As I’ve very strongly implied in Five Enlightening Videogame Sound Design Videos, and Five More Enlightening Videos on Videogame Music and Sound Design, not only is the audio in this industry wildly varied, so is the way it’s implemented. But if you’re still not convinced, or are as hungry for industry info as me, here are five more videos and one interview with an award-winning indie audio team.
Oh, and about retail sound banks… They might as well not exist. The audio artists shown in the videos below prefer capturing and creating their own aural delights over dragging and dropping the same shlop used by first quarter animation students. Students, you have been warned.
One of my favorite pieces of audio-related advice comes from Randy Thom. In the article “Designing a Movie for Sound,” on FilmSound.org, the Academy Award winning sound designer and mixer wrote “The biggest myth about composing and designing is that they are about creating great sounds. Not true, or at least not true enough.” The article’s one of the most useful pieces a budding post production professional can read – filled with dozens of quotes like the one above and this one: “…sound began to shape the picture sometimes as much as the picture shaped the sound.”
When Randy Thom talks, you need to listen. In the video above, the legend explains his involvement with the Scarface videogame, the main difference between videogame sound and movie sound, and what the former can learn from the latter. Here’s a quote from his response to the last topic:
“…the point of view of the characters, which has been explored very thoroughly in movies, I think is gonna be explored maybe even further in videogames.”
Starbreeze designs crisp and meaty audio for the Riddick series. For a reference point, think Rocky fight scenes in a Star Wars cantina near closing time. Here, audio director Carl Vikman and company discuss and display how they designed the audio for Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena . Pay attention near the end to see how boosting the sound quality in the original Riddick improves immersion.
Battlefield: Bad Company didn’t revolutionize audio for military shooters, but developer DICE did raise their personal bar of quality. In this video, the in-house sound guys and gal are shown doing the “fire real weapons to get ‘real’ sounds” bit. Sure, it’s typical, but I like their reasoning: “Making audio for Bad Company began with a single question: ‘What can we do better this time around compared to our previous Battlefield games?’ For the sound designers here at DICE, the answer was simple: “Get out more.”
Okay, if the military shooter’s your type of thing and you really want to work on one, here’s a video from Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising. Just like the Bad Company video, the developers at Codemasters went running and crawling around some countryside firing guns, tanks, and who knows what else, all to capture a few realistic sounds. Like I said earlier, it’s typical stuff but the team here explains the process more thoroughly than most.
Now, for something different.
Calling Shatter “Breakout for a new generation” is too shallow and overly simple. The PSN title’s so much more than just a cheap rehash of a retro title. Thanks to composer Jeremiah Ross, a.k.a. Module and his “musical paintings” perspective, the title’s another videogame gateway to synesthesia, and probably one of the best. Oh, and apparently critics like it too. The title currently has a metascore of 86.
If you want something more text-based, here are a few quotes from an interview with Rich Carlson, co-founder of indie development group Digital Eel. Along with his colleagues at Eel, the team won three excellence in audio awards in the last six years at the Independent Games Festival.
” Sound and music are integral and integrated with design from the first moment we have something happening on the screen. We feel it must be, and not just sfx but music, especially music which so often sounds like something….like dressing, something painted on, like makeup or apartment paint to help cover up the picture holes on the walls.”
” When we make a game, music and sound are in right away. From the first couple of hours, the basic prototype is on the screen, so they began to shape the sonic style of the game immediately.
Because sound and music are growing up at the same time as the art and programming is, all these elements influence each other pretty equally, so you don’t get music and sound that sound “separate” or tacked-on. You get sound you can’t turn off, and you don’t want to, because it’s actually part of the game.
Sounds can also influence and inspire and change things. You might be after a certain sound effect, but then you stumble across something else that’s much cooler, so the animation of a visual effect is changed to match the sound.”
And for you audio geeks, Carlson explains how the sound design was assembled:
” Basically what you’re hearing is a series of loops. Most of them are 16-second loops.
I knew right away that “music” with beats wasn’t the way to go. The music had to create a soundscape, something that supports a mindscape, really — pun intended — rather than making you want to tap your foot. It had to smoothly transition just as the “art” on the pipe wall and the speed of traveling through the pipe smoothly transition in the game.
I also knew that the music had to have a kind of primal power and evoke a sense of mystery about what is supposed to be going on and what is being revealed. Bill was very much into this too.
At the same time, we wanted it to reflect the random thoughts floating through and bouncing around inside your brain. One of the best ways to accomplish this was to leave conventional music behind, which is what Bill and I ended up doing.
It was important that the loops be seamless. If you’re working with beats and grooves, that’s a very easy thing to do — it starts on one and ends on four. You simply loop that, attaching the end to the beginning and it sounds fine because, for the most part, that’s how a bass/drums/guitar combo plays.”