Emotional involvement is the key to successful sound design. And this connection makes a customer spend more time with your product.

My current position is the Director of Audio for Lionel Model Trains. I'm responsible for interactive sound design from conception to implementation to completion. I create the finished sound effects for real-time playback emanating from operating locomotives. Each model plays sound from a self-contained, embedded audio system via a built-in loudspeaker as it moves across a model train layout. The locomotives can be controlled from dedicated remotes, via Bluetooh Low-Energy or WiFi.

This is a cross-functional role, requiring extensive interaction with different groups within the company. In this role, I…

  • Approve loudspeakers, enclosures and acoustical mounting designs with our China Manufacturing team.
  • Direct programmers, specified data-compression and sound-playback algorithms and validated their proper function.
  • Contribute to an API design that enables sound, rather than limits it.
  • Work with hardware circuit designers, collaborating on digital-to-analog conversion, amplifier selection, gain structure and on-board audio filter specs.
  • Cast voice actors, write scripts and direct talent, dialog recording and editing.
  • Built a large in-house sound effects library of authentic locomotive sounds and other effects.
  • Created finished sound sets for hundreds of Lionel products.

Interactive Toy Sound Design

This steam locomotive model is an example of my work for Lionel Model Trains. The sound in this video is live, in-camera audio as heard from the model during operation. The customer has complete control over the foreground sounds and motion of the model. Thanks to Forrest Jerome for his video footage.

Interaction Sound Samples


These original interaction sounds blend synthesis and recordings of various objects.

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Alert Sound - Play With Me

Below is a user informational sound I created for a Lionel Bluetooth-controlled locomotive product line. The first generation product made an annoying 1kHz beep until paired with its remote (not my idea!).

During a visit to Engineering, the company president complained the beep was about as much fun as a heart-rate monitor. I agreed. The sound should be an invitation to play! So, I went into my office and came out an hour later with "Play With Me." It's been shipped in thousands of products since.
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This sound is an invitation that repeats until the user accepts. So, it's important that the tiny melody does not "finish." My three-note phrase ends, unresolved, on the implied fifth degree of the scale. A most gentle nag!

Toy/Game Sounds


These three sounds are a small part of the sound set for a rolling cow-filled stock-car. This toy included a simple game feature I designed. It tracked how smoothly (or roughly) the cows were handled based on acceleration/deceleration. A game Start, Win and Lose sounds are sampled below. I did the guitar and voice for these.
Start
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Win!
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Lose!
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Voice Casting and Direction


This is a promotional sound trailer for a Zombie Apocalypse-themed train set. I cast Newell Alexander of L.A. Mad Dogs and I built the rest of this piece around his performance.Zombie Rescue Unit
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Field Recording


I've done a lot of field recording, both of urban and natural soundscapes. Two examples are below. The first is from an early summer morning in the Tahoe National Forest. The second is a composed piece Fort Point from the album The Dielectric Field Recording All Stars. Both examples are comprised entirely from my original recordings.
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Sample Instruments and More


I created a music box sample instrument for the Logic X ESX24 sample instrument. The clip below left is an excerpt from my song Flower Tower as performed by The Sippy Cups. The Apple bite sound (below right) was created in 2005 as an element for The Field Recording All Stars collaboration. It anticipates the ASMR craze for extreme close-up mouth noises, but a decade too soon.
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