Knowing your way around audio middleware is quickly becoming a required skill to get a job in the game audio industry. If you are a sound designer and/or a composer that is looking to break into the world of game audio, learning how to work with various audio middleware solutions will not only give you a head start and set you apart from the “competition”, but it will also give you a greater understanding of how the technical side of things works and consequently you will have a greater appreciation of the inner workings of game audio. After Audiokinetic and Firelight Technologies announced their free license options (granted with some limitations), making Wwise and FMOD Studio available at no cost for the indies/small game development companies as of last year, now these programs are being used more than ever. There is no reason for you to not employ these options to create a more interactive and coherent soundscape for the game you are working on while also making life easier for yourself and the game developers.
But on the vast sea of knowledge and misinformation that is called the internet, how would you know where to start learning about these programs? Well, this is a guide to hopefully help you with that by providing you with a general outline of which resources and learning options are available right now for you to find out more about audio middleware as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Of course the process and experience of learning differs from one person to another, therefore the resources are categorized in three different sections; video tutorials, documentation and online courses, namely. So if you are more of a visual learner, you can start right away with the video tutorials or if you prefer to have feedback from an instructor you can check out the online courses available etc.
A disclaimer feels warranted here, this is not a post comparing the available audio middleware options, while there are various audio toolsets available to use, Wwise and FMOD are the two that are readily available to anyone for free and have more informational resources dedicated to them than others. If you think there are additional resources about the middleware mentioned here or about other audio toolsets, that you think might be beneficial to this post, please feel free to let us know in the comments.
Audiokinetic offers a large selection of documentation on their resources page and the first one you might want to start with is the Wwise Fundamentals which is a great place to get a basic understanding of how Wwise works and the terminology that is used on the tutorial projects that are available for you to work later on. A little warning, Wwise is currently on version 2014.1.2 in the time of writing this and the fundamentals document is based on an older 2012 build, so it probably does not cover all of the up-to-date capabilities of Wwise.
After going through the Fundamentals, now you are ready to take on the Project Adventure which is a hands-on tutorial experience where you can re-create a Wwise project from scratch. It is your best bet to learn more about Wwise while also emulating the process of working on a real game project. To install project adventure and all the other sample projects that are mentioned in this article, you need to select their packages during the installation process on Windows or you can download them separately from the download page and put them in a folder of your liking on OSX.
In addition to the project adventure, you can work through the Sample Project or you can choose to work on sound engine sample integration by working on the CUBE game project and following its documentation. Another option is to work on sound replacement and integration on the highly acclaimed indie title Limbo, which was made available as part of a contest last year. You can obtain the related sample files from Audiokinetic’s download page.
All of these projects come with their own sound and music assets to get you started right away and they will provide a hands-on approach to learning Wwise but you can also choose to create your own soundscape to experiment with these projects more and learn more in the process. After all, the more experience you have with it, the easier it will be to use it when you are working on a real project.
You can find the official user manual in the FMOD installation directory that you chose during the installation process. In addition, you can use the documentation page to get more information on how to get started working on different platforms and also benefit from other users’ experience with FMOD by checking the Q&A database. If you are planning on integrating FMOD Studio to Unity you can download the most recent integration documentation here.
The official FMOD YouTube channel has various tutorial videos to get you acquainted with both FMOD Studio and FMOD Designer. In addition, they recently created a whole playlist of videos featuring official tutorials on how to integrate and use FMOD Studio with Unreal Engine 4. You can follow along these tutorials by downloading the FMOD Studio for UE4 plugin and the provided assets from the official download page.
Audiokinetic’s official YouTube channel has various tutorial videos that demonstrate the capabilities of Wwise. However it should be noted the most recent of these videos is from a few years ago, so there are some minor changes on the interface and functionality compared to the most recent build of Wwise, therefore be sure to check with the documentation which is up-to-date if you have trouble following the videos.
There are various options to choose from when it comes to taking an online course on audio middleware. Here they are, in no particular order;
Leonard Paul’s School of Video Game Audio
$400 per course
School of Video Game Audio offers various courses on not only Wwise and FMOD Studio but also on UNITY 3D and PureData as well. You can use the course and the instructor’s feedback to create your demo reel for the middleware/engine of your choosing or as Paul mentions in this recent interview, if you are a game audio veteran who is already working in the industry, you can benefit from it to gain a deeper understanding of the tools that are used. The courses usually take around two months to complete each and require registration ahead of time.
Sound Librarian’s “FMOD Studio 101 Certification Course”
$1299 (Can be paid for and accessed in smaller installments)
The official training partner of FMOD, Sound Librarian offers the only officially certified FMOD Studio 101 certification course online. The course offers over 30 hours of tutorial videos, exercises and interactive training, the Sound Librarian Educational Sound Effects Library, project review and feedback by the Sound Librarian team, 12 months access to all the materials which enables you to learn at your own pace and finally two personal one on one sessions with the founder and the director of Sound Librarian, Stephan Schütze himself. You can find out more about the certification course here. In addition, they also offervarious other training options such as the FMOD Studio/Unity integration and the FMOD Studio 101 Online Essentials course. You can check out the different learning modules here.
AskVideo’s “FMOD Studio 101 – Introducing FMOD Studio”
$19.50 Download or $25 Monthly Subscription
AskVideo recently released a new course on FMOD Studio taught by David Earl. The course consists of 27 tutorial videos and takes about two hours to go through. While it doesn’t explore any implementation techniques nor offers any kind of feedback or sample files, it provides a quick introduction and overview of FMOD Studio for beginners.
CRAS “Wwise-101 Online Certification Course”
Free to register, $195 fee for the certification exam
Audiokinetic recently partnered up with the Conservatory of Recording Arts to offer a Wwise-101 End User certification program. You can sign up for the program for free and go through all the lessons and learn your way around Wwise while using the Cube Demo to implement sounds into the game right away. After you successfully completed all the quizzes at the end of each lesson, you will be eligible to take the online certification exam. Although this is a good opportunity to get a good understanding of Wwise at your own pace since all the materials are available right from the moment you register for the program, there’s no possibility of getting feedback or review for your work from an instructor.
Berklee Online’s “Game Audio Production with Wwise”
$1200 Non-Credit or $1450 3-Credits Tuition
As of 2014, Berklee Online started to offer a game audio production course using Wwise in which you will work with two video game samples; Limbo and AngryBots to create your own demo reels. During the course you will be going through different steps of creating and implementing audio for games with the instruction and feedback from Brad Fotsch. The course takes 12 weeks to complete and gives a letter of completion and 3-credits if you choose the credit option during payment.
While it’s not a cross-platform solution like FMOD or Wwise, Fabric deserves an honorable mention here since it’s also free to obtain and it gives the sound designers and composers who work on Unity based games a greater flexibility and options to create a more interactive audio environment. You can find out more about Fabric by signing up on their website for free and checking out the provided demo projects and videos in addition to the official online manual.
As it is apparent, these days there are numerous ways to start learning about audio middleware. So much so, that it might look a little bit overwhelming at first. Which one to learn first? Where to start? Which one should I be using to create a demo reel? Which one I will be using the most? As you can see from this post by Damian Kastbauer, as a game audio professional you will be learning and using not only audio middleware options such as Wwise and FMOD but also various audio toolsets along the way, including the in-house proprietary ones. So the short answer to all those questions is, start anywhere! Just choose one of the available options now and start learning about it, since whatever experience and information you will get from using one audio toolset will indubitably benefit all of the others you will be using in the future.