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  • MUSIC LICENSING 101 – Jesse Harlin (December 2007)
    lead to your company s business affairs department and legal contracts of some kind KNOW YOUR RIGHTS All music licensing begins and ends with rights The licensable rights for any piece of music break down into multiple categories the rights that are applicable to us here are master use rights and publishing rights Master use rights are the rights associated with a particular recording of a song This means that a song as widely covered as The Beatles Yesterday actually has over 3 000 separate sets of master use rights each one specific to an individual version of the song Publishing rights however are harder to define These are the rights associated with the most basic elements of what defines a given work as a unique piece of music Typically this means its melody and or lyrics but only if a song has them For instance publisher Edition Peters owns the publishing rights to John Cage s all silence 4 33 Which rights need to be licensed depends on the usage of the song in game A development team looking to use the original recording of Led Zeppelin s Black Dog for an in game radio station would need to license both the master use and publishing rights Meanwhile a development team looking to re record the song for an interactive karaoke game would only need to license the song s publishing rights Knowing which rights you need to obtain is the easy part The hard part is tracking down and signing usage agreements with all of the rights holders The master use rights are owned by the record label or music library company that owns the requested recording Thankfully master use rights cannot be divided up between multiple rights holders and are therefore fairly easy to get permission to use called clearance Publishing rights on the other hand are divided between anyone involved in the writing of the song This can mean a single songwriter each member of a band or any number of other complicated additional rights holders such as producers or managers If a song contains samples of other recordings the publishing rights holders of the original recording need to be tracked down as well In practice this can take a long time One publishing company may only own 15 of the rights leaving the remaining 85 ambiguous Unless 100 of the publishing rights can be cleared the song cannot be licensed Plus since asking for clearance on a song costs nothing it makes sense to try and clear more songs than you might need in the hope that asking for 50 songs might result in a fully cleared list of 30 KNOW YOUR BUDGET Once clearance is requested the rights holders will come back with the licensing fee Both master use and publishing rights will have separate fees the larger the artist or the more well known the song the larger the licensing fee On average licensing pop and rock music by an established artist can

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/music-licensing-101-jesse-harlin-december-2007/ (2016-04-27)
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  • Q/A FOR AUDIO – Jesse Harlin (February 2006)
    communication is never substantially established and so the burden of all Q A work for music rests solely on the shoulders of the implementer composer The result is often that the composer hands control of the music to a team of people that may or may not include any musicians who are entirely responsible for the bug free implementation of the soundtrack With such a scenario occurring so frequently it s little wonder why repetition fatigue playback bugs and unmusical execution are still common issues in game music development WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS There are however two very specific steps that can be taken to help composers and implementers get more ears listening for bugs and free up communication regarding the intended music implementation Forget for a moment the If music is playing axiom of test The truth is that Q A is the last line of defense for all bugs between the developers and the consumer Testers spend every day neck deep in the game ravenously looking for problems With a little bit of guidance testers can become a composer implementer s best friend They simply need to be told what to listen for The best way to do this is to enlist the aid of a dedicated audio tester Most test teams whether at a large publisher or a small developer have someone with some kind of musical background or an ear for sound The goal is to first identify this person and then request that at the very least he or she set aside a few hours with each new build of the game to go over audio issues and only audio issues This centralizes the point of contact for audio bugs allowing the developers to highly educate one person on the intended implementation The second step is to give the tester the information he or she needs in order to find bugs X MARKS THE SPOT In 2004 LucasArts developed STAR WARS REPUBLIC COMMANDO To give the game a cinematic feel we developed a complex interactive music system that reacted to AI activity scripted events and had branching gameplay As such the music implementation was often closely tied to issues that were completely out of my control Small changes to props doors or enemy counts would sometimes result in bugs like music loops that never ended or broken transitions between cues To help fight the battle against music bugs I enlisted the help of two audio testers I spent a few days writing up what I named a music map The music map was in essence a blueprint a Microsoft Word document that specifically detailed every instance of music throughout REPUBLIC COMMANDO and where each music change occurred For example one specific instruction read If battle music is playing walking into room D will cause a victory flourish to play followed by a new suspense cue With everything detailed Q A simply had to read through the music map and write up bugs

