Creative Game Audio Collaborations Asbjoern Andersen


Award-winning Audio Designer Gary Miranda – who led the audio design on Marvel's Midnight Suns, Sunblink Entertainment's Hello Kitty Island Adventure and HEROish, and Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank – shares his approach to collaborating with game teams to craft sonic universes that fit each game's aesthetic and are tailored to maximize the player's experience. He also talks about his approach to effectively working as a contractor for in-house game audio departments, shares his views on creating immersive game audio, getting the most from middleware, what changes he'd like to see in game audio, and more!
Interview by Jennifer Walden, photos courtesy of Gary Miranda
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Congratulations to Audio Designer Gary Miranda and his team at Injected Senses Audio on their 22nd Annual G.A.N.G. Award nomination for “Best UI, Reward, or Objective Sound Design” on Hello Kitty, Island Adventure (Sunblink Entertainment Sanrio)! He’s previously earned two Game Audio Network Guild Awards nominations for “Best Audio for an Indie Game,” and “Best Sound Design for an Indie Game” for his work on HEROish, and won a G.A.N.G. Award for his work on Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

Miranda is a frequent collaborator on Fortnite, and has contributed to the sound design for Sony’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and their critically acclaimed release Spider-Man 2. He and his team at Injected Senses Audio – an outsourcing company based in San Diego – are long-time collaborators with top video game companies including Epic Games, Insomniac, Firaxis, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Sunblink Entertainment. As specialists in game audio, they understand the sound team’s specialized needs and can provide help to any degree, whether that’s providing a couple of extra designers to support an in-house audio team, or providing a full audio team all the way up to leadership.

Here, Miranda talks about his approach to effective collaboration with in-house audio teams – how to stay in the creative loop, provide meaningful assets that fit the aesthetic and game environment, and how to keep pace as the game evolves. He also shares his thoughts on immersive game audio, working with middleware and realtime effects, and tailoring a game’s sound to fit the platform and listener’s mode of playback. He talks about the future of game sound, and changes he’d like to see in the industry.

GaryMiranda_sound-01

As a contributor for AAA game titles, like Fortnite, Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Spider-Man 2 – were you embedded with the game studio’s sound team? Or, how did you collaborate with them?

Gary Miranda (GM): We work closely with the game sound team, as an extension of the team, but we weren’t a part of the in-house Insomniac team or the Sony team.
 

What are tips for successful collaboration when you’re working as an outside contractor? (In terms of staying in the loop? And sharing assets? And just feeling like you’re part of the team?)

GM: The biggest key to success is constant communication. We primarily rely on Slack for communication back and forth with the teams and we’re part of several Slack workspaces with those teams.

The biggest key to success is constant communication.

Beyond the communication aspect, we might have different access to different team members, or different builds, or different development stages with the games themselves. The amount of access varies from game to game and from team to team – how deep we get into the development of the project and how much access we have in the development of the game itself, and the software, the engine, and the builds themselves.
 



We Interview: Gary Miranda, Award-Winning Video Game Audio Designer!


GamingTrend: We Interview: Gary Miranda, Award-Winning Video Game Audio Designer!

 

What are some ways for an external contractor to feel connected to the project aesthetically, as an embedded sound person would be? How do you best catch the changing vibe of a game as it’s evolving?

GM: One of the bigger things we can do is at least get a build of the game so we can play it in whatever stage it’s in.

The next part is really just talking with the audio director if we get a chance, or talking to any of the designers that we’re going to work with to find out what their intent is for either that particular level or scene or cinematic or even just the game overall – what the overarching theme and palette of it is going to be.

Again, it comes down to conversation and collaborating with the teams and the designers directly as much as we can to get as much info as we can. We typically prefer not to try to do just over-the-fence stuff like, “Hey, we want a gunshot.” So we send a gunshot without having a lot of information as to where this gunshot is going to be used.

