So recently I got interviewed for the Splash Damage website, it kinda answers a few questions I get answered often so I thought I'd re post it here.
Andrew 'DingoBongo' Quinn
Joining us, Up From The Depths, Thirty Stories High, Breathing Fire, His Head In The Sky (along with Quinzuuukiiii, his adorable younger, not-quite-able-to-fly sidekick) comes Andrew 'DingoBongo' Quinn. This is a - if you will - Quinntroduction to the man, the myth, the moo, the map. Due to territorial IP issues, not all of them may be visible to you, where you are, browing, reading this, facially.
Andrew is our sonic seer, our audio expert, our aural authority. He minutely inspects each and every sound with tiny pliers and rulers, ensuring they all have the correct bevel and camber and aroma. He finds them, creates them, nurtures and nourishes them in special bins, and then releases them from a brass bucket to flap about our heads. All the sounds issue forth from him. He is, if you like, a sort of sonic spigot, audio hose bibb, or sillcock of sound. He's about as far away as the distance between you and him. He's made from a carbon/carbon laminate, and stands 0.01 furlongs high. In his spare time he designs oats and carves votive busts of Hugo "Goodness Gracious" Grotius.
Things You Were Too Afraid To Ask...
Every once in a while, we interrogate one of our own and put their answers up for all the world to see. Read on to find out more about what Andrew does, how he ended up at Splash Damage, and more.
What do you do at Splash Damage?
I'm a Sound Designer which simply means that I design and implement the sounds that go into the game. Sometimes this includes music, too. In reality, it's a bit more complex than that. My job entails working with the Audio Director to define the audio style of the game, field recording, sound design, dialogue editing, music editing, creation and mixing of cut scenes, implementation of game assets, working with the Audio Programmer on features, and being a general audio ninja. (breathe)
Why did you want to work in the games industry and how did you get started?
I didn't really have a firm goal starting out that I wanted to work in games. The one thing I did know was that I wanted to work with audio. I spent a lot of my teenage years playing in and recording music with various bands, and engineering live music in my spare time, so the thought that I could turn it into a job really appealed.
I started off thinking I'd try my hand at being a recording engineer and went to Leeds Metropolitan University to study Creative Music and Sound Technology. During that degree I was introduced to a lot of different aspects of sound production, and I ended up gradually moving away from music and got really into post production (sound for film) which I still really enjoy. In the final year of that course I did a module in game audio and from then on I was hooked. I stayed on for another year at Leeds Met after my degree and did a masters in Sound and Music for Interactive Games. I started applying for jobs after the Masters and worked with a few mod teams and indie devs to gain a bit of experience and improve my portfolio. Whilst I was doing this, I was also doing a bit of lecturing at Leeds Metropolitan University, teaching on the same course I had done a couple of years previously. Finally, after a year and a half of working on my portfolio, lecturing and generally whoring myself out across the internet, I ended up in Bromley at Splash Damage.
Do you have any tips for people wanting to break in?
As for game audio, break in by doing! Join a mod or indie team and create some sounds, hang around places like GameAudioForum.com, read GameAudioRelevance.iasig.org and listen to the GameAudioPodcast.com. Create a demo reel of work you're happy with, then send it off to as many people who will take it.
Any more than that you'd have to contact me directly - I'm happy to give out a bit of advice.
What other games have you worked on?
I worked on a couple of small mods, a big screen game for BBC Leeds staring a small robot called Fuse Box, an indie game called Primal Carnage and more interestingly a book; an interactive tutorial about game audio delivered in a game called The Game Audio Tutorial (available in all good bookshops). Oh and a tiny ennie weeeeinne bit of BRINK.
Which of your past projects was your favourite to work on, and why?
It has to be The Game Audio Tutorial. It was a really interesting project to work on because it was a bit unusual. The authors (Richard Stevens and Dave Raybould) pretty much gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted with the sound, however there was a restriction for various legal reasons I wasn't allowed to use any commercial sound effects libraries. What this meant was that I pretty much had to go record everything required for the project with next to no budget. This forced me to think in ingenious ways to get the material.
For instance, one of the requirements were some sounds for night birds, owls etc. So one night I went off to a wood near my parents' house in Cumbria in the middle of nowhere to try and record some. I don't know if you've ever sat in a wood in the middle of nowhere, at 1 AM, in the dark, for an hour. I found it pretty terrifying. The more annoying thing about that experience was that I didn't manage to record any night birds. So it was back to the drawing board. In the end, I decided to have a go at listening to real recordings of owls and night birds and then record myself trying vocalize the calls. It kinda worked and made it into the book - see/hear for yourself here. Coming up with little solutions like that and having to beg/borrow/steal stuff to make sounds rather than falling back to traditional library fx was really rewarding.
