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Posted by on Nov 30, 2009 | 0 comments

Rob Bridgett Special: Tips for Sound Designers, Plus Readers Interview

The Rob Bridgett Special has come to the end. We will have 10 tips for sound designers, by Rob Bridgett, plus answers to questions readers made to Rob. If your question has not been answered, you probably find that in the 10 tips or the general interview.

10 Tips for Game Sound Designers

1. In-house or Freelance?

Perhaps one of the most fundamental things to decide is whether or not you are looking for a full-time salaried position within a game development company, or if you are more comfortable with offering your audio chops to the game industry as a freelancer. Composers usually fair better in the freelance realm than an in-house situation, where they would be expected to do more than just compose. If you are a talented all-rounder, you may be equally in demand for in-house or freelance positions. The decision may come down to a work-life balance. Once you know what you are looking for, you can more effectively target employers or clients.

2. Always Treat Your Clients With Respect

Whether you are in-house or freelance, the people you work with should be treated as your clients. As a sound designer, composer or sound implementer, you NEED your client as much as they need you. They may sometimes come up with suggestions that sound crazy, but listen to their ideas, explore them, work on a few examples and try those suggestions out yourself – you may be surprised, something that sounds crazy at first might just work. As a result, the people you work with will feel included in the creative process and you will be happy with a job well done.

3. Demo-Reel

The demo reel is perhaps the single most important piece of work you will present to your prospective employer. So much info about your work and communication style will be communicated through how your show-reel is edited, structured and presented. Don’t send out the same general reel to lots of companies if you can tailor specific footage or examples to a particular company. Include a cover letter explaining specifically why you are interested in that position or company. Keep it simple, clean and always focus on your best work. Also, if you worked on a specific area in a clip of game-play or a movie, such as only the helicopter sounds in a game, make this unequivocally clear at the outset.

4. Make Connections and Contacts Already in the Industry

There are many platforms for this kind of interaction available to people entering the industry, such as GDC. Meeting and chatting with audio talent that is already established in the industry is a great way to make a connection and get some feedback to better hone your job seeking talents. As ambassadors for their companies and for audio in general, people who are presenting lectures, round tables and workshops at conferences are great and approachable contacts to make. Everyone who is successful in game audio now was where you are now at some point in their past.

5. Supply and Demand

There is currently a huge market for composers in video game sound. Look into an area where there is a shortage. Currently, audio programmers, sound effects designers, sound implementers, dialogue designers are all in much shorter supply than composers, so it makes sense that you are more likely to find ways into the industry via these fields. Once inside the games industry you will get ample chance to prove your talent and move into a role in which you are more comfortable.

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Posted by on Nov 26, 2009 | 0 comments

Rob Bridgett Special: Prototype [Exclusive Interview]

Here is the final interview with Rob Bridgett, about Prototype, talking about the sound of the cinematics, the mixing process, and more!

Designing Sound: First of all tell us something about what was your contribution on Prototype and what do you did for the sound of the game?

Rob Bridgett: In late 2007, the audio director for the project, Scott Morgan, asked if I could get involved and help out with the game mid-production. Cory Hawthorne was working as Technical Sound Designer and Implementer on the project which meant I had the opportunity to cover two areas on the game, one was as cinematics sound designer and implementer and the other was as game mixer. In terms of the first role, I was responsible for the sound effects, Foley, dialogue editing and mix of all the cut scenes in the game. The music was edited and supervised by the sound director for the project, Scott Morgan, and once all the components were assembled I would provide a mix automation pass before the finished file went into the game.

The second role, that of mixer, was one that came into play only during the post-production sound beta phase of the project’s development, in which Scott and I spend four weeks mixing the entire game in Radical’s 7.1 mix room. I always welcome the opportunity to help out on projects like this as it offers a break from being an audio director and allows a lot more time to concentrate more fully on one or two areas in particular.

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Posted by on Nov 24, 2009 | 0 comments

Rob Bridgett Special: Designing a Game for Sound

Rob Bridgett:

This is a response, albeit not as eloquent or timely, to Randy Thom’s superb article ‘Designing a Movie for Sound’ which can be found on the film sound website. Much of what Randy talks about in that article can very easily be applied to games production, however I always wanted to read a piece that talked directly to the experience and team structure of game development. In games it is rare to find a single authorial voice, as can be found in film with the director. There are so many different collaborators working from day one on a video game project that it is difficult to know where to begin for a sound designer who is perhaps more used to working long hours at the end of a project. Design is at the heart of video games ‘direction’ and working directly as part of that team is the best place to start. Art direction and technical direction all play heavily into the decision making process. Finding an audio direction that can not only support these other disciplines but can lead and inspire them is the goal for a game sound designer in pre-production. Video game sound development is also different to film sound in that there are often in-house sound personnel (audio director and others) present on a game team right from the beginning concept phase of a project. This presents an opportunity for sound in games rarely found in cinema sound production and this article is really a call to action not to squander and waste that opportunity but to use it fully to make sound an active and full contributor to the game-play.

DESIGNING A GAME FOR SOUND

It appears that game sound designers finally have, more or less, all the technical tools in their arsenal that film sound designers have. We have already seen many fine examples of this on the 360, higher sample rates, more sounds playing etc.