Having information for how and where a sound is going to be used gives us a sense of tonality, frequency, and how it’s going to be implemented in the mix.

Having information for how and where a sound is going to be used gives us a sense of tonality, frequency, and how it’s going to be implemented in the mix. That’ll help us sculpt the sound a lot better. So again, it involves a lot of conversation upfront.

Our team at Injected Senses Audio is very comfortable with jumping in and talking to designers directly. We have a lot of experience working with various teams, and we’ve all worked in studios. We’re familiar with the rapport, and we know what designers do and what different disciplines do. So it’s really easy for us to just reach out and ask questions like, “What are you doing with UI?” “What are you doing with level design?” “What are you doing with ambience?” “What are you doing with combat?” and have discussions around that. This way, we get a good idea before we get going of where we want things to land and where the team wants things to land.
 

What about sharing assets back and forth? What’s the most effective or efficient way to do that?

GM: If we have access to the depot and have access to their builds then we’re typically uploading into Perforce. That’s usually the easiest route, to just get it directly into the build as much as possible.

Every company has a different variety of systems for backup, and backing up to larger storage areas for archival use and things like that. That can be everything from Google Drive to Dropbox to LucidLink to all sorts of different backup software.
 

Let’s talk about immersion and game sound. What are the most effective ways of expressing hyper-realistic details in video game environments – not only to help these sonic details to read clearly but also to feel like they belong in that game world? What can you do to have clarity in detail and believability (i.e., that this sound is coming from this object in this game)?

GM: It’s all about discussions at the beginning of the game – what is the palette going to be, what’s the style, what are going to be the core components of sound that we want to hear throughout the game? We want to adhere to the standard that’s set by the audio director or designers, and really just feeling that out.

If we’re going for a fantastical aesthetic – trying to push that envelope with what’s fantasy or sci-fi – we tend to have sounds that are rooted in reality at a base level and then we build on top of that. If we have enough time with the game, we like to build out a sonic palette or sonic character, a signature portion to a sound that we’re working on and then we can add little flourishes and details on top of that to make it push that envelope of believability or over-the-topness, if you will.

Software and technology have come so far in the last 5 to 10 years. That has given us the ability to have these huge games with a huge amount of sonic event…

As far as the mix goes, trying to capture the detail of everything at those specific moments, lately, a lot of it comes down to technical sound designers and having that technical expertise to be able to come in and mix the game on the fly. Software and technology have come so far in the last 5 to 10 years. That has given us the ability to have these huge games with a huge amount of sonic events, to hear specific details and to tailor it down based on the criteria that we set up in the game as far as priority. What do we want to hear? What do we need to hear? And, when do we need to hear it?

Being able to do that tailoring at the beginning with lists of priorities for what we want to hear, and then being able to enact that with Unreal Engine, Audiokinetic Wwise, FMOD, and all the engines that are out there, has really come a long way. That’s been really helpful for us to be able to get that clarity and to get those focus moments and to be able to get those standout moments sonically.
 


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How do you feel about in-game processing, like adding EQ and reverb at runtime?

GM: With the teams, we’re always trying to figure out where that balance is. There’s a big balance between file size and DSP and how we’re going to achieve what we’re going for. And so we are always trying to take that into account – when can we bake in certain reverbs and delays? Where can we do that on the asset side versus the engine side?

It’s so game-specific, and it’s also hardware-dependent, too. We have to know on which consoles/platforms the game will be released. We have to look at our minimum spec system and how we’re going to tailor it to that. That drives all those different decisions of when we’re going to do this at the asset level versus when can we do it on the engine side and make it efficient and keep it efficient.

It’s so game-specific, and it’s also hardware-dependent, too. We have to know on which consoles/platforms the game will be released.

There’s always that delicate balance and it requires everybody to bring in their experience and to tool with things to make sure it fits that balance.