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/qa-for-audio-jesse-harlin-february-2006/ (2016-04-27)
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  • DEVELOPERS, MEET YOUR REVIEWERS – Jesse Harlin (June/July 2006)
    he plays through the game and constantly notes what he likes and what he dislikes Gerstmann agrees saying We re really concerned with how the audio fits into the complete package rather than taking the audio out of context This concept of audio fitting is a common theme when talking about the process of reviews For Gerstmann at GameSpot reviewing audio is about trying to start with as few preconceived notions as possible When it comes to audio I m usually looking for sounds that fit the action If they fit are they used properly IGN s approach is similar While a lot of games strive for authenticity we re also looking for originality in sound design and how well the sound effects match the actual game Frequently audio is judged on how well it fits within its given genre or alongside preceding titles in the same franchise GameSpot has reviewers that tend to specialize in a handful of genres says Gerstmann As such that person is usually also familiar with the previous games in a series already For Schneider How a sequel stacks up to its predecessor is an integral part of all our reviews If a game is known for its grand score or amazing surround sound and the sequel doesn t live up to those high marks then we ll note that Speaking of grand scores it s a question of fit regarding a game s soundtrack as well As for music some of the same stuff applies says Gerstmann Music that loops too frequently tends to get annoying very quickly Licensed music that doesn t fit with the action just sucks Ideally music should be a cohesive part of the game not another revenue stream ENVIRONMENT CONCERNS With so much riding on the reviewers subjective perceptions of the audio the importance of aural presentation becomes paramount As such I asked our two media outlets to describe the environments in which our work is being heard As it turns out both companies have surround sound systems they use for evaluations At IGN reviewers have access to a Dolby certified demo room loaded with consoles PCs and a 16 player LAN room A Denon receiver and a Klipsch 7 1 Reference speaker setup to ensure that the reviewers get to hear the games full audio potential says Schneider This is likely not used to review every game though At GameSpot reviewers have TVs with basic stereo speakers as well as a 5 1 setup that we can use for games that support it It s nothing terribly fancy For both outlets this was a primary concern We tend to find that the average game player doesn t have the best TV or sound setup in the world says Gerstmann We re attempting to mirror their experience Schneider concurs Editors spend considerable time playing and evaluating games on smaller screens and via headphones We take the actual player into account when reviewing audio THE VERDICT Inevitably it all comes

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/developers-meet-your-reviewers-jesse-harlin-junejuly-2006/ (2016-04-27)
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  • THE ART OF CONVERSATION – Jesse Harlin (August 2006)
    Each area of voice represents its own unique set of challenges This month we re going to focus on the process of producing convincing conversational dialogue PREP TIME METAL GEAR SOLID RATCHET CLANK and the MADDEN series all share one thing in common At the heart of each is a conversational voice system that delivers critical information to the player about story setting characterization and progression through the game With games continually growing in size and scope even a small game these days will contain thousands of voice lines These thousands of lines are recorded one character at a time with fragmented scripts that are often performed out of context and without the benefit of any rehearsal time for the actors Though most practical and efficient this approach is counterintuitive to the goal of cohesive conversational dialogue Far too often the result is a voice system riddled with dialogue that sounds glaringly unnatural Wrong words are stressed for the actual meaning of the sentence Emotion levels don t follow normal human speech patterns At its best badly done dialogue is simply an awkward annoyance to the player At its worst it becomes fodder for endless internet mockery TOOLS OF THE TRADE There are two invaluable tools that are a script s best allies The first is a robust dialogue database using database management software such as FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Access Each record in the voice database represents an individual line of dialogue and contains fields to denote critical information for each file such as character level a unique filename and the line of dialogue itself Additionally each conversation in the game should be numbered with a unique conversation ID number Each line of dialogue within a conversation is then given a unique dialogue ID number When the writer delivers the script it should be delivered as a Microsoft Excel document within which a separate column represents each of these distinct database fields This spreadsheet is then imported directly into the voice database Once imported the database can be used via macros to search for and sort by conversation IDs and dialogue IDs organize these lines by character and output them as a theatrically formatted script where conversational voice is preceded and followed by lines that help to give context and meaning to otherwise disjointed sentences Additionally don t discount the benefits of simply formatting a script s text so as to portray intention Take this line for example when the character Bastila Shan says The Force fights with me This line of dialogue from STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC represents the inherent ambiguity of a game script Taken completely out of context the intent of the sentence is unclear Is Force fights or me the main point of the sentence Each one radically changes the meaning and delivery of the line The standard arsenal of punctuation in addition to bold italic and underlined text will go a long way toward communicating performance intent THE RIGHT DIRECTION The

