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  • THE ART OF DESIGNING ART – Jesse Harlin (March 2008)
    toward hyperrealism as the game s score helps to telegraph emotion pacing and setting to the player But listen to the audio for a movie like I Am Legend or The Graduate Watch an episode of anything from ER to Buffy The Vampire Slayer to The Real World With exceptional frequency film and television both play with massively exaggerated hyper reality in ways that games rarely approach The end of Terry Gilliam s 12 Monkeys is shot entirely as a slow motion action sequence Most of the sound for the world has drained away What remains resonates in a massive wash of reverb At a pivotal point in the scene all remaining sound finally fades away leaving only music to carry the emotion of the finale By selectively isolating specific elements of the film s soundtrack the movie moves away from a simple documentary of events and becomes impressionistic art If we are doing this in games we re almost exclusively relegating this kind of audio treatment to the realm of cinematics with few notable experiments such as XIII and MAX PAYNE 2 There is really no reason why this kind of audio mixing can t be done in real time during interactive gameplay Most audio engines contain separate busses for sound effects music and voice Most times a general mix of these busses is set and then the volumes of individual files and specific sound banks are tweaked as needed to refine and finalize the mix However nothing in the compliance guidelines for Sony Microsoft or Nintendo prohibits audio designers from dynamically interacting with these busses for dramatic purposes during gameplay By combining dynamic control over these master mix busses with real time digital signal processing DSP effects such as filtering and reverb game audio engines have the exact same ability to achieve impressionistic hyper reality within the art of audio design LIMIT THE LINEAR For all our bluster as an industry about the promises of interactive storytelling over the traditional medium of film games almost always adhere to a rigidly linear narrative structure The visual language of film and television however is frequently more sophisticated and uses flashbacks montages and other departures from strict linearity to help tell their stories As cliche d as an arpeggiated whole tone harp scale may be to mark the beginning of a dream sequence this example scores the vast importance audio has in helping to sell shifts in time and setting Watch the film Atonement or any episode of Lost and you ll find that hyper real sound and music effects always precede jumps in time and place as a means of preparing the audience for a shift in setting Again if we use flashbacks or montages in games they rarely come in any form other than cinematics Rarities like SHADOW OF DESTINY FINAL FANTASY VIII and again XIII have experimented with non linear time during gameplay While it s essentially disjointed nonsense and devoid of actual story the WARIOWARE series is

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/the-art-of-designing-art-jesse-harlin-march-2008/ (2016-04-27)
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  • TOOLS OF THE TRADE – Jesse Harlin (April 2008)
    these tools are software centric Besides mainstays like Pro Tools Peak and Sound Forge the team also uses a variety of other digital audio workstations David Collins likes to use Logic Pro because of the EXS 24 Software Sampler bundled with Logic out of the box I use the EXS 24 like Ben Burtt used a Synclavier says Collins For the jungle dwelling Felucian warriors Collins designed dozens of vocalizations loaded them all into the EXS 24 and literally played the sounds back like sentences Tom Bible on the other hand is a big fan of Sony Vegas I do most of my sound design in Vegas these days reveals Bible I can edit nondestructively So if I need more variations on a sound I ve already designed I can go back to the session and create new sounds using the same palette easily Many of the new sounds come from experimenting with combinations of soft synth plug ins Brian Tibbetts is a devoted fan of both U I Software s Metasynth and the Access Virus Indigo TDM plug in for Pro Tools However despite starting from a purely synthesized sound source there s a fine aesthetic line to which the designers adhere It s all about keeping the sci fi weirdness under control says Tibbetts We strive to keep it subtle especially for assets the player will hear frequently Too Star Trek or Doctor Who sounding is always a bad thing in the world of Star Wars RETURN OF THE HYPERCARDIOID Much like Ben Burtt s work there is still a hefty amount of design work that comes from manipulating source recordings From hand cutting individual droid servo motors into cutscenes to fleshing out a palette of destructive Force power sounds sound design elements come from a wide variety of sources and go through a wide variety of processes before they end up in game For David Collins one of the most valuable tools in his arsenal is Serato s Pitch n Time Pro According to Collins Pitch n Time is a fantastic plug in for pitch shifting crazy pitch bends over time and time stretching It s all about chasing the sound that I m imagining in my head and this is a valuable tool for sculpting how a sound plays back Capturing source sounds is a different matter entirely Many of the assets from the original Star Wars films are saturated with analog tape hiss audible edit points and occasional distortion All of the new assets designed by THE FORCE UNLEASHED audio team on the other hand are being recorded manipulated and mixed digitally As the name implies the game is focused on the destructive potential of The Force As such Tom Bible has spent much of his design work infusing force powers with jet fly bys explosions and thunder In order for a sound to fit into a sci fi or fantasy world it needs to have some sort of realness to it in a way

