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Posted by on Nov 15, 2012 | 7 comments

Room Tone = Emotional Tone: The Importance of Hearing Ambience

noun /ˈambēəns/
ambiances, plural; ambiences, plural

  1. The character and atmosphere of a place

                    – the relaxed ambience of the cocktail lounge is popular with guests

  1. Background noise added to a musical recording to give the impression that it was recorded live

Wherever you may be reading this article, stop whatever you are doing, and listen to your environment. What do you hear? Tempting as it may be to declare ‘nothing’, the complex cacophony of the world around you  is being combined, and fused together in your environment to create the sound of a specific location. The sound of your immediate surroundings is being pulled from all manner of sources such as electrical hums, water pipes, passing traffic, neighbours, the weather and even local wildlife. As indistinct these may be from your perspective, these sounds are still making their way, however faint, into your room, heavily filtered and being reverberated around and off your furnishings to distort them beyond recognition and delivered to your ear as a nondescript, intangible ‘room tone’. Its such a slight sound that many people simply don’t hear it. They hear ‘silence’ (Probably because they haven’t tried to make any recordings there!)

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Posted by on May 1, 2012 | 0 comments

Racing Game Sound Study

A collection of blog posts, and a special edition of the Game Audio Podcast, have been coordinated by Damian Kastbauer and David Nichols on the dense subject of racing game audio. The remarkably in-depth studies (which feature video examples) rip apart audio techniques for the racing genre, investigating subjects such as tire squeals, surface types, camera perspectives, and of course, the sounds of the engines themselves.

From the Lost Chocolate Blog;

These informal game sound studies aim to expose the technical side of game audio by making an assessment of current generation titles. The assessment is then used as a way to better understand the differences in approach, aesthetics, and progression of techniques across a small sample. By turning the focus onto emerging details that arise during the course of the study we are able to identify area’s of significance and interest that help communicate the current state of the art. These finding are then represented in a content-rich report that includes: videos, article links, and specialized interviews. The goal is to help raise awareness for the technical side of sound design and help in the understanding of what is often not very well represented in current literature.


Check out the study in all it’s glory at the following links:

Vroom Vroom – A Study of Sound in Racing Games ( Introductory article in Game Developer Magazine )

TrackTime Audio blog – Racing Game Sound Study

Lost Chocolate Blog – Racing Game Sound Study

Game Audio Podcast – Racing Game Sound Study (with guests Mike Caviezel, Mike de Belle and Tim Bartlett)


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Posted by on Feb 26, 2012 | 2 comments

Interview with Nick Wiswell, Audio director of Turn 10

The vehicle focused Track Time Audio blog has posted an interview with Turn 10′s and ex-Bizarre Creations Creative Audio Director Nick Wiswell,  covering the production of Forza Motorsport 4 and the pipeline of recording sessions to finished in-game audio for the car engines.

TTA: Could you talk a bit about the process a vehicle goes through between recording session and finished in-game? I think the work involved after the recordings are made are under appreciated by gamers because they just don’t know how much work goes on.

NW: It’s a long process, so I’ll break it down into stages like a recipe:

To record a car you will need:
* A car and a chassis dyno, or an engine and an engine dyno
* An 8 – 10 channel recording device with multiple microphones to capture the engine, intake system and each exhaust pipe sound independently
* A dyno operator who understands that “full throttle” means all the way to the floor, and a car owner who won’t freak out when you do that
* An hour or two of time

1. First thing to do is set up the car on the dyno (your dyno operator will usually do this for you) and set up all the recording equipment
2. Then run the engine, do a few throttle snaps and a power run or two, and walk around the car trying to find the spots that have the sound you are looking for
3. Then set up close microphones on the engine, intake, turbo (if fitted) and each exhaust pipe plus microphones at points where you found interesting sounds
4. Press “record”, set levels and ask the dyno operator to run through the following sequence:
·Full throttle power pulls in different gears or at different speeds (depending on the type of dyno)
·Held steady RPMS at 500 RPM intervals from close to idle up to close to redline
·Acceleration and deceleration through the gears (if possible on the dyno)
·Simulated track driving (if possible on the dyno)

View the rest of the interview on the Track Time Audio website

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Posted by on Feb 22, 2012 | 45 comments

On the Unification of the Sound Awards

With Oscar rearing his ugly head, and people again becoming obsessed with little gold statues, I thought it might be a good opportunity to start a discussion on a topic that has been floating around the professional sound community for some time.

A few years ago, we began hearing that there was talk within the Academy about the two sound awards, those of Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. Firstly we heard rumors that the Academy as a whole wanted to unify the two awards into one. Secondly we heard that there was growing interest from some of the Academy members to move the two sound awards out of the main awards show, and into the technical awards show.

