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Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 | 1 comment

Turbocharging and its effect on our soundscape

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Photo Credit to Alex Bellus

Guest Contribution by David Nichols

An engine is, in essence, an air pump. Air comes in, gets mixed with fuel, goes bang, and leaves again. When talking about ways to make more power, the most obvious is to make a bigger bang. However, gasoline works best at a very specific ratio of fuel to air, which is roughly 14:1. So, if you want to make a bigger bang, you need 14 times more air than your increase in fuel to get it.

When trying to get more air, one solution is to use a bigger engine. More, larger cylinders means the pump can inhale a bigger breath, which means more fuel and more power. However, this so-called “natural aspiration” or NA for short, has a limitation in air pressure. Just like a straw, the inhale of an engine works by creating low pressure, which atmospheric pressure then fills in. So, another way to get more air into an engine is to pressurize it, or use “forced induction.”

There are a few different methods of forced induction, but today I want to talk about one in particular: turbocharging. A turbocharger is a turbine that is connected to the exhaust gas leaving the engine on one side, which then drives an impeller on the other side to create air pressure. The more and faster exhaust gas comes out of the exhaust, the more and faster the intake side compresses air. When the amount of pressure generated by the propeller is greater than atmospheric pressure, the system is making “boost” and the amount of boost can be measured in PSI.

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Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 | 1 comment

Car Engine Approximation In Max

Years ago, when I first started dabbling in the deep and dark world of Max/MSP, I attempted to create the sound of a car engine. This month’s theme (which is ‘vehicles’, if you didn’t know) reminded me about it. I opened up the patch after ages and was a bit appalled by the state of it. There are hidden skeletons in every old patch!

Instead of digging through a dated project, I recreated a patch/idea I had used about a year ago when designing sounds for a remote controlled toy airplane. I tried to adapt the simplicity of that implementation to a ‘regular’ car engine.

Here’s a sample of what it sounds like (all synthesised):

This patch was put together fairly quickly and could do with more refinements to improve the character and reduce the amount of ‘digital-ness’ in the sound. The model quite obviously breaks at higher frequencies/RPMs.

Here’s the patch:

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Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 | 3 comments

Planes, Trains and Automobiles …and tanks and bikes and boats and…

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Guest Contribution by Stephan Schütze

Why I am not going to tell you which microphone to use

The simple answer to this statement is, because we don’t have time. The exact choice of which microphone to use for each situation of recording a vehicle is a detailed exercise and would take more pages than we have space for. Even then, there is a major flaw associated with the idea. What I hear and what sounds good to my ears may not work for you. Suggesting Brand X or a Model 2B, stuffed up the exhaust pipe of your Honda, may only serve to encourage you to spend more money than you need to. As much as we all love to buy new equipment, I think there is value in stepping beyond the tools and toys. I’m going to be more general and share a more conceptual approach to capturing good vehicle sounds.

What I will do is take you through some of the essential lessons I’ve learned when recording vehicle sounds for Sound Librarian. In creating our sound libraries, I’ve recorded motorbikes, cars, tanks, boats, airplanes, pretty much every vehicle I could get my microphones near.

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Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 | 1 comment

Spectral Analysis: Interview with Rob Blake

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Many thanks to Brad Dyck for contributing this interview. You can follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Dyck

It was my pleasure to speak with Rob Blake, Audio Director best known for his work on the Mass Effect trilogy. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is available now for PC and will be available for PS3/PS4 on August 19th.

BD: What originally made you move away from the UK to come over to Canada?

RB: Actually, before I came to Canada I was working at a small start-up in Spain (Tragnarion Studios). It was a really fascinating place to work because they were really passionate gamers who just wanted to make something they wanted to play themselves.

After I’d been with them for nearly a year I got offered the lead position on Mass Effect. I just finished the project I was working on in Spain so the timing worked out well. It was a dream job for me at the time – I’d been an Audio Lead before in the UK but working on something like Mass Effect was very special.