Engineering has a huge hand in determining what to dedicate resources to, whether it’s graphics or sound, or just general performance or server load – all of those things. We have to have all those discussions beforehand, before we say, “Oh yeah, we’re just going to do a real-time reverb on everything.” It’s not such a cut-and-dry decision.

We try to make those savings when we can; we try to get those wins on performance and then find what works – what’s going to give us low performance and still sound really good, too.
 

What challenges do cross-platform games pose for the audio team? How do you adapt the sound so that the experience is good even on a minimum-spec system? (So a player on a Switch will have a comparable sonic experience to a player on a PS5, let’s say?)

GM: That drives into that performance side of it because then we can’t completely tailor to the lowest spec, but we need to make sure it’s still efficient. With Wwise and Unreal and other engines out there right now, we can have completely separated settings for those different consoles or different platforms that will tailor the sound to it and keep the performance nice and tight. We can have different conversion settings and things to tailor it down for that platform but then we still need to go back and make sure that it sounds as great as it does on the Switch versus the PC versus the PS4 or PS5, etc.

With Wwise and Unreal and other engines out there right now, we can have completely separated settings for those different consoles or different platforms that will tailor the sound to it…

So again, we try to prioritize certain things but there might be other things we’re able to knock down on – quality level for sample rate and things like that – for some of the lower spec platforms. We might be able to take an objective listen and decide that we can pull something out for the Switch but keep it in for PS5, but it’s not detrimental to gameplay. It’s not going to mess anything up. Or, we can reduce the amount of variations that we’re using on a specific platform just to keep the memory footprint print low or the file sizes low. It’s a lot of prep work up front, a lot of detailing out those specs up front, and deciding on the benchmarks we’re trying to hit.

Then, it’s important to work with a great technical crew, to have someone who is very technical-minded to be able to keep an eye on that and offer other options we can go with for this platform versus that platform to get those in the memory specs.

But usually during playback, for the cross-platform games (unless it’s a massive multiplayer game) there’s typically not stuff that would affect audio or affect the gameplay in that way that would cause any noticeable difference in audio. It doesn’t really take a toll there. It’s more about your experience when you’re playing on whatever platform you’re playing on. So we just try to keep all that stuff in mind.
 

Where is game sound design headed in terms of asset quality and memory efficiency, and the ubiquitous use of 3D audio? (As games get bigger, have better graphics, and use 3D audio more often – in what ways are the backend technologies making these improvements possible?)

GM: I feel like it’s still in this evolving stage. Where is this going to end up? If you look back to 10 years ago, everybody wanted to have home theater setups. And now a lot of people are just comfortable playing on headphones. It’s really switched.

…the technology will continue to evolve to meet those needs of how the players are actually listening to games.

As we move into this 3D audio space a bit more with ambisonics and we get a bit more involved with Wwise implementations and the backend plugins that we can put into the engines, the technology will continue to evolve to meet those needs of how the players are actually listening to games. So, I don’t see a trend right now other than seeing a lot more people play on headphones because they want to be able to communicate with the headset and talk and do a lot more online stuff.

So it’s a hard question to answer, to predict what direction it’s going to go. But I think a lot of that backend technology and a lot of the up-and-coming generation – with the amount of stuff they can learn in school and on YouTube and everywhere else – it’s going to continue to make the technology even better and allow us to do much more immersive and realistic audio that’s tailored to the game experience.
 

 

What do you hope to see improved in terms of game sound on the technical side?

GM: We continue to see so much evolve with the game engine like Unreal and middleware companies like Wwise and FMOD. We’re in such a good place right now with the companies making this software that we’re all splitting hairs now – like, what extra little features do we want?

In talking more about DSP, I think improving that a bit more – so it’s a bit more efficient and the quality is a lot higher where we can get a lot more runtime effects – would be beneficial to keep the sound of the world glued together with similar effects. I think that could help.
 

And on the creative side? What improvements would you like to see in terms of game sound?

