Guest contribution by Michael Theiler (Kpow Audio)
Situating an Ambience
When creating ambiences for games (this applies equally to film), I am striving to make them blend into the background and not mask any important in game sounds. For most ambiences, these are the most important qualities that I am attempting to resolve.
In order to achieve this, I need to firstly focus on the repetition and timing between audio occurrences in the sounds. This means spacing sounds, and adding and removing sound occurrences in my audio sequence. I then work on the frequencies in the sounds, using equalization to mold them into the right sound. Finally, I work on their sound propagation and the sound of the space in which they are to inhabit. These are the steps necessary to mould sound into something suitable for the space. Just adding reverb is not enough – the sound needs to be purpose built for the space’s reverberation and delay treatment.
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. The whole article can be viewed here on Kpow’s website.
This game was a massive undertaking. We put a lot of effort into making the audio detailed and realistic, with as much depth as we could. As it was set in the 1940’s, we made sure everything was period specific, and sat well in the world. All the interaction sounds were given texture and tactility, and made to sound “in the world”. We used a lot of outboard gear to get that fat, rich, and occasionally old tube, broadcast equipment quality to many of the sound. We strived to provide a rich, varied and detailed audio representation of the world that was exciting and period specific, and we are incredibly happy with the result and the reception our work has garnered.
Creating The Sound For LA Noire