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Posted by on Feb 22, 2012 | 2 comments

AudioGaming to launch AudioWeather plugin at GDC 2012

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AudioGaming have unveiled their innovative plugin ‘AudioWeather‘ for FMOD and other audio engines, and will be demonstrating the plug-in in action live at FMOD’s Game Developers Conference booth (1532) in San Francisco, March 7th -9th.

AudioGaming introduces the first procedural and dynamic audio weather system. Based on specific acoustic modeling we produce realistic as well as unrealistic sound effects computed in real time. Game designers get high level control and Sound designers / Programmers get expert control on the generated audio.

For the sound designer, the natural interaction between a scene and its parameters will dramatically enhance the speed of sound conception, its dynamic integration as well as the number
of sound design possibilities. The interactive audio synthesizers developed by AudioGaming represent an innovative complement to audio samples that can usually impose tedious processes (edition/tagging/integration) for interactive media creators.

A downloadable demo of AudioWeather running in Unity3D is available from their website for both Windows and OSX here. The demo allows you to experiment with variable wind and rain parameters and hear their effects in real time

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Posted by on Nov 22, 2011 | 3 comments

Harry Cohen Special: Sound Design Moments Re-visited

[Written by Harry Cohen]

I wanted to write a different kind of article, one that indulges my more geeky-tech side. While the main source for material remains great recordings, there are lots of times when we find solutions to problems in processing; these days that mainly means plug-ins, but that was not always so.

Sometimes, looking back, I see creative sound design moments as being more like a place you might visit, as opposed to a method you might use over and over. Time has shown me that the tools will constantly change around me. My main editing platform has changed three times during the course of my career. And so, some great tools become obsolete or unavailable. For this reason, I always encourage designers, when they find their way to an interesting combination of source/processing, to keep going and record lots of material; the next occasion you may want to repeat the process might not be so easy to get back to !  Some examples from my past follow:

The Ionizer

This was a great, if somewhat hard to master, plug-in. It did lots of stuff, eq-wise. One of its tricks was to be able to analyze the frequency profile of one sound, and then to impose it on another. I used it in the film “Wanted” to make some design-ey glass breaks in the convenience store scene by imposing the frequency spectrum of glass windchimes on some explosions:

The Ionizer was so widely cracked that its makers decided not to carry it forward to OS-X; so it has become inconvenient to use, to say the least.

Vokator

While the NI vocoder Vokator still works, I notice that NI no longer sells or supports it, so it is only a matter of time before it too, becomes unavailable. I have had great luck in using it for creatures. In short, I like to put a series of animal sounds on a software sampler, under different keys, put some under midi fader or foot pedal controller, feed that into Vokator as the carrier, with a mic as the modulator. Set up so you are listening on headphones to your output only, and using lots of gestural control on the faders and pitch wheel, while making ridiculous sounds and screaming into the mic, start to work your way towards interesting sounds. Record your output so that you only have to get it right once, for any given moment ! Record lots of stuff, go through it and pick out the good bits, then edit it together as you would for any creature.

Synclavier

Ah, the synclav. While I have so much to say about how the interface on this wonderful machine shaped the outlook of so many sound designers, for now I will mention only one detail. There was a button combination that would allow you to use the big wheel control to change the octave ratio of the keyboard tuning. This meant that on each side of a breakpoint, as you turned the dial, the sound would pitch up to the right of the breakpoint, and pitch down to the left, by as much as hundreds of semi-tones. It was useful for making some sci-fi type turbine sounds; like this Minbari engine made for the tv series Babylon-Five.

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Posted by on Oct 11, 2011 | 0 comments

SFX Lab #2: Wind

[SFX Lab, the laboratory of sound effects, a place dedicated to experiment and explore sound effects libraries. The main goal is to hear what happens when sounds of a specific kind are combined, processed, and transformed in several ways.]