Why did you join Splash Damage?
The games, environment, location and more importantly people all agreed with me.
What is it like to work at Splash Damage?
No one day is quite the same; there's always something new and exciting to do, whether that be creating a new sound for some new game asset or making clever little audio systems to make the sound playback in the game. Oh and there's a never ending supply of cake...
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Best Part: Recording, editing and designing that perfect sound that fits just right and seamlessly works in the game
Worst Part: Editing dialog line 15,729
What was your first gaming experience?
I can't really remember what my first gaming experience was, it was probably something on a friend's Mega Drive. I do however remember the first game I ever owned. When my parents bought their first PC they bought me a game for it out of curiosity called Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure. Essentially it was a side scrolling platformer about a little green alien with plungers for hands. I never got off the second level. So it wasn't a great start on my transcendence into becoming a game developer. Shortly after that I was given the demo for Wolfenstein 3D which changed everything for me and I've been shooting things (virtually) ever since.
What types of games do you like, and what's your favourite game of all time?
Typically I'm a bit of an FPS nut, so I've put many hours into your Call-of-Battlefield-Honor-Fortress-Strike-Tournament-7 type action games but I like to branch out into the odd RPG or RTS now and then. Hell, recently I've even been venturing into the cuddly world of indie games and really enjoying it.
As for a favourite game of all time, that's a difficult one. Does "everything Valve has ever made" count as an answer? If I had to pick one it would have to be the original Half-Life. It's probably not the best game Valve have made but for the sheer impact it had on me and the amount of time I put into it it's got to be that game.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?
Mountain biking, skiing, movies, other miscellaneous sports and social stuff and sometimes even playing the odd game.
What's the meaning behind your nickname?
DingoBongo was just a name I started using years ago when playing the original Counterstrike and it kind of stuck. I can't really remember how I came up with it. I think I just stuck two random words together that kind of sounded similar, like some sort of jokey radio call-sign off Top Gun or Hotshots. I find it really annoying that I don't have the DingoBongo Xbox Live tag because I was too late to the party!
via Splash Damage
So the book I have been working on for the last few months is out very soon it's all very exciting. Thanks to Richard and Dave for letting me work with them as a sound designer on this, it's been a great project. If you are new to game audio, want a job in game audio or are doing audio in the UDK its a must.
However now I have moved to a new town and on to a new job as a sound designer at the UK developer Splash Damage. This means that due to NDA restrictions this blog may take a different turn as I am unable to discuss in any depth what I am doing. Anyway!
The Game Audio Tutorial will be published on the 29th of March 2011 available at any bookshop thats worth bothering with. Such as Amazon.
Here's the blurb;
Design and implement video game sound from beginning to end with this hands-on course in game audio. Music and sound effects speak to players on a deep level, and this book will show you how to design and implement powerful, interactive sound that measurably improves gameplay. If you are a sound designer or composer and want to do more than just create audio elements and hand them over to someone else for insertion into the game, this book is for you. You'll understand the game development process and implement vital audio experiences-not just create music loops or one-off sound effects.
The Game Audio Tutorial isn't just a book-you also get a powerful website (www.thegameaudiotutorial.com), which includes:
* A unique tutorial game level in which you can learn and experiment * Twenty ten-minute tutorial videos with screen captures, voiceover, and interactive commentary * A library of hundreds of sound files * Up-to-the-moment articles and further resources to keep you at the cutting edge
If you want to learn about game audio implementation, this is the book for you! Stevens and Raybould have written a thorough, practical, hands-on guide to sound and music implementation in games and, by doing so, present the reader with an excellent introduction to the concepts of interactive game sound. Speckled with humour and written in an accessible style, this book is sure to find a home in many classrooms and homes of aspiring sound designers, composers, and audio programmers. -Karen Collins, Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio, University of Waterloo, Author of Game Sound (MIT Press)
The Game Audio Tutorial is not only an impressive exploration of the UDK audio system, but also a thorough introduction to fundamentals of audio for games. Novices and advanced users alike will find this book an invaluable resource, as it takes the reader through the process of triggering their first sound to scripting complex in-game actions. The authors (Richard Stevens and Dave Raybould) have put together an amazing amount of information about audio for the UDK not easily found anywhere else. The Game Audio Tutorial is one of a kind and has found a way of making seemingly difficult concepts easier to understand. -Chris Latham, Professor of Advanced Interactive Audio at Full Sail University and Technical Sound Designer and Founder of Engine Audio
Chapter 1 : Basic training
Readers will be introduced to the chosen platform for demonstrating the principles within the book, Epic Games 'Unreal Development Kit' (available to all readers for free at http://www.udk.com/). They will learn about the importance of ambient sound in adding character and immersion to game environments. Via a number of simple tasks they will learn how to navigate the UDK interface and how to implement basic sound ambiences.
