Master class in sound design with US partner CSULB

As part of the DAAD-ISAP project with California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), annual film workshops have been held in Hamburg with faculty from Long Beach since 2014. In summer semester 2023, the teaching collaboration was expanded and for the first time there was also a master class in Sound Design with Professor Ben Huff at HAW Hamburg.

Ben Huff had collaborated with Thomas Görne, sound design professor at HAW Hamburg, during Professor Görne’s visit to Long Beach in 2018. After a delay due to the pandemic, it was finally possible to have Ben on campus in Hamburg and to offer his particular expertise to HAW Hamburg students. ‘I wanted to hold this workshop for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to ensure that the strong collaboration between HAW Hamburg and CSULB continued and that I'd begin to be a part of that relationship.’

From 22 to 26 May 2023, Ben introduced Master's students in HAW Hamburg's Sound - Vision - Games degree course to the art of mixing sound for media in 5.1 surround format. This is the standard audio playback format heard in cinemas worldwide. The three-dimensional audio experience can also be used for other visual media and music. During the master class, students were introduced to both the technical standards and the creative practices in surround sound.

Having the opportunity to do a master class with Ben Huff was a great asset for me. With his many years in the industry, he was able to not only share technical knowledge, but also tell us about his experiences and how he got started in the field.

Luka Fehrmann

During the first two days, the students received an introduction to the history of theatrical sound as well as the specific technical specifications for film and television. Then it was on to the world of the 5.1 surround interface and the creative techniques of how it can be used. After the theory part, it was time for 'hands-on' application. Using audio files from a variety of different types of films, students were given the task of creatively mixing these audio tracks into 5.1 surround sound. The tracks consisted of dialogue, sound effects, music and ambient sounds, all of which needed to be aggregated to the appropriate channels to present the pieces as three-dimensional audio experiences. For this task, the students were able to take advantage of the special facilities in the sound lab at the Arts and Media Campus Finkenau. On the final day, the students presented their results and there was a lively exchange of ideas and critiques.

Workshop participant Luka Fehrmann was full of praise for the master class at the group photo meeting: 'Having the opportunity to do a Master Class with Ben Huff was a great asset for me. With his many years in the industry, he was able to not only share technical knowledge, but also tell us about his experiences and how he got started in the field. How do I get exciting projects? How much time should we allow for mixing a feature film? How relevant is Dolby Atmos really? Lots of questions, lots of answers. In addition to the theoretical input, we were shown a selection of short films by him and were able to use the stems (soundtracks) to apply what we had previously discussed. The work on the film mixes was accompanied by Ben, and on the last day the results were presented and discussed. I hope that there will be more master classes in this direction in the future. Maybe Ben will come back to our campus for another workshop.'

Another Master's student, Esther Wilka, describes how she experienced the week with Ben: 'For me, the thing I liked best about the workshop was, among other things, the great balance between theory and practice. We had two full practice days to try our hand at 5.1 mixing and to get feedback and input from Ben any time we needed it. Add to that, the sample movies from different genres with high-quality audio files that Ben brought with him, which allowed us to dive in right away with the practical part of the workshop.'

For Ben the week was also extremely rewarding and offered him the opportunity to introduce students to an audio format that they had not previously worked with. ‘I was very eager to work with students who focus on audio as their primary discipline. I found the students all very excited to jump into the task of mixing in surround. They were so incredibly professional and creative, and most challenged themselves to go above and beyond what I expected. It was a great pleasure spending the week with the Master's students, and my thanks go to Thomas for making it possible. I hope to regularly visit for future workshops and other collaborative efforts.’


DAAD-ISAP funding 2021–2025 for the strategic collaboration between CSULB and HAW Hamburg in Film and Media Technology.


Prof. Thomas Görne
Sound Design
Dept. Media Technology

Ingrid Weatherall
USA Strategy
International Office