Readers of our sister site Lifehacker are sharing the secrets of How They Work—detailing the gear, the software and whatever else gets them through their day. One of those readers helps make Call of Duty. This is how he works...
Location: Madison, WI
Current gig: Audio Director, Raven Software (Call of Duty series)
Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy Nexus (SCH-I515)
Current computer: 15" Mid-2010 Macbook Pro, a custom Windows 7 beast at work for console development. I live in two worlds daily.
One word that best describes how you work: Frantically
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
For audio work I use Steinberg's Nuendo, the Waves plugins, Altiverb and izotope RX2. A couple of years ago we bought Hauppauge HD PVR devices for everyone in Raven Audio so we can easily capture video from our devkits to import into our audio tools. It dramatically speeds up our work. I use other things too, but those are the critical tools in my belt.
For the more general office/work stuff, I'm fairly spartan. Notepad/TextEdit for copying/pasting code snippets and keeping running notes on work. Python for writing little tools on the fly (Python + sox is an incredible combination for audio work). I use Winamp 2.91 on Windows (don't like the newer versions) and Vox on Mac for audio file previewing. UltraEdit on Windows, TextWrangler and Xcode on Mac. Everything search engine so I have a Spotlight equivalent on Windows.
At home, we keep tons of stuff in Evernote and have it synced with all of our phones. We keep recipes, grocery lists, important documents, and we have everything instantly accessible. Putting an iMac in the kitchen was the best move ever, because it allows anyone in the house to update the grocery list, for example, and everyone has it in their pockets when they next hit the store. And I can listen to Spotify while cooking.
What's your workspace like?
Right now it's chaos, as we're in the final weeks of finishing a game.
Generally it's very organized, a place for everything and everything in its place. The cleanliness of my office is directly proportional to my workload. I have three monitors, devkits for all platforms on which we work, all my audio hardware, a fridge for beer and snacks, a pile of games and films for reference. I sit in a Herman Miller Aeron, and I have a couch for visitors and naps during very long days. I also have a CRT TV and the NES I received from my parents for Christmas in 1985, so I can play games while waiting for compiles.
What's your best time-saving trick?
Shut off the internet. SHUT IT OFF FOR THE WHOLE WORLD.
Seriously, when I need to GSD, I turn off Outlook, close the web browser, unplug the phone and just focus on the task at hand. Just having those programs open is a distraction. I usually send an email out saying I'm "going dark" for a while, and people need to visit me in person if they have an issue. I also don't have my phone connected to work in any way. When I'm outside of work, people can call if it's critical. This gives me much more time with family and to myself.
What's your favorite to-do list manager?
Email. I'm very aggressive about having zero unread email. So if something is sitting there unread, it will drive me crazy until I squash it. I often email myself tasks and leave them unread so I'm forced to address them.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
Sony PCM-M10, a phone-sized audio recorder that sounds amazing. David Farmer (Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit) turned me on to it by telling me how many sounds in those films were captured with it. Anywhere I am, if I hear something interesting, I can capture it.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
I make the best Mexican food in Wisconsin. I moved here four years ago, but I've spent most of my life in Texas and California. The Mexican food here is terrible, but I can't give it up, so I learned how to cook it myself.
What are you currently reading?
I used to be awful about finishing things, so I have a rule: I can only be reading one book or playing one video game at a time. Right now it's a video game, Shin Megami Tensei IV for the 3DS. The last book I finished was The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Once I finish this game I'll probably dig into another book, not sure what though. How Children Succeed by Paul Tough and The Launch Pad by Randall Stross are both in my to-read pile.
What do you listen to while you work?
A bit of everything. Anytime I'm not actively listening to the game or sounds I'm making, I have music on. If I'm just working in general, anything goes. If I'm coding, I go for instrumental stuff.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Definitely an introvert. I do some public speaking and I interact with a lot of people every day, but I need quiet time to recharge or I get very cranky.
What's your sleep routine like?
Asleep by 1, up at 8 or 9. We have a little one so he's often disturbing us in the middle of the night. Looking forward to the end of that.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Kurt Vonnegut, Ben Burtt, Tim Schafer
What's the best advice you've ever received?
"Get the f#!k out of bed." Martin Atkins said it. It's his motto, and I read it as shorthand for a bigger idea: if you want to get anything done in life, you have to just do it. You'll never "feel like it." You'll never be totally motivated. You'll never have all the variables in the right place. You'll never have enough energy or time or money. So get off your ass and get started. This applies to life in general, projects, anything. Stop talking/thinking/hoping/planning and DO.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
If you want to learn a new skill, find or create a related problem to solve, and learn what you need to solve that problem. Then come up with another related problem and solve it. Having a tangible problem gives you a goal beyond just "I want to learn thing X," and with a defined finish line, the goal feels more achievable. You also have more practical experience with the topic because you haven't just been reading about it, you've been applying it.