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:  
  • From 24/96 Sound Effects. Immersive Crowds in Motion features 58 HD 24 Bit / 96 kHz Surround Sound Effects with a large selection of Interior and Exterior moving crowds. Train stations, conventions, sporting events and more. Recorded with a Voyage Audio 2nd Order Spatial Microphone. Recording locations were centrally located within the crowd for better immersion. Intelligible words have been reduced or removed when possible.

    Mastered with ProTools Ultimate in 3 configurations: Ambisonic (Ambix 2nd Order (Wyzxrstuv), Atmos™ 7.1.2 Surround Sound (LRCLfeLssRssLrsRrsLtsRts) and Stereo (L-R). Most tracks are 2-3 minutes in length with embedded metadata. All-new, original recordings.

    Want a taste of what’s included? Download the O2A and 7.1.2 Surround Demo files here: https://tinyurl.com/ImmersiveCrowdDemo and try it out on your own system!

    10 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580943599
  • SCI-FI GUNNERY is a collection of high-quality futuristic gunshot sound effects.

    It features 330 sounds of anything from big artillery hydraulic guns to small ray blaster and handguns.

    Collection consists of 105 different weapons.
    Every weapon comes with 5-6 variations that have slightly different pitch (+/-0.4 semitones) and time alignment
    (+/- 15ms) for maximum realism.
    All SFX have baked-in Soundminer’s meta data.

    Download includes:
    96-192KHZ 24BIT version
    44.1KHZ 16BIT MONO version for Unreal Engine
    44.1KHZ 16BIT STEREO version for Unreal Engine

    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + Sennheiser MKH8060 + ATE208 + DPA4060, PCM D100

    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: RX, Pro Tools, Brufri, DMGAudio, Reaktor, Massive, Serum, Monark, Alto, Soundtoys, Live.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580857199
    Add to cart
  • Several waterfalls and rivers recorded in the Vosges Mountains in France.
    It tooks place in three different location: Cascade Charlemagne, Pont des Fées, Saut des Cuves.
    For almost every place, several microphones placements were used at close, medium and far distance.
    In addition to the 2 stereo microphone pairs, a hydrophone track is also available to allow you to modulate the low end and to add more movement.

    Gear used:
    Sound Devices 788T
    MKH8020 stereo pair
    MKH8040 stereo pair
    JRF hydrophone
    Add to cart
  • Cars Porsche Macan S 3.0 V6 Play Track 200+ sounds included, 354 mins total $150 $130

    The Porsche Macan S 3.0 V6 sound library features 198 high-quality files recorded with a multi-mic setup. The Engine was recorded in sync with interior cabin ambient, 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 on dry asphalt.

    Last but not least, different foley were recorded to cover exterior and interior activities. In addition to designed onboard recordings, there are also premixed stems for the engine, intake and exhaust and RAW files, of each microphone without any post-processing.

    13 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580597999
    Add to cart
  • Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are all around us, they are everywhere and each electronic device produces them. Imagine a whole new world hidden from us. It is time to lift the veil of secrecy and look into it.

    This library contains raw electronic sounds – a perfect source for sci-fi movies, trailers, games, computer interfaces, experimental music or whatever you can think of. The frequency range of these sounds is impressive, it reaches 48 kHz allowing you to effectively manipulate their pitch and spectrum.

    All sounds are sorted into categories, such as: Glitch, Hum, Click, Movement, Distortion, Beep and many others, which makes it easy to navigate and choose not only by the recorded object but by the type of sound it generates. And last, but not least: this library was recorded with high-quality 96KHz/24bit.

