View Full Version : everything about sound designers

Markus S
02-25-2004, 02:34 AM
Well, I\'m very curious... what\'s the role of a sound designer in a game? So every sound is concerned, exept the music. Here are a couple of questions I am asking myself and hopefully some of you experienced audio guys can help me out:
- Are composers for games most of the time sound designers as well?
- What tools do sound designers use - libraries of sounds, self created electronic sounds, recorded sounds in a studio or outdoors?
- Are the sounds manipulated afterwards (slowered down, filtered etc)?
- Does the sound designer also create all voices?
- Are they recorded in his studio?
- Do the sound designer hire himself actors for the job?
It would be great to hear some info,

02-25-2004, 03:03 AM
Hello Markus,
Hope I can help out with some answers to your questions. I can relate my experience as a sound designer/composer, however, results may vary.
1. In my case, yes. I was originally hired as a composer, but was asked to do sound design as well. I did it gladly, and enjoy that aspect just as much as composing.
2. All of the above. I have a remote recording setup, a small booth for VO, instruments etc, and a ton of libraries and samplers. They all come in very handy.
3. Absolutely. I use pitch shifting for sound design more than any other single plugin. Processing is extremely usefull and part of an important component if you plan on keeping your sounds original.
4. I don\'t do voices very often, although I know that there are many that do.
5. I do record VO work in my studio as well as others. Sometimes it\'s done via a phone patch from a remote location if it\'s not worth the trip across country for the talent.
6. I often line up the actors, do the auditions and casting, though on some jobs I have nothing to do with VO at all.
Hope that helps.

02-25-2004, 04:41 AM
Yes, it happened also to me when i had the job to do music for a game and they asked me if i could do sound effects and other ambience stuff.

of course i said yes because i had some experience and practicing before. usually it\'s really funny because for some or many noises, there is no sample at hand, so you have to record it manually.

so it apprears that you use sample cds but most time you record stuff on your own. my setup is not really big, i just have a sony ecm 717 stereomic and a sony minidisc player, with some editing etc you get really good results...

sometimes you can do kinda like foley fx, you setup a mic and just do what the character in the cutscene does.

i also think on huge and very big project you need two guys, a composer and a sfx guy, but its always pretty good and helpful to do both and get experience in both categories, because:

1. you learn and know how to take care about sfx when you do music and the other way round

2. you get more money images/icons/wink.gif

Markus S
02-25-2004, 04:41 PM
Hi Tim,
nice to meet you! Great job the soundtrack of URU (just downloaded it from your web site). And thank you, exactly the kind of reply I was looking for!

Hi Alex,
thank\'s for replying. It\'s interesting what you are saying, if I get you right, you mostly go outside and \"catch\" noises you are looking for in the real world? Isn\'t it a problem to \"isolate\" a noise for a game? Aren\'t there too many \"parasit\" noises?

02-25-2004, 07:20 PM
Isn\'t it a problem to \"isolate\" a noise for a game? Aren\'t there too many \"parasit\" noises?

<font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">You\'d be surprised what a little mixing and leveling can do. You should try to be as careful as possible when recording outdoors, but generally after you\'ve edited the sound to fit the animation or your intended use, mixed it and placed it in the game, the noise is inaudible. Try to keep your source files as clean as you can however, as sometimes if you start layering sounds, noise can build up as well. I\'ve had pretty good luck with all the sfx I record. I have a DAP-1 and a LunaTek mic pre to keep it as clean as I can.

