Guest Contribution by Stephan Schütze
Why I am not going to tell you which microphone to use
The simple answer to this statement is, because we don’t have time. The exact choice of which microphone to use for each situation of recording a vehicle is a detailed exercise and would take more pages than we have space for. Even then, there is a major flaw associated with the idea. What I hear and what sounds good to my ears may not work for you. Suggesting Brand X or a Model 2B, stuffed up the exhaust pipe of your Honda, may only serve to encourage you to spend more money than you need to. As much as we all love to buy new equipment, I think there is value in stepping beyond the tools and toys. I’m going to be more general and share a more conceptual approach to capturing good vehicle sounds.
What I will do is take you through some of the essential lessons I’ve learned when recording vehicle sounds for Sound Librarian. In creating our sound libraries, I’ve recorded motorbikes, cars, tanks, boats, airplanes, pretty much every vehicle I could get my microphones near.
Allow me to share a story with you:
It was the weekend before the holiday break. Our horror film shoot had been going on for a few days, and as was typical of December at the base of Cape Cod, the weather was frigid and rapidly getting worse. With reports of an approaching winter storm, we frantically worked in the freezing cold to finish our exterior shots as quickly as possible. After moving inside the little house and getting the final shots of the day, my boom operator and I quieted everyone to perform the always-exciting task of collecting room tone.
Typically, room tone recordings are unremarkable things, but on this cold December night, hidden behind the whine of the set lighting, the creaks of an old settling house, the distant buzz of the electrical system, was a soft and rhythmic ringing. The two of us glanced around the room, making sure someone on the crew wasn’t fiddling with their keys, but even they had puzzled looks on their faces: They heard it, too. After a minute or so, we cut the recording and everyone started running around trying to find the source of the sound. It wasn’t until someone opened the front door that we realized what it was.
This is a guest article written by Ariel Gross, Audio Director of game development studio Volition Inc, which produces such PC and console titles as the Saint’s Row and Red Faction series. You can view Ariel’s introduction post here.
I Feel Like a Fraud and So Can You!
Every now and then I feel like a fraud. Every now and then I feel like I’m merely masquerading as a professional. Every now then I feel a little bit terrified, and then I see the look in your eyes. Wait, wait. Sorry. That last one was from a Bonnie Tyler song. But here’s the thing. The more I open up about this feeling to others, the more I realize that lots of other people feel this way, and it can be really comforting to know that we’re not alone. And actually, it might just be okay that we feel like frauds. Good, even!
How is it “okay” to be a fraud?
Well, hold your horses there, header. I never said that I am a fraud. I said that I feel like a fraud, and there’s a big difference. I’ve never claimed credit for something that I didn’t actually do. That would make me an actual fraud. If I have done that, it would have been unintentionally, and I would be mortified to find out. I would shout from the tallest mountain that there was an error.
It’s more like a sense of disbelief that I occasionally accomplish things that are actual things. To be clear, actual things are what I’ve always endeavored to do, and I believe that anyone that sets out to do actual things will likely become more capable of doing an actual thing. And that is just fine… for other people.
The issues of loudness and dynamic range are common across all audio/visual media, but recently this conversation has been gaining traction within the game audio community. Following his presentation ‘Fighting the Loudness War’ at the Develop conference in early July, I contacted Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s Audio Director Garry Taylor to discuss the subject further.
DS: First of all, can you tell us a little about how yourself, and your audio career in the games industry so far?
I left school at 16 and joined a band as a bassist. As well as constant gigging I also taught myself my way around a mixing desk and started engineering live bands at my local venue, The Square in Harlow, UK. After 10 years gigging and engineering bands, both live and in the studio, I bumped into a game developer friend who asked me if I wanted to do some music for a project he was working on. I enjoyed myself on that project and decided I wanted to work on games full time. I offered to work for him for free for a couple of months, and in those two months made myself invaluable, after which he offered me a full-time job. I stayed at Mythos Games (creators of X-Com) for 4 years before joining Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) as a sound designer in 2001. After working at SCEE’s London Studio for 5 years, I moved to Cambridge to manage the audio team there. In the last couple of years I have taken responsibility for audio for SCEE’s London, Cambridge, Liverpool and Evolution Studios.
DS: Could you tell us about where your interest in loudness standards stems from? What issues are being caused by a lack of any kind of standard in games at the moment?
GT: The main problem for me was the complete lack of consistency between different titles on PlayStation, especially the audio that accompanies the icons on the Xross Media Bar (XMB). As a front end, I felt the XMB problem reflected very badly on PlayStation generally and needed to be fixed. But without any official guidance, there was very little that audio developers could do to counter the requests from producers to increase the volume on titles.
Volition Sound Designer Ariel Gross has posted a blog on AltDevBlogADay on the process of getting hired for a game audio position.
The blog contains some fascinating insights on the hiring agents perspective , and is a valuable read for those trying to break into the industry, check out the except below;
We kept a central person to review all incoming applicants. That would be me. I’d scrap a bunch of incoming applicants because I could tell by reading the cover letter and resume that a person did not have the stuff. I will talk more about that later. If someone piqued my interest, I would pass their cover letter, resume, and demo materials along to the rest of the audio team. I’d get feedback and then decide if we wanted to proceed with the candidate to the next step.
The next step would be some kind of test. Previously, we had sent out a written test that had a bunch of questions on it. Stuff like, what do you consider to be the three most important areas of sounds in an open world game? What do you think would be difficult about working on audio in an open world game? And if you had to design a beam weapon, how would you put it together both creatively and technically? And a bunch of other riddles and puzzles and noodle-ticklers that usually had no specific correct answer but plenty of potential incorrect or awkward answers.
Read the full post over on AltDevBlogADay.com