Asbjoern Andersen


Damian Kastbauer has worked with technical game sound design for seven years as a freelancer, on titles such as Uncharted 3, Dead Space 3, Tales of Monkey Island and countless others. About a month ago, he became the Technical Audio Lead at PopCap Games – and in this exclusive post, he shares his golden rules for technical sound design:

 

There’s a gap between the creation of a sound and its playback. From creation to reproduction, from microphone to speaker, there are countless steps that must be taken in order to realize our craft as sound designers.

Whether you’re doing the field recording, pulling from sound libraries and layering in a DAW, or working to play back sounds as part of a game, there is always a process that must be followed to get between the start and final execution of an idea.

As a technical sound designer, my interest lies primarily in the final aspect of bringing a sound recorded in the field or designed in a DAW and getting it to play back in a game appropriately.

And as games have grown in complexity, so has the potential to represent actions and events within the game with increased dynamism and variation, allowing for repetition and believability.

Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when working to bridge the gap:
 

Systems Serve Gameplay

Whatever you’re working on, however you go about achieving the results, always find the core of gameplay and aspire to support it in the best way possible. Understanding the principals of what gameplay is trying to communicate should be your guiding light when designing audio playback systems.

Imagine stealth without obstruction/ occlusion, physics with limp, laggy, or inappropriate impact sounds, ambient without dynamism and randomization;

Get to understand the fundamental aspects and make sure they get the appropriate attention from an audio system-design perspective.

The majority of the time, this will end up being the biggest win and most satisfying!
 

Know What You Want

Understanding the needs of a game is a good first step, how you get there is another question.

While some people choose to feel their way around to a solution through countless hours of experimentation and (possible) head-banging, there is a divine beauty in thinking your way to a solution and executing on it immediately.

You may have heard tales of people solving problems: in their sleep, while jogging, or scrolling a tumblr of cat pics. Once the destination you’re trying to reach is clear, the path often opens itself in front of you like a bob-sled run.

That said, there is a beauty in fumbling around in the dark looking for the light switch. Knowing when to take a step back and shift focus to allow for side-ways inspiration is a skill that can be developed over time.
 


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

 

Latest releases:  
  • Environments Summer Mountains Play Track 37+ sounds included, 127 mins total $30 $21

    Summer Mountains is a collection of nature sounds captured during several trips in 2017 and 2018.

    This library has been fully recorded at high altitude (over 2000m and more) in the heart of the French Alps in places such as the Vanoise National Park and the Natural Reserves of Aiguilles Rouges, Passy, ​​Carlaveyron and Vallon de Bérard.

    This collection provides more than 2 hours of high quality recordings such as alpines pastures ambiences, forests, wind, streams and waterfalls as well as herds of sheep or cows, birds and distant marmots, all without any human sounds.

    All recorded in 24 bit / 96 kHz and fully tagged with metadatas, Summer Mountains should provide you the essentials of a mountain journey.

    Gear Used: DPA4060 stereo set powered by a Sound Devices 702

    Summer Mountains Photo Cover Copyright © Mathilde Leroy
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  • Environments Outdoor Ambience Play Track 200+ sounds included $50 $25

    Outdoor Ambience features 200 ambience length sound effects.  Featured in this collection are crowds, cities, forests, jungles, parks, streets, parades, water and more!  All sound effects have been hand-picked from the Sound Ideas HD – Atmospheres & Environments library.

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  • Animals & Creatures Western Play Track 200+ sounds included $50 $25

    The Audio Hero Western collection features 200 professionally recorded sound effects, ready for use in your productions.  Included in this library are guns and pistols, horses, stagecoaches, steam trains, jail cell doors and much more!  These sounds are all hand-picked from the Hollywood Edge Burtis Bills' Sounds of the American West sound effects collection.

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  • Drones & Moods Infiltration Play Track 161 sounds included, 39 mins total $30 $20

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    From intense low frequency atmospheric elements to powerful synth movements this 1.4 GB pack can be your secret tool to enhance trailers, movies, games or musical compositions. See it as a powerful kit to create a modern espionage feel in your production.

    As a bonus I included the sources (24 sfx) used to create some of the sounds in the library.

    Sounds included:
    Atmospheric element_Low • Fx_Alert • Fx_Synth_Drop • Drone_Pulse • Fx_Snare_Synth_Tension • Fx_Transition • Fx_Movement • Fx_Distant_Atmospheric • And More

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Collaborator Co-Conspirators

The old saying “you can get more done with a team than you can by yourself” is truer today than ever in game audio and the game industry at-large.

Whether it’s within the audio department, the game team, or the world-wide community there are people whose greatest gift in life is the ability to collaborate and share knowledge.

