hitman sound design Asbjoern Andersen


HITMAN is a long-running stealth series created by IO Interactive. The series has sold millions of copies over the years, and has recently moved into an episodic release format, to much critical acclaim.

I got the the chance to speak with HITMAN audio designer Bjørn Jacobsen, about the creative process behind the audio for the game, his favorite sounds in the series – and his essential sound design tools:



 

Video Thumbnail

 

Hi Bjørn, what’s your overall vision for the sound of the HITMAN series? And what are some of the most challenging sounds to get right?

The overall sound vision for HITMAN is to support the visuals and overall well-played experience of the game. We’re taking a much more natural and realistic-sounding approach to the soundscape than that of its predecessor, HITMAN Absolution. When working on a heavily processed or an almost-not-processed soundscape, the size of issues at hand are the same. They may be different because of the type of sound you want to achieve, but the amount of issues are the same. Getting something to sound realistic and natural is neither easier nor harder to do – it’s just different. One of our greatest challenges is to get the overall soundscape of a location to be true to the visuals.

Getting something to sound realistic and natural is neither easier nor harder to do – it’s just different

In particular here in episode two, Sapienza, where the player moves from an open, outside-location in a typical Mediterranean Italian town, to indoor mansions, cliffs and a large cave with a bio lab inside. The feeling must be right and sound like you are actually there when walking down the streets and alleys of the town – while during the mission, the player will also enter the mansion and its various rooms and basement, along with the (almost sci-fi style) giant field lab in the cave.

The challenge is to get the transition from place to place right and each place to sound just right once you are there.
 

Has moving into the episodic format of the series changed anything in your approach to the sound design?

Yes, and no. When working on a “normal” game which goes from pre-production, into production and post-production until final release, you may experience that there is more or less to do in certain periods, as sound design can often be blocked from production by other factors in the pipeline. However, when working on an episodic game or any other game that has a constant release plan (like EVE Online, which I used to work on), you constantly move between pre, post and production, so the lines between them get blurred out.

It gives you more to do on average, I think, but it also gets rid of the more extreme crunching periods. So yes, something is different, but no you don’t really feel it in your everyday cycle of work.

Video Thumbnail

The launch trailer for HITMAN episode 2: Sapienza


 

You’ve just released HITMAN Episode 2 – could you share the story behind the sound design and sound workflow for that one?

Episode two, Sapienza, takes place in a fictional town by the same name, right off the western coast of Italy. The town is also the location of the Caruso family, whose family head, Silvio, is running a series of genetic experiments from his Mansion in the centre of town.

The sound design story here is to make sure that the town sounds like a town off the coast of Italy. We have quite an extensive list of videos, photos and drawings to get inspiration from, and the sound design as a whole is about making sure that the player goes from the most ordinary and simple outdoor feeling of a warm summer day to a hectic sci-fi experience in the laboratory while trying to corrupt the research of the main target.

I was the track owner of Sapienza, so most of the level is set up by me and most of the ambient sounds there are done by me. It was a great level to set up, so many challenges and different locations in one level, and with the help from the rest of the team I think we really pulled off a nice sounding level here.

The workflow of the level was first to get an overview of the entire thing, as it is quite a big level, then add the basics of sounds to it and then on the flow approach, each section of the level to make sure that it sounded right.

For this particular level we spent a lot of time getting the feeling of warmth right

For this particular level we spent a lot of time getting the feeling of warmth right, especially when on the Mansion grounds. Most of the cicadas there are heavily filtered sounds and nicely modulated sounds of a lot of other things than cicadas and you really get the sense of the warm air and the coastal location right there.

I also did quite a bit of room recordings during my holiday in New York City, which is the majority of the rooms in the Mansion and also spent quite a long time mixing distant waves and coastline recordings to get them just right when navigating the town areas close to the sea.
 


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

Latest releases:  
  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles Electro-Mechanics Toolkit 2 Play Track 860+ sounds included $67 $53.60

    The “Electro-Mechanics ToolKit 2” Sound Effects Library features a wide range of versatile electro-mechanic motors, engines, tools and toys.
    All waiting to be cut up, layered, edited and mangled with FX to become spaceship engines, robot movements, sci fi doors, weapon mechanics.
    This library is not meant to be a comprehensive tools library but rather a composite toolkit to bring futuristic electro-mechanic machines, devices, weapons, vehicles, … sonically to life.
    All cleaned and edited for direct use in your upcoming projects.

