Making sound effects for video games #1
BASICS in sound effects
Jul 16 2018
Recently I joined the talented team at Fallen Flag Studio as the composer for their latest release "Eldest Souls" which consequently lead me into a field I have always dreamt of trying - sound design!
Having no prior experience, I began watching a few online tutorials (if you want to learn from anyone make it Akash Thakkar from "Hyper Light Drifter"... what a guy!) and basically just testing stuff out i found around the house. Luckily my dad has a garage FULL of random crap to use.
Before I continue, it's important to note that I DO NOT have fancy equipment, meaning anyone can try this. (my equipment is an sm58, focusrite scarlett interface and Logic Pro X plugins... that's it!)
I started basic with some footsteps, which weren't all too difficult. Then I moved on to projectiles and a spear attack one of the bosses has. Below are a couple super short videos on my resulting attempts.
Amazing how great a banjo sounds for that typical "woosh" sound! And if you're wondering, the paper was added to give some texture to the jab.
I could be finding a lot of these sounds in libraries online (like the built-in ones that come with Fmod and Unity) but I've chosen not to, in order to produce authenticity and hopefully a more unique gameplay experience for players when the final product is put together.
P.S. if you'd like to try the game and hear my hard work we'll be at EGX and several other conventions later this year, soon to be announced! Thanks for reading!
Making sound effects for video games #2
Using Fmod with Unity
Aug 14 2018
Continuing to work on “Eldest Souls” , I’ve begun familiarising myself with the workflow between Fmod and Unity, and the integration system. I thought I’d share my thoughts as a complete beginner learning the ropes of sound designing.
The library of sounds that Fmod provides has been very useful, at least as reference points. I’ve still kept to my ethos of producing the sounds myself as much as possible. Having said that, Fmod gives you 50 free sounds with your download, and I’ve used a wooden crate smash, a drawbridge and electricity sound you can hear in the foley video below.
I created a sword attack for our player, trying to sound different from the generic “woosh” I see in so many video games. I used a very “sharp” and abrasive sound to differentiate him from any enemies.
I also had fun rummaging through the garage for old tools and metal components for the “Guardian” (the first boss) footsteps.
This may be obvious to most, but my favourite aspect of this workflow between Fmod and Unity is the immediate response to changes you make. I can implement a sound in Unity, test it, flick back to Fmod to make an alteration and then head straight back to Unity to test it out again. This feature is totally new to me as an indie dev noob, but I’m certainly not taking it for granted!
I recently upgraded my microphone to a Rode NTG2 shotgun, which has been phenomenal. I haven’t had to worry about noise interfering with the clarity of my objects, whereas before with the sm58 I had to be clever with my EQ and noise reduction plugins.
Important to note again that this still a “cheap” mic in comparison to most other products on the market, and all in all my entire setup is still very simple and affordable which I’m quite proud of. I’ve seen many musicians spend heaps of money on gear they don’t necessarily need. I much prefer being resourceful with less equipment, than to have more than I can understand or remember how to use.
It’s forced me to understand every aspect and capability of my tools, which I believe is a principal that can be applied to any discipline.
I have more fun little sound effect videos on my Instagram for those interested, where I post regular updates.
Thanks for reading! (if you’ve made it this far)
Making sound effects for video games #3
Creating wind sounds using a FREE synthesiser
Aug 26 2018
The other day I began working on some ambient sounds for “Eldest Souls”, and if you've read my previous blogs you'll know I want to avoid buying stock library sounds wherever possible.
I decided to use my voice, a FREE software synth and a couple other ingredients in order to achieve this as you’ll see in the short video below…
Following on from my previous blog post, I’ve been making more sound effects for the “Guardian” boss appearing in our demo. As the “Guardian” nears its death, and its health reaches a certain point it switches to an “enrage mode” in a last attempt to stop the player (definitely not fans of Dark Souls or anything!). I had to create a sound for the squelchy, tentacle like limbs which spawn out of its back, resulting in a whole new range of deadly moves.
Video on the right shows I came up with the foley for this new sound.
As you can see, the synthesiser alone creates a fairly realistic howling wind, with the simple practice using an LFO (low frequency oscillator) and the “noise” wave (the static sounding tone you hear on empty TV channels and poor radio signals). Add my voice on top with that characteristic “whistle” and you have yourself some wind!
My favourite part by far was recording the bacon (plus I HAD to eat it after… such hard work, i know).
Making sound effects for video games #4
Using Trial and Error in sound design
Sep 11 2018
Thought i'd post these super short videos about how I trialled and tested different ideas before coming to my final sound. When coming up with ideas it's often always the case that I will have to go through several ideas before reaching the sound that not only works on its own, but also FITS the intended scene or character in the game.