Game development in general always feels like it thrives on the creativity of collaboration

While there are great examples of lone-wolf artists working in isolation to create left-field masterpieces, game development in general always feels like it thrives on the creativity of collaboration.

This runs throughout the process where people are relied upon for the speciality and expertise, as well as their experience to help solve problems.

Finding ways to foster communication and creative solutions between people can only lead to a more refined and informed experience for everyone.

Knowledge Share

We’re all solving the same problems, often in very similar ways. One of the greatest developments of my (short) time in game audio is the amount, and accessibility, of information about the dark art of technical sound design.

I spent countless hours on my way into the industry manically scrubbing SDK documentation for OpenAL, Source Engine, and countless others that even mentioned audio in relation to interactivity to even begin formulating a semblance of the way audio was played-back by a game engine.

Fast-forward to today where audio middleware can be downloaded and connected to a game running in real-time and manipulated on-the-fly. Couple that with the wealth of individuals who have been humble enough to share their processes and experiences and you’ve got the potential to begin (or extend) your understanding exponentially.

I hope someday you do the same!

 

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Thanks to Damian Kastbauer for sharing his insights! For more discussion on what Technical Sound Design is, check out the latest Game Audio Podcast #38 – or this interview with Damian at Gamasutra.
 


 
 
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  • Wind Elements – Interior is 75 minutes/2.43 Gb of howling, blasting and fluttering wind, recorded from inside various buildings. 90 separate files – recorded in 24bit/96kHz using Sennheiser MKH & Primo EM172 microphones, and mastered in X/Y stereo.
    This collection is the bigger, badder sequel to bestseller Howling Winds – Interior, with more of everything: fresh recordings, more types of wind, more locations and just more variation.

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    Some sounds have been eq'ed aggressively to enhance the feeling of being indoors, but very little processing has been applied otherwise. You'll hear a bit of hiss here and there; I left it in because I felt noise reduction would take away too much character in those specific cases.

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Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Environments Summer Mountains Play Track 37+ sounds included, 127 mins total $30 $21

    Summer Mountains is a collection of nature sounds captured during several trips in 2017 and 2018.

    This library has been fully recorded at high altitude (over 2000m and more) in the heart of the French Alps in places such as the Vanoise National Park and the Natural Reserves of Aiguilles Rouges, Passy, ​​Carlaveyron and Vallon de Bérard.

    This collection provides more than 2 hours of high quality recordings such as alpines pastures ambiences, forests, wind, streams and waterfalls as well as herds of sheep or cows, birds and distant marmots, all without any human sounds.

    All recorded in 24 bit / 96 kHz and fully tagged with metadatas, Summer Mountains should provide you the essentials of a mountain journey.

    Gear Used: DPA4060 stereo set powered by a Sound Devices 702

    Summer Mountains Photo Cover Copyright © Mathilde Leroy
    30 %
    OFF
    Ends 1542668400
  • Ultra-high resolution Sea Doo recordings utilizing on-board microphone techniques, from multiple perspectives (driver perspective (mid-side) exhaust perspective & engine perspective).

    This library provides perfectly seamless loops at every 500RPM interval from IDLE to MAX speed, giving you insanely detailed control for interactive dynamics in game audio, or film sync. Not only that but also start-ups, shut-offs, revs, both dry and wet.

  • Environments Outdoor Ambience Play Track 200+ sounds included $50 $25

    Outdoor Ambience features 200 ambience length sound effects.  Featured in this collection are crowds, cities, forests, jungles, parks, streets, parades, water and more!  All sound effects have been hand-picked from the Sound Ideas HD – Atmospheres & Environments library.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1543618800
  • Animals & Creatures Western Play Track 200+ sounds included $50 $25

    The Audio Hero Western collection features 200 professionally recorded sound effects, ready for use in your productions.  Included in this library are guns and pistols, horses, stagecoaches, steam trains, jail cell doors and much more!  These sounds are all hand-picked from the Hollywood Edge Burtis Bills' Sounds of the American West sound effects collection.

    50 %
    OFF
  • Drones & Moods Infiltration Play Track 161 sounds included, 39 mins total $30 $20

    Welcome to “INFILTRATION”, a collection of 161 sound effects aimed to be used in modern espionage/infiltration productions.

    From intense low frequency atmospheric elements to powerful synth movements this 1.4 GB pack can be your secret tool to enhance trailers, movies, games or musical compositions. See it as a powerful kit to create a modern espionage feel in your production.

    As a bonus I included the sources (24 sfx) used to create some of the sounds in the library.

    Sounds included:
    Atmospheric element_Low • Fx_Alert • Fx_Synth_Drop • Drone_Pulse • Fx_Snare_Synth_Tension • Fx_Transition • Fx_Movement • Fx_Distant_Atmospheric • And More

    33 %
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