2nd September 2009

How to work with an Audio Provider 101

I speak to this from my own experience, and hope that it may be helpful to other audio designers and game aficionados all around.

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Audio is an integral part of a video game. In fact, even a simple score can create a very large impact. Take the classic: Space Invaders. The music is 4 tones, but is considered by many to have one of the most successful scores.

1978
Space Invaders
Midway imports Space Invaders from Taito. A great example of simple, effective sound design, Space Invaders owes a large part of its appeal to its menacing, paranoia-inducing soundtrack. Not music per se, the thumping audio track actually accelerates in tempo as the enemy invaders draw nearer (and move faster). The effect: sweat, panic, and increased blood pressure in a generation of gamers.
From “A History of Video Game Music” on http://www.gamespot.com/features/6092391/p-2.html
As the music speeds up, so too does the heart rate of the player; this is so much so, that if one plays Space Invaders with the TV on mute,  s/he will find the game to be much easier. (give it a try! PLAY HERE).
Clearly audio has a great role to play, even on the most basic levels. Audio plays a very visceral role in game immersion and great audio will enhance your game, bringing it to the next level.

So now that the WHY is covered, we will move on to the HOW.

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Using an in-house audio provider will surely create a tighter product as the audio designer is involved in and surrounded by all aspects of the game. Of course, budgets do not always allow for in-house audio, and so many game companies choose to farm out the audio to a wide slew of providers of which I am one.

From environmental sound design and SFX to custom compositions and interactive scores, there are many types of audio assets that will add to a game. What all these types of audio have in common is they are all best approached through the five guidelines below.

1) Bring the audio designer into the game development cycle early.

Audio is often thought of as something that can be dropped in last minute, and as an audio person myself, I can often tell this to be the case when playing the finalized game. If the audio provider was brought in early, s/he can give many creative ideas of how to use the audio in a game to not only react to the game, but even advance the story (such as interactive music that gives feedback to the player letting them know they are moving in the right direction). If the audio designer is made aware of the story and game mechanics nearer to the beginning of the production cycle, a more interactive, interesting, and polished sound track can be created.

2) Relate some examples of what you like via links/samples.

Producers, programmers, artists and audio designers are not always speaking the same “language.” If a producer is looking for a sound to be more “sad“, I can easily modify the sound to be so; yet, descriptions are not often that simple. The complications arise when words of more depth are thrown around, or

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29th July 2009

An Audio Guy’s Perspective of Casual Connect Seattle 2009

After 4 days of seminars and networking events, I was beat. But, boy was it worth it.

Day 1

The first day was devoted almost entirely to the Casual Connect Leadership Conference organized and supported by Women In Games International (WIGI) and Women In Games Vancouver (WIGeh). Numerous speakers presented a variety of topics, each with a particular interest in the role that women play in games, games play in the lives of women, and the portrayal of women in games.

As a person interested in the breakdown of stereotypes, thus allowing everyone’s true potential to shine, I was very engaged in the presentations of the day, which in the end left me feeling very hopeful and empowered about the potential of gaming.

Not long after, a set of roundtable discussions were set up with a variety of topics ranging from working as a contract vs employed worker, owning a small business, and moving up in the games industry.

A networking event followed with the inclusion of other folks from a more general Casual Connect audience, and it was a great night!

Highlight of my day: Megan Gaiser of Her Interactive’s presentation on “The Importance of Leadership”

Day 2 (Day 1 of Casual Connect officially)

Audio day! The entire day had an option to hear speakers who are professionals in the audio for casual games environment. Great ideas were shared including a glimpse into how other professionals create their sound design assets. It was entertaining, welcoming, and I learned a great deal. Speakers covered a wide range of aspects including the creation of stings, sfx, composition, recording, and producing. I would recommend this to any person interested in the audio for casual games arena. A very cohesive day in the audio stream.