02-26-2004, 04:58 PM
right, i think tim already mentioned all you have to take care of.

sometimes i go outside to record some specific stuff. so for one game i had to record a horse-wagon/cattle with canvas which is drivin over a stone and then goes on. so you wont definitely find a sample which is like this situation, so i went outside into the garage and recorded our cupboard which is filled with all these little things you have in a garage cuboard (little boxes, cans, tools etc.)
so you get the sound of the rumbling of the wagon when it hits the stone by pulling or pushing against the cuboard.
then i took an old wagon wheel we had in our garden. so i took it and drove around with it, over stones and on the street etc. after that i did some background recordings like shaking a canvas to get the noise of wind on the wagons canvas. then i mixed everything together and edited it to the cutscene and the result was really amazing, you layer so many noises and you get the exact noise what a horse wagon does when it humbles or drives over a stone images/icons/smile.gif

you always have to cut down a situation to details and small noises, because every ongoing noise or \"acoustic\" situations has its contents.

so imagine a mineworker: he is breaking stones, digging for ore or gold or whatever. so the noise you hear are several small situations like moving feet, stones falling down and the pick hits the stone wall or rocks or whatever. if you record every noise on its own and later you mix it together, put some reverb on it and you get a cool result of a mineworker in a goldmine etc images/icons/smile.gif

hope this helped...

Markus S
02-27-2004, 04:10 AM
Hi Tim and Alex,
thanks for the great instructions, it certaily helps a lot! (hehe, alex, cool story with the wheel). I think it\'s passionating to create such sound enviroments but also very time consuming. Shouldn\'t it be a profession for itself? Is it really rare somebody \"only\" composes the music of a game and somebody else only the sounds?

Steve Rees
02-29-2004, 03:25 AM
Great discussion guys!

Markus....if you want lots of info on this kind of stuff, I totally recommend \'The Complete Guide to Game Audio\' by Aaron Marks. It covers all this kind of thing, and a whole lot more.

You can get it at Amazon, and it\'s a hugely informative and lively read.


03-01-2004, 07:34 AM
I\'m really enjoying this disscussion!

Thanks Steve Rees for the recommendation on the book. I just did quick goggle search and read a few reviews on the book. And I\'m definitely going to be buying it! It seems like the perfect book for me.

Originally I wanted to do both music composition and sound effects for games. However over the last year music composition has truely taken me! But now with this discussion I\'m really thinking I should do both. I have no problem with recording and editing sounds. But it must be hard to create realistic sounds that fit well enough into a game... I guess I should give it a go!

Steve Rees
03-02-2004, 08:43 AM
Originally posted by TLarkin:
I have a DAP-1 and a LunaTek mic pre to keep it as clean as I can. <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">It\'s an interesting time for field recording equipment. Solid state recorders are really just starting to come through, and become cost effective and practical.

I\'ve been on the verge of getting a DA-P1 for a while, but here\'s something that\'s been holding me back..........

http://www.zzounds.com/item--MARPMD670 (\"http://www.zzounds.com/item--MARPMD670\")

It\'s the old \'do you stick with tried and tested technology or dive into the new technology\' connundrum.

I\'m hoping in the next few months some alternatives to the Marantz come out for comparison. Weird thing about the Marantz is I\'ve seen quite a few positive reviews by individuals, but none of the big pro audio magazines have reviewed it yet (it\'s been out at least 6 months ish).

I\'d be very interested in hearing from anyone who\'s tried this new technology out for themselves.


Markus S
03-02-2004, 11:20 AM
Thanks, Steve, for the great suggestions! I\'ll definitly check out that book. images/icons/smile.gif

03-02-2004, 04:13 PM
also thx steve for the book tipp images/icons/smile.gif

Bruce A. Richardson
03-20-2004, 10:18 AM
I don\'t do sound design for games (never been asked to do a game, and I figure at this point in my career, if I have to ask for a job, I don\'t want it). But I do sound design for theatre, TV, and film all the time. My experience is much like Tim\'s and others here--you get asked to do the music for a project, and the sound design and other aspects are nice extra money if you know how to do them.

I try my best to get ALL of the audio in any project I do, unless the schedule is so compressed that it\'s not possible. One of the main reasons is that being in charge of both music and sound design gives you an excellent opportunity to meld them into one thing, to very enjoyable and artistically fulfilling results.

I\'ll echo Tim\'s piece of golden advice: The main tool you will use in sound design is pitch shifting. One of the biggest misconceptions about sound design, even foley, is any particular adherence to realism. In fact, getting overly realistic will generally hurt you. You\'re not looking for a documentary representation of a sound in most cases, you\'re looking for a deeper distillation of what the sound is representing--what story it is telling--why it\'s important to the dramatic arc, enough so that they\'ve hired you to do it.