    All sounds have embedded BWF Metadata.

    Categories:

    Air Compressor • Angle Grinder • Band Saw • Belt Sander • Bowling Alley Machinery • Buffing Machine • Turning Lathe • Buzz Saw • Chop Saw • Doors & Shutters • Electric Drill • Electric Screwdriver • Electric Wood Plane • Evacuator • Film Projector • Fine Blanking Tool • Fretsaw • Grinding Lathe • Hand Blender & Mixer • Hoist Industrial • Industrial Vacuum Cleaner • Jigsaw • Mechanic Toys • Metal Saw • Milling Machine • Stationary Drill • Strimmer • Toy Helicopter

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576623599
    Add to cart
  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles RC Cars | Reely Core Buggy Play Track 170+ sounds included $35 $28

    Looking for sounds of a remote controlled car? Here you go: This sound effects library features 170 sound effects of the Reely Core RC Car. You get several on-board and external driving sounds, pass-bys, close-up steering mechanics and idling mixtures, and of course some crashes. All sounds are edited and cleaned for direct use in your upcoming sound design projects. All sounds contain detailed BWF Metadata.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576623599
    Add to cart
  • Foley Crockery & Surfaces (Empty) Play Track 64 sounds included $20 $17

    A library containing a number of objects being picked up, put down and moved around on a number of surfaces including wood, glass and metal.

    15 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576623599
    Add to cart
  • Foley Crockery & Surfaces (Full) Play Track 64 sounds included $20 $17

    A sfx library containing a number of different glasses and cups filled with liquid interacting with various surfaces including wood, metal and glass.

    15 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576623599
    Add to cart
  • Foley Door Sounds Pack Play Track 107 sounds included $19.99

    107 door sound effects divided in different types:

    Metal Doors, Office Doors, Car Doors, Gates, Medieval Doors, Highschool Locker, Common House Doors, Stone Door, Keys Foley, Train Mechanism, Sci-fi Door, Wood Doors, Submarine Door

     

    More about the pack:

    • There are singe-shot sounds but also loops (for example, stone door opening loop)
    • This SFX are suitable for any kind of games.
    • Recorded with Zoom H6
    • Intuitive file naming
    • All you’ll ever need regarding Door sounds

     

    [Format]
    All files are in:

    • WAV – Stereo  44.1 Khz, 16bit
    • OGG – Stereo  44.1 Khz, 16bit

     

    [Use them again & again]

    Use the sound effects over and over, in any of your projects or productions, forever without any additional fees or royalties. Use the SFX in your game, in your trailer, in a Kickstarter campaign, wherever you need to, as much as you want to.

     

    [Professional audio services]

    For custom music, sound design, sound engineering or any other game audio services, please send a mail to: audioalchemiststore@gmail.com

    Add to cart


Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

One great effect for Sapienza in particular is the change from an indoors to outdoors experience. When in a windy area of the level, we made a small system which has divided the wind sounds into small grains of wind, combined with a layer of distorting wind directly into the microphone. This was done to really empathize the fact that the player just moved from the calm indoors to the windy outdoors. Also, when moving from a secluded area of a cave or along a wall into a more open area of the level, where wind would come in stronger, this really helped to get the feeling of the Cliffside and the top of the church towers just right.
 

With such a long-running franchise, do you have a large arsenal of sounds to draw from, or are you continuously recording and designing new material?

We have quite an extensively-sized library, which we also use quite a bit, but we also constantly feed it with new material that we acquire in various ways.
I’m going on vacation to Malta soon and that will most likely result in several recordings of rooms, pool areas, small shops, populated streets, deserted places, ceiling fans, cooking, birds, insects, cats, dogs, beaches and more.

So the library is constantly being fed with new material that we share in between us and use as a department.
 

Meet the sound team behind HITMAN:

“Our sound team is a small, but strong and confident, group of sound designers, which consists of a lead sound designer, Frank Lindeskov, and a senior sound designer, Jonas Breum Jensen, as the leading parts of the team. Two regular sound designers, Oliver Harrison and me, and a junior sound designer, Henriette Lonn Jenssen.

Henriette and I went to school together, at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus with a BA. in Electronic Music Composition, and Jonas, Henriette and I also have the same MSc. in Audio Design from Aarhus University, but not from the same year.
Oliver is a BA. In Creative Music Technology from Bath Spa University, while Frank, our lead, is from a different background in TV and Radio production. We also have a dedicated audio programmer, Stepan Boev.

