Game Audio Spotlight – The Last of Us

The last of us 11 298x300 Game Audio Spotlight   The Last of Us

Every day, gaming culture expands more and more into the mainstream markets. For a long time video games were considered children’s toys, or hobbies for geeks. While some of that may ring true, we have an entire generation of people who have grown up being raised by the controller. While controversial in some areas, video games can improve critical thinking, as well and hand-eye coordination. As the technology of the video game and computer realms is constantly improving, where drawing the line between reality and a game is blurring, more and more people are converting to being “gamers”.

The Last of Us review screens 16 300x168 Game Audio Spotlight   The Last of Us

One of the biggest selling points of a game, aside from pleasing graphical delivery and solid gameplay, is the sound. Especially when we are evolving into a realm where video games make entire worlds, with their own unique cultures, events and timelines, great sound design is a must to provide a truly immersive and unique experience. So that means someone has to make and record the audio, right? The game industry is booming, and proof of that happened in this last week – PS3 exclusive game The Last Of Us outperformed the newest Superman movie Man of Steel in overall sales on opening weekend. A UK-based source MCV claims that The Last Of US grossed nearly $20 million on it’s first two days out, while Man of Steel brought in closer to $5 million. Worldwide charts aren’t so black and white, with Man of Steel reportedly bringing in $121 million in its opening week, while The Last Of Us sold 1.3 million copies worldwide. With an average PS3 game costing around $60, that brings total sales for the first week of the game to over $78 million, which is no paltry offering.

Granted, these are just numbers, and obviously a $60 game can more quickly bring in revenue than a $10 movie ticket, but we can clearly see a demand for high quality gaming. More and more people are getting into gaming, and having a high quality sound track, as well as a well polished game, will convince many non-gamers that dropping $60 on a game for a lot of replayability is actually quite reasonable.

 

The Last Of Us is quite a standout game. Cashing in on the ever growing popularity of zombies and survival horror, a la The Walking Dead, this game puts you in the near distant future, where a fungal infection has terrorized society. Based on the Cordyceps genus of parasitic mushroom that take over the host’s body that they infect, this game is certainly terrifying in many aspects. Lack of ammunition, no safe places, and a constant two sided battle between the infected and the police force trying to eradicate the plague all present a tough but enthralling experience.

 Game Audio Spotlight   The Last of Us

The game boasts beautiful graphics, and has received numerous high ratings from every game reviewer. This is based on the gameplay, the story line, the graphics, and certainly not the least important – the audio. Since this game is a very cinematic piece, with a ton of character acting, where they recorded every detail with a motion capture setup, they needed to have a great score, sound effects and voiceovers. There really isn’t a whole lot different in the production workflow of a game like this in comparison to how movies are made – lots of green screens, motion capture, ADR [Actor Dialogue Replacement], the works. And to make a game believable, you have to make sure that it sounds believable.

The sound team for The Last Of Us is headed up by Phil Kovats, who has had many accolades doing sound design for other works such as Uncharted 2 and God of War. In this article, Kyle Lemmon of KillScreenDaily.com speaks with Phil about what it took to make this game incredible from the sound design aspect of it. He goes into great depth on how they did a ton of field recording to get true to life foley sounds, covers how important it is to have a balance between silence and intensity in the audio production, and outlines how modern technology has afforded them a lot of creativity in this modern work.

I also found a great video on what it looks like behind the board of an ADR session. We can see Pro Tools running, with two voice actors in the studio. They are also using an Avid C|24 control surface, which the Conservatory has two of, and provides in depth usage and testing of throughout its curriculum. Just like movie post production, foley and ADR work, the artists have a screen and are watching the game as it progresses and they record their lines that way. By separating the motion capture recording from the voice over recording, you can get much more powerful performances in both of those areas.

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Game Audio Spotlight: Bethesda’s New “The Evil Within”

Scheduled to be released in 2014 for PC, as well as current and next-gen consoles, Bethesda’s new game “The Evil Within” looks like one of the most frightening games ever to be released. While there currently isn’t a whole lot of information available, the game will be produced by Shinji Mikami, who has done work in the Resident Evil line of games in the past.

My team and I are committed to creating an exciting new franchise, providing fans the perfect blend of horror and action. – Shinji Mikami

Bethesda’s recent history includes critically acclaimed Skyrim, as well as the futurific Dishonored. We should have more information next week on the details of this new game, however they have released a two minute trailer to spark some interest. What I found particularly interesting about this new trailer, aside from the raw terror that it produces with the visuals, is how well the sound was designed. You’ll want to slap on a good pair of headphones, or have a nice set of speakers to truly enjoy it atmosphere they created. Rumbling bass that fills but doesn’t take over the mood, as well as excellent use of panning and disintegrating delays make this a very exciting listen, and hopefully the game will stay true to this introductory design.