Take for example the video below:
As for trial and error, below is another super short video where I wanted to create an armour clanking sound. I collected various metal objects from around the house and here you can witness the process. The last sound you hear is consequently the sound I chosen to work with. I added it to the movement of one of our bosses to give the impression that it carries heavy metal clothing.
Thanks for reading!
I started scraping and running my hand across different parts of my sofa, just cos... i felt like it one morning. Turns out (as you can hear) you can get a pretty decent "woosh" sound. The last sound you hear when it's in-game is a combination of the various scrapes I recorded, which have been either doubled, pitched down, pitched up, compressed etc... until it sounded like a sword, slashing through the air.
In Logic Pro X I take a couple recordings, duplicate them, pitch the copied audios, EQ them slightly differently and add slightly different amounts of reverb. All of these very simple techniques help to thicken and proved depth to the sound. Layers are a sound designer's best friend (that and pitch shifting).
Making sound effects for video games #5
creating an orchestral score from a guitar riff
Oct 16 2018
I haven’t been classically trained when it comes to composing music, but thankfully you don’t have to be nowadays, if you want to throw in some violins or brass sections into your scores…
This music was for the 2nd stage of a boss fight in the video game I’m currently working on (see here for a trailer) and I wanted some heavy music to pick up the pace and intensity of the battle sequence. The boss is a massive, ancient armoured knight in comparison to our much smaller warrior, so the mood of the track had to be intimidating and looming. Picking the right instruments and sound for a scene is half the battle in my opinion. Being a “souls-like” game, orchestral music is a go-to, but I’ve had no experience in doing so beforehand, so I started with something that’s familiar to me: a guitar. I slapped on some distortion and wrote a couple of ideas that I personally would want to hear when fighting this boss. I then layered it with some percussive mutes where I felt a beat, and a “lead” melody that could work over the top as a progression idea.
I then opened my Native Instrument sample packs and started orchestrating (choosing the combination of instruments to play the notes of the riff) by writing my notes into Logic Pro X’s midi editor. A great place to start is with the low strings, ie the cellos and double basses, to build up from the lower frequency instruments. Then I added some trumpets and brass for accents and colour and finally shoved some nice heavy percussion loops to bring out the drive and power behind the musical idea.
Some extra parts here and there, some reverb, compression and some mixing lead me to what you hear in the video above.
Of course, i'm not trying to say that mixing experience isn't important in getting the overall sound right, as well as proficiency in your DAW (digital audio workstation) and knowing which instruments work best for certain passages. However this method (for me anyway) is a great way to build up confidence when utilising instruments and styles that are otherwise totally alien.
Having a clear vision of what you want to create and a simple guitar riff can take you a long way.
Making sound effects for video games #6
My first public talks on sound design
Jan 27 2019
Late last year I gave my first ever public talk on sound design… at my old secondary school. They were kind enough to ask if i’d be interested in giving a quick introduction talk about what I do at a career’s evening, which felt strange considering I’d only just landed my first project. I used this as an opportunity to practice expressing what i’ve learnt in words, and also as an excuse to show all my silly short foley videos…
Earlier this month I was given the opportunity to undertake my second public appearance (yes, that’s 2 so far!) at the monthly Unreal London Meetup which was both daunting and crazy exciting. I absolutely love attending these meetups for so many reasons. The organisers Jeremy and Naveed are nothing but welcoming and encouraging, and as a result, the talent that is attracted is second to none. Great talks, fantastic place to connect with like-minded individuals in the game developer scene AND it’s an open bar (that last one is reason enough to come along on its own!) I approached it the same way I have approached this new career path: head first and not hiding my beginner status. Even managed to get Naveed to come on stage and scream into my iphone for a “1 min Sound Design” experiment, which I have to say went better than expected… (skip forward to 11:00 to see it!)
You can watch the full video on the Skills Matter website HERE.
Making sound effects for video games #7
Using an iphone for sound design
Feb 10 2019
Last month I gave another public talk at the Unreal London Meetup which gave me the chance to show off how I’ve been using a very simple set up to achieve high quality results.
By regressing to a simpler workflow as shown to the right, I can focus on my new ethos of “Resourceful vs. Resources”. An idea that suggests less is more when it comes to buying and using too much equipment. Instead of having 100 different types of expensive tools and being mediocre at all of them, I’d rather have just a handful but be super skilled at using them.
Using an iPhone means I can whip it out and record on the fly rather than needing to plan ahead because I just HAVE to use my new shotgun microphone. Just a thought! Anyway, below are a couple examples of this workflow in action and their results (I’m particularly happy with the monster sound in the first video!)