Chapter 2 : How big is the van ?
This chapter will deal with the issues of memory when developing audio for games. A number of solutions to non-repetitive design will be discussed, illustrated and accompanied by tasks to embed knowledge. These techniques and principles are particularly applicable to platforms where the memory is a significant restriction such as the NDS, PSP, iPhone or other mobile devices, but are also equally important for other consoles such as the Wii, XBox360 and PS3 albeit on a different scale.
Chapter 3 : Making it sound real
This chapter will deal with a number of acoustic principles, as applied in games, and their implementation. It also will discuss the need to create a realistic, consistent and believable sound world through the implementation of sounds to accompany the physical interaction of gameplay objects.
Chapter 4 : Making it sound good
This chapter will deal with the crucial issues of how sound can support gameplay and narrative not only through adding characterisation to objects and characters but by also being reactive to game events via the use of interactive mixing.
Chapter 5 : Music systems
This chapter will cover music implementation in games. It will deal with a number of different approaches going from simple crossfading systems to more generative techniques.
Chapter 6 : Dialogue
This chapter will begin by looking at some of the tragic history of dialogue in games and posit some reasons for these continuing crimes, before proposing some suggestions and techniques for improving things in the future.
Chapter 7 : Advanced Sound system design
This chapter deals with complex interactive systems for game sound design such as vehicle and weapon design. In this chapter we will dig beneath the usual user interface of the game development tool and look at some of the key concepts relating to the scripting and programming that go on under the hood.
Chapter 8 : Next steps
This chapter will look at career opportunities within the games industry. It will include interviews with industry practitioners, advice on the roles available within industry, and advice for creating an appropriate demo reel.
Appendix A :Sound FX design
This chapter will look at practical sound FX design for games. Taking the reader from basic recording principles to processing and digital audio manipulation for the creation of sound FX.
Appendix B: Sampling and resampling
This demonstrates the application of this important technique via a freely available audio editor package.
Appendix C: Loops and Looping
This demonstrates the application of this important technique via a freely available audio
Appendix D : Quickstart Page
This provides a summary of the key techniques for those readers who already have some familiarity with Game Design tools.
Appendix E : Keyboard Shortcuts.
This provides a useful reference for keyboard shortcuts.
Appendix F : Template levels
This appendix contains a description of the Template level included with the book that can form the basis for readers further experimentation.
Appendix G: Sound Library Contents
This appendix will outline the contents of the small sound library which accompanies the book.
Appendix H : Basic terms.
This covers the basic terms that the book will use for any readers unfamiliar with common computing terms.
(Not the actual box)
One of the rooms featured in the Game Audio Tutorial features a small group of spooky sounds, one of my favorites out of this group is the Spooky Musical Jewellery Box because there is a little bit of a story behind it. The sound itself isn't really that innovative in fact it's a bit of a horror classic/cliché but it still works.
I came across the wind up musical jewelry box at my parents house. It sounds quite old and spooky as it is but as it played it got slower and slower becoming more eerie as it did. I recorded the box at several speeds but ultimately decided that the slowest recording was the most spooky. (see original recording)
Recently I have also been experimenting with creating my own impulse responses using a starting pistol and sine wave sweeps. One of the better impulses I recorded was taken on my street using the starting pistol and my Sony D50 (two bits of kit that are quickly becoming invaluable). I set up the D50 about 25m away down the street and fired the pistol a couple of times to get the impulse.
To make the music box a bit more spooky and interesting (or more clichéd) I decided to add a little reverb to it, after a bit of experimenting I decided to process it using waves IR with my street impulse. I think it gives the sound a very eerie feel probably because of the impulse response's less than prefect recording and odd echo.
Or at least that's what I think, I'd like to hear any comment's if you have any!