You can check out the trailer here:

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Mazda 787B Game Audio Recording

Mazda787B 300x174 Mazda 787B Game Audio Recording

1991 saw Mazda’s win at the 24 Hours of LeMans using their 787B group C racing car. This is one of the DLC cars available in the XBox 360 game Forza 4, which is arguably one of the best racing video games in existence currently. One thing that makes the Forza series stand apart from other racing games is the developer’s attention to detail. Every track was recreated by using GPS measurements and going on and actually walking the track. Every car has upgrade options, and stay true to the real-life versions of their respected cars.

1991 Mazda 55 787b 1 WM 300x168 Mazda 787B Game Audio Recording

What is even more incredible is the audio. This is a game that I can play without any music, and just listen to the engines roar. The Turn 10 team responsible for typically records engine sounds at Dyno Authority in Seattle, but for this particular car they needed to go on a field trip. With 700 horsepower and no mufflers, this could be one of the loudest cars produced.

Special care was taken into consideration when recording the audio for this car. Even while using high SPL handling mics, they had to add sometimes multiple PADs, or pre-attenuation devices, to ensure a good recording quality without distorting or overloading the signal chain. Watch this behind the scene footage and see how they did it all!

 

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What is MIDI?

So what exactly is MIDI? Is it an instrument? Are there different versions of it? Can it fit in a breadbox?!

Midi ports and cable 300x205 What is MIDI?

To start off with, MIDI is an acronym that stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. The term MIDI actually refers to a digital transfer protocol, and is set up using specific cables, connectors and interfaces that allow musical ideas to be transferred to various MIDI capable instruments. In short, MIDI is just a digital language used to command digital instruments or devices. MIDI itself is not audio, but it is the instructions that instruments can read to generate audio from.

MIDIProduction 300x225 What is MIDI?

Created in 1983, MIDI originated as a way for an individual musician to be able to program musical parts and accompaniment and make it sound like an entire band. In the same way a music composer can write sheet music, which can then be read and played by an orchestra, MIDI acts as sheet music for digital devices. It can be used to program a variety of parameters, from note value to volume, panning to velocity and more.

MIDI was the beginning of DAW music production. With MIDI, artists no longer needed to have a full band to get a full band sound. Using step-writing or real-time recording, musicians can program entire songs with just one keyboard. Of course, the beginning of MIDI had a characteristic, very digital sound, and would not fool anyone into thinking real instruments played a MIDI tune. Many 80s and early 90s video game soundtracks were primarily written and played using MIDI. However, the flexibility that MIDI offers goes much beyond what it was originally written for.

There is only one version of the MIDI protocol – MIDI 1.0. This is also ties into the idea of General MIDI, which is a standard specification for how patches are laid out and programmed. But, since MIDI is only a protocol, or a series of instructions, it can still be incorporated with modern and evolving technologies. It can be used to trigger light shows, plug into DAWs like Logic or Komplete, or even control robots!

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How Big Is Game Audio Anyway?

 How Big Is Game Audio Anyway?

Sound for video games is an often overlooked aspect of the audio engineering world. With the first video games, there wasn’t a whole lot of sound involved. Maybe a beep here, a squeak there to support what was happening on the screen, but it wasn’t a whole lot more than a last minute add-on. Eventually games started incorporating more audio, and I would bet that almost any gamer can recall the 8 bit Super Mario Bros theme song by heart.

 How Big Is Game Audio Anyway?

Today’s video games are stretching for the most immersive experience possible. Having orchestral scores is not out of the norm anymore, and in many cases it is required for modern gamers to really appreciate the work put into the game. Take Halo 4, for example. The soundtrack for Halo 4 was released in November 2012, and quickly landed at #50 on the Billboard 200 charts. And that is just for the soundtrack to the game, not even the game itself! Composer/writer/producer Neil Davidge is credited with creating one of the most groundbreaking soundtracks, with his history involving works on various motion picture soundtracks and co-writing/producing for Massive Attack. When he started work on the Halo project, he thought it would be very similar to scoring a movie. However ”pretty soon I discovered the similarities were few,” he later told Rolling Stone, since music for the game had to dynamically change its length and composition depending on player actions.

 How Big Is Game Audio Anyway?