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/tools-of-the-trade-jesse-harlin-april-2008/ (2016-04-27)
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  • THE THREE Rs OF AUDIO LEADERSHIP – Jesse Harlin (May 2008)
    describes his job the audio lead is responsible for everything that comes out of the speakers This means that simply having folders full of music voice and sound effects assets on a hard drive or checked into Perforce isn t enough The company is relying on the audio lead to make sure that those assets make their way out of the speakers at the highest quality level possible while coming in on time on budget and conforming to all necessary console compliance specifications To accomplish all of these goals an audio lead has to become proficient at juggling resources Unless the game is small the audio lead will most likely need a support staff of at least one additional sound designer Larger games require elaborate audio teams that can include both on staff sound designers and teams of outside contractors Regardless of the size of the team the audio lead is responsible for a staffing plan that realistically determines the number of designers when those designers roll on to and off of the project and which is flexible enough to change if the needs or scope of the project changes during the development cycle This might mean coordinating with human resources and top management to interview and audition new hires Manpower isn t the only resource audio leads track It also falls to the audio lead to decide what audio engine will be used This decision might mean going with an established piece of tech that has been in use at the company for years Even then some changes to the tech may be needed and the audio lead is responsible for specifying these changes to engineering staff If no tech exists the audio lead will need to either evaluate available commercial middleware or spec out the design of new internal technology Lastly the audio lead is responsible for daily administrative work This could be anything from early pre production documentation such as milestone roadmaps or Microsoft Project files to assigning designers audio bugs to signing timecards and answering the inevitable mountain of email REPRESENTATION Resources are the most tangible aspect of the gig The other Rs are more nebulous but no less important The audio lead is the public face of audio and will be the most visible member of the audio team to everyone from level designers to testers to executive management This means representing audio at a vast array of relevant meetings from weekly check ins with producers and directors to audio staff meetings where tasks are delegated needs are assessed and roles are defined As such it falls to the audio lead to instill a sense of competence and confidence that all audio tasks are being handled professionally This means having a head not only for compression ratios and memory footprints but also for interoffice politics conflict resolution and diplomacy Audio leads must make sure that they serve as the channel of communication between audio and the rest of the development team ensuring that tool tech

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/the-three-rs-of-audio-leadership-jesse-harlin-may-2008/ (2016-04-27)
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  • THE POWER OF THE SUNG WORD – Jesse Harlin (June/July 2008)
    an emotional impact unachievable with any other instrument and holds the potential to captivate listeners and pull them deeper within the game world REAL WORLD ALTERNATIVES Latin may have been the original choral language at the birth of Western music but it has been turned away from more and more since the late 15th century Hundreds of thousands of choral texts exist in the classical romance languages of French Italian and Spanish as well as German English and more unfamiliar texts in Chinese Thai Russian and any other language with a cultural folk song tradition Since choral music has the ability to comment on drama in a way very much akin to the Chorus of traditional Greek theater the first step when deciding to write choral music should not be which existing piece of classical repertoire to ape but to think about what the choir can dramatically represent that makes it powerfully unique to your work Rather than simply sounding epic in a generic sense a choir can add to the music by tying the characters together with the plot and setting Consider where the game takes place Latin text is considerably less appropriate for a World War II first person shooter than would be Wagnerian German Swords and sorcery fantasy games are almost always imbued with an Arthurian sense of early Anglo Saxon mystique Rather than using the crutch of cliche d Latin choral work in Gaelic or the Old English of Beowulf lends a noble fluidity to the sound while infusing it with an exotic unfamiliarity As a means of rooting the main character into the early Christian world of ASSASSIN S CREED Jesper Kyd decided to select from multiple sources for his choral text making use of not only Gregorian chant but also Muslim prayers Perhaps the most famous use of non Latin text in game scoring both GOD OF WAR I and II employed bold choral arrangements in Greek in order to cement Kratos in the world of ancient Mediterranean mythology The Internet is a fantastic resource for quickly tracking down thousands of public domain texts in hundreds of languages ChoralNet org is a site where composers can find a wide array of choral texts in Hungarian Hebrew Swedish Spanish and Italian to name a few The oddly named Robokopp www musicanet org robokopp is an online resource of thousands of traditional folk songs from German drinking songs to French sea shanties and Welsh hymns The Internet is also an excellent resource for finding professional translators in every language imaginable an invaluable resource for composers when writing their own lyrics or deciding to set text or poetry in a non native tongue OFF WORLD ALTERNATIVES Whether it s the Pussycat Dolls performing in Simlish the ancient Mando a of STAR WARS REPUBLIC COMMANDO or the vocalizations of K K Slider in ANIMAL CROSSING games have a rich history of utilizing vocal music in constructed languages as well A constructed language is any language that has been

