uncharted sound design Asbjoern Andersen


‘Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’ is the final installment in the long-running Uncharted series – and it was recently released to universal critical acclaim (landing an impressive average score of 93 on Metacritic!). Senior Sound Designer Jeremy Rogers was on the sound team for the game.

And in this special A Sound Effect interview, he shares what it was like working on the game, his favorite Uncharted 4 sound moments – and a big audio tech advance that transformed the in-game weapon SFX:



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Hi Jeremy, please introduce yourself and the sound team on Uncharted 4:

My name is Jeremy Rogers and I’m a Senior Sound Designer. Sony companies run a lean ship when it comes to sound. Usually only a few people are on staff at each studio. They then hire out the internal Sony sound group, called PD Sound, to be stationed at a studio during development. Basically, PD Sound jumps from project to project (sometimes multiple projects at once). I’m a part of PD Sound along with 2 additional Senior Sound Designers, Erick Ocampo and Chris Clanin. Also, the Dialogue Coordinator Harrison Deutsch is a part of PD Sound.

At Naughty Dog, we have our venerable Lead Phil Kovats and Senior Sound Designer Rob Krekel. We also have our genius-in-residence Jonathan Lanier as the Audio Programmer. Rounding out the team, we have Warren Post as our Audio Implementor, Mike Hourihan as the Dialogue Designer/Integrator, and Ammie Puckett as our Localization Coordinator.
 

How did you get involved with the game, and what’s been your primary role on the project?

I’m a HUGE fan of Uncharted. It’s my favorite game series and I’ve been a fan of Naughty Dog along the way as well. I kept my eye on any openings at Naughty Dog, and when the chance came to work on Uncharted 4, I jumped at it.

At Naughty Dog, each sound designer plays multiple roles. I got to work on a variety of different sounds within the game, from puzzles to explosions to ambience and beyond. My biggest task was creating the ambiences in all the levels. Because it was so much work, it probably took most of my time.
 

For those who haven’t tried the game yet: What does players have to look forward to in Uncharted 4, in terms of sound?

Naughty Dog is known for pushing sound to the next level. With Uncharted 4, I believe we have achieved something truly special when it comes to sound.

Usually, in a game, you can tell when there is a cutscene with baked-audio in 5.1 – in this game, it is seamless

I believe the world we have created is more film-like and expansive than ever. The sound engine itself is incredibly advanced. Because of that, the audio experience is more realistic. Usually, in a game, you can tell when there is a cutscene with baked-audio in 5.1 – in this game, it is seamless. There are times where we bake the audio into the scene, and there are times when the audio is happening in the actual environment on the fly. You can’t tell the difference! It’s a really cool thing to experience as an audio nerd. Plus, just play the new vehicle in the game. Wow.
 

This is the fourth installment in the series – what’s been the most valuable lesson you and the sound team learned from working on the previous episodes? And what have been some of the most significant technical advances?

The great thing about working on a series is that you have learned SO much from the previous games. I believe the team learned from trial and error about what aesthetics work and don’t work. I think they figured out what audio engine features worked and didn’t work. There is a great history of previous Naughty Dog titles that they drew on to make this the best sounding Naughty Dog game yet! The most valuable lesson is just experience. For technical advances, wow, there are so many of them!

I think the biggest advance came from switching to Impulse Response Reverbs. This changed the way we did guns in a HUGE way.

I think the biggest advance came from switching to Impulse Response Reverbs. This changed the way we did guns in a HUGE way. No more baked gun tails that don’t fit the environment!

It’s an incredible collaborative technical advance that I think people will be blown away about!
 

What does the sound development process / schedule look like for a game like Uncharted? How did you start out, and what are some of the last things you got in there?

The development process is a interesting beast at Naughty Dog. The team prides itself on making