FEATURE: GAME AUDIO
THE TEAM John Broomhall talks to DICE audio director Ben Minto about the sound of Star Wars: Battlefront.
In-house • 1 audio director • 3 sound designers (plus one to cover Minto’s sound design work during paternity leave) – roughly split to cover core systems, technical and the missions, but with plenty of overlap and sharing of tasks • 2 voice-over designers – one full-time, others brought in during the busy recording, editing and implementation phases • 1 audio programmer – teamased (in addition to Frostbite engine support) • 1 audio analyst
lectronic Arts’ DICE is the illustrious Stockholm-based game development studio renowned for the massively successful military firstperson shooter series Battlefield. Among its umpteen accolades are an unprecedented two consecutive BAFTA Best Game Audio wins. The DICE audio ethos that respected sound designer and audio director Ben Minto espouses is famed – creating interactive sound is very much a team activity and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A thoughtful audio design approach and strong cross-disciplinary collaboration facilitate not only audio excellence, but also an overall world-class videogame experience. Meanwhile, a mantelpiece crammed with audio awards engenders robust corporate backing. 24
At the outset of his eight-year tenure, Minto could surely never have imagined his path leading to such a prestigious opportunity – namely heading up interactive audio production for possibly the world’s most hallowed IP – one that resonates with him ‘deeply’. The reality kicked in when he came face-to-face with personal sound design heroes and masters of Star Wars audio Ben Burtt and Matt Wood. During an ‘audio summit’ at Skywalker Ranch early on in the 18-month project, they agreed to give DICE VIP access to stems from the first six films (music, SFX, dialogue, aliens, etc). Minto describes the process of sifting through the original recordings (complete with slates) as “a dream; a unique and humbling experience”. But that was just the beginning… Minto explains: “In films, a single
sound might be reused many times and involve one perspective, for example most blaster shots are ‘third person’ and fairly close. But we needed to extend from that to cover our more diverse game requirements – ‘first-person’, various distances, and modelling how the blasters sound in different environments. We sent detailed requests for SFX ‘pulls’ (where we knew it might be hard to isolate them or where we needed multiple variants) – this provided many new perfect source elements. We also conducted sessions with Star Wars Foley royalty Dennie Thorpe and Jana Vance to get us the right movement and surfaces source. Then we made our own unique sounds combining the aforementioned with new recordings (such as Icelandic lava fields for the Sullust levels) and existing
External • Dolby Labs: Spencer Hooks and team, Atmos support • Formosa Interactive and SIDE UK: dialogue recording • Skywalker Sound: Foley sessions, additional source material and guidance • Source Sound: Charles Deenen and team – trailers and in-game cutscenes
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