However, this is where games, and indeed many motion-pictures, hit the proverbial brick-wall in terms of sound because story, and more pertinently game-play, must be designed for sound from the ground-up. There is an aesthetic/collaborative issue at the heart of being more like film, and it is something that arguably game sound can do better than film sound.

The movie sound designer Randy Thom has often very lyrically stated that a movie must be designed for sound, rather than the other way around. This essentially means that a sound designer, or a director who cares and allows opportunities for sound to be used well in a film, should be involved as early as possible (meaning the pre-production period) in the story-telling elements of the movie. Although still frustratingly uncommon among movies, game sound can certainly learn, and improve a great deal from this practice as there are often full-time, in-house sound personnel physically sitting in the building at the time of pre-production.

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Posted by on Nov 20, 2009 | 0 comments

Rob Bridgett Special: The Role of an Audio Director In Video Games

The audio director’s role in games is very similar to the role, defined by Walter Murch, of the ‘Sound Designer’ in film, whereas the role of ‘sound designer’ in games, has a very different implication. (Although to be honest, I still think the perception of a ‘sound designer’ in film, to a wider audience, is that of someone who creates cool sound effects, rather than someone who directs the sound experience with as much responsibility as the art director or production designer) The ‘audio director’ is responsible for the entire soundtrack, from dialogue, ambience, sound effects and music. Not only this, but also working with the audio programmers on the desired technical requirements and direction of the audio and the wider design and art team in augmenting and leading feature design. The role requires expertise in each and every area of the soundtrack, and of course an understanding of what will and won’t work and how the balance of all the elements will sit together in the final mix. The role of the audio director changes dramatically throughout production depending on what is necessary at different stages of production. Writing design documents and preparing preview material, testing out implementation with placeholder content, directing and liaising with composers or voice directors, doing production Foley, dialogue editing, running batch processing on huge amounts of data, as well as tweaking and integrating features into the audio and game engine directly. Scheduling and project management skills also play heavily into the role as organizing quite large teams of audio staff (internal and external) can be a challenging task on a large console project.

I’d actually like to say a little about the role of sound designer in games and how that has changed, as I think the audio director’s role has perhaps stayed the same over the last few years, whereas the act of designing sound for a game has gone through significant changes with the arrival of new technologies. The title of ‘sound designer’, and I guess the role, has changed somewhat significantly over the past 10 years or so to encompass the implementation stage as a crucial part of the sound design process itself. By that I mean that creating the sound effects and then creating and setting up the rules and behaviors under which those sounds will be played back in the game are two parts of the same ‘sound design’ process. The days of creating sound effects that sound great on in an ‘offline’ context which are then played back in the game with little or no further manipulation are very much in the past for game sound designers working on console titles. The term that tends to be used currently for this role is ‘Technical Sound Designer’, and I find this terms far more useful a description. I believe the term was coined by Gene Semel, and it implies that implementation and design of systems of playback is an integral part of that sound design process. When we bring in a sound designer on contract to work for a couple of months on sound defects, implementation is probably 80% of their role and we advertise that role as ‘technical sound designer’.

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Posted by on Nov 18, 2009 | 0 comments

Rob Bridgett Special: 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

50_Cent

Another great work of Rob Bridgett:

This was the first experience for me as an audio director dropped into a project as it hit production, so many of the things that are so important to game development like getting to know the team and understanding the project both from a detailed implementation perspective and simultaneously a high-level had to happen very quickly. Joining an already existent sound team can be quite daunting, so this feature goes some way into describing the process by which the work was broken up for the team into sensible areas. Again, these are areas I’ve never seen discussed or written about anywhere else so there is always a need to create these articles where there is a paucity of information. BotS was also my first experience of audio direction from a remote location, in that after six months on the ground with the developer in the UK, I returned to Vancouver and was able to finish the game from there. The move back was very handy as the majority of work I was responsible for; dialogue, cinematics and music were all areas for which we had a team on the west coast. Many of the features from the Scarface game were adapted for this game too, such as the taunt button and the custom play-list music player, both making perfect sense for this IP.

Early Production

It became very clear that the production needed a narrative direction as soon as possible, as production was already underway on in-game assets prior to the existence of any written story. We brought in a local writer, Adam Hamdy, to begin to flesh out some very high-level story ideas and get an idea of characters in the absence of an official writer.

These initial ideas and characters were subsequently handed over to the chief writer who was hired in LA, Kamran Pasha, who worked closely with the core IP group (myself, art director, exec producer and lead designer) in Birmingham via several weeks of conference calls.

Together we sketched out the story and characters that were to populate the final game, while all the time working within the constraints of our in-game locations (which were fixed due to the amount of art and level design that had been already produced).

The grand-concept and art direction for the game established by executive producer Julian Widdows and art director Michel Bowes was that of an over-the-top “music video” and arcade-driven in style.

It is always great, as a sound director, to have such a clear brief and this bold visual statement had distinctive inspiration for much of the sound design, especially of the HUD (points accumulation and call-outs), as well as the weapons and explosion sounds being greatly exaggerated and over-the-top.

The game’s overall direction was also not to take the subject matter too seriously, and to have more fun with the license in order to get away from hip-hop — which is all too often is unable to make fun of itself. The dialogue, particularly the inclusion of a taunt button, was designed to fit this brief, and to create a feeling of an over-the-top hip-hop arcade experience. It also introduced a lot of fun and humor into the gameplay — an ingredient often sorely missing from other hip-hop licenses.

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