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/the-power-of-the-sung-word-jesse-harlin-junejuly-2008/ (2016-04-27)
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  • SURVIVING THE OVERFLOW – Jesse Harlin (August 2008)
    a ghostwriter for Austrian nobility These days ghostwriting is a staple of freelance creative work for games television and film However because secrecy is the cornerstone of the gig it s difficult to find information on the subject After some networking of my own I found six different contractors those who have been ghostwriters and those who have hired ghostwriters willing to speak to me anonymously in order to give me a sense of the ins and outs of the work I started by asking about compensation As with all freelance contractor work fees are negotiable Some ghostwriters charge a typical per minute of music fee Others can charge by the day week or even month Another approach is to hire a ghostwriter for a percentage of the total creative fee the percentage being proportional to the amount of work the ghostwriter is doing for the project Ghostwriting is a gig born from stress and as such some ghostwriters recognize this and can take it as a means to negotiate higher fees Taking too great an advantage of the situation however will likely destroy all hope at a second ghostwriting opportunity Giving people credit for their ghostwriting is a tricky situation As one contractor stated Contracts generally grant complete ownership and control of the music to the publisher yet saddle all of the liability on the contractor In order to make the liability as binding as possible there is usually legal language asking the contractor to warrant that all of the content delivered has been created entirely by the contract signatory Some contractors will offer anything from additional music sound design by down to a simple special thanks in the credits Others aren t so generous Some contractors hire ghostwriters as a matter of survival and regard crediting their ghostwriters as a potential threat to their professional personas Even in these situations permission to list the game on resumes demos or web sites may be given in lieu of actual in game credit BOWING OUT GRACEFULLY If the contracts haven t been signed yet another option exists backing out of the gig altogether Of the freelance contractors I spoke with none had ever taken a gig and then backed out of it or none would admit to it Declining a gig can be a treacherous professional hazard especially if you want to maintain the professional relationship and foster future work After networking your way into a job by convincing the client that you re the right person to hire turning around and informing them that you can t handle their project is a waste of both their time and trust According to music industry author and networking guru Dan Kimpel author of Networking Strategies for the New Music Business ArtistPro Thomson PTR there are graceful ways to pass on a gig without damaging the professional relationship What the freelancer needs to be aware of is not to disparage the gig or to make it feel inconsequential According to Kimpel it

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/surviving-the-overflow-jesse-harlin-august-2008/ (2016-04-27)
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  • BREAKING NEW GROUND – Jesse Harlin (September 2008)
    decide how to generate the wide variety of possible sounds for DMM One early thought was to approach sound for procedural matter from the data driven realm of physical modeling synthesis However this was quickly ruled out due to the largely academic nature of the field as of 2005 meaning DMM would have to be tackled using thousands of unique audio recordings At first we attempted a literal approach and scored DMM breakables with combinations of hundreds of tiny sounds Splinters made splinter sounds shards sounded like shards and every chunk of material made its own chunk sounds After spending a couple of weeks doing material source recordings and tweaking the implementation the end result was a completely unrealistic mess It sounded like what it was hundreds of disparate pieces of wreckage knocking together in front of a microphone The solution was to simplify and edge towards a hyper realistic sound representation akin to that of film post production When something shatters the brain does not process every last shard hitting the floor Instead the brain experiences a cacophonous impression of chaos defined by the behavior of an undetermined number of non uniform pieces of debris The DMM engine consisted of 350 different material types that we were able to pare down into 20 different DMM sound materials such as organic hard or metal strong hollow At a macro level DMM allowed us three main behavior categories collision fracture and bend For instance hitting a DMM wood prop might make it collide and fracture while hitting a metal prop might collide and then bend Additionally all DMM materials came in a range of small medium and large sizes Of all the materials glass was hardest to manage due to thousands of small particles generated from each shattered pane When it came time for implementation each game level had its own xml file that detailed all potential collision permutations applicable for only that level In practice fractures and bending did not require any data be kept for material on material relationships since each only dealt with a single material While collisions and fractures were essentially instantaneous sounds bending necessitated the use of bending loops on average 3 4 seconds long and variable depending upon the size of the bending object that were then augmented by banks of up to 15 randomized sweeteners With collision fracture and bending behaviors figured out individually the next step towards the rich realism we wanted from DMM came when we began combining behaviors together allowing for instances where large bending doors could scrape or bang into the dirty ground With hundreds of sounds now triggering per DMM behavior the last piece of the puzzle was a three tiered system of voice instance limiting The audio engine allowed us to first limit at the cue level allowing us to set a maximum number of times each cue could trigger per frame Then supplementary instance limiting was added to the DMM specific sub bus in the game s