    Equipment used:

    • LOM Audio Elektrosluch Mini City
    • Sound Devices MixPre 6

    Main features:

    • 134 raw electronic sounds with variations
    • Perfect source for all kinds of harsh noises, glitches, drones, movements, whooshes, beeps, hum, clicks, buzz, nasty distortions etc
    • Astonishing frequency range up to 48KHz
    • Created for further manipulation with spectrum and pitch
    • Recorded with high quality 96Khz/24bit
    • Categorized by types: Glitch, Hum, Click, Movement, Distortion, Beep and so on
    • Contains metadata for search engines

     

    52 %
    OFF
    Ends 1583017199
    Add to cart


Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 
Want more stories like this? Follow A Sound Effect:
 
                              

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:
 
 
  • Ice Frozen Play Track 809 sounds included $45 $23

    Frozen is a collection of ice impacts, scrapes, debris, slides and more taken during a miserably cold winter in the arctic tundra of Massachusetts. These recordings were meticulously recorded, edited, named, renamed, edited again, re recorded, then re-renamed (you get the point) to give you the best quality ice library you can get.

    The library roughly is broken into two sections, raw and processed. Raw is designed for sound designers to go wild with: stretch, distort, compress, and more to your hearts content. The processed section is for designers and content creators on the go. If you’re on a tight deadline, pulling some sounds that are already going to get you close to where you need to be is imperative. These processed versions play very nicely even when not designing ice.

    49 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580511599
    Add to cart
  • Tired of those same old door knobs and hinge squeaks that you hear in every single game, film and TV show? Well, Gateway aims to remedy that issue while providing you with a brand new palette of sounds.

    Gateway comes packed with doors, doors and more doors! Low end, high end, slow horror creaks and squeaks, huge slams and impacts, tiny compartment doors.

    The Gateway family now includes the just-released Gateway Part 3, with more than 1400 new sounds.

    Doors, gates, overhead rollups, cabinets, closets, drawers, garage doors, fireplaces, sheds, you name it!

    Latches and knobs, wrought iron and chain link! Metal, wood, glass and MORE! All of these doors were acoustically captured in the real world. You won’t find anything synthesized here!

    Did we mention doors? Yeah, Gateway has those too.

    Gateway Part 1 features 675 files, 1200+ sounds

    Gateway Part 2 features 365 files, 600+ sounds

    Gateway Part 3 features 772 files, 1400+ sounds

    The Gateway 1-3 Bundle features 1812 files, 3200+ sounds

    Special offer:Do you already have Gateway Part 1 or 2? Send a message here for a special upgrade offer for part 3.

    Choose your preferred version below – or land some great savings by getting all three in one handy package!

  • Mechanical Elements: Gears Play Track 4000+ sounds included, 205 mins total $80

    Elements: Gears is a collection of small and large gear, ratchet, cogwheel and other mechanical sounds recorded and edited over more than 2 years by George Vlad. The library encompasses more than 4000 individual sounds covering actions such as single clicks, slow movement, fast movement, short turns etc. The objects recorded include ratchet tools, plastic toys, old sewing machines, wagon wheels and ethnic noise making instruments. Some of the larger objects have been recorded using MKH 8040, DPA 4060 and a JrF contact microphone with each perspective included on a separate track.

    Elements: Gears 1.1 Update adds more large gear sounds! Check out the accompanying spreadsheet.

    The sounds can be used for obvious purposes such as ratchet wrenches, cogwheels, drawbridges, steampunk mechanisms, machinery etc.. As is the case with other libraries in the Elements series, these sounds can also be used as building blocks for more complex sounds such as spaceships, vehicles, industrial machinery and others. Additionally, all files are recorded and mastered at 24/96 quality which makes them excellent sound design elements ripe for serious processing.

    Elements: Gears at a glance:

    • 212 .wav files; more than 4000 sounds in total
    • recorded and presented as 24 bit/96 kHz mono files
    • 3 hours and 55 minutes total length
    • 3.83 GB uncompressed size – 3.11 GB zip archive
    • recorded on Sound Devices 633 with Sennheiser MKH-8040, DPA 4060 and JrF microphones
    • comprehensive metadata compatible with Basehead and Soundminer

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • From 24/96 Sound Effects. Immersive Crowds in Motion features 58 HD 24 Bit / 96 kHz Surround Sound Effects with a large selection of Interior and Exterior moving crowds. Train stations, conventions, sporting events and more. Recorded with a Voyage Audio 2nd Order Spatial Microphone. Recording locations were centrally located within the crowd for better immersion. Intelligible words have been reduced or removed when possible.

