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What’s The Deal With Procedural Game Audio?

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 | 0 comments

Guest contribution by Martin Roth

We’ve all heard of the promises of procedural game audio. A veritable Valhalla where sounds are created out of thin air, driven by the game engine, eliminating the need for huge sample libraries and tedious recording. Sounds great! So why aren’t we hearing more of it in games today? We’ve all experienced Rockstar’s work in GTA 5; those bicycles sure do sound great! Some indy games such as Fract or Pugs luv Beats have dabbled. But it seems that if procedural audio were all that it promised, it would be much more common. What’s the deal?

The hard truth is that while the idea is great in theory, no one knows what they’re doing in practice. The field is lacking in design principles, tools, and technical performance. This is especially true considering the end-to-end workflow. On one end, high-level tools are needed to give designers the flexibility to explore sound and its interactions. On the other, low-level tools are needed to make those creations available where they’re needed, be that on the desktop, mobile, console, embedded systems, web, or anywhere else. The end-to-end workflow is key to the adoption of procedural audio.

For the purposes of this article the terms proceduralgenerative, and interactive as they relate to sound and composition will be used interchangeably. Their distinction is important, but we’ll leave that for another article.

Scarce Design Resources

The field suffers from a lack of resources to learn how to make procedural audio, including standards for judging its merits. Undoubtedly the best learning resource is Andy Farnell’s book Designing Sound. The presentation focuses on design from first principles, but may leave those without a technical background struggling to understand the reasoning (but don’t let that stop you from reading it!). The book is written for clarity, not for absolute performance or maximum sound quality. Resources are otherwise scattered, usually compensated for by personal interest or continued education specifically on the topic.

Tools, Well Almost

Undoubtedly there many excellent tools available to design sounds, especially musical ones. A near fifty year history of electronic music has created a wealth of knowledge, best-practices, and interfaces for exploring sound. But here the end-to-end argument is critical. Unless the designer can run the sounds on the target platform, the tools are not helpful except as a part of the creative process.

In order to satisfy this requirement, the available tools are generally limited to any number of audio programming languages (or even general purpose programming languages). There include Pure DataMax/MSPSuperColliderCsoundChuck, C/C++, the list goes on. Many of these have robust and knowledgable communities supporting them. All of these tools allow the user to “do stuff” with sound, but how well they meet the needs of sound designers is debatable. Many would say that the learning curve is far too steep. The target audience for these tools has typically been those more interested in experimental work.

This leaves us in the difficult situation where the ideal solution is fragmented between tools that satisfy the high-level design requirements and those that satisfy the low-level technical requirements.

Low-Level Really Is Low

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The Making Of Thunderstorm 3 SFX Library Part 2

Posted by on Oct 27, 2014 | 0 comments

Guest Contribution by Frank Bry

Check out part 1 of The Making of Thunderstorm 3 SFX here.

In this second and final article I will discuss microphone patterns, recording device pre amp settings, editing and the final mastering phase of this collection. Before I dive into all the technical mumbo jumbo I want to express that when I’m setting up and actually recording thunder and lightning I get quite excited. There must be something in the air, alien mind control beams or just the anticipation of getting the “ultimate” thunder clap or lightning strike. It’s very hard work and involves exercise, listening, tracking the storms and watching the skies. I feel like a kid in a candy shop and I feel the recording is the easy part. So, now we begin. Part 2: The Real Work Begins. (more…)

In Pursuit of Silence

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 | 0 comments

ipos

Early last year, we pointed out In Pursuit of Silence on Kickstarter. The initial campaign was early production funding. We then had the opportunity to interview the director, Patrick Shen, while he was in the middle of production and get a glimpse into the progress of the film. Now they’re at the point where they’re working to raise finishing funds. We support this film and its efforts to raise awareness about the pollution in our sonic environments, and we want to see it completed in a manner befitting the subject. I personally have backed it both times, so I’m not sitting here to encourage you to do so without taking part myself. If you missed the boat on the previous round of funding, now’s your chance to help support a doc which is focusing on a subject near and dear to the hearts of many in the community. Please help the film make it out into the world and have the impact it’s designed to. In the very least, please help spread the word!

Visit the Kickstarter page here

Synthesis Tips for the Non-Synthesist

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Massive_Screenshot

Guest Contribution from Steven Smith

Introduction

In some ways it seems quite strange to find myself authoring a post on synthesis that has as its main topic: “Not everyone needs to be a synthesist”. But from another angle of practicality, it makes a great deal of sense. Many of us already have found ourselves naturally diving into certain areas of synthesis from within the field and somewhat skating around others.  So…  If you are not a synthesis geek, this article is for you. 

