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Posted by on Feb 28, 2012 | 0 comments

Q&A with the Audio Team of Journey

IndieGames.com has published an interview with composer Austin Wintory and sound designer Steve Johnson on their respective work on the upcoming PS3 title Journey. The interview briefly covers topics such as the challenges of working on a project without dialogue.

flOw had its aquatic environment, while Journey is set within expanses of sand. How will the sound of the game reflect the visual theme?

SJ: The last game was all about wind and grass. This one is all about sand and cloth. On the player alone, there’s the body foley, a cape whose sound is tied to length, wind speed, and player velocity, footsteps for the all surfaces, surfing on sand.

In my room at Sony I’ve got a cardboard box filled with dirty Venice Beach sand that’s become my ghetto foley pit. All of the sand waterfalls, rolling sand dunes, and player-sand interactions were recorded there. Having a variety of desert ambiences has been an interesting task too. For instance, one level is a super hot, still desert. What’s the sound of that? I finally made something mostly out of processed and panned roomtone.

AW: The music and sound design are very interwoven. Steve is doing a lot of foley work with sand and cloth, which is directly impacting the music I write. Just like the thesis version of FlOw was almost named “Darwin’s Island,” this game had working titles that were cloth-themed. “Woven” was a name that came up. That’s why I retitled the eight-minute suite that I performed at the Golden State Pops to be “Woven Variations.”

Read the full interview at IndieGames.com

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Posted by on Nov 7, 2011 | 1 comment

“Cabbit”, Exclusive Interview with John Kassab

“Cabbit” is a short animation film by the artist, Soogie. It has been in production for over 3 years and is now being co-produced and sound designed by John Kassab (Kickstarter campaign). We spoke to John about his sound design work on ‘Cabbit’ and why he decided to sit in the producer’s chair.

What attracted you to Cabbit?

I am a huge fan of visual art and animation so, predictably i watch a lot of animation on Vimeo and often go to art galleries. Unfortunately, this sort of saturation had began to create a numbness in the way i looked at art. When i saw a trailer for ‘Cabbit’ on Vimeo, it made me completely still and my throat dried at just how beautiful it was. Its just so honest. Everything down to the clunky editing and animation flicker. Its just so raw – which is quite punk with all this clean cold dehumanised refinement thats going on in animation at the moment. i loved the handmade-ness of Soogie’s work. Its simplicity is brutal and the complexity of the cross hatching is mesmerising. I was instantly inspired.

I understand this is your first experience as a producer. Is this something you want to do instead of sound?

No, not at all – first and foremost i am a sound designer. However when i was starting to get to know Soogie early in our collaboration, I learned that he had not really considered a festival plan and was struggling to make ends meet working on a mini-mac from his home in montana. Furthermore, he is largely housebound due to illness and did not have a network or means with which to complete his film properly or get it out there. As I work with producers everyday, i see how they go about things and i have always been interested in how they operate. Similarly, so much of what i do as a sound supervisor involves this kind of organisational tasks and dealings with other businesses and facilities. So i have become well versed in this kind of stuff anyway. Plus i have dear friends in virtually every department of filmmaking which makes it easier when seeking guidance and favours.

On a more personal note, I took on this role because i felt so strongly that Soogie had created a true thing of beauty that i really wanted to be apart of. So i decided to offer all of my efforts to give this film the exposure i feel it deserves.

What is your brief for the sound and how have you undertaken the sound design?

‘Cabbit’ has a very nostalgic feel to it. Not only in the way that it looks but also in the way it recounts its story. it plays like memories and so we wanted it to sound like memories too.

Seeing that the film was going to be grounded in wall-to-wall music, i felt the sound should be impressionistic and minimal – as in, i wanted to hint at the sound things made without being overly detailed and clear about it. I felt that reverbs could be used effectively to creating this effect.

So I decided to bus the tracks into three separate AVID TL Space reverbs that were tuned differently:

1. Recent Memory – this is a light reverb i added to foley which i wanted to feel most present.

2. Fading Memory – this was a heavier/wetter reverb with a longer tail. This was used for the fore-and middle ground sounds such as vehicles, war and industry. I started to think of these as “impression sounds” or “sounds the future would rather forget”.

3. Distant Memory – this is the wettest and longest reverb used. This one was used on the back ground sounds and as reinforcement to the fading memory cues if i felt a sound was somewhere between fading and distant, if you know what i mean.