The recording of this soundtrack involved a 16 person male choir, 10 female Bulgarian vocalists, a full 50-piece orchestra and many others. They did the majority of the work for the recording at Abbey Road Studios and Angel Studios, both in London.

 How Big Is Game Audio Anyway?

And the soundtrack is only part of what is involved in making game audio. Aside from that, there is the sound design, sound effects, player sounds, environmental sounds, and much more.

Check out this article to go more in-depth in to the audio for gaming world!

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Do Bit or Sample Rate Reductions Affect Loudness Measurements?

SampleRateLoudness Do Bit or Sample Rate Reductions Affect Loudness Measurements?

In the digital audio world, bit depth and sample rate are the primary factors involving sound quality. Bit depth directly correlates to how many “levels” of volume can exist in a recorded audio file. The greater the bit depth, the more variety in volume levels. For example, if we theoretically had two bits for our bit depth, we could think of volume values as “quiet” and “loud”. If we had four bits, we could think of it as “quietest, quiet, loud, loudest”, so on and so forth. When we record at a greater bit depth, we can reproduce volumes in a more realistic way.

SampleRate Do Bit or Sample Rate Reductions Affect Loudness Measurements?

Sample rate relates to audio frequency. The higher the sample rate, the higher the audio frequency we can record. There is some math involved in this, and the primary theory is known as the Nyquist theory, which determines the highest possible audio frequency that can be recorded at a certain sample rate. CD quality recording uses a sample rate of 44.1kHz, or 44,100 “slices” of audio per second. Using the Nyquist theorem, we find that the highest audio frequency that can be recorded at this level is 22,050Hz, or just above 22kHz. The human ear is capable of hearing from 20Hz to 20kHz, and this is why CD sample rate was set to be able to record just higher than what we can hear.

 Do Bit or Sample Rate Reductions Affect Loudness Measurements?

This may lead many people to wonder if recording at a different sample rate or bit depth can affect the overall loudness of a recording. Shaun Farley from Designing Sound put this question to the test and came up with an answer. It seems that sample rate and bit depth do not directly affect loudness, however it is possible that it can affect perceived volume as lower sample rates and bit depths can induce more noise in a recording.

Check out his entire write up with audio examples here.

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Interview with Capcom Audio Director Tomoya Kishi

DragonsDogma Interview with Capcom Audio Director Tomoya Kishi

Friday is game audio day at the Conservatory. The video game industry is a huge market, with around 70% of US households owning at least one video game device or system. The ESRB has reported annual sales of over $10 billion, just from video games alone! And just like movies, video games need to have great audio. Audio is one of those things than can really make or break a game – whether it is the punch and power of the weapons in Call Of Duty; or the curious but whimsical lack of vocal tracks, but a heavy influence of music and sound effects in the Lego video game series.

 Interview with Capcom Audio Director Tomoya Kishi

 

 

Tomoya Kishi originally joined Capcom in 2001, beginning his career as an audio editor for the Onimusha series. Throughout his stay he has worked on other games like Lost Planet, Shadow of Rome, Devil May Cry 4 and his most recent project Dragon’s Dogma. To show the scope of how many people it takes to produce the full audio for a video game, Tomoya managed 60 members from various fields, including sound design, composition, engineering, programming and audio production.

DragonsDogmaTigerRecording Interview with Capcom Audio Director Tomoya Kishi

Using Pro Tools, field recording, and foley sessions in the Hollywood Studios, Tomoya describes his workflow and his experience in the industry in his full interview you can read here.

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Game Sound: Wwise Project Adventure

wwise Game Sound: Wwise Project Adventure

The Wwise Project Adventure – A Handbook for Creating Interactive Audio Using Wwise is a guide to creating a complete project based on a fictitious game. The handbook frames many of the challenges generally faced in game audio and shows different ways to solve the problems through the Wwise authoring application. I also think it attempts to consolidate several different resources that Audiokinetic has made available over the years and bundle them into a comprehensive manual for people who are exploring the possibilities of game audio through Wwise. READ MORE

 

 

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Getting a Job in Game Audio

game audio Getting a Job in Game Audio

CRAS grad and Volition Sound Designer Ariel Gross has posted a blog on AltDevBlogADay on the process of getting hired for a game audio position. READ MORE

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Creating The Sound for LA Noire

LANoire Creating The Sound for LA Noire

Kpow, the folks behind the audio design of 2011 hit LA Noire, have published an insightful analysis of the audio systems created in FMOD Designer and used in the game, illustrated by picture maps. The post also discusses how the team pursued the 1940?s aesthetic, and the care and attention used to construct the in-game  reverb definitions.  READ MORE

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