The Spooky Music Box was originally recorded with a Sony D50 Internal Mics X/Y @ 96k/24bit. I then processed the sound in Waves IR using a custom impulse response I recorded on my street using a .22 caliber starting pistol and the Sony D50 Internal Mics AB positioning @ 96k/24bit.
So back to it! Wind sounds. Anyone who has tried to record wind knows that it isn't an easy beast to tame. The easiest way to record wind is to record something being moved by the wind rather than actual wind, as the sound of air being blown into a mic isn't that great. But what if you want to create an eerie whistling wind? They do exist in real life but can be hard to recreate or find so here is my solution to the problem.
In the eerie wind samples provided in GAT I used Paulstretch to stretch some cable swishes by several hundred percent. These stretched swishes are ok on their own but to make them seem more airy and real I added a little bit of eq, reverb and delay.
Worldizing is not a new concept. The term was first coined by Walter Murch as the process of taking recorded and edited sound or music into the field, playing it back then recording the result. The process was developed because of the limitations of the technology back in the day. Nowadays we have high quality convolution reverbs and processors such as Altiverb, TL Space, Waves IR, Space Designer, Speakerphone etc etc which can do a pretty damn good job of replicating a space or piece of equipment. However this stuff isn't perfect and more importantly (in my case) isn't cheap. So for me wordizing is still a technique I turn to when I want a particular sound or effect that I can't quite get with my meagre digital means.
Nice example from Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring;
So where does this all fit into The Game Audio Tutorial? Well for one of the exercises in the book we needed some dialogue to guide the player around the map, this bit of dialogue was going to be delivered by a small radio. Now at this point I could have started adding eq and distortion to the dialogue lines trying to approximate the sound of a small speaker but I already had something a little different in mind.
A couple of years ago I bought one of these (see pic) its a Smokey Amp by Zinky Electronics it has a really thin raspy distorted tone which would be great for a walkie-talkie esque sound.
- Original dialogue recorded @ 96k 24bit into Digidesign 003 using a SE Electronics 2200a
- For obvious reasons the Smokie Amp doesn't really like line level signals and seemed to produce the best results when run with audio from my iPhone
- Worldized dialogue recorded back into Digidesign 003 @ 96k 24bit using a Rode NTG-3
The robot in GAT is a small homage to the famous singing robot played by Ellen McLain in Portal; GlaDos. This post will take you through the process of creating the robot voice in the Game Audio Tutorial using Melodyne.
(Warning Contains Spoiler )
The dialogue line has been performed in a very monotone staccato manner as to try replicate a robot type voice. It was recorded with a Neumann u87 into an Audient ASP8024 and MOTU 24 I/O.
The first stage of creating the robot voice is to correct the pitch in Melodyne this snaps the word or part of a word to the nearest note. Listen to the corrected sample
The next stage is to constrain the pitch modulation of the dialogue line this stops the pitch of the dialogue modulating giving it a very synthesised feel.
The penultimate stage is to adjust the dialogue line's formants up two tones. Formants are groups of harmonics present in the dialogue by shifting these up the fundamental pitch remains the same but the harmonics become stretched out, again making the line sound more synthesised.
The last process is where I wanted to differentiate the character from GlaDos slightly. I wanted the character to sound slightly comedic rather than menacing so rather than leaving the pitch constant I pitched individual words up and down by a couple of semi-tones to give the character a jerky musical quality.
The owls & night birds in The Game Audio Tutorial have a bit of a strange back story to them and id thought i'd make this post about them and the problems they incurred.
As you can glean from the title of the post I needed to record some owl and night bird vocals for The Game Audio Tutorial and for various reasons to do with the book I couldn't use any library recordings.
Phase1: Record birds in their natural habitat
So I went on a local nature website to try find out where these critters live. After picking a couple of locations that I could visit all in one evening I set out with my usual combo of an FR-2 and a Rode NTG-3 to try record some of these birds.
Unfortunately none of the birds seemed to be in, or if they were in they definitely didn't come out to play. All I managed to record whilst sat in a scary-ass wood on my own in the dark in the middle of the Lake District was the rustle of trees and possibly the quiet approach of the local axe murderer. (although that could have been a rabbit or a fox for all I know it could have been an elephant)
Phase 2: Record reserve birds
Luckily there is a falconry centre close to me which houses a couple of owls and other birds of prey which would be great to record. So I gave them a ring to see if they'd be interested in taking pity on a lowly penniless sound designer and let me come and record some of their birds. They agreed to letting me record the birds but unfortunately they wanted a quite substantial fee for doing this, which is fair enough really as I'd be taking up an afternoon of the centre's time. However the budget I have for the Game Audio Tutorial doesn't quite stretch to this (it's zero, nill, nadda,) so I had to go back to the drawing board. Again.
