ART301 - Introduction to Audio Design for Visuals and Games

This course deals in depth with the audio for visuals both from a technical and expressive point of view, from production and post-production up to the listener’s experience. The course will begin with a historical perspective, focusing on the scientific and technological advancement related to sound and image. Languages, technologies and all professional figures (from the set to the mixing room) will be analysed in depth, including managerial and organisational aspects. The course will conclude with a quick introduction to the audio for games in order to highlight its connection with audiovisual sound and its prerequisites that will be covered in core courses.

ART310 - The Shape of Sound: Understanding Film Sound Cultures

This module will provide students with knowledge and understanding of how location, people and culture have come to shape the sound of film in two of the world’s dominant of sound production, namely the Bay Area (SF) and Hollywood (LA).
By doing so, it will equip students with the necessary skillset to identify, understand and build on their own local culture of production to maximise creative and business opportunities, wherever they may be based.
The module will provide students with a valuable insight that goes beyond traditional generalisations based on accounts of technological innovation and individual creative genius by casting a wider net on a number of key factors behind the success of particular sound design approaches and postproduction houses.
The module will articulate around a series of key concepts that will be looked at in detail using real life experience and case studies.
One major case study will be that of Skywalker Sound, arguably the world’s most influential post-house.
Key concepts covered include: Location, Culture, Clusters/innovation, Personal memory, Language, Collaboration, Support and rewards systems, Diplomacy, New and developing work trends that are likely to shape the future of film sound.

AE301 - Microphone Technology and Application [Elective]

The teaching is a combination of traditional lectures, demonstrations, and technical exercises.
After a short brush up on the characteristics of sound fields, (point-, line-, and plane sources) the connection between the sound field, air molecule displacement, and the microphone’s diaphragm is investigated in depth.
The principles for the pressure microphone, the pressure gradient microphone and the combination thereof are explained in depth. The derived directional characteristics are explained, demonstrated, and the students perform exercises to determining the distance factor of the various directional characteristics.
The proximity effect of gradient microphones is explained in depth and demonstrated with a particular focus on the relationship between proximity and application.
Transducer types are explained with primary focus on the dynamic micro-phones (moving coil and ribbon), and condenser/electret condenser microphones. Directional characteristics obtained by double-membrane condenser microphones are explained.
All related and relevant microphone specifications are explained: Sensitivity, self-noise, signal to noise ratio, max level, dynamic range, distortion, powering systems for microphones, etc.
Basic microphone array technology related to the application is explained and demonstrated: MS configurations, A- and B-format recording (Ambisonics/Sound Field). Directional characteristics are calculated by the individual microphone types applied for the array.
Practical advice regarding the selection of microphones for various applications is given throughout the lectures. Timbral differences are trained by exercises and demonstrations. Limitations and consequences are explained and demonstrated.

AE302 - Audio Metering

The course starts with some background on level measurement concepts, and an in-depth look at all types of level metering and the different scales and ballistics available.
The various standards and recommendations used in the industry are explained in depth, with a focus on how they can help you get optimal and consistent audio levels in your recordings for different applications (cinema, broadcast, music etc.)
You learn everything about oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers and vectorscopes. You’ll also get a deep understanding of advanced displays, such as the 2D and 3D spectrogram available in iZotope RX.
You’ll learn also how an electroacoustic chain can be analyzed in terms of alignment of analog and digital signals clarifying concepts about headroom, loudness, SPL, mic sensitivity, ADC and DAC, digital levels, amplification, loudspeaker’s sensitivity.

AE303 - Fundamentals in Audio Engineering

In this course, the fundamentals of audio technology will be reviewed in a very concise manner so that the student can refresh her/his theoretical toolbox to better understand all the specialised topics involved in audio design.
The following topics will be covered:

– The physical sound (elementary physics, materials, waves, boundaries, mechanical-electrical models)
– Oscillations (simple and complex harmonic oscillators)
– Acoustics (acoustic systems, intensity, propagation effects, oscillations)
– Psychoacoustics (sound perception and cognition, auditory scene analysis, auditory memory, listening strategies, physiological responses to sound, relations between sound, language and knowledge)
– Digital Signals (signals and systems in the time and frequency domains, Fourier and Wavelet approaches , multiresolution analysis)

The discussion will be kept to a qualitative level as much as possible in order to make the course accessible also to those without an engineering background. We will assume only a basic knowledge of high school mathematics and physics, although a basic understanding of the fundamentals of linear algebra and signal theory would be an advantage.

AE304 - Spectral Processing of Audio Signals

iZotope RX, now in version 9, has been a leading player in the field of denoising for years. The course allows you to use the Audio Editor and its specific modules to analyze and solve technical problems such as dropouts, clicks, hum, general background noise, bleeding, clipping, wow and flutter et cetera. However, this software can also be used for many other purposes such as conforming the level to a predefined loudness, applying format conversions and batch processing, for example for time stretching. But it is also possible to use it as a creative tool by “drawing” the spectrum over time. The teacher, a leading author in the field, will provide numerous examples drawn from the restoration of cinematographic and musical audio material.