In fact, I just spent a solid week mostly ERASING recorded location sounds from the film I\'m working on, because they\'re no good for the story. Too literal, and too real.

Distillation, I guess, is the word I keep coming back to. The real world is notoriously cluttered from an audio perspective. A \"real\" recording of what\'s going on in a room is full of shuffles, rattles, bumps, scrapes...loud air, you name it. But what you want to represent with the picture is only the soundscape that is telling your story...and further, how the \"now\" of that soundscape in the story relates to the overall arc.

I really enjoy sound design. To me, it\'s almost pure musique concrete, and the most exhilerating experiences in sound design I have had are when the score, dialog, foley, and sound design make that magical transition into a cohesive piece. I\'d urge anyone who has the opportunity to take on sound design to do so.

Alex really nailed the process of building up original sounds. You learn pretty quickly that library material is SUPER important, but that learning to manipulate and combine that material with your own is even more important. The chances you\'re going to drag a SFX library cue onto the timeline and have it be the perfect thing are almost nil. And if it ever happened, the first thing a smart designer would do is stop right there, and build it anyway.

Scott Cairns
03-20-2004, 07:05 PM
Hi Markus, I have kind of skim read this post so I apologise if I\'m repeating things that others may\'ve already said.

In answer to your questions;

- Are composers for games most of the time sound designers as well?

- Some guys only compose, some guys only do sound design (and do it very well), and many do both. A client usually loves it if they can turn to one person for ALL their audio needs; Music, Sound and Voice Talent.

- What tools do sound designers use - libraries of sounds, self created electronic sounds, recorded sounds in a studio or outdoors?

- Just speaking for myself here, I use a portable MD (mini disc) Recorder and a Rode NT-3 mic for field recording. The NT-3 is good for two reasons; it has a hypercardioid pattern (very directional in what it picks up) and it takes a 9v battery to supply phantom power to it - no need for a preamp in the field. Sound Forge is great for treating audio, a multitrack editor like Vegas (or your sequencer) is needed when creating a soundscape like Alex mentioned above with the Horse, wagon and canvas etc.

- Are the sounds manipulated afterwards (slowered down, filtered etc)?

- Always pretty much without exception. Sounds need to be normalised, cleaned up, they can also be pitchshifted, layered with other sounds, reversed, etc.

- Does the sound designer also create all voices?
- Are they recorded in his studio?

- The sound designer can either; hire voice talent (actors) or do his own voices. (I did my own pirate voice for the last game I worked on.) If you have a vocal booth and decent mic arrangementyou can record your own voices at home. Also depends on the game budget and the caliber of voice talent you may be hiring, professionals might think it a bit odd to be working in your loungeroom. images/icons/smile.gif

- Do the sound designer hire himself actors for the job? (See above)

Steve\'s suggestion to pick up Aarons book is a good one too. Also, go and join GANG; www.audiogang.org (\"http://www.audiogand.org\") Aaron is a member as is Tommy Tallarico, Doyle, King Idiot, me, etc. It\'s chock full of knowledgeable people who will answer questions just like this for you. images/icons/smile.gif

Scott Cairns
03-20-2004, 07:15 PM
Here is a monster noise I created and applied some treatment to;

The original source (me growling into a mic);
Me Growling (\"http://www.scottcairns.com/audio/Original-Monster-Noises.mp3\")

The treated sound;
Monster Noises (\"http://www.scottcairns.com/audio/Monster-Noises.mp3\")

Basically the sound is just pitch-shifted down. I haven\'t used this in a game yet so I haven\'t bothered overly much in cleaning up the sound or anything.

03-21-2004, 08:06 AM
Thanks for the examples Scott. It\'s very interesting. It has inspired me to try a few things out this week.

03-25-2004, 09:59 PM
Hehe bruce did you do the sounds in Timecop with JC Van Damme?`Just saw it a few mins ago on TV and i can bet i saw your name in the sound design department images/icons/smile.gif