Audio Media July 2014

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How To Build A Game Audio Studio With game audio becoming more of a focus for developers John Broomhall investigates gear and facilities for creating today’s videogame sound.

Tools of the Trade Audio Media asked around to find out who’s using what and the general nature of facilities where today’s cutting-edge audio for games is being created. By no means scientific, it’s more of a finger in the air – but the main headlines are clear enough:


any moons ago, I recall a certain pro-audio magazine running an article on the equipment necessary for creating game music and sound. It turned out you needed a Mac running a midi sequencer, some modest stereo editing software, and the latest Kurzweil flagship: the K2000. Or thereabouts… The article cast the game audio world of nigh on a quarter-of-acentury ago as awash with 8-bit quality sound, and reading between the lines, one populated by somewhat less than ‘pro-audio’ practitioners. Understandably, if perhaps a tad arrogantly, it confidently forecast a time when the industry would grow up, and technical standards for fidelity would blossom to ‘CD quality’. The message was clear – all you ‘proper’ studios, stand-by, at some point this is all coming your way, because eventually those bedroom audiomancers struggling with 8-bit samples on the Amiga home computing console will no longer be able to cut the mustard. Harsh, but fair? Well, it’s complicated. In some respects, this was a reasonable analysis given the prevailing circumstances – how many back then really foresaw the huge explosion in reliable

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computerised music technology? Yet, arguably, software-savvy audio creatives in the games industry were very well placed indeed to harness the rapidly developing new recording tech and run with it as they increasingly found the game tech concurrently developing in leaps and strides. It started to become possible to ship games with believable 3D audio worlds replete with credible acoustic modelling, boasting occlusion and obstruction and a plethora of other DSP treatments in play. It wouldn’t be long before those game audio pioneers would be able to replay dozens of 3D audio channels rendered in 5.1 and then 7.1 – all running live at ‘run-time’ in a videogame via a sophisticated virtual digital mixing desk – a revolution in interactive audio. Let’s also not forget that the notion of a ‘project studio’ was nascent – the concept that you could create master quality assets in less than top-end pro-audio conditions was to become a reality, changing the recording industry forever – from ADAT to Pro Tools… you know the rest. Creative Opportunities Would the dominant technology limitations surrounding game audio eventually fall away for good? It was touch and go for a while. Not

MIDDLEWARE/BESPOKE SPECIFIC GAME DEVELOPMENT TOOLS WWise; FMOD; In-house proprietary tech; Unity; Unreal (Specific ‘devkit’ required for console platforms such as PS4, XBOX One, Nintendo Wii etc) DAW OF CHOICE Pro Tools; Nuendo DAW INTERFACE RME MONITORS Genelec; Adam Audio (Most rooms equipped for 5.1 and/or 7.1) HEADPHONES beyerdynamic; Sennheiser every generation of games hardware brought music to the ears of the audio community. But without doubt, the advent of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ushered in an era where creativity could blossom abundantly, far less hampered by technology than previously. Today, we live in the world of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and the future for high-quality music, sound, and dialogue, both technically and artistically, looks very bright. Meanwhile, many of the original

EDITING SOFTWARE SoundForge; Audition SOFTWARE PLUG-INS iZotope – various; Waves – various SOUND LIBRARY MANAGEMENT Basehead; Nuendo Mediabay; SoundMiner ROOM ISOLATION Approximately half of the people asked have a fully sound-proofed, isolated room. PROFESSIONALLY DESIGNED ACOUSTICS Roughly three-quarters of the respondents have professionally designed acoustic treatments. videogame audio types from back in the day are alive and well, creating or overseeing top-class interactive audio content. As to the level of in-house provision – it’s a mixed picture – some larger companies have created impressively high-spec’ed designer recording and mixing environments while others take a much more stripped back approach. (And interestingly, there really is no correlation when it comes to the Bafta and Grammy awards season).