    Original URL path: http://www.audiogang.org/the-art-of-conversation-jesse-harlin-august-2006/ (2016-04-27)
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  • MUSICAL SYMMETRY – Jesse Harlin (October 2006)
    do one of two things stay true to the original material or veer off in a new direction in an attempt to reshape an existing intellectual property Any composer working on a franchise that s faithful to its predecessors must begin by doing his or her homework Consider all the music that came before you to be the temporary track or temp track for your game and the overriding creative direction to which you re being asked to adhere Watch the film s or play the original game s Familiarize yourself with the musical language of the original source score Make sure you re familiar with all the thematic material that may be applicable to the game including character location or key event themes Take note of the original instrumentation or any signature production techniques that define the original Firmly ground yourself in the music of the world into which you ve stepped Your music is a linear continuation of work already familiar to an established audience and needs to fit as a natural extension of the existing musical language IN THE KEY OF ELEMENTAL That said a new STAR WARS game does not automatically mean using John Williams music any more than a new SPYRO game means using music akin to Stewart Copeland s work on SPYRO 2 RIPTO S RAGE Games aren t movies Characters when ripped from a film and plummeted into a game can sometimes find themselves engaged in everything from dodge ball to vehicular combat to button mashing brawls on the interactive screen Because games are a great way to expand the universe of an existing IP into different genres composers will frequently find that they re being asked to reinvent the music of a franchise rather than re create it When this is the case the composer must first distill the essence of the original score The challenge is to depart from the existing music without stepping so far away that the soundtrack feels as though it s not part of the same universe anymore Again established motifs signature instruments or stylistic genres will provide the framework within which your reinvention can take shape However rather than dictating the full scope of your music these hooks can function as sign posts to listeners letting them know they re still within their beloved world Input from the production team as well as concept art and design docs will help you determine the new tone and direction of the IP and its made over sound FRANCHISES TO BE One of the more challenging jobs composers face is the task of scoring a game tie in to a movie that s still in production When the film comes out the movie s score will become the definitive soundtrack for that new universe But due to differences between production schedules for games and films it s entirely possible that the game may have a composer writing before the film s composers have even started let alone finished their

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  • BE A DEMO DYNAMO – Jesse Harlin (November 2006)
    have been written on with a Sharpie marker are automatically at a disadvantage At their best they look sloppy Far too frequently however they contain illegible or incomplete text No matter how attractive you may think your handwriting is it can t compare to a printed CD label But what do you print on the label First and foremost always include your name and contact information on every part of your demo whether it s the case the disc the resume or a business card you tossed in for good measure Discs and cases are easily separated and if there isn t any clue as to whose audio the disc contains that nameless disc just lost itself a gig Second if you re looking to stand out avoid the standard cliche images common to the industry For composers this means never cover your demo with pictures of sheet music treble clefs noteheads violins etc So many composers use these images as the easy way of saying This is a music disc Hundreds of composers are all using the same imagery For sound designers stay clear of pictures of waveforms speakers or screenshots from Protools as they re all overdone Both disciplines are also guilty of another common cliche If you include a photo of yourself don t take it while sitting in front of your gear Take a picture of yourself anywhere else You re looking to stand out and be different Trust me Audio directors will still believe you know a mod wheel from a pan pot if they don t see you beside one If you don t have the graphic design or Photoshop skills to design something other than the cliche s for yourself hire a graphic designer to do it for you It s that important You re creating a brand of yourself that you re then marketing throughout the industry You owe it to yourself to do everything you can to ensure that your disc stands out from the pile of unknowns FOCUS YOUR EFFORTS Once your demo has been yanked from the pile your audio chops are finally on display There are a number of different schools of thought regarding how best to present your work and unfortunately no clear answers with which everyone agrees Should you make a single montage piece or a series of smaller separate tracks As someone who reviews demos I find that I prefer to see separate tracks since I can easily skip back and forth through the demo to hear tracks again Should your demo vary widely stylistically or should it be most representative of your strongest talents That depends on the specifics of the job for which you re applying Without a doubt the most important aspect that is often overlooked with demos is the ability to focus it specifically to the job for which you re applying An all purpose demo is great for GDC but if you re applying for a specific job you should