GM: This is an indirect way of answering the question, but I’d like to see a lot more educational content come out for creativity and doing more creative sound design.

There are a lot of resources out there for post-production and linear sound design but not so much for game sound.

The technical stuff is out there and it’s leading to some very awesome technical advances and people building blueprints and different plugin suites for Unreal, for instance, or Unity. People are easily able to build a lot of the tech because the information is out there. But there’s not a lot of resources for how-to-draw type courses for sound design out there. And I know it’s very subjective and everybody has their own methods, but I’m not seeing a lot of that out there. I would definitely like to see more of that. And I’d like to be a part of that if I can. I think that’s the next step for the up-and-coming generation, getting them back on that line of learning how to design sounds from the get-go, what to look at, how to judge frequency and separation and mixing in-game. There are a lot of resources out there for post-production and linear sound design but not so much for game sound.
 

So, coming up in 2024 is Gary Miranda’s Master Class on game sound design?

GM: That would be amazing if I had the amount of time that would be required to do that! I’m up for collaborating or consulting on that stuff if anyone is interested. That’d be fabulous.
 

Any words of wisdom to share before we wrap this up?

GM: Keep an eye out on us. We’ve got a lot of fun projects coming up and feel free to engage with us on social media. We’re always willing to chat and talk about audio and game audio.

Injected Senses Audio Socials:
Facebook
X (Twitter)
LinkedIn
 

A big thanks to Gary Miranda for sharing his approach to collaborative game audio and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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  • Metal Sound Effects MetalMotion Play Track 2000+ sounds included, 239 mins total $110

    MetalMotion is a sound design construction kit that contains four hours of moving metal mayhem: clicks and clanks, rolls and drags, wronks and squeals, scrapes and rattles, ranging from from tiny to monstrous. Nathan Moody’s unique performances with unusual combinations of props produce everything from Foley-like movements to intense groans and howls.

    Whether you’re covering a robot’s movements, sweetening weapon Foley, making crafting or pick-up sounds in a game, placing unusual layers beneath a kaiju’s roar, or crushing a submarine with undersea pressure, this collection covers the full range of subtle to raucous. Each file has many performance variations for creative choice and game audio asset creation.

    While there are some tasty impacts within, this library’s true focus is on characterful movements: handling, rummaging, opens, closes, ratchets, swirls, rolls, drags, drops, spins, rubs, zuzzes, and bows. Metal containers, filing cabinets, modern appliances, vintage (and very rusty) tools, cymbals, bells, grills, plates, bars, rods, and tubes, and many other props lent their voices to this collection.

    This UCS-compliant library was recorded with a combination of standard, contact, and ultrasonic-capable microphones through Millennia preamps. Sample rates vary based on the amount of ultrasonic content in each file. The audio files are mastered for realism, ready for extreme processing and pitch shifting of your own, but still useful in more grounded contexts.

  • A comprehensive sound library from the enchanting world of the Middle Ages featuring meticulously recorded elements that come together harmoniously to create a realm of realism that transports your audience back in time, including isolated elements, acoustic impulse responses, noiseprints, and ambience loops.

    Medieval Towns and Villages - Full Library Presentation
  • Environments & Ambiences Curated Rain Play Track 39 sounds included, 183 mins total $44.99

    CURATED RAIN – is an extensive sound library containing 39 unique files of rain in varying environments and conditions ranging from city streets, back alleys, parks, forests and windows and heavy walls of rain to gentle and lite drizzles. Including isolated sections of rain as well as rain storms in their entirety. All of our libraries comply with the Universal Category System naming convention standard as well as traditional embedded metadata, allowing for accurate and easy granular searches. Original recordings were captured at 192kHz and 32bit float. Curated Rain (RAW – 192kHz 24bit) comes out to 11.7 GB and 3 hours 3 minutes and 10 seconds in overall length.