‘Why would it be helpful to explore this area?’ you may be wondering. Even though today’s virtual instruments commonly ship with hundreds or even thousands of presets, many users will still find themselves passing over sounds that are not quite right. Yet with some fundamental knowledge and strategies I feel most non-synthesist could quickly address some of these sound’s shortcomings and reshape them close enough to quickly put them in service.

This is precisely my goal. I hope to address some fundamental strategies and principles relating to synthesis and synthesizers in order to facilitate what I like to think of as quick fixes. Even though these strategies will not work 100% of the time, you should find them coming to the rescue quite often. 

From the onset it will be my intention to populate this article with images from multiple synths. This is a small attempt to expose you to as many different views as possible. Given that each synth designer has its own GUI strategies (in addition to its own sound design strategies), I hope this will further help the usefulness of the material presented.

There is also a body of knowledge that we must have to enable us to find sounds, change them, and then Save these changes. Let’s jump in…

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Diego Stocco | Creative Miking Techniques

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 | 1 comment

Diego Stocco returns with the third in his video series of advanced & experimental sound design techniques Feedforward Sounds. In this tutorial entitled “Creative Miking Techniques” Stocco goes into great detail to explain some of his techniques developed for sound design through creative recording.

“From my point of view, even in these days where plugins, controllers and apps have become important tools for music production and sound design, being able to effectively and creatively use microphones remains essential, because creating original sounds from all kind of acoustic sources remains essential.”

“Deconstructing the Soundtrack” Master Class in London

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 | 0 comments

The School of Sound (the folks behind The New Soundtrack academic journal and the School of Sound International Symposiums) and the London Film School are teaming up again to offer a 2 day Master Class on October 25th and 26th in London. The seminar will be conducted by Stephen Deutsch, Larry Sider and Annabelle Pangborn.

Experts Larry Sider, Annabelle Pangborn and Stephen Deutsch will each deliver a half-day seminar demonstrating the interrelationship between sound, music, image and story. The programme will include a discussion of strategies and concepts for working with sound and music, from pre- to post-production.

They have also offered Designing Sound readers a 10% discount through applying the code SoS10%designingsound. Head here for additional details and to register for the event. This discount code will also work for the upcoming “Practical Introduction to Location Sound: Recording and Mixing” and “Music Licensing in Film and TV” seminars.

Patch a Day Challenge

Posted by on Oct 6, 2014 | 3 comments

Anton’s “first day” patch

Anton Woldhek, whose name you may recognize from the Game Audio Podcast, is a little excited for this month’s theme. So excited, in fact, that he wants people to join him in a “patch a day” challenge. I think it’s a great idea, though I’m doing a bit too much traveling at the moment to probably get started on it until next week (though I suppose my Pure Data Wavetable Synthesizer tutorial from last year could qualify). You, however, can certainly join in now. To make it a little easier to share your results with each other, let’s use the hashtag #dspatchaday on twitter. While you’re getting started why not head over to Anton’s personal page and check out the results of this first patch (pictured above)?!

Really looking forward to see what people come up with!

Synthesis!

Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 | 1 comment

image by flickr user f4dd, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

image by flickr user f4dd, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

As you may have already realized based on yesterday’s article post, we’ve turned over to this month’s theme…Synthesis!

We have more tools than ever that fall under this heading, and there’s been a huge resurgence in modular systems recently. We’re not going to focus exclusively on modular, but I chose that image because of how our friend Ivo Ivanov of Glitch Machines has described it. “It’s like crack for audio people. Once you get in, it’s just a pit you throw all of you money into. You can’t ever stop.” While modular certainly seems to do that, it doesn’t hold exclusive reign. We’re constantly buying software synths, building patches in Max/Kyma/Pure Data, downloading new instruments for NI’s Kontakt player…the list goes on. There’s a reason we do though. Synthesis has long been an indispensable tool to the sound designer; whether it be Ben Burt designing robot voices for R2-D2 and Wall-E, or Skip Lievsay creating the unnaturally long ring of reception desk bell in Barton Fink. So this month, we’re giving Synthesis its due.

As always, Designing Sound encourages contributions from the community. Next month we’ll be discussing documentaries. If you have something you’d like to share with the community on either topic, or on one completely unrelated to them, please contact [shaun {at} this website (dot) org].

