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Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 | 9 comments

Capcom Audio Director Tomoya Kishi Interview

Dragon's Dogma (c)CAPCOM CO., LTD. 2012 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Dragon’s Dogma (c)CAPCOM CO., LTD. 2012 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Japanese video game composers and musicians get a good bit of coverage and acclaim over in the West, but the people making the booms and whoosh sounds don’t seem to get much visibility.  To that end I reached out to Tomoya Kishi, who is the Audio Director and Senior Manager of Audio Design and Production at Capcom:

“Tomoya Kishi joined Capcom in 2001, beginning his career as an audio editor on the Onimusha series. In 2004, he was assigned to be the audio director for Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, a role he continued on the sequel Lost Planet 2. During this time he constructed a work flow to improve efficiency in video game audio development, and worked to forge more active collaborations with Hollywood sound studios—activities that have given birth to new ideas as well as new possibilities in the overall industry.

Tomoya Kishi

Tomoya Kishi

Tomoya’s recent work has been as audio director of Dragon’s Dogma. By utilizing the work flow developed on previous titles, as well as incorporating a number of collaborative works, the audio in Dragon’s Dogma has been one of the most interesting, challenging and inspiring projects of his career. Additionally, he has lead the development of Capcom’s original audio middleware, cooperating with professors and researchers with the aim of inventing a new technology in video game audio.

Tomoya currently is the senior manager of the audio production team at Capcom. The team consists of 60 members from various fields, including sound design, composition, engineering, programming, and audio production.”

Designing Sound: How did you get started in sound design?  What inspired you to do sound design for games?

Tomoya Kishi: It’s a bit of a long story, and a little embarrassing, but I’ve never formally studied music―I originally studied marketing at my university’s commerce department. However, I first got into music when my parents bought me a Yamaha synthesizer at age 14. I started remixing my favorite artist’s tracks and experimented with composing my own.

It was in the 90’s, right when club music like house and hip-hop was breaking out in the underground here, that I was hooked on creating breakbeats with the AKAI S01 sampler. The RAM on the AKAI S01 is fairly limited, so I played around sampling at a higher pitch, then going back and lowering it, sampling at a lower bit rate, shortening samples as much as possible―I was always trying to cram as much as possible into that limited space, never thinking that this experience would come in handy down the road.

In college, I DJ’d at clubs, put on shows, and self-published my own album. At that time big beat was in, so artists like Fatboy Slim were hot.

Around this time I ran into someone from Capcom at a club and first learned about sound effects. It turned out they were working on the sounds for Street Fighter. I was job hunting and wanted to work in sound, so with their encouragement I dove into this world.

Whew, so that is quite a bit of back-story―basically, I started sound design when I entered Capcom at age 22. Luckily, I was used to most of the equipment involved; I just had to learn Pro Tools, and put my sampling and sound-mixing sense to work. In the end, it was less that I was inspired and more that my career just happened to start with game sound design.


Lost Planet

-What software do you use for sound design?  Any favorite plugins and workflows? 

In general I stick to Pro Tools, and considering the total recall I don’t use an outboard. I like to keep things simple and stay away from physical controllers so I just control everything using a trackball. The plug-ins I use most are McDSP, FilterBank and CompressorBank, Waves, Pitch ’n Time, Duy EverPack, Pultec EQ and Comp, and finally Altiverb. Conceptually, Altiverb is about sampling acoustic spaces, so for someone who is into sampling as much as me it was love at first sight. I use it for a lot of different things: voice effects, to add a little something to the digital track to make it more organic, and so on. I also get a lot of use out of Pitch ’n Time. I love Pultec for how it dirties up sounds with heavy compression, so I use it to spice things up or to create nuances in footsteps. I like plug-ins that allow you to twist sounds a little with dirty effects while maintaining the original, organic texture.

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Posted by on May 25, 2012 | 4 comments

The Sound of “Prometheus”

While set in the same fictional universe of Ridley Scott’s original offering, and sharing some of its key dramatic events, the director is clear in his intention that his latest film Prometheus is unrelated to the rest of the original franchise. There had been talk of a fifth Alien movie — with Scott reportedly committing to a sequel or prequel a decade ago — but it took 20th Century Fox to persuade the director to cast his unique vision of the origins and purpose of the Alien civilization, while also explaining the genesis of the enigmatic Space Jockey that forms a direct link to the original space explorers from 1979’s landmark motion picture. Sequel, prequel or neither, Prometheus is scheduled for release June 8 through 20th Century Fox.

