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:  
  • Foley Footstep Loops II Play Track 663 sounds included $75 $49

    Editing footsteps in audio post-production can be time-consuming. Footstep Loops II is a sound library that delivers a comprehensive kit of footstep sound effects made to ease your daily work.

    The collection contains footstep sounds of various shoes and surfaces, recorded in different paces and edited to continuous but lively 30-second sound loops.

    VARIETY

    The Footstep Loops II Sound Library covers a wide range of different footsteps:

    Barefoot, Socks, Slippers, Flip-Flops, Sneakers on Wood, Sneakers on Concrete, Boots on Wood, Boots on Concrete, Heels on Wood, Heels on Stone;
    Grass, Gravel, Forest, Foliage, Dry Foliage, Stones, Puddle, Mud, Snow;
    Stairs up + down: Wooden Stairs, Metal Stairs, Stone Stairs



    PACE

    Each type of footsteps is available as a set of 13 sound files that represent a range from walking very slowly up to very speedy. Paces are sorted by Footsteps per Minute (FPM):

    Ground Footsteps: from 40 FPM to 160 FPM
    Stairs Footsteps: from 60 FPM to 180 FPM (up) / from 80 FPM to 200 FPM (down)



    LAYERS

    Since all (ground) footstep loops have the same FPM paces, they can be layered easily. E.g. you can add a puddle sound element to sneakers walking on concrete etc.



    CLOTHING

    You can add clothing as a layer to make the movements sound more natural. The sounds of jeans & jacket fit to all ground footsteps. Furthermore, versions with well-balanced clothing sounds of all main footstep loops are already included as ready-to-use files!



    ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS

    Some experimental elements are also included in the library:
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    TIME-COMPRESS

    Paces of the sound loops included in the Footstep Loops II sound library increase in steps of 10 FPM each. If you need a value in between, time-compress the file just a tiny bit – the quality loss is almost inaudible in modern digital audio workstations.



    ONLINE FOOTSTEPS GENERATOR

    To get an impression of what you get with the Footstep Loops II sound library, go HERE and play around with footsteps online.


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    DESCRIPTION:
    • In Alaska: Active Nature, get a collection of the energetic ambiences from Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Hear the resounding sound of glacial valleys as the endless sun fuels the ecosystem. Hear playful shorebirds energetic calls and whooshing flybys. Hear the sweet singing of Swainson’s Thrush and resonant woodpeckers that ring for miles. Hear cottonwoods creaking and the eerie winnowing of Wilson’s Snipe circling overhead.
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    2% FOR THE ENVIRONMENT & CARBON NEUTRAL:
    • Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause, as an “artist royalty” for the planet!
    • Carbon offset credits were purchased to offset my field recording travel for this library.

    KEY FEATURES:
    • Active nature ambiences with dense flora and fauna
    • Lush, dense songbird choruses
    • Close, single species calls
    • Wing flutters and whooshing flybys
    • Water takeoffs and landings
    • Lush forest birds
    • Energetic shorebirds
    • Days and nights in the beaver pond filled marshland
    • Days and nights in the boreal forest
    • Two, 30+ minute dawn choruses
    • Lone moose walking in a beaver pond
    TEXT MARKERS:
    • Named markers are included in each file to help find interesting events in an otherwise uniform waveform.
    • Markers are included in the Soundminer and BWAV description fields starting with the prefix “Marker Text”.
    BLOG POST:
    • Coming Soon on the ASFX blog
    FILE LIST & METADATA:
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    • Flora (plants) and Fauna (animals) are described in these terms:
    • fauna sparse
    • fauna constant
    • flora sparse
    • flora constant
    • flora and fauna sparse
    • flora and fauna constant
    • Included wildlife: Moose, Swainson’s Thrush, Varied Thrush, Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Common Loon, Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, American Robin, Black-billed Magpie, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Wilson’s Snipe, Boreal owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Great Horned Owl, Woodpeckers, bats
    STEREO AND QUAD FILES:
    • Stereo: front mid/side decoded to left and right.
    • Quad: double mid/side decoded to quad.
    MORE INFO:
    • Read 40+ user reviews for Thomas Rex Beverly Audio
    • Read my Field Recording Mastering Rules and learn more about how these recordings were mastered.
    • Browse the Library Info Master List to compare specs on all my libraries.
    • Browse the Metadata Master List to search my entire catalog.
    • MD5 and SHA 256 Checksums are included for each zip file in my catalog. Use these hashes to check the integrity of your downloaded files.
    GEAR USED:
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 pair and MKH30 in Double Mid/Side
    • Sound Devices MixPre-6
    • Cinela Pianissimo Double Mid/Side Blimp

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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!