Core courses – Music

MUS310 - Principles of Music Design

Nuendo is the main competitor to Pro Tools and is widely used by sound designers and musicians around the world. Similarly, Kontakt is a popular system for using samples.Zebra2 is an extremely valid synthesizer for the creation of textures and soundscapes, not surprisingly also used by the likes of Hans Zimmer. All these software tools will be presented in detail along with their use for sound designing.

AE330 - Orchestral Recording and Mixing

The course covers the basic and advanced recording techniques necessary to address the needs of acoustic single instruments and ensembles, from both a stereo and a multichannel / immersive perspective. Significative attention will be also given to some examples of the past recorded repertoire, trying to analyse approach used, artistic goals and effective techniques employed. Mixing strategies will then be discussed, with a keen eye on the inherent emotional quality and function. The theory classes and examples will be complemented with practical experience in studio and concert halls.

AE370 - Psychology of sound

To avoid sound design in visuals being limited to technical virtuosity or… pyrotechnics, or the simple exercise of traditional professions mainly technical in nature (which is laudatory but does not entitle to carry the title of Sound Designer) a change of perspective is needed, giving style and authorship to their work, looking for a significant impact on the work and especially on the end user.
It is therefore necessary to apply the psychology of perception, taking into account narrative needs, interactions between sight and hearing and the emotional path on which we intend to guide the viewer. You will also learn to use subliminal elements to enhance the message conveyed by the story, whether it be film, advertising or whatever.
Of course, a good part of this course is also valid for applications limited to audio only.

AE360 - Digital Sound Tools

The sound design tools that can be used within a DAW are endless. We will focus on the most significant ones such as the latest releases of Krotos Sound or Sound Particles, an immersive audio software capable of generating thousands of sounds in a virtual 3D audio world, without forgetting the more classic plugins for equalization, dynamic treatment and reverb. CESMA’s partnerships with the most important plugin producers such as Acustica Audio and several other software houses will allow you to experience first-hand the opportunities provided by these powerful software tools.

EE350 - Audio Coding and Standards [Elective]

The need for significant reduction in data rate for wide-band digital audio signal transmission and storage has led to the development of psychoacoustics-based data compression techniques. In this approach, the limitations of human hearing are exploited to remove inaudible components of audio signals. The degree of bit rate reduction achievable without sacrificing perceived quality using these methods greatly exceeds that possible using lossless techniques alone. Perceptual audio coders are currently used in many applications including Digital Radio and Television, Digital Sound on Film, Multimedia/Internet Audio, Mobile Devices, etc.
This class integrates digital signal processing, psychoacoustics, rate/distortion optimization, and programming to provide the basis for understanding and building perceptual audio coding systems. We review the basic principles underlying all the core components of a perceptual audio codec and study the design choices applied in state-of-the-art audio coding schemes, e.g. AC-3 (aka Dolby Digital), Enhanced AC-3, AC-4; MPEG Layers I, II, and III (MP3); MPEG AAC; MPEG-H. In-class demonstrations will allow students to hear the quality of state-of-the-art implementations at varying data rates and, as a final project, you will be programming your own simple perceptual audio coder.

AE380 - Audio Restoration

The module covers the basic approach to digital audio restoration, focusing on an archival perspective: In accordance to current archival standards and recommendations, such as e.g. IASA TC03 and TC04, the crucial steps to realize a high quality digital preservation copy are outlined and practically demonstrated. Starting with a critical assessment of the source material and its composition and artefacts, the implication of different signal processing procedures is outlined, from optimized signal extraction and measures in the analogue domain, such as carrier cleaning, physical restoration and preparation, to the necessary machinery, its alignment and the choice of relevant parameters, and finally the necessary restoration steps in the digital domain. A wide knowledge about the original source and its production process, storage conditions and the re-recording influences is essential to properly decide if and how artefacts should be restored in a historically and ethically accurate way. Finally ethical and aesthetical questions are discussed, as well as the various stages between restoration, re-issue, re-mastering and reinterpretation.
As far as cinema is concerned, the discographic, optical and magnetic supports will be analysed, as well as the analog and digital technologies that have followed one another in a century of history, and the most common problems in the restoration of this type of material and the issues raised by reeditions, that is, the enhancement of the work by freeing it from some of the limitations linked to the era in which it was produced.

Core courses – Visuals

AE340 - Field Recording 1

In this module we will deal extensively with the role of the sound engineer and the boom operator in set inspection and during the recording of dialogue on a film set, the interaction with other departments, the use of the recorder, the boom and wireless systems, the distribution of the audio signal to headphones, the timecode management, how to fill continuity sheets, the relationship with the post-production.