Highlight of my day: Barry Dowsett of Sound Rangers on “The Birth and Life of a Sound Effect”
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22nd June 2009

eMixEngine Announces Successful Launch

emixengineTorontoeMixEngine officially announces the successful launch of their new music mixing service. eMixEngine.com launched on June 12, 2009 to great fanfare and success as it introduces a revolutionary way for budding musicians, bands, and singers to have their music mixed and mastered by industry leading professionals in a highly affordable manner. Before eMixEngine people either had to try to do it at home themselves, and could never get the quality results, and great sound that professionals could deliver, or they had to pay expensive recording studio fees. Now music artists all around the world have a 3rd option. They can record their tracks themselves, and have industry leading professionals make it sound world class.

eMixEngine CEO, Lawrence Tepperman, believes that the market is ripe for this industry changing business model. There are over 11 million bands and musicians on MySpace alone and now that iTunes enables budding musicians to upload their music for sale right on its site, it is clear than music has become democratized…everyone can chase the dream, and they don’t need an agent, middlemen, or have to pay expensive recording studios. With eMixEngine these artists can sound like chart topping bands while typically spending less than $25 per band member on average to do so.
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21st May 2009

Ontario Sound Effects Company Launches Royalty Free Music Site

Sound IdeasRichmond HillSound Ideas, a Brian Nimens company, has launched a new dedicated download service which offers royalty free music tracks along with production elements and sound effects. While Sound Ideas offers over 200 distinct collections to broadcast, post-production and multimedia facilities worldwide, the new StockMusic.com site will focus on the online purchase and download delivery of Sound Ideas products as well as products from other sources.Stock Music

Speaking about the new service, Sound Ideas President Brian Nimens stated that “”Our clients are making more use than ever of the instant access that the Internet provides for studio production work. With that in mind, I decided to take the plunge and make the vast collection of Sound Ideas music, production elements and sound effects available for download.”

“StockMusic.com will keep pace with Sound Ideas new releases, but will also carry music that is not available from Sound Ideas,” Nimens added. “By mid 2009, there will be more than 90,000 audio clips available for download through StockMusic.com.”

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18th May 2009

Audiokinetic’s Wwise now Bundled with Emergent Gamebryo LightSpeed

audiokineticMontrealAudiokinetic® and Emergent™ have teamed up to provide the video game industry’s only cross-platform, multi-genre development system that fully addresses the audio needs of programmers, game designers, artists and sound designers by including Wwise Emergentright out of the box with every Gamebryo® LightSpeed™ license. The flexibility of LightSpeed’s core technology allows the art of game development to easily evolve across every function of development.

Audiokinetic’s Wwise offers audio programmers and sound designers a complete audio authoring tool with a powerful sound engine, greatly improving workflow while pushing the limits of sound design. Coupled with LightSpeed, Wwise allows developers to audit, profile, and modify sounds in real-time within the current build of the game. This new bundle further simplifies workflow by allowing designers and artists to generate and iterate on any type of asset during all phases of development without recompiling. Content creation is sped up and programmers are free to devote their efforts to game?specific tech for new kinds of gameplay instead of adding and tweaking game content.
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26th March 2009

Audiokinetic unveils new partnership with McDSP

New effect plug-ins to be available for Wwise

audiokineticMontreal/San FranciscoAudiokinetic Inc. and McDSP announced today that they have entered a technical partnership. As part of this agreement, McDSP will develop plug-ins for Wwise, Audiokinetic’s audio pipeline solution.

Audiokinetic is the leading audio solution provider for the video game industry. Its flagship product, Wwise, revolutionizes the traditional game audio development process and allows users to audit, profile, and modify sounds in real-time within the game itself.

McDSP, a California-based software company, has been providing high-quality effect plug-ins for the last 10 years. Products like ML4000 (Multi-band Dynamics and Mastering Limiter) and Revolver (Flexible Convolution Reverb) reflect the company’s reputation of excellence, and have won several industry awards. Until now, McDSP plug-ins were available for Pro Tools only, and targeted the film and music industry.

As part of the partnership with Audiokinetic, McDSP will provide Wwise users with a selection of effect plug-ins, which will be accessible directly in Wwise’s user interface. Details about the plug-ins that will be available, as well as licensing particulars will be made public shortly; the plug-ins will be available in Wwise later in 2009.
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26th March 2009

PROTOTYPE To Be The First Title To Use DTS Neural Surround Sound

DTSVancouver/San Francisco – The next generation of video games are wowing gamers with unprecedented high def graphics and gameplay that pushes the boundaries of what the new systems have to offer. An exciting new technology now promises to bring game audio to the next level as well. At this year’s Game Developers Conference, DTS Inc will educate developers on their PROTOTYPEcutting edge DTS Neural Surround Sound technology that enables games to present real-time, discrete 7.1 soundtracks on the Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and via PC.