This gives us a very strong approach to game audio, from the very experienced audio designer to the brand-new

Our video game audio experience is quite different from one another. Oliver has previously worked in England and Sweden on games such as DJ Hero, The Division, Far Cry 3 and more.

Jonas and Frank have been with IO for many years and worked on the previous games here HITMAN Absolution, Kane and Lynch and more.

Henriette joined as an intern and is now our junior sound designer, and my own background is from various smaller games and a few years in Iceland working on EVE Online and EVE: Valkyrie. This gives us a very strong approach to game audio, from the very experienced audio designer to the brand-new and various different creative approaches to solutions of issues.”

 

What are some of your essential tools when it comes to sound design?

Your ears and your ideas. Knowledge and experience is key and vital to getting to the correct result fast, and hopefully on the very first try. School and classic education is one thing, but knowing how to create something – and how to create it fast with what you have – is the most important thing I can imagine.

School and classic education is one thing, but knowing how to create something – and how to create it fast with what you have – is the most important thing I can imagine

Technically, there is a bunch of software and hardware that is also essential, but those are merely tools that act on your command. Without the ideas of what to command it to do, and without the ears to determine if you are going in the right direction, the software and hardware tools are nothing.

Personally, I use Cubase and Wavelab as my favourite tools of creation, as for a “realistic” and natural sounding game like HITMAN, I spend a lot of time mixing and getting “natural” sounds just right. (Remember what I just said about cicadas? The cicadas are actually a microwave electrical wave pitched down)

Therefore Cubase and Wavelab get the job done on the most part of this, but it was different when I was working on Sci-Fi MMO’s as I did in the past. Here, nothing was natural and most of my time would be spent in max/MSP environments and with weird hardware patch setups to get the noises right. It’s same same but different, really.
 

From a sound perspective, what are some of your favorite moments in the HITMAN series? And anything in particular to listen for in episode 2?

There is quite a few moments in HITMAN that are worth mentioning – most of them have not been revealed, though, so I cannot speak of them just yet. But in Episode Two there are several moments worth experiencing, as walking around the town and visiting the café can be quite a soothing experience, even without thinking of the murder you are about to do as you approach your target.

Just think of a jacket, a microphone and me looking weird while trying to get the breathing right!

Episode two also contains a very nice smothering sequence with a pillow and a nasty scientist with bad thoughts underneath… who deserves to be smothered more than Joffrey Baratheon! It’s quite satisfying, and when you hear it – just think of a jacket, a microphone and me looking weird while trying to get the breathing right!

My favourite moments in HITMAN are all the situations where it is possible to just walk around and enjoy a level and its audio soundscape and scenery, without the constant fear of being detected or actually playing the game. The Paris level and just walking around, the very accurate feeling of the fashion show, and the feeling of being among the rich and famous at such a party, and the Sapienza level. And, really, just listening to the birds, the wind and the overall soundscape of the level. Those are really the best moments of the game.. well, those, and when you kill your target and hear the high-score counter tick in!

 

Please share this:


 

A big thanks to Bjørn Jacobsen for this look behind the scenes on the sound for HITMAN. Follow Bjørn on Twitter here, and learn more about HITMAN here.

 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Foley Footstep and Foley Sounds Play Track 812 sounds included $10

    Footstep & Foley Sounds contains 511 high quality professionally recorded footstep sounds. Surfaces included: concrete, dirt, grass, gravel, metal, mud, water, wood, ice and snow. Plus 141 Foley sounds covering a variety of character movement sounds. A perfect addition to add realism to your footstep sounds.

    This pack also includes a variety of 160 bonus sounds effects from our full library Pro Sound Collection. ALL sounds from Footstep & Foley Sounds are included in Pro Sound Collection so if you need more sounds be sure to check it out before purchase.

