, but being carbon fibre are lighter… & inevitably, a bit more expensive…

My Sound Devices MixPre10-II recorder lives in a Petrol PS602 bag which it seems are no longer made. I’ve had this bag for ages, as I used to fit a SD744T + SD722 + 302 preamp in it. And while the MixPre10 is small enough it could fit in a much smaller bag, I also need to safely store batteries (I use 2 x NP75) and headphones, sometimes contact mics + preamp or hydrophones, and I also have eight mic cables permanently connected, routed, ID’d and safely coiled & attached to the bag with velcro cable ties, such that I can hike with it all securely.

To carry the mics & stands I use a Peak Design 65Litre Travel Duffelpack – thanks to Hide Aoki at AntiNode Design for the tip on this. The Peak bag has zips which makes it expandable, and also has both backpack straps & a normal duffel bag carry handles. It can fit all my mics, stands & camera tripod, so I can hike from car to location in one trip:

Totaranui Beach, Takaka

Both bags have rain covers, so if I get caught out I’ll get wet but the gear will be fine!