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Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 | 11 comments

… Mr. President!!! … (Gen 3 Helicopter Implementation in Frostbite/Battlefield 4)

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Guest contribution by Ben Minto and Bence Pajor of DICE

… Mr. President!!! …

There we were in The Thirsty Bear, reflecting on the first lot of GDC Audio Sessions, and up walks Mr. Menhorn. He knew what he wanted from us; so after introductions, a few more IPAs and some passionate discussion it was in the bag.

So here we are. A “behind the scenes”, warts and all, article and video about the helicopter models in Battlefield 4, written for the Designing Sound ‘vehicle’ month, of July.

The original model (design, implementation, samples etc.) and video capture were done by Bence Pajor, the Battlefield Audio Director and I’m (Ben Minto) handling the write up, even though I’m heading up the audio for DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront project.  This is because we were both Audio Directors on Battlefield 4, due to Bence’s absence during the middle of the project, which was in turn due to the birth of his son (mini) Olof and Sweden’s generous paternity leave.

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Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 | 1 comment

A Brief Tour of Automotive Sound Sources

Image by Late Model Restoration Supply, used under Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

Image by Late Model Restoration Supply, used under Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

Guest Contribution by Michael Hermes

Modern cars are boring. They’re safe, practical, and quiet to the point of being uninteresting. A passing sedan glides by with a gentle whoosh of air passing over the car and the tires on the pavement. It makes for a pleasant ride to work but a short article on sound.

Cars didn’t start out quiet, though. Decades of engineering and research have identified the potential noise sources on a vehicle and reduced them to almost nothing. The internal combustion engine-powered car has a vast array of potential noise sources, all of which are quantified and treated by Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) engineers.

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Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 | 0 comments

All those things that get us around…

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I held off on the announce post for a few days, because we had a few articles that spilled over from last month’s theme. Now that we’re caught up, it’s time to dive into this month’s theme…Vehicles!

Do we really need more of an introduction than that? My guess is no. And sure, there’s a rail car at a drag race in the image above, but we’re not single-minded. There are boats, planes, jets, motorcycles, bicycles, and more that all fall into this category. We’re lining up some fun articles, but don’t hesitate to bring your experience to the table as well.

Guest contributions are always welcomed and encouraged here on Designing Sound. If you’d like to contribute to this month’s theme, or have an off-topic post you’d like to put in front of the community, make sure you contact us through site’s contact form or e-mail shaun at [this site]. If you’re the kind of person who likes to plan ahead, next month’s theme will be Listening.

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Posted by on Jul 2, 2014 | 0 comments

Silence At Work

For the past few years I have been bothered about the amount of time I spend on a job — not specifically about how busy I am, but rather how much time I spend concentrating on the task that needs getting done. By default, most of us learn to constantly optimise our workflows as our experience grows. This is very important, as successful projects are judged not only on their quality but also budgets! But most of us also have the task of being creative collaborators while working long hours. Not easy.

One of the biggest problems I find with workflow optimisation is that I get stuck with techniques and ideas that have previously worked and quite often end up forcing ideas that don’t fit the context. They are often sub-conscious decisions and I need to consciously stop myself and try something new. I recently started taking ‘silent breaks’ to combat this. I’m a big fan of the pomodoro technique and use a 25 minute timer when I work. With every break (every 25 minutes) I step away from the computer and silently ponder on my work. I was surprised (and in hindsight, not so surprised) to find that it greatly improved my productivity and the quality of my work. There is something quite stimulating in taking a break, staring out of the window in silence and letting the mind wander.

But there are days when I ignore the timer because I’m too busy trying to make an idea work. I then start to optimise my workflow once again and forget about productive silences. An infinite loop.

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Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 | 0 comments

Critical listening, Creativity and Silence?

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A number of years ago I took part in a critical listening exercise where participants where given a piece of music and 3 hours to provide a critical assessment of it. The piece of music lasted just over 4 minutes so during those hours I got very familiar with it, but I didn’t really get much beyond scratching the surface of it, in terms of critical listening. The point of the exercise was to enlighten us as to the difference between ‘hearing’ and ‘critical listening’. For those 3 hours I was receptive to the music, I heard it, absorbed it, liked and disliked aspects of it, but I wasn’t able to engage a more critical mindset and turn my receptive listening into an active evaluation of the music. At that early stage in my career as an engineer I simply didn’t know how to set about the process.

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