“Our goal is to give developers the audio tools to help them create gaming experiences more immersive than ever before,” says Mark Tuffy, Director of Business Development, Interactive Media at DTS. “With our DTS Neural Surround technology, games will deliver true 360 degree gaming for the first time ever. The potential here for what sound does in a game is almost limitless.”

By using existing technology built into the systems, DTS Neural Surround is able to convert the 5.1 signal into a true 7.1 surround experience. Whether the signal is digital or analog, DTS Neural Surround is able to convert the sound into rich, fully immersive 7.1 channel surround sound. Now, when gamers hear something creeping up behind them, the sound will really be there.

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25th March 2009

Audiokinetic announces SoundSeed Air

New SoundSeed module will generate wind and “swoosh” sounds

audiokineticMontreal/San Francisco GDC – Today at the Game Developers Conference, Audiokinetic Inc., the leading audio solution provider for the video game industry, unveiled SoundSeed Air, the new module of the SoundSeed product family.

SoundSeed is a family of interactive sound generators for game audio. It uses innovative digital sound processing (DSP) technology to create varied, hence highly immersive, audio environments, while keeping runtime memory usage and recording costs at a minimum.

SoundSeed Air is the latest addition to the SoundSeed family. This new module involves two source plug-ins. The first one is called “Wind” and generates dynamic and never-repeating ambiances while the second one, “Swoosh” produces short air displacement effects such as sword slashing or dragon wings flaps.

As SoundSeed Air is a pure parametric synthesis technology it does not require wave files and it has the potential to produce hours of none-repeating ambiances using virtually no runtime memory.

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20th March 2009

EVE Online to be developed with Audiokinetic’s Wwise

audiokineticMontrealAudiokinetic Inc., the leading audio solution provider for the video game industry, announced today that its audio pipeline solution, Wwise®, will be used in the development of EVE Online, the critically-acclaimed massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) developed by the award-winning virtual world developer CCP.

EVE Online is a science fiction-based MMOG in which over a quarter of a million players inhabit a vast, persistent world as starship pilots in pursuit of fame, wealth and glory. First launched in 2003, the latest free expansion, EVE Online: Apocrypha, was released on March 10, 2009. Noted for its fervent use of cutting edge technology, CCP’s server architecture makes large-scale fleet battles a reality, with upwards of one thousand participants engaged in epic conflicts for control of resources and strategic regions of space.

Sound plays an important role in the immersion factor for these intergalactic gladiators. There were numerous advantages to having Wwise tools available to the CCP Audio team during the development phase for Apocrypha as described by Audio Director Baldur Baldursson.

“Ease of use was one of the key factors in our decision to choose Audiokinetic over other middleware solutions we tested,” said Baldursson. “Audiokinetic seems very serious in creating powerful tools that actually work for sound designers and musicians. We were able to focus on designing the sounds themselves instead of having to worry about technology issues – and integrating the actual sounds was fun.”
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13th February 2009

MAGIX Leverages Dolby Digital 5.1 Creator to Deliver High Quality Audio

MAGIXMarkham ON – MAGIX, a leader in multimedia software, leverages Dolby technology within their premium products to the market. MAGIX has incorporated Dolby’s award winning technology, Dolby® Digital 5.1 Creator, into its own award winning software, Video Editing Software Movie Edit Pro and its professional video editing software Professional Video Editing Software – Video Pro X.

Dolby Digital 5.1 Creator maintains audio fidelity while preserving valuable disc space to allow for sharper picture quality or longer recording time. Dolby Digital 5.1 is crucial for the truly amazing audio creation in MAGIX video editing software tools. Users are able to create professional surround effects with Dolby Digital 5.1 Creator surround creator, so MAGIX videoproxincluded it in a number of their key products for people to create real surround sound with channel control and live mixing.

“Dolby Digital 5.1 Creator brings brilliant surround cinema sound to your DVDs or Blu-ray Discs. We are happy to work together with Dolby, the leader in multi-channel sound processing. This truly makes Video Pro X and Movie Edit Pro powerful video and audio editing tools.” says Senior Product Manager Video at MAGIX, Sven Kardelke.

MAGIX continues to work closely with Dolby technology to deliver professional tools to its customers and ensure the highest fidelity experience.

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