Extra Credits: Video Game Music

Found a little video on video game music over at the escapist Extra Credits is a series of videos by James Portnow, Daniel Floyd and Allison Theus. Each week as they take a deeper look at games; how they are made, what they mean and how we can make them better. I suggest you check them all out they're all pretty interesting.

EDIT 24/01/12 Extra Credits has now moved over to The Penny Arcade

Extra Credits: Video Game Music

Whilst you're there also check out Zero Punctuation by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw possibly the funniest series of game critiques ever created.

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Tyre Textures

WARNING: This post starts off well and then ends on a bit of an Indiana Jones based tangent

Currently I'm working on a book which will be available next year called The Game Audio Tutorial. The book is going to be a guide to all things game audio and features some examples of car audio. For this I needed to create a selection of short loops to be played when the vehicle travels over different surface types.

Setup was pretty simple, I took the boom arm off a mic stand and mounted it between the wingmirror and window with an old towel zip-ties and duct tape.

Here's a couple of examples of what I recorded;

Recorded at 192k 24bit with a Rode NTG-3 and a Fostex FR-2

Recording this is relatively simple either get up to speed or start on top of a hill (best method) switch off engine and roll down trying to maintain a constant speed.

Couple of safety tips;

  1. Switching off the engine in most cars disables power steering and makes the brakes really heavy so make sure the area you are in has plenty of run off and is fairly straight.
  2. I imagine the police would take a dim view of you doing this if they caught you so either find a private road or a really really quiet one.
  3. Make sure the mic is strapped on properly I wouldn't fancy running it over or leaving it in the middle of the road for someone else to run over.

Quick Editing Tip;

The recording setup above and other D.I.Y. stuff I have done can produce results that won't loop properly as there can be slight modulations in the pitch or speed of the car.

To make them loop I have been using a quick little trick.

  1. Edit a section as normal trying to keep the loop as regular as possible and make it a little bit longer than necessary.
  2. Export selection to new file.
  3. Split the new file in to two separate waves around the midway point at a zero crossing.
  4. Take the second half and move it to the beginning of the loop then move the first half to the end of the loop.
  5. Now cross fade the two files.
  6. You now have a file which may modulate but will perfectly loop.

Couldn't really talk about this without mentioning one of the great uses of this; (3:50) The giant boulder that chases after Indiana Jones at the start of the film was made of fiberglass. On the Bonus Features DVD, sound designer Ben Burtt said that in order to get the proper sound effects for the giant boulder, he and the sound crew tried pushing boulders down a hill, but the sounds they were getting weren't up to par with what they were looking for, and later that day, as they were leaving in a Honda Civic that they coasted down a gravel embankment, Burtt noticed that the sound was just what they were looking for, so he grabbed a microphone and held it near one of the Civic's rear tires to record the effect.

I was looking for a video example of this and came across a two part sound design feature on the Indiana Jones films so here they are in their entirety;

Pigs are Awesome

Pigs are awesome. Not only do they provide three of the best foods (bacon, sausages and chops. Sorry veggies) and fit neatly into teacups they are also the basis for some of the best sound effects and creature sounds.

Pigs have been used in tons of films and games for creatures and sweeteners to other sound effects. There have been hundreds of uses of squeals, grunts and roars but in this post I'm only going to example two, Aliens and Backdraft. In Aliens (1986) pig squeals are used as a   large component of the Aliens vocals.

Check out their use in Aliens;

In Backdraft Gary Rydstrom used pigs and other animal vocals including snakes and lions to give the fire a character and to make it sound more aggressive. This wasn't the first (or the last) use of animals in effects like this but the film is a pretty good showcase of the technique.

Use In Backdraft 4:12 (I know its not a pig but Its the only decent example I could find on YouTube)

With this sort of use in mind and a spot on my Game Audio Tutorial To-Do List with "Creature Effects" listed I organized to go and record some pigs. After talking with the owner I found out that they are most vocal just before they are fed and hate being picked up. So we left them un fed for an hour later than usual and waded in with the recorder. I quickly found out that to get a decent recording of the piglets squealing I needed to get away from the sows when picking the piglets up, as they objected to this quite loudly, as any good mother would. This wasn't quite as easy as you'd think as the sows weigh about 600 pounds and will only move where they want to and the piglets (more small pig than piglet at this stage) weren't exactly light. Overall I managed to get some good recordings out of the trip some examples are bellow;

Recorded at 192k with a Rode NTG-3 and a Fostex FR-2

Thanks to Sheilah and Ruben Lord for helping out and letting me come record .

GAT Weapons

Here's a couple of weapons ive been working on for the Game Audio Tutorial Beretta 9mm Semi-Automatic Pistol

Winchester Pump Action Shotgun

Assault Rifle

Sniper Rifle

SCI-FI Weapon

Dino Design

Here's some Dino vox I've been working on recently a TRex and a Spinosaurus. These are two very different creatures so have to be individually recognisable  but both creatures have to be scary.  I collected together two groups of sounds unique to each animal and then used these to forge a voice for each creature.

Lion, Alligator & Elephant

Tiger, Cobra & Gecko

Waves & Trains

Whilst I was down in Brighton for develop I decided to go record some waves.

Here's a couple of examples of what I got, all recorded @ 24bit/96k NTG-3 into a Fostex FR-2

The first file is a mix of two perspectives; Perspective 1: Pointing towards the sea picking up large wave movements Perspective 2: Stood in the sea facing the shore picking up the wave breaking

I also wanted to try and record some waves on the breakwater in the marina so I walked down there from the hotel to find it closed because of the rough sea. However some nice fishermen with a huge dog let me in. I ended up getting very wet but also getting some very nice angry sea sounds.