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Posted by on Jul 29, 2010 | 1 comment

"Flower" – Sound and Music as Narrative

The video on the top is from a session given by sound designer Steve Johnson and composer Vincent Diamante. In the session they talked about the use of sound design and music as narrative elements in Flower, a game for PS3 developed by Thatgamecompany.

Thatgamecompany’s Flower was an ambitious and unconventional game that saw fruition through an equally unconventional development cycle.

This session features a discussion from the composer and sound designer about the audio, covering how their process, source materials, implementation, and unique method of collaboration came together to convey a narrative without words.

Speaker: Steve Johnson (Sound Designer, Sony Computer Entertainment America), Vincent Diamante (composer, contractor) (March 13, 2010)

There are other 7 videos from the session. You can see all of them here.

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Posted by on Feb 22, 2010 | 0 comments

The Sound of "God Of War III" and "Game Audio Basics" on March Issue of Mix Magazine

God_of_War_III

The March issue of the Mix Magazine (Digital Edition) is now available with some goodies, including an article about the sound of God of War III with comments of senior manager Gene Semel, sound design manager Philip Kovats lead sound designer Paul M. Fox and sound designer Steve Johnson.

It’s been five years since the first God of War videogame came out on the Sony PlayStation 2 platform and became an instant sensation among serious gamers worldwide. Combining a richly detailed story using numerous characters and settings from Greek mythology with fast-paced and gory ac- tion and sophisticated gameplay, the title won a slew of awards and, not surprisingly, has spawned a franchise that includes God of War II (2007), God of War: Betrayal (2007; a spinoff for mobile devices), God of War: Chains of Olympus (2008; a prequel to the series devel- oped for the PlayStation Portable) and now, on a wave of anticipation and hype, God of War III (GOW3) for the PlayStation 3.

More than two years in the making, GOW3 ratchets up the action to new extremes as we follow the further adventures of Kratos, a mighty Spartan warrior who battles various gods and titans, and is, as we learned in GOW2, the son of Zeus, who has tried to kill him and vice versa over the course of the GOW adven- tures. Along the way, he encounters a plethora of mythological characters and creatures, in- cluding Athena, Gaia, Kronos, Pegasus, Per- seus, Atlas, Ares, the hydra, the harpies and all sorts of bad dudes and beasties who make life rather challenging for our tormented hero. The range of characters and plot points in GOW3 was a still closely guarded secret when I was preparing this story in early February, but from looking at the previews and an online demo of the game, it appears there is plenty of bloody mayhem involving everything from skeleton warriors to a fire-hurling god to frightening flying creatures, centaurs and you-name-it. In what director Stig Asmussen claims will be the last adventure in the series, Kratos’ goal is no less than the destruction of the home of the gods, Mount Olympus!

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Also our friend Damian Kastbauer (Audio Implementation Greats) has an introductory article to Game Audio Implementation, created with Eddie Ciletti.

I have a friend whose busi- ness card reads, “If I don’t know it, I know someone who does.” That’s my sto- ry in this edition of “Tech’s Files.” My friend and fellow geek Damian Kastbauer is an audio-for-gaming insider.

We’d like to provide an overview for peeps like me who are completely un- familiar with game audio, but who might benefit from knowing some of the nuts and bolts of the process. For example, DAW plug-ins are very graphics-intensive and look very much like their hardware counterparts, even though sliders are more mouse-friendly than knobs. By contrast, audio tools for games tend to be parameter-based, whereas a slider is a newcomer and virtual knobs don’t even exist!

On the surface, game development is often compared to the process of making a film, with the need for a storyboard, screenplay, set and sound de- sign. There is a common discipline between film and videogame creation, but some aspects remain distinctly different. While it might seem absurd to reinvent a DAW or a camera each time a new project is initiated, that’s what often happens in the gaming industry when it comes time to improve upon previous technology. For each new game, the logic, visual and sonic program- mers must create a brand-spankin’ new engine. The insider’s coding game is all about “playing well with others”—for example, sharing memory and DSP/ CPU capabilities—so that the behind-the-scenes technology is transparent to the gamers.

Of course, game designers want a great first impression; the new re- lease must look, feel and sound more realistic than the previous genera- tion. Processing requirements, platform variations (computer hardware) and time to market are all moving targets made more dramatic by projected deadlines that don’t account for the nebulous “fun factor” necessary to make a good game great.

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