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  • LABORING TO COMPETE – Jesse Harlin (December 2006)
    the terms for film and television music usage for decades Seattle musicians however are part of the separate International Guild of Symphony Opera Ballet Musicians and work from a different standard of contracts Their no fuss buy out payment policies one time payment with no royalties or reuse fees have made Seattle the new go to location for a vast portion of scoring sessions In addition to Seattle recent improvements in telephony and data transfer technologies have made outsourcing orchestral recording to European non union orchestras a viable option for budget conscious composers ENOUGH IS ENOUGH For years AFM has watched unhappily as more and more professional recording dates slip from the union into the non union column Despite their displeasure there was little movement from AFM in terms of a resolution All that changed this past July After watching a century s worth of protections for professional musicians slowly erode AFM president Thomas F Lee issued a press release that officially took a bold stand on Seattle s alternative scene so to speak According to Lee s statement as of October 1 2006 the union now holds all members involved in non union Seattle recording sessions to be in violation of AFM bylaws which state No AFM member may perform services whether as composer arranger copyist proofreader instrumentalist leader contractor cutter editor or in any other capacity 1 where the product of the services is intended to result in or be embodied in recorded music made outside of the United Sates and Canada and the possessions of either or 2 for the purpose of producing editing or dubbing recorded music except where expressly authorized and covered by a contract with the AFM or when expressly authorized by the AFM TOUGH COOKIES Additionally Lee clarified that as stated in the AFM bylaws any member found to violate the code shall be subject to a fine not exceeding 50 000 and or expulsion The full the press release can be found at www afm org public press seattle pdf These rules aren t new and have been part of the union bylaws for some time What is new is the aggressive drive AFM is making to enforce its existing policies As for the means of enforcement the AFM is counting on its smaller local chapters to report members that are in violation and file official charges against them While the new hard line stance is clearly aimed at stemming the tide of film work headed toward Seattle there s nothing in Lee s statement that exempts game or television work As such any members of the union who find themselves involved in game production should be aware of the potential for fines Although the AFM doesn t cover the craft of composition many composers join in ancillary roles such as orchestrators conductors or instrumentalists to take advantage of union benefits In addition AFM members such as orchestrators or copyists often have little if any say over whether their work goes to

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  • Richard Savery
    GDC Participants bring in examples of their work and a panel of game audio experts review their work and provide constructive feedback GANG Read more Finalists for the 14th annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards Announced Posted February 13th 2016 by Richard Savery filed under News Member s voting page here World s Leading Organization of Audio Professionals in Gaming Industry Recognizes Accomplishments of Members and Peers Finalists for the 14th annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards Announced February 12 2016 San Francisco CA The Game Audio Network Read more Mikolai Stroinski discusses The Witcher 3 Posted January 26th 2016 by Richard Savery filed under News This month we reconnected with Mikolai Stroinski to talk about his recent work on The Witcher 3 The Witcher 3 has received widespread critical acclaim winning over 300 awards including Best Original Music Winner IGN Best of 2015 Best Soundtrack Winner Read more Cinema Scoring Posted January 25th 2016 by Richard Savery filed under News G A N G sponsor Cinema Scoring is currently offering members of G A N G a 10 discount on your first recording session full details on our perks page This month we spoke with Cinema Scoring s creators about their background and what goes into one Read more 2015 G A N G Award Nominations close Jan 13 Posted December 24th 2015 by Richard Savery filed under News Nominate Global Music Categories Music of the Year Best Original Soundtrack Album Best Music in a Casual Social Game Nominate Individual Music Categories Best Original Instrumental Best Original Vocal Song Pop Best Original Vocal Song Choral Best Game Cover Remix Nominate Audio and Read more November s G A N G Interview with Bonnie Bogovich Audio Lead Schell Games LLC Posted November 30th 2015 by Richard Savery filed under News

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