As I was walking back one of these appeared round the corner. Perfect case and point of always being ready to record or I wouldn't have got this.

Bows and Arrows

Today I managed to get an hour of time with an ex-national archery champ Dave Carter to record a few bow and arrow sounds. I managed to get some good material of him loading arrows, arrow impacts and firing, but not of arrow pass by's. The arrows we were using were cutting too cleaner path through the air and were making almost no sound at all. Experimentation with broken arrows and arrows with things attached is needed in the future, when I can possibly have a bit more of his time.

In the meantime here is an example of some of the sounds I managed to get; Recorded @ 24bit/96k Rode NTG-3 into Fostex FR-2

Thanks to Dave for helping out.

Automatic Sound Synthesis from Fluid Simulation

Generative sound design music and dialogue was one of the topics discussed at this years Develop Conference here is an interesting article and video on generating bubble sfx. I would like to point out I am not involved with either of these institutions however I did find it very interesting.

I dont think i'm out of a job quite yet but the duck in the bath simulation is pretty close. One thing mabe to think about is if this very clinical way of generating "real" sound will replace over the top and unrealistic "designed" sound.

Refs; New Scientist 24th July 2010

Sounding Liquids: Automatic Sound Synthesis from Fluid Simulation


Primal Carnage Podcast

Primal Carnage has generated its first podcast listen to it now ! via OVERCLOCKED 2

Primal Carnage

Have you ever thought what would a game be like if instead of player vs. player it was player vs. dinosaur? If so, then indie developer Lukewarm Media has just the game for you, Primal Carnage. Primal Carnage puts you right in the middle of an all out war of man vs. dinosaur. Instead of bringing you 200 million years to the past and arming you with sticks and stone, the dinosaurs are brought to you via an experiment gone wrong. Now this is not your daddy’s FPS game either. While you duke it out against the dinosaurs be sure to remember there is a guy controlling that dino who wants to crush you just as badly. Wait. What did I just say? Yes, you can control the dinosaurs.

Primal Carnage is also sporting some of the best graphics around thanks to Uniengine and the sound is awesome as well. DX9, DX10, DX11? Whatever you can support Primal Carnage is for you. It will punish those of you who think you have great systems, but still be easy enough to run for those who haven’t upgraded in a while.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be top dinosaur or top dino-killer? Listen to the cast to find out and head on over to www.primalcarnage.com to sign up for their beta and find out.

Oh and did I mention there will be mods?

Even a little mention of the sound team, I would like to add that there is another talented (yet unsung in the podcast) sound designer working on Primal Carnage called David Yingling

Skip to 28:00 for the sound section of the interview

Kontakt Veg Patch

This patch contains 306 veggie abuse sounds from both my own library and Tim Prebble's excellent Hiss and Roar library. The sounds are grouped by vegetable and arranged on the keyboard by performance hits to the left, rips crunches centre and gloopy wet sounds to the right. All the groups of vegetables are velocity sensitive and have the pitch and ADSR mapped to external controls. This enables me to "perform" different sounds direct to picture and very quickly build up different hits or textures.

The sounds below were created very quickly, I just hit a few keys and exported the output, no editing of midi was done.

Editing Birds for Non-Repeating Ambiences

This week I went out to record some bird calls for a non-repeating game ambience. This proved to be slightly problematic for two reasons. 1. Birds rarely stay still and are generally found in tall trees. 2. Birds are fairly quiet compared to ambient noise.

Here is an example of what I managed to record at the woods.

Recorded at 96k/24bit with a Rode NTG-3 and a Fostex FR-2

As you can hear the bird call is masked by a lot of background noise and is quite quiet. To be used in a non-repeating ambience the call needs to be as clean as possible so that it can be randomly triggered without affecting the looping background.

So the next step was to EQ out the background road noise, I did this using auditions parametric EQ, using a high pass filter with a cut-off frequency of 333hz.

The call is allot clearer now but is really quiet so I normalized this sound to -0.1db

The process of normalizing the sound has brought up the noise floor considerably. So this needs to be removed from the call. I did this using the hiss removal process in audition. In some cases I had put the calls through the hiss removal process twice to completely remove the noise, although one pass did the trick 99% of the time.

Nice clear noise-free single bird calls ready to be put into a non-repeating ambience.

Hemotite Hard Drive

There have been a lot of interesting sound design / recording posts recently from a variety of different reording blogs. There were two I really wanted to try for myself Hematite Magnets a la Erik Aadal (the shares and stock in these must have risen considerably since Erik's post) and a Hard Drive. I won't explain much about these as these two sources will do a much better job;

Noise Jockey: Hard Drive Guts

Erik Aadal: Hematite Magnets

(Thanks for the inspiration!)

Having acquired some hematite magnets and a hard drive I set about recording both of them .... separately. I won't post the results here as if you have read the links above you will know what it will sound like.

Then I came up with an idea. Now like most people I have been told that putting strong magnets near electronics was bad, so with great abandon I started putting the magnets near and on the spinning hard drive.

What happened next was quite interesting.

Instead of exploding or electrocuting me the magnets created resistance on the spinning metal plate and slowed it down giving me control over the sound/pitch of the spinning hard drive.

Splinter Cell: Conviction Full Sound Documentary

I have been playing the new Splinter Cell game recently, included with the game on the disk was this making of documentary. Enjoy.

One interesting audio decision made in the game is that any story dialogue regardless of the position of the camera, main character and source is routed straight through the centre speaker at full volume.

Primal Carnage GDC Demo

I'm a bit late posting this but ive been away. Without further ado The Primal Carnage GDC demo.

The audio team were given only a few hours to implement/compose the audio for the demo. Given the time frame i think we did ok.

Sound Design; Andrew Quinn & David Yingling Composer; Gareth Coker Mix; Andrew Quinn