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David Javelosa


Copyright © 2015 David Javelosa unless otherwise stated.


week 04 - sound editing, dialog and sound effects

Sound DESIGN for games

The Roles That Are Played

First of all, when a composer is assigned to the task of "doing sound" for a software production (be it "multimedia", a computer or video game), this can mean a number of different things, depending on who you are talking to. If you are talking to the actual developer team, this definitely means the entire sound design. In their view, software production is all inclusive and likewise "audio" should include music, instrument sounds and sound effects. If you are talking to the producer, you could be doing any one of three main jobs, all of which falls into the producer's mind as "sound design". If the project is to be CD based and contain video with voice over, this would also include studio or location sound recording and dialogue editing. For the typical musician, this can be a very daunting, overwhelming task and a cause for distress to the uninitiated producer or lead programmer.

In these days where larger productions have become the norm, the "garage band" development team of programmers are no longer solely responsible for securing these diverse music and audio resources. Producers that have been around the block or perhaps have migrated from film, TV and other linear media, are familiar with the different specialists for each of these tasks. They are: the composer for writing, orchestrating and sometimes conducting the score; the "Foley" artist for recording, designing or otherwise "coming up" with the sound effects; the location sound engineer for capturing the audio with the video; the audio editor for making sure that the dialogue is consistent and in synch with the video; and finally, a mix engineer for making sure all of these things stay in balance and don't stomp on each other.

Sound Designer

The sound designer, in the traditional media sense of the word is an artist unto him/herself. Recently, most sound designers have strong backgrounds in composition because of how technology (tape and sampling) has become such a predominant resource for the modern composer. The talent and ear for interpreting a visual event or environment with a combination of sounds so abstract and yet so appropriate is what many consider to be the high-point in 20th century composition. Beyond matching literal sounds with their on-screen counterparts, being able to work and compliment combinations of score and dialogue or utter silence takes the balance of a fine aesthetic, and a sensitivity for the total audio/visual experience, not to mention its interactive appropriateness.

The maintenance of a vast library of sounds and recordings is the foundation of the sound designers tools. Also the continual collection of new sounds, in the everyday environment and everywhere, contributes to the reputations of the consummate designers for film and television. Tales tell of legendary sound artists that go nowhere without a portable DAT recorder around their shoulder. Being able to capture that exact moment in sound, for either a desired cue or just to archive into the collection, likens the sound designer to the still photographer in innovation, creativity and spontaneity.

Now with digital tools, the craft is expanded into taking these collected gems and blending them into composites of split-second texture. The advent of the multi-track digital audio editing environment has combined this profession with the experimental "musique concret" composers from the age of cutting and splicing tape. As with dialogue editing and overall production, sound design may not be the cup of tea for most musicians and less adventurous composers. As one of the many hats for the one person team to wear, it does contribute greatly to the enrichment of the open-minded composer, not to mention paying a few bills. For a team that can afford it, the dedicated sound designer is an invaluable asset.

Audio Engineer

Probably the most traditional role in the interactive audio production team, the audio engineer is at home in the production studio with microphones, signal processing, and as big a mixing board as can be had. Since few new media studios can afford the luxury of a fully equipped recording facility, the position of dedicated audio engineer is a lucky spot to be. The requirements include experience in voice recording, working with film, video and animation, recording and mixing music, and acoustic knowledge of everything from hardware to microphone placement.

In recent years the audio engineer's skill sets have overlapped heavily with that of the sound designer. Multi-track tape recorders have given way to the hard-drive based digital editing systems, such as Logic, Pro-Tools, Nuendo, Vegas, and other higher-end hybrid systems. It is also hard to find a full-time employed studio engineer who is not versed in computer controlled mixing boards, digital signal processing and a variety of compression issues. Most engineers of this caliber have already broadened their client roster with interactive software projects, since most of the work by development houses is farmed out to professional studios. Still, there is a lot to be said for having one's own facility at the beck and call of a project. As smaller production houses merge into larger ones as means for survival, the acquisition of an audio engineer and studio become an enticing proposition.

Location Recording/Video Production

Similar to the audio engineer, the jobs of location recording and engineering sound for video eventually cross-over. The less common need for location recording also puts this role into the hired-out category, as many times a product design has no need for location dialogue. Ambient audio recording however has become a popular practice and one of the trade secrets of the sound designer. Besides capturing specific, individual events, the sound designer looks for longer, ambient recordings of subtle backgrounds and environmental textures. Sending a location sound engineer out with a photography or video team for a project that is only using images for compositing, can turn into a very fortunate decision when having to sound design something unique for those visuals.

Location recording for film and video is also a very traditional occupation and one that is, even in the film industry, a freelance position. This engineer is usually attached to an entire location team for capturing dialogue from the shooting sessions. In many instances, this is a union gig and requires years of training and the acquiring of specific high-end gear. The standard for this trade is the high-speed Nagra analog tape recorder but is quickly being replaced by a digital version, if not by the DAT format altogether. This is another job that may seem out of the ordinary for the typical musician or composer, but as an interactive sound designer, just another experience and excuse to get outside of the studio.

working in Pro Tools

Getting Familiar With Pro Tools

  • Creating a project - New Project, Audio tab, project properties
  • Importing audio (media) - Explorer, Media pool, views
  • Audio Events - segment of a file being used; moving, cropping
  • Tracks - scrolling, zooming, height
  • Track List - volume, pan/multipurpose, mute, solo, track FX (plug-ins), name, color
  • Rendering a project (bouncing down the mix)

Editing Techniques in Pro Tools

  • Working with Events - selecting time range
  • Looped playback
  • Cut, copy, paste; paste repeat (edit menu) or ctrl-drag with Snap-to-edge
  • Auto Cross-fade; Trimming & Splitting Events; Shuffle (right click drag)
  • Slipping (alt-drag) vs. Sliding (ctrl-alt-drag)
  • Markers & Regions
  • External Audio Editor (Audio Suite); audio tools

Mixer and Busses


  • Value envelopes

Playlist of audio examples:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog FM/Midi
  • Toe Jam & Earl - FM, samples
  • Jurassic Park - FM, samples, redbook, streaming
  • Milo's Astro Lanes - samples, loops
  • Halo - streaming digital audio/video

Copyright © 2012 -2015 David Javelosa