 

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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.

 
 
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  • Metal Resonant Rusty Door Play Track 100+ sounds included $15 $10

    Recorded at a remaining bunker constructed near the Chebucto Head lighthouse (Halifax, Nova Scotia) during WWII, now in a state of semi-ruin and covered in rust.

    These recordings were a happy accident, discovered on the way to record something else. This large, heavy steel door has been rusting since wartime, and when I noticed it I immediately knew it would have a unique sonic character. When moved, it produces interesting almost musical tones, rich with harmonics and ripe for processing.

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  • Metal The Junkyard Metal Library Play Track 3183 sounds included $249 $74.70

    The Junkyard Metal sound library includes 3183 clips in 98.49 GB. It collects the sound of metal hits, drops, pick ups, rattles and clatters, rumbles and rummaging, rocking, rolling, and scraping.

    Featuring diverse props ranging from large metal storage containers, diesel tanks, shopping carts, and tractor buckets to to smaller propane tanks, crates, shopping carts, and bolts, nails, and ammunition, the collection provides multiple performances in each clip.

    The sounds were performed from light to heavy intensities and captured at 192 kHz, 24-bit resolution with Sanken, Sennheiser, Neumann, and Schoeps microphones.

    The bundle is delivered with Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, full professional embedded metadata, and metadata keyword import files in 7 languages.

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    Footstep and Foley Sounds $10
    Fun Casual Sounds $15
    Fun Character Voices $10
    Gun Sound Pack $19
    Guns, Bullets and Explosions $35
    Human Vocalizations $25
    Magic and Spell Sounds $25
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Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Foley Footstep Loops II Play Track 663 sounds included $75 $49

    Editing footsteps in audio post-production can be time-consuming. Footstep Loops II is a sound library that delivers a comprehensive kit of footstep sound effects made to ease your daily work.

    The collection contains footstep sounds of various shoes and surfaces, recorded in different paces and edited to continuous but lively 30-second sound loops.

    VARIETY

    The Footstep Loops II Sound Library covers a wide range of different footsteps:

    Barefoot, Socks, Slippers, Flip-Flops, Sneakers on Wood, Sneakers on Concrete, Boots on Wood, Boots on Concrete, Heels on Wood, Heels on Stone;
    Grass, Gravel, Forest, Foliage, Dry Foliage, Stones, Puddle, Mud, Snow;
    Stairs up + down: Wooden Stairs, Metal Stairs, Stone Stairs



    PACE

    Each type of footsteps is available as a set of 13 sound files that represent a range from walking very slowly up to very speedy. Paces are sorted by Footsteps per Minute (FPM):

    Ground Footsteps: from 40 FPM to 160 FPM
    Stairs Footsteps: from 60 FPM to 180 FPM (up) / from 80 FPM to 200 FPM (down)



    LAYERS

    Since all (ground) footstep loops have the same FPM paces, they can be layered easily. E.g. you can add a puddle sound element to sneakers walking on concrete etc.



    CLOTHING

    You can add clothing as a layer to make the movements sound more natural. The sounds of jeans & jacket fit to all ground footsteps. Furthermore, versions with well-balanced clothing sounds of all main footstep loops are already included as ready-to-use files!



    ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS

    Some experimental elements are also included in the library:
    2 layers of floor creaks and one layer that adds the sound of keys in the pocket while walking.



    TIME-COMPRESS

    Paces of the sound loops included in the Footstep Loops II sound library increase in steps of 10 FPM each. If you need a value in between, time-compress the file just a tiny bit – the quality loss is almost inaudible in modern digital audio workstations.



    ONLINE FOOTSTEPS GENERATOR

    To get an impression of what you get with the Footstep Loops II sound library, go HERE and play around with footsteps online.


    • 663 audio files
    • 331 minutes total runtime
    • all files contain meta-data / keywords for easy search


    All sounds from this library are included in:
    Diversity

    35 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574204399
  • Environments Stream River & Waterfall vol.2 Play Track 88 sounds included $59 $46.20

    43 locations from various perspectives.

    STREAM / RIVER & WATERFALL features WATER MOVEMENT from JAPAN and NEW ZEALAND.
    Each STREAM and RIVER have their unique flows, and varieties of topographies gives each its characteristic sound – and WATERFALLS from small to medium adds nature feeling to it.
    In addition, the library also features places where SPRING WATER GUSHES in Japan, and huge ELECTRIC WATER PUMP from New Zealand and more.

    Recorded @ 24 Bit / 96 kHz with ortf, spaced omni, XY and carefully edited.

    22 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574204399
  • Cars Renault Master IV 2.3 DCI 165 Play Track 80+ sounds included, 88 mins total $130 $117

    The Renault Master IV 2.3 DCI 165 sound library features 76 high-quality files recorded with a multi-mic setup. The engine was recorded in sync with cabin interior ambients, and you can expect different styles of driving, from casual city driving, through accelerations on a highway up to rpm ramps and constant rpm loops for game audio.

    In addition to engine recordings, this sound effects library features exterior passes, whooshes and other road-related sounds recorded in mono and stereo. Last but not least, different foley recordings covering exterior and interior sound effects.

    10 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574204399
  • Destruction & Impact Rock Brick and Dirt 3 Play Track 500+ sounds included, 17 mins total $27

    Rock, Brick and Dirt 3 is the third of the series! This bundle includes all remastered sounds from RBD 1 and 2. With more than 100 new files recorded and designed. It’s a package of impact, Smash, Crumbling, Scratching, Landfall and more rock debris sounds. The library contains 333 files of various recording texture and perspective.

    A good package to add a dirty texture to your production.

    Each sound has been meticulously edited individually, All files were recorded and are delivered in 24bit 96kHz Broadcast Wave files, all embedded with metadata information for easy import and ensure fast and easy workflow.

  • Animals & Creatures Alaska: Active Nature Play Track 48+ sounds included, 300 mins total From: $69

    DESCRIPTION:
    • In Alaska: Active Nature, get a collection of the energetic ambiences from Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Hear the resounding sound of glacial valleys as the endless sun fuels the ecosystem. Hear playful shorebirds energetic calls and whooshing flybys. Hear the sweet singing of Swainson’s Thrush and resonant woodpeckers that ring for miles. Hear cottonwoods creaking and the eerie winnowing of Wilson’s Snipe circling overhead.
    • This library is packed full of tracks with vibrant flora and fauna from the lively summer landscapes of the Arctic. Hear the sounds of this stunning natural cathedral while the nearby glaciers remain. The ecosystem won’t sound the same when they’re gone.

    2% FOR THE ENVIRONMENT & CARBON NEUTRAL:
    • Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause, as an “artist royalty” for the planet!
    • Carbon offset credits were purchased to offset my field recording travel for this library.

    KEY FEATURES:
    • Active nature ambiences with dense flora and fauna
    • Lush, dense songbird choruses
    • Close, single species calls
    • Wing flutters and whooshing flybys
    • Water takeoffs and landings
    • Lush forest birds
    • Energetic shorebirds
    • Days and nights in the beaver pond filled marshland
    • Days and nights in the boreal forest
    • Two, 30+ minute dawn choruses
    • Lone moose walking in a beaver pond
    TEXT MARKERS:
    • Named markers are included in each file to help find interesting events in an otherwise uniform waveform.
    • Markers are included in the Soundminer and BWAV description fields starting with the prefix “Marker Text”.
    BLOG POST:
    • Coming Soon on the ASFX blog
    FILE LIST & METADATA:
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    • Flora (plants) and Fauna (animals) are described in these terms:
    • fauna sparse
    • fauna constant
    • flora sparse
    • flora constant
    • flora and fauna sparse
    • flora and fauna constant
    • Included wildlife: Moose, Swainson’s Thrush, Varied Thrush, Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Common Loon, Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, American Robin, Black-billed Magpie, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Wilson’s Snipe, Boreal owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Great Horned Owl, Woodpeckers, bats
    STEREO AND QUAD FILES:
    • Stereo: front mid/side decoded to left and right.
    • Quad: double mid/side decoded to quad.
    MORE INFO:
    • Read 40+ user reviews for Thomas Rex Beverly Audio
    • Read my Field Recording Mastering Rules and learn more about how these recordings were mastered.
    • Browse the Library Info Master List to compare specs on all my libraries.
    • Browse the Metadata Master List to search my entire catalog.
    • MD5 and SHA 256 Checksums are included for each zip file in my catalog. Use these hashes to check the integrity of your downloaded files.
    GEAR USED:
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 pair and MKH30 in Double Mid/Side
    • Sound Devices MixPre-6
    • Cinela Pianissimo Double Mid/Side Blimp
 
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