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Posted by on Jun 4, 2015 | 3 comments

Sulpha: The New PS4 Mastering Suite

Sony for a very long time has spearheaded the effort to standardise loudness in games. The recent PS4 SDK update (2.500) includes a mastering suite — Sulpha analysis tools — to help developers master their titles for a variety of playback systems, from full range surround sound systems to TVs, to mobile devices.

It features a 4-band equaliser, a 3-band dynamics processor, gain and limiter controls and loudness management and analysis tools. The interesting thing about the toolset is that it utilises resources from the operating system and is therefore compatible with game audio middleware, third party engines and all PS4 titles.

I briefly interviewed Garry Taylor, Audio Director at Creative Services Group, Sony Worldwide Studios and Marina Villanueva-Barreiro who is a senior engineer at SCEE Research and Development. I found it interesting that about 50% of users listen to PlayStation titles through their TV speakers. I was expecting the percentage to be much higher.


DS: Sony in many ways has been spearheading the loudness standard for games. Did the development of these tools seem like a natural progression from the development of the standard?

Garry: Very much so.  Having a loudness standard is all well and good, but we needed to make it as easy as possible for developers to hit the PS4 loudness target without having to spend big money on new equipment.  Loudness metering has been part of the PS4 operating system for a couple of revisions now, and this is the next logical step, allowing developers to manipulate overall EQ , dynamic range and loudness easily and quickly.  Smaller teams working on PlayStation titles may not have the resources or technical knowledge required to conform to a standard, so having one easy-to-use audio mastering tool that works on every single title made a lot of sense.

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Posted by on Jul 3, 2013 | 0 comments

New Mobile Loudness Research Results from TC Electronic

Loudness Authority

TC Electronic recently published the results of a five-year study of most major mobile devices’ audio capabilities. The findings show a broad diversity in performance from platform to platform; with a variation of up to 20 db output between devices! In light of these differences, how should sound designers working on mobile projects mix and prepare their audio files? The explanation can get a bit technical, but is definitely worth digging into.

Check the white paper at TC Electronic for the full breakdown.

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Posted by on Jun 21, 2013 | 5 comments

Finding Your Way With High Dynamic Range Audio In Wwise

Guest Contribution by: Louis-Xavier Buffoni – Software engineer at Audiokinetic

HDR in a Nutshell

HDR (“High Dynamic Range”) audio is a technique which draws its inspiration from the local adaptation method used in HDR imaging, which “attempts to maintain local contrast, while decreasing global contrast.” [1] In audio, this local/global dichotomy applies to time, and contrast refers to loudness instead of brightness. The technique consists of using an automatic mixing system that maps virtual world loudness to living room loudness. Clerwall’s phrase “every sound is important, but not at the same time” [2] summarizes the essence of its algorithm: the mapping is adaptive to what is playing in the virtual world, and can be represented by a “sliding window”, as is illustrated in the following figure.

Figure 1 - overview

HDR audio has received a lot of attention since it was presented by DICE a few years ago, backed up by their astoundingly good sounding games Battlefield: Bad Company and Battlefield 3 [3]. It left in many minds the impression that their system had solved the complex problem of mixing in an interactive context.

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Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 | 0 comments

Thank You to our February Contributors!

The month is wrapping up, and tomorrow we start a new featured topic. It’s that time, once again, to thank all of the wonderful people who contributed guest articles and participated in interviews with us here on the site.

Thanks again, one and all.

Remember that we are always open to guest contributions, both on and off topic. If you have something you’d like to share with the community, contact shaun [at] designingsound [dot] org. Tomorrow begins a focus on the intersection of sound design and music.

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Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 | 1 comment

Loudness In Game Audio

Finishing up Loudness Month here at Designing Sound I asked the good folks at Audiokinetic (makers of Wwise), Firelight Technologies (makers of FMOD) and G.A.N.G. IESD about what is happening in game audio in regards to loudness metering.

From the G.A.N.G. IESD Committee:

“Loudness and monitoring levels have been very high on the IESD’s agenda since the the organization was formed. We see independently produced recommendation documents of this nature as essential for everyone in the industry, from bigger developers to indie studios and, of course, students, or those new to the field of interactive sound.

We had previously, and quickly, worked on a version 1.0 document, which is available on the discussion boards within the GANG IESD website. The focus of this early work was on establishing listening levels (establishing the 79dB home entertainment levels, rather than 85dB theatrical levels, which some developers had been mixing to), and offering a checklist and advice on the more commonly made mixing pitfalls. When Garry Taylor and his group at Sony approached the IESD last year with his Sony paper on loudness levels, we were all on-board very quickly and knew that this was something big. The co-chairs (Kenny Young, Scott Selfon, Alex Brandon and myself) quickly assembled a sub-committe of leading game sound mixing experts (made up of major studio/publisher, and independent contributors) to look at the Sony recommendations and to consider adopting them on a wider level. We soon discovered that Microsoft and Nintendo were also in-line with recommending these same levels and measurement techniques for their first party titles. This made it pretty straightforward to create and agree upon a supporting IESD recommendation document that could confidently suggest numbers for all current-gen home entertainment consoles.

The version 2.0 document, which is intended to be solidified and released in time for GDC this year, adjusts the 79dB monitoring levels to accommodate the ATSC A/85 document, suggesting changes to monitoring levels based on volumetric measurements of the monitoring environment. The loudness recommendations themselves are absolutely in-step with the Sony document in adopting the ITU-R 1770-3 algorithms for measuring loudness over a minimum of 30 minutes of representative gameplay (-23 LUFS, tolerance of +-2dB). True Peak not north of -1dBFS (DB below a full-scale sample).

The next step for the group is to publish a 2.1 version of the document that recommends numbers on iOS and Android devices as well as web browser, though again, the group at Sony has already done some great work in this direction with their -18 LUFS recommendation for the Sony Vita.

The IESD co-chairs are: Kenneth Young, Scott Selfon, Rob Bridgett & Alexander Brandon

The IESD committee consists of Lin Gardiner, Damian Kastbauer, Gordon Durity (EA), Garry Taylor (Sony), Scott Petersen (Nintendo), Tom Hays (Technicolor) and Kristofor Mellroth (Microsoft)”

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