In essence, the film (originally to be called Paradise) follows a team of scientists as they journey on the spaceship Prometheus to the distant planet of Erix to terraform the world. The crewmembers discover, however, that what they experience from the indigenous life forms is not just a threat to themselves, but to mankind. Prometheus takes advantage of new-generation sound technologies, while very much paying tribute to the original offering. As Michael Fassbender, who plays David, the artificial person in Prometheus, confirmed: “By the end of the third act, you start to realize there’s a DNA of the very first Alien, but none of the subsequent films,” with imagery inspired by its original conceptualist, H.R. Giger.

Working with elements coordinated by supervising sound editors Mark Stoeckinger and Victor Ennis from Soundelux, the intricate soundtrack was re-recorded at Fox’s John Ford Stage in West Los Angeles by Doug Hemphill (sound effects) and Ron Bartlett (dialogue and music). Creature sound design effects — of whichPrometheus features a wide range — were fashioned by Ann Scibelli, Alan Rankin and Harry Cohen. Other members of the sound crew included Foley mixers James Ashwill and Blake Collins; Foley editors Bob Beher, Bruce Tanis and Glenn T. Morgan; Sandy Buchanan handling the recording of computer voices; ADR engineer Derek Casari; ADR recordists Glen Gathard and James Hyde; ADR mixer Andy Stallabrass; dialogue editor Margit Pfeiffer; music editors Joseph Bonn and Del Spiva; and sound effects editor Tim Walston.

Continue reading at MPEG

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Posted by on Nov 27, 2011 | 6 comments

Harry Cohen Special: Opening Inglourious Basterds

I got Harry Cohen on the phone to talk about one of my favorite scenes, the opening of Inglourious Basterds. There’s nothing big or over the top in this scene, it just an excellent example of subtle technique in support of the moment. In the course of the chat, we occasionally diverge into some interesting work-flow tangents. Hope you enjoy it.

Designing Sound: The scene was very subtle and had a lot of quiet sounds. It also had a lot of tension. Was this a difficult scene to approach?

Harry Cohen: Technically the hardest part on that was all the production dialog arrived with a lot of hum on it from the generator. Luckily Izotope RX2 had a De-Hum plug-in in it that allows you to dial in the European frequency. That’s how I had to start, was by processing everything with that. You don’t try to get it all out, or it takes too big of a chunk out of the dialog.

After that, we wanted to come up with some background winds and tones that further helped mask that as much as possible…then do a lot of really detailed foley. We get into what we call hyper-reality, especially on a lot of the Tarrantino films. So, as the scene goes on, we start to back off on the backgrounds and the tones and stuff, and bring the focus in on the dialog We had to suck the air out of the scene a little bit, so that it gives you a little more closeness to the characters.

Mainly it was what Cristoph Waltz [ed. Hans Landa character] did with his performance, his eyes and stuff, as he turns from this bumbling almost Clouseau character into the menacing Nazi Jew hunter he reveals himself to be. It was riveting.

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Posted by on Nov 7, 2011 | 4 comments

November’s Featured Sound Designer: Harry Cohen

I’m happy to announce Harry Cohen as the featured sound designer of November.


I was born in New York City a long time ago…..1954. Grew up in Flushing , Queens (a borough of NYC). Undoubtedly the city has left an indelible imprint on me. As a kid I was mainly a science nerd that liked to build hand wired oscillator circuits in my basement ‘lab’. I moved to CA with my family just in time to start High School, in what is now Santa Clarita. Now, in NY, I was an amateur musician, but never considered good enough to partake in the neighborhood jam sessions. Out in suburban CA, the field was much more open, and I soon found myself playing piano in the school jazz band and involved in several garage bands. I started playing nightclubs like the old Gazzari’s on the Sunset Strip before we were out of High School. After school, I concentrated on music, with several side jobs to supplement income; I was a hospital lab assistant, I worked a plastic injector press, and did some time at a picture frame factory, until I almost cut off my finger. Eventually music was able to barely pay the bills, and I spent the next 12 years or so playing clubs and pursuing a career with various recording acts. Hunting in the bargain bins, you might find some records I did with a band signed to a Motown offshoot. I spent more than a year traveling back and forth from Alaska to Hawaii with a show band; that is where I met my lovely wife; she was one of the singers in the band.