Wind is such a great sound to work with. It’s soft, it’s versatile, it can sound very musical, or very noisy and aggressive, if you want. It’s very moldeable and diverse. Also, apart of serving as pure wind sound, it can be also used as a source for generating a lot of stuff such as whooshes, ambiences, drones, transition elements, etc.

For today’s experiments, I’ve got two different wind libraries, including great recordings of natural wind from North Idaho Wind HD by The Recordist, and artificial wind sounds from The Windhowler, a unique library released by Tonsturm a couple months ago.

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Posted by on Aug 16, 2011 | 17 comments

Tim Nielsen Special: On the Art of Economy

[Written by Tim Nielsen]

I want to write a series of relatively small ‘thought for the day’ type articles on a variety of topics. In the first, I want to expand on something that came up in the introductory interview, when I said that my main advice to people entering into their careers should learn when to stop.

One of the things that I love and admire, not only in sound, but in filmmaking and art in general, is economy. And I do not economics. but by economy, I mean simply:

“To achieve the maximum effect for the minimum effort.”

My favorite example of that statement is found in the movie Harold and Maude. I’m going to spoil something, so if you haven’t seen the film, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph. There is a shot in that movie, I haven’t counted the frames, but I’d be shocked if it was longer than 20 or 30 frames total, that is the best example I’ve ever found. Harold and Maude are sitting near a garbage dump, and she’s describing how glorious seagulls are. There is an insert shot, so short that most people miss it, to Maude’s arm, where you can make out what appears to be a tattoo. A number. And when you realize what the shot is, a concentration camp tattoo, and you understand that Maude survived the concentration camps, the entire movie changes. What was a wacky story of an eccentric old weirdo becomes something a whole lot more powerful. Suddenly Maude makes sense. In one shot, she goes from crazy old lady to concentration camp survivor, and her actions, her very being, suddenly explained.

But for something so powerful, something so important, Hal Ashby made the decision to keep the shot on frame for such a short duration that many people miss it. I can’t think of a director today who would have taken one of the most important pieces of information for truly understanding the film, and letting most viewers miss it. Hal Ashby was an editor before he became a director. And he must have somehow known the exact length of the insert that a percentage of the people would get it, and a percentage wouldn’t. Regardless, the insert itself is such a great reminder in general of how much can be done with so little. One little shot, a second or so in length, can change your entire experience watching this film. I’ve seen the film at least a dozen times. It’s certainly in my top ten of favorite films, and Hal Ashby one of my favorite directors.

One of my favorite books of all time is The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Seemingly a children’s book written by an adult, it’s really a book written by a child for adults who have lost their way. I had never read it as a child, a good friend gave me a copy while at USC film school, along with the Graham Greene novel The Power and the Glory, and Graham Greene was also a master of economy, and quickly became one of my favorite authors. But Saint-Exupéry also wrote one of the most beautiful books every written, Wind Sand and Stars, about his time spent in the desert after his plane crashed. And in addition to those two brilliant books, he’s also the author of one of my favorite quotes, and really the idea behind this post:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

I wish I had found that quote, and understood it, long ago in my career. So to all of you starting out, memorize those words.

In sound, what I’ve found after years of editing, is that after I’ve completely cut a scene, after I believe I’ve added everything that’s needed, I’m able now to go back and delete about half of what I’ve cut. In every case, the result is a much more defined track.

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Posted by on Jun 4, 2011 | 0 comments

David Farmer on McDSP Plugins

McDSP has published a new user profile, featuring sound designer David Farmer.

“When I’m designing new sounds, I build in premix tracks that get bussed down to auxes, and those auxes then get bussed down to a composite.  I almost always have an instance of Analog Channel on those premix auxes, and often an ML4000 too.”

“It’s hard to put into words why McDSP products sound so good to me.  When I listen through a McDSP plug-in, it sounds like the plug-in has been listening.  So many plug-ins just sound like they’re crunching numbers, but McDSP sounds like they’re actually listening to the audio.”

Continue reading…

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