AE341 - Field recording 2

In this course you will learn how to place lavalier mics on actors and how to manage the boom, also moving accordingly to the needs of photography. In Rome you will have the chance to play the role of sound engineer and microphonist accompanied by the best professionals in the field who have been working for a long time with the most important Italian directors. All recorded material will be analyzed and selected in the mixing room during the live sessions of Sound Editing and Re-recording mixing courses.

AE342 - Pro Tools Fundamentals [Elective]

Avid Pro Tools is used by almost every sound engineer working in film and broadcast areas and can not be unknown at least in its main features. The mixer modules, the configuration of inputs, outputs and buses and the main editing operations will be analyzed in depth, as well as a quick overview of commands and preferences. Finally we will see how to import and export projects from and to other systems on the market.

AE343 - Sound Editing

In this module you will learn how the direct sound editor works with Avid Pro Tools and other software in order to to evaluate the application of denoisers such as iZotope RX, create acting and background continuity (ambient sound), help deciding if and what has to be to dubbed, fix audiovisual synchronism, and set audio clips so that they can e efficient mixed. Using real-world examples, excerpted from real movies, you will understand how the direct sound editor can highly improve the viewer’s enjoyment of dialogue in moving pictures.

AE344 - Foley

Effects editors can access libraries of thousands of sound effects and use computer software to create and modify their own. Nevertheless they still struggle to create certain sounds particularly those that must perfectly match the action onscreen. That is the domain of foley artists. In this course you will learn how a foley artist dreams up creative ways to use anything that can be transported into a recording studio to create the sounds we hear in movies and other media.
You will learn how to use the body and the strangest tools to generate sounds related to the performance of the characters (props, clothes, human and animal steps on different grounds…) with established techniques of traditional Foley.

AE345 - Special Effects and Backgrounds

In this module you will learn how to use private or public sound libraries or to record by yourself sound effects and backgrounds, with different microphone techniques, layering them in order to build the best suited sound for every scene, from a simple stereo up to the Atmos format, making choices coherent to the style chosen by the Director.

AE346 - Music Editing

The aim of this course is to make the student understand the main criteria for choosing, inserting and adapting music to the narrative needs of a film, also working with stems.
During the week in Rome you will have the opportunity to visit Digital Records, the main Italian studio dedicated to film music, and you will be able to understand and use its magnificent Neve console.
Being a smart professional in this industry requires deep and long-standing music skills, however in this course you’ll learn the basics and how to take it a step further if you’re interested in becoming a true music editor.

AE347 - Re-recording Mixing for Cinema and TV

In this course, we will start with the characteristics of the final listening system, cinema, home and personal, and the audio formats, from stereo to 5.1 up to to Dolby Atmos and Dolby Atmos Home Theater.
During the Summer workshop in Rome we will build from scratch a template for mixing movies with Pro Tools Ultimate and the Avid S6 Console in Cinecittà and/or Sefit CDC Group. Using real-world examples of scenes from the film we will address the problem of equalisation of dialogues, the integration of dubbing and sound effects, the topic of space characterization, the acoustics of venues and the use of modern multichannel reverb effects. Both diegetic elements and commentary music will be addressed and a special technique to come to the best compromise between effectiveness and harmonious integration with the dialogues and other sound elements will be described in depth.

Core courses – Games and VR

CS301 - Advanced Computational Tools for Audio Manipulation

The use of programming languages is increasingly required especially for those who deal with sound for videogames. An introduction to Python, with applications for example to FFMPEG, will be extremely useful to understand the importance of this skill and to face with more confidence all the other topics in this area.

AE398 - Legacy Game Sound Generation Techniques [Elective]

This module aims to explain how the sound for video games has evolved over time in order to better appreciate the possibilities of today but also to be able to draw on the past to connote stylistically certain new products. We will talk about ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amiga and other celebrities of the eighties.

AE390 - Audio for Games, Virtual and Augmented Reality

This is a hyper-condensed course created specifically to allow students to develop all the skills that are necessary to become proficient Sound Designers and Dialogue Designers for video games. With regular hands-on experience and world class mentorship, students will be able to master cutting edge techniques and tools that are nowadays regularly used on most major Triple-A game titles. With that knowledge, students will be ready to apply for sound design jobs at established companies right after the completion of the program. The curriculum will cover all aspects of the Game Audio Design pipeline, from assets creation to in-game integration using Audio Middlewares.

Master’s Project

AE490 - Personal Project

As a MAD student in your final quarter you can explore an area of personal interest by developing a specific project under the guidance under the tuition of a chosen MAD professor. This provides the opportunity to consolidate your learning and develop important skills you’ll need in both further education and life beyond the classroom. It also helps you develop confidence to become principled, lifelong learners and can have an immediate impact at work in your chosen area

More about MAD

Requirement, process, expenses

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CESMA organizes events and meetings throughout the year, both online and offline, where you can interact with directors, faculty, alumni, and staff. You can also drop us a line by email or give us a ring by phone!

Tel. +41 (0) 91 600 19 73