SFX Independence – September 2014 (Part 2)

Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 | 0 comments

Part 2 of our September roundup comes a little late (Part 1 is here in case you missed it), but there’s plenty of interesting and unusual independent sound libraries to be found here. And don’t forget, if you’ve got a recently-released sample library that you’d like to be considered for inclusion, use the Independent SFX submission form to tell us about it!

Gateway Part 1 – The Library by Empty Sea

Empty Sea present their new library of doors, doors and more doors! From tiny compartments to creaky gates. In all, 675 files and 1200 sounds all recorded at 96 KHz / 24bit.

Released: September 2014
Price: $80.00

Gateway Part 1 product page
The Library by Empty Sea webpage

Shadowscapes – Moon Echo Audio

Moon Echo Audio’s latest library taps into the dreamy, dark and unnerving. Presenting 12 moody soundscapes designed to “embrace the decay of human society”. Each of the soundscapes – with varying durations of between 1-2 minutes – comes as a 48KHz / 24bit file and has been created using a variety of techniques such as granular synthesis, pitch shifting and complex delays.

Released: September 2014
Price: $69.00

Shadowscapes product page
Moon Echo Audio webpage

Gorification (HD) – Timothy McHugh

gorification-hd

Gorification (HD) is an extensive collection of high-impact gore. Featuring over 1200 sounds of violence; from bone crushing to blood splatting and knife wielding to skin slashes.

Released: August 2014
Price: $35.00

Gorification (HD) product page
Timothy McHugh webpage

Bells & Bowls – Hzandbits

hzandbits-bells-and-bowls

A collection of glass, ceramic objects and bell-like sounds recorded 86 96KHz / 24bit.

Hzandbits have created 14 bell-like sounds, each multisampled and tuned to its nearest note, using source material such as bowls, glasses and vases. This library is ideally suited to taking these sounds further, using whichever combination of today’s sampling tools take your fancy.

Released: September 2014
Price: $18.00

Bells & Bowls product page
Hzandbits webpage

Big Piggy SFX Vol. 1 – Piggysounds

What you get is 114 high quality sound effects divided into 11 categories, including; ambience, Foley, sci-fi, suspense FX and whooshes. All sounds were recorded at 48KHz / 24bit and come with a PDF for database management.

Released: September 2014
Price: $150.00 digital download or $170.00 on a USB stick

Big Piggy SFX Vol. 1 product page
Piggysounds webpage

Universe Bundle – SoundMorph

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Here it comes! Universe is a bundle featuring all SoundMorph products since the beginning of time. Developed by some of the leading Sound Designers and Musicians working within the industry, the Universe bundle represents a significant saving when set against individual purchases.

10,000+ sfx samples and three flagship software apps, Universe comes with an extra option that will entitle you to a year of free upgrades.

Released: September 2014
Price: $699.00 or $899.00 for the +365 version with 12 months of upgrades free.

Universal Bundle product page
SoundMorph webpage

Wind Turbines – Detunized

Detunized introduce a library pack of showcasing the sound of wind farms. Available as either a standard BWAV edition of 124 48KHz / 24bit recorded takes, or Ableton Live Pack (versions 8 or 9 only), Wind Turbines includes a whole host of ambiences, propeller blades, transformer stations and other mechanical noises.

Released: September 2014
Price: €15.00

Wind Turbines product page
Detunized webpage

Organic Percussion – Delectable Records

DGS-Organic-Percussion-1000

An impressive ensemble of production tools from Delectable Records. Featuring House beats mixed with groovy percussions including Congas, Timbales, Bongos and much more! Perfectly suitable for House, Percussion, Deep House, Funky House, Dance, Tribal House, and Soulful productions, there are 10 Constructions Kits designed and made exclusively for Delectable Records by Gennaro Rino Becchimanzi.

Available in Zip, WAV & Apple Loops format, Organic Percussion contains over 230 Percussion sounds that will enrich your rhythmic tracks instantly.

Released: September 2014
Price: £19.95

Organic Percussion product page
Delectable Records webpage

Rain and Thunder – 99Sounds

Rain And Thunder is a free collection of field recordings that were captured during a severe storm in Belgrade, Serbia.

Featuring recordings from both outdoor and indoor perspectives, the library is completely free to download and use.

Released: October 2014
Price: FREE

Rain and Thunder product page
99sounds webpage