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/breaking-new-ground-jesse-harlin-september-2008/ (2016-04-27)
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  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE – Jesse Harlin (October 2008)
    curve Additionally simple crossfades lack the dangers of radical changes in amplitude that come from more advanced edits such as layering multiple tracks together and summing their outputs The size of a crossfade depends on what s going on musically at the join If you re simply editing out a verse from a pop tune the crossfade will most likely be fairly short and centered on a moment of identical orchestration such as a repeated guitar riff or you may splice together a syncopated drum accent Crossfading between arrhythmic pads or long decay tails will most likely benefit from longer crossfades that approximate the dovetailing of one completed musical thought and the beginning of a second thought Simple crossfades can have their problems as melodies that don t begin on barlines or long cymbal swells are more difficult to tackle with a simplified crossfade tool In these cases the join of your edit will probably not be the center point of the crossfade Rather you may find the fade beginning a few beats before or ending a few beats after the join in order to ease into or out of sections with troublesome instrumentation or lingering high frequency noise THE SCIENCE OF SHAPING A simple crossfade can only do so much though More advanced music editing necessitates a complex understanding of orchestration acoustics and studio mixing techniques Though more involved these methods can turn an impossible crossfade into a successfully indistinguishable edit You can move beyond basic crossfades by layering multiple tracks Layering tracks allows for the combination of multiple source sounds each of which can have its own fade properties This kind of editing is extremely helpful when working with orchestral material that changes its tempo or time signature repeatedly Editing in layers allows the music editor to introduce new material without fading out the original This can be done to add musical elements that weren t present in the original piece such as dissonant brass clusters rhythmic ostinatos or simply percussion sweeteners like timpani rolls or cymbal swells that can smooth over edit joins Editing on separate layers also allows for the creation of individual fade curves A brass line may be made to taper out musically or a string glissando can crescendo independent of the rest of the musical material Doing so necessitates an understanding of natural acoustic amplitude envelopes Strings for instance fade in and fade out very naturally through the use of a basic linear fade see Figure 1 Woodwinds and brass however sound extremely unnatural with a linear decay Breath based instruments are much better served with logarithmic amplitude decay envelopes see Figure 2 Another thing to keep in mind when layering multiple tracks is the relative volume of your layers Sometimes simply raising or lowering the volume of the target piece of music so that it better matches what came before can fix an awkward edit Likewise individual volume curves can be edited to create melodic crescendos or decrescendos that feel as if

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/ahead-of-the-curve-jesse-harlin-october-2008/ (2016-04-27)
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  • GANG SIGNS – Jesse Harlin (November 2008)
    the lines of Facebook or LinkedIn While the structure and function of the organization remain the same the new GANG site now offers each member his or her own profile page complete with space for credit lists their own blog and 60MB of storage space for a 10 song Flash based demo player It s essentially MySpace for game audio professionals Users can now browse the contacts of other members and send connection requests personal messages and comments to members There are also communal areas for posting photos and video as well as an arcade of open source games Originally added simply as a nod to gaming past the site recently held a gaming tournament to award all access passes to Austin GDC to high scorers The site s forums have been revamped as well So far the reaction to Lipson s labor of love has been very positive from the GANG membership Since the reboot users have also been making use of the site s improved communication tools to organize and hold GANG Hangs smaller regional get togethers across the globe for the purposes of networking The profile based audio player has been a hit with many members commenting on how they simply surf through contacts listening to demos Others have mentioned improved access to resources such as contract and invoice templates The biggest criticism of GANG is still the same one that has been levied against the organization for years namely that while the organization is a great networking tool for those looking to break into the industry it offers little to GANG s more experienced members This in turn leads to a lack of involvement from high end audio professionals and therefore dissatisfied lower tier members who hope to network with the bigger name members In this

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/gang-signs-jesse-harlin-november-2008/ (2016-04-27)
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