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  • Empower Your Compositions with Authentic Medieval Phrases.
    [Note: This product requires a FULL version of Native Instruments’ KONTAKT or Steinbergs free HALion Sonic]

    Embark on a journey through time with the latest addition to the MEDIEVAL PHRASES series: FIDDLE & NYCKELHARPA. With the Fiddle, with its rich and expressive tones, coupled with the Nyckelharpa’s distinctive resonant strings, we invite you to capture the mood of medieval times. Composers and producers can now use dramatic live performances by outstanding performers or freely play their instruments with varied articulations.

    Imagine the bustling markets and vibrant festivals of late medieval Europe, where the rhythm and bounce of the Fiddle & Nyckelharpa set feet tapping and light the hearts of weary travelers. These instruments were the lifeblood of celebration, often heard at markets and taverns above the chatter of merchants and the laughter of children. Their history is woven through countless generations, where they not only provided entertainment but also served as a cultural heartbeat during times of both hardship and prosperity.

    MEDIEVAL PHRASES FIDDLE & NYCKLEHARPA carry within tales of the past, each string resonating with stories untold. The Fiddle’s bow dances across strings to produce a vibrant, rhythmic melody, while the Nyckelharpa’s keyed fiddle design adds an otherworldly depth. These sounds, once echoing through medieval tavern halls and open markets, are now crisply captured for the modern composer. With MEDIEVAL PHRASES, breathe new life into your medieval compositions, delivering an authentic experience that is both profound and exhilarating.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1709765999
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    This is a highly intense and balanced sport characterized by its fast-paced nature, emphasis on teamwork and strategic play, where players use a combination of spiking, blocking, setting, and serving techniques to gain an advantage and outmaneuver their opponents. The game is played on a rectangular court divided by a net, with each team aiming to score points by grounding the ball on the opposing team’s side.

    All recordings were attained from a centered front-row seat position in crystal-clear stereo, meaning you have all the necessary field-of-play interactions, in addition to varied crowd reactions ranging from diverse support chants, booing, casual conversations, clapping, local team speaker asking for crowd backing, referee whistles, coach instructions and air horns. This versatility of content guarantees full immersion, drama, excitement, intensity and realism for film, television, videogames, podcasts and more. Your audience will be transported courtside in no time.

    The regional match sound files are the longest with a constant stream of clapping and chants from supporters and the players themselves championing their respective team, interspersed with quieter moments, making it ideal for a more balanced volleyball match ambience. Also included in this section are pre-match drills.

    With over three and a half hours of content, this library is your all-access pass to the dynamic, exhilarating world of volleyball.

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    CURATED RAIN – is an extensive sound library containing 39 unique files of rain in varying environments and conditions ranging from city streets, back alleys, parks, forests and windows and heavy walls of rain to gentle and lite drizzles. Including isolated sections of rain as well as rain storms in their entirety. All of our libraries comply with the Universal Category System naming convention standard as well as traditional embedded metadata, allowing for accurate and easy granular searches. Original recordings were captured at 192kHz and 32bit float. Curated Rain (RAW – 192kHz 24bit) comes out to 11.7 GB and 3 hours 3 minutes and 10 seconds in overall length.

    25 %
    OFF
    Ends 1709852399
  • Human Sound Effects Applauses Play Track 50 sounds included, 11 mins total $30
    It took me 2 years to create this sound library and for the first time I used AI to create a cover image! 50 applause recordings made in various interior and exterior places, small and big audience, some with cheering and some with only clapping. All files are recorded 32bit, 192kHz with FEL Pluggy EM272 and Sonorous Objects SO.3 microphones, Zoom F3 recorder. The library is also available in UCS.
  • Environments & Ambiences WINTER SCAPE Play Track 33 sounds included, 148 mins total From: $119

    Feel the coldness of winter landscapes. In the heart of the Cantal mountains in France, immerse yourself in a soothing nature or in the cold winter wind.

    All files are embedded with extensive UCS compliant metadata.


   

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