The basis for moving the awards out of the main awards show was probably due simply to the possibility of swapping sound editors for airtime, speeches for high-priced commercial time. It also showed a well-known lack of respect for what sound people actually do. There were great champions for our cause, trying to educate the public and the members of the Academy, that was we do is not purely technical, any more than a cinematographer or picture editor is a technician, employing technology in their respective jobs.

But what about the other discussion about unifying the sound awards? It’s my opinion, and I know this is shared by some, opposed by others, is that is is a shame that this didn’t happen.

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Posted by on Jan 11, 2012 | 3 comments

Elliott Koretz Special: Exclusive Interview

Here is the first interview with this month’s special guest Elliot Koretz, talking about general aspects of his career.

How did you get started in sound design?

My first industry job was as an apprentice editor in the shipping room at Disney Studios. I was exposed to all types of editing (picture, music, and sound) but I was attracted to sound for not only what I saw as the ability to be very creative but for the autonomy of working independently of the director and producers who seemed to be always in the picture editors room. At Disney I met a sound editor who was also moonlighting at Neiman-Tillar, a leading independent sound house back in the day. He saw my interest in wanting to advance to editor a little quicker than what was the norm at Disney and offered to put in a good word for me there. I was offered assistant editors position and took it. While there I was first introduced to electronic editing. This was approximately 1980 and they had, as far as I know, the first system that was used for this, ACCESS. That’s really pretty amazing for so long ago. I think the first show I ever cut on electronically was a tv show, “Aloha Paradise” It was a kind of “Love Boat” on land and the sound needed was pretty straight forward fx. But I do remember one particular episode where the story line had a man who was interested in a divorced woman with a young child. The kid was opposed to this relationship and at one point bites the guy on the leg in kind of a comical manner. This lead to what I believe may have been the first “design” moment of my career. I layered a celery snap with some sort of other big crunch and………I was off and running as a designer.

After that I moved around landing at a number of post facilities for a while. I was an editor at Stephen Cannell, which turned out to be a great place to learn to cut action sequences. On shows like “The A-Team” you had a week to cut an entire reel (approx 12 min) of Dia, FX, BG’s and Foley. And inevitably you had a scene like this: Our heroes were in some sort of large vehicle, traveling pretty fast on a rough surface, being chased by a helicopter that was shooting at them. They meanwhile had constructed some sort of rapid firing gun that was shooting nails or some other projectiles……..and little to none of this could be created just straight out of the sound library.

These kinds of sequences needed multi-layered design and remember this was on film. Many units and also much of the final result of my work couldn’t be heard played together until the dub stage. On an old fashion film sync block you could only hear three or four “channels” at once. Anything wider than that and you had only your experience and imagination to visualize the combined sound.

I think doing this kind of design work way back then really helped me understand how to efficiently combine elements to get the sound I wanted.

I spent some time at Soundelux when the company was still pretty young and while there moved into cutting sound on features. (Still editing on film). I did return to tv editing and ended up working first as an editor then as supervisor on the show, “MacGyver”. It was another busy design show with the lead character always inventing something to beat the bad guys that required creative design work. After a successful first season the producers wanted to change to an all-electronic post. Soundelux at that time was not prepared for the huge investment in equipment and ultimately the show was moved to a newly created facility, Modern Sound. Over that summer they built a new mix stage, foley stage, and editing rooms using both Synclavier and 24 track editing systems. I was offered to continue as the supervisor of the show and accepted. After a very brief training period at the offices of New England Digital (the creators of the Synclavier) I jumped into the world of electronic post again.

The problems we faced were immense. This was 1986 and the technology was still in it’s infancy. There were not yet sound libraries that were “digital” and the decision was made to purchase a copy of the library of a leading sound supervisor at the time, Fred Brown. Then the issue was storage. The best we could do at the time was to digitize onto floppy discs. They could only hold a few seconds of sound each so you can imagine the challenges that caused. This was truly the bleeding edge of technology.

It was at times very exhilarating but often very frustrating to be at the forefront of this transition. There were times we struggled to achieve what was extremely easy to accomplish on film and other times we saw how cool it was to work in a non destructive environment with new tools to manipulate the sound.

After that season I moved around again to a couple of different facilities but then found what turned out to be a long-term home at Weddington Productions. The three owners at that time (Steve Flick, Richard Anderson, and Mark Mangini) were doing some of the most creative sound design anywhere. There is no question that was the turning point in my becoming a much more accomplished designer. Working with the talented people at Weddington constantly challenged me to step up my game and really think hard about what I could do to impact the movie sonically in every detail.

While there I made the full time transition to ProTools and it’s world of opportunities that cutting digitally has brought to all of us.

All these pieces of the puzzle have helped form what I do today. At Universal where myself and my crew have 5.1 editing suites and all sorts of plug in devices I reference all that experience from both the film and digital worlds when conceptualizing the design work I do.

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