    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Abstract Ambiences Play Track 377+ sounds included, 685 mins total From: $28

    Abstract Ambiences gets you a collection of abstract and surreal ambiences, covering everything from Doomed Soundscapes, Dark Drones, Futuristic Dungeons, Alien Worlds, SciFi Horror, Weird Radio Messages and Interference to Disturbing and Terrifying Noises, Eerie Textures & more. The library is the first of many collaborations between SoundBits and Monte Sound. All sounds are royalty free – and several versions are available:

    Abstract Ambiences version overview:

    Abstract Ambiences – Stereo:
    • 60 ready-to-use abstract ambiences in stereo
    60 files, 5.18 GB

    Abstract Ambiences 5.0 – Surround:
    • 60 ready-to-use abstract ambiences in 5.0 surround (split mono) + stereo downmixes
    300 split monofiles (60 ambiences in 5.0) + 60 stereo files, 13.08 GB

    Ambiences Construction-Kit:
    • 257 stereo layers/stems – source stems used to build the Abstract Ambiences library, offering 1000s of combinations
    257 files, 13.33 GB

    Abstract Ambiences COMPLETE Pack:
    • Surround + Stereo Downmixes + Construction Kit bundle for maximum savings!
    377 files, 31.59GB

    More details about the packs below.

  • Foley Cartoon Materials Play Track 2059 sounds included $74

    Finally! A replacement for those overused cartoon sound effects from the 80s. This library comes with more than 2000 freshly recorded cartoony sound effects, created by experienced animation sound designers Marie Doyeux & Arnaud Roy.

    The Cartoon Materials SFX library contains everything from balloons, creaks, squeaks, skids, springs and slide whistles to toys, boings, pops, gurgles, crazy impacts – and much more!

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles Electro-Mechanics Toolkit 2 Play Track 860+ sounds included $67 $53.60

    The “Electro-Mechanics ToolKit 2” Sound Effects Library features a wide range of versatile electro-mechanic motors, engines, tools and toys.
    All waiting to be cut up, layered, edited and mangled with FX to become spaceship engines, robot movements, sci fi doors, weapon mechanics.
    This library is not meant to be a comprehensive tools library but rather a composite toolkit to bring futuristic electro-mechanic machines, devices, weapons, vehicles, … sonically to life.
    All cleaned and edited for direct use in your upcoming projects.

    All sounds have embedded BWF Metadata.

    Categories:

    Air Compressor • Angle Grinder • Band Saw • Belt Sander • Bowling Alley Machinery • Buffing Machine • Turning Lathe • Buzz Saw • Chop Saw • Doors & Shutters • Electric Drill • Electric Screwdriver • Electric Wood Plane • Evacuator • Film Projector • Fine Blanking Tool • Fretsaw • Grinding Lathe • Hand Blender & Mixer • Hoist Industrial • Industrial Vacuum Cleaner • Jigsaw • Mechanic Toys • Metal Saw • Milling Machine • Stationary Drill • Strimmer • Toy Helicopter

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576623599
  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles RC Cars | Reely Core Buggy Play Track 170+ sounds included $35 $28

    Looking for sounds of a remote controlled car? Here you go: This sound effects library features 170 sound effects of the Reely Core RC Car. You get several on-board and external driving sounds, pass-bys, close-up steering mechanics and idling mixtures, and of course some crashes. All sounds are edited and cleaned for direct use in your upcoming sound design projects. All sounds contain detailed BWF Metadata.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576623599
  • Foley Crockery & Surfaces (Empty) Play Track 64 sounds included $20 $17

    A library containing a number of objects being picked up, put down and moved around on a number of surfaces including wood, glass and metal.

    15 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576623599
  • Foley Crockery & Surfaces (Full) Play Track 64 sounds included $20 $17

    A sfx library containing a number of different glasses and cups filled with liquid interacting with various surfaces including wood, metal and glass.

    15 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576623599
  • Foley Door Sounds Pack Play Track 107 sounds included $19.99

    107 door sound effects divided in different types:

    Metal Doors, Office Doors, Car Doors, Gates, Medieval Doors, Highschool Locker, Common House Doors, Stone Door, Keys Foley, Train Mechanism, Sci-fi Door, Wood Doors, Submarine Door

     

    More about the pack:

    • There are singe-shot sounds but also loops (for example, stone door opening loop)
    • This SFX are suitable for any kind of games.
    • Recorded with Zoom H6
    • Intuitive file naming
    • All you’ll ever need regarding Door sounds

     

    [Format]
    All files are in:

    • WAV – Stereo  44.1 Khz, 16bit
    • OGG – Stereo  44.1 Khz, 16bit

     

    [Use them again & again]

    Use the sound effects over and over, in any of your projects or productions, forever without any additional fees or royalties. Use the SFX in your game, in your trailer, in a Kickstarter campaign, wherever you need to, as much as you want to.

     

    [Professional audio services]

    For custom music, sound design, sound engineering or any other game audio services, please send a mail to: audioalchemiststore@gmail.com

 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.