Eventually, I was asked to do some piano overdubs on a new-agey album at a studio in Burbank that was just starting to shift gears into post production. The manager at the time was a musician I had been in several projects with. After the sessions, they offered me some part time work helping to organize their library of synth patches. After about 3 days of that , the owner asked me, out of the blue, if I would be interested in trying my hand at sound effects. So, I was already in my early thirties before I ever even considered getting involved in post !

The facility , EFX, was using emulator II’s (an antique sampler) to generate sound fx that were recorded to multitrack analog tape machines, synched up to  3/4″ video machines, all tied together with early synchronization systems that were very tweaky. I sat in a room with my emu and a stack of floppy disks, with an engineer (Ken Teaney) who recorded the stuff, and was my first real mentor. Occasionally he’d would make us trade places, and taught me the synchronizer and some console basics , though I already knew some of that from my music experience. So, I never went to a school to study post; it was all on the job training.

We started doing overflow work for Dave Yewdall’s company. He was the first real sound editor/designer I met, and he also taught me a lot of stuff, as well as sharing lots of library. I used to go over to his facility and transfer stuff from mag dubbers to F-1 digital tape (an early digital medium, before even DAT). I did a  fair number of films for Roger Corman’s company. I also did lots of industrial videos, some commercials, lots of TV work and animation, and also a lot of stuff for theme parks. The wide range of projects was a great lesson in flexibility. For some of those endeavors, the clients are sitting right behind you the whole time; thats a particular kind of pressure familiar to guys who do commercials.

Somewhere in there we started expanding and getting better films. We switched to Synclaviers, and the edit rooms became one man operations, recording to sony digital multi-track instead of analog; then it became DA-88’s; and finally pro tools. Now that was a great set-up; Synclaviers recording to Pro Tools!

Lots of really talented sound designers and mixers passed through EFX; and it was a great environment of exchanging techniques and figuring things out.(Gary Rizzo, Dave Farmer, Paul Menichini, Tim Gedemer,Tim Walston, Ann Scibelli, Juan Peralta, Tony Sereno, Michael Kamper, Marc Fishman, are just a partial list of ex-EFX-ers).I was head of our small department, and had an awesome day shift of talent ! (I am sure there are lots of names I am forgetting; my apologies.)Also we started to do some game work early on for Charles Deenen; I am sure association with him has had an influence on all of us !

At one point we partnered with Steve Flick’s company, and he was a great source of information and guidance for me. We did one film that mixed up at Skywalker, and that experience was a real eye-opener as well. Randy Thom and Laura Hirschberg were part of the mix team, and Gary Rydtrom came by and introduced himself to me, and invited me to come by and hang out while he was prepping stuff for “Casper”. Everyone was very open and willing to share information.

After about 14 yrs, EFX re-organized their business, and  I accepted an offer from Lon Bender and Wylie Stateman to join Soundelux. Except for a six month period where I was ‘on  loan’ to Soundstorm , I have been here ever since; those are the only facilities I have worked at ! The opportunity to be present at the mixes of the films I work on has been one of the most beneficial learning experiences I can think of.

By the way , when I can, I still get out and play in some local LA blues clubs , and I have an awesome collection of vintage keyboards and stomp box effects!

Selected Works

  • Green Lantern (2011) – Sound designer
  • Robin Hood (2010) – Sound designer
  • Complacent (2010) – Supervising sound editor
  • Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Sound designer
  • Star Trek (2009) – Sound designer
  • Wanted (2008) – Sound designer
  • Death Proof (2007) – Sound effects designer
  • Blood Diamond (2006) – Sound effects editor
  • Van Helsing (2004) – Sound designer
  • Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) – Co-supervising sound editor
  • Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) Sound designer
  • Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) – Sound designer
  • The Patriot (2000) – Sound designer and Sound effects editor
  • Blade (1998) – Sound designer, supervising sound effects editor)
  • Babylon 5 (TV series) (1994-1998) – Sound designer
  • Spawn (1997) – Sound effects editor
  • Starship Troopers (1997) – Sound designer

More at IMDb

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