(on a side note when I'm not so penniless I'm going to go back and take them up on this offer)
Phase 3 : Desperation
The last idea I had (apart from going out and sitting in a forest all evening again) was to get some recordings of night birds like owls and the such and to try to mimic them with my voice then pitch the recording to a frequency that sounds realistic enough to be an owl. So I recorded myself mimicking owl noises and pitching them to create bird like sounds.
It sorta works. You could almost say that the human and slightly unrealistic quality to the vocalisations gives them an eerie and unworldly tone. If I claimed that this was intentional I'd be lying.
And this neatly brings me on to the point or moral or theme or end bit (running out if ideas now) of this post.
The human voice is pretty versatile, it can be used to produce a range of vocalisations for all sorts of applications. For instance if I'm trying to describe a sound to someone and struggling to do it often i'l vocalise it to try and get my point across. Or if I'm struggling to create or record a sound I'll have a go at vocalising it to see if that works, I've lost count of the times that someone has come across me making noises to myself then wandered off again totally bemused. Some may argue that a sound designer's voice is one of their best tools and I'd agree. So now I've made this bold claim here's a couple of videos and examples of the human voice being used in real-life sound design by real-life sound designers!
Dragon Age Origins: 0:50
Jordan Ivey uses the sound of a human imitating a cat in the Deepstalker creature.
Star Wars: R2D2
Star Wars contains tons of vocal performances by both Ben Burt personally and other sound designers arguably one of the most iconic being the voice of R2D2.
This excerpt was taken from the book The Sound Of Star Wars it is excellent and I suggest that everyone vaguely interested in sound to go buy it.
Over a period of months, R2's voice became a fifty-fifty meticulous blend of electronic and human sound. Eventually Burtt built a circuit using the ARP 2600 that enabled him to play notes on a synthesiser and at the same time record human sounds into a microphone; For example, if Burtt raised his voice in pitch, the electronic sound would shape itself to conform. Burtt would make the sounds as if in slow motion and then speed up the result, which created the rapid high-pitched sound of the droid's speech.
"Artoo hs a scream, which is just me screaming" say Burtt. "I did the scream up at Park Way in the basement where I worked. I remember I was lying on the floor under the workbench table because it was the quietest place in the room; it would insulate me somewhat, because it had a filling cabinet on either side of it. Later, I sped up my scream a little bit, so it's higher in pitch. But it's funny-I've tried to repeat that scream over the years, and I've never been able to hit that note again without coughing or something."
To finish I'll leave you with this as a rather extreme example of what can be done. A complete replacement of all the Half-Life 2 audio with vocal samples (I didn't create this btw). Enjoy
So get vocalising!
Since it's nearly Halloween I've decided that this latest post is going to be about some spooky metal sounds in the gat sound library so here it is;
The metal murmurs featured in the gat sound library a classic example of spooky metal sound effects these are designed to be used as one shot stinger type sounds randomly throughout a spooky game level. This effect can be created relatively easily. The base sound for the effect is a bowed 14" cymbal, this doesn't have to be a cymbal but it is a good example.
The cymbal I have used is actually broken, it has a 12cm crack in the metal. This is good for two reasons. Firstly it gives it a slightly more abrasive tone when bowed, it also causes changes in the tone and resonant frequencies of the cymbal depending on the distance between the bow and the crack. The second reason is that it makes it the cymbal cheap, sites like ebay have a whole host of broken or damaged stuff like this that can be bought relatively cheaply.
Bowing the cymbal requires two things a bow and rosin. In this case I have used a cello bow as they are a bit tougher than a violin bow. Rosin is a solid resin produced from pine trees that is rubbed onto the bow hairs to create friction between the bow and the surface you are trying to bow.
The cymbal was recorded at 24bit 96k using a shotgun microphone and a contact microphone.
The shotgun microphone picks up the high frequencies nicely but lacks bottom end. The contact microphone is pretty much the opposite, it picks up the lower frequencies better than high frequencies. When mixed together this produces a much thicker sound.
To give the murmur some space a reverb is added, in the example a large church convolution reverb is used.
The next step is to add an echo effect with a large intensity this gives the murmur the "larger than life quality"
The murmur is then pitched down 25 semitones, this both not only lowers the pitch of the murmur but also stretches the length of the murmur greatly giving it an eerie drone like quality.