    Mastered with ProTools Ultimate in 3 configurations: Ambisonic (Ambix 2nd Order (Wyzxrstuv), Atmos™ 7.1.2 Surround Sound (LRCLfeLssRssLrsRrsLtsRts) and Stereo (L-R). Most tracks are 2-3 minutes in length with embedded metadata. All-new, original recordings.

    Want a taste of what’s included? Download the O2A and 7.1.2 Surround Demo files here: https://tinyurl.com/ImmersiveCrowdDemo and try it out on your own system!

    10 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580943599
  • SCI-FI GUNNERY is a collection of high-quality futuristic gunshot sound effects.

    It features 330 sounds of anything from big artillery hydraulic guns to small ray blaster and handguns.

    Collection consists of 105 different weapons.
    Every weapon comes with 5-6 variations that have slightly different pitch (+/-0.4 semitones) and time alignment
    (+/- 15ms) for maximum realism.
    All SFX have baked-in Soundminer’s meta data.

    Download includes:
    96-192KHZ 24BIT version
    44.1KHZ 16BIT MONO version for Unreal Engine
    44.1KHZ 16BIT STEREO version for Unreal Engine

    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + Sennheiser MKH8060 + ATE208 + DPA4060, PCM D100

    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: RX, Pro Tools, Brufri, DMGAudio, Reaktor, Massive, Serum, Monark, Alto, Soundtoys, Live.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580857199
  • Several waterfalls and rivers recorded in the Vosges Mountains in France.
    It tooks place in three different location: Cascade Charlemagne, Pont des Fées, Saut des Cuves.
    For almost every place, several microphones placements were used at close, medium and far distance.
    In addition to the 2 stereo microphone pairs, a hydrophone track is also available to allow you to modulate the low end and to add more movement.

    Gear used:
    Sound Devices 788T
    MKH8020 stereo pair
    MKH8040 stereo pair
    JRF hydrophone
  • Cars Porsche Macan S 3.0 V6 Play Track 200+ sounds included, 354 mins total $150 $130

    The Porsche Macan S 3.0 V6 sound library features 198 high-quality files recorded with a multi-mic setup. The Engine was recorded in sync with interior cabin ambient, 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 on dry asphalt.

    Last but not least, different foley were recorded to cover exterior and interior activities. In addition to designed onboard recordings, there are also premixed stems for the engine, intake and exhaust and RAW files, of each microphone without any post-processing.

    13 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580597999
  • Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are all around us, they are everywhere and each electronic device produces them. Imagine a whole new world hidden from us. It is time to lift the veil of secrecy and look into it.

    This library contains raw electronic sounds – a perfect source for sci-fi movies, trailers, games, computer interfaces, experimental music or whatever you can think of. The frequency range of these sounds is impressive, it reaches 48 kHz allowing you to effectively manipulate their pitch and spectrum.

    All sounds are sorted into categories, such as: Glitch, Hum, Click, Movement, Distortion, Beep and many others, which makes it easy to navigate and choose not only by the recorded object but by the type of sound it generates. And last, but not least: this library was recorded with high-quality 96KHz/24bit.

    Equipment used:

    • LOM Audio Elektrosluch Mini City
    • Sound Devices MixPre 6

    Main features:

    • 134 raw electronic sounds with variations
    • Perfect source for all kinds of harsh noises, glitches, drones, movements, whooshes, beeps, hum, clicks, buzz, nasty distortions etc
    • Astonishing frequency range up to 48KHz
    • Created for further manipulation with spectrum and pitch
    • Recorded with high quality 96Khz/24bit
    • Categorized by types: Glitch, Hum, Click, Movement, Distortion, Beep and so on
    • Contains metadata for search engines

     

    52 %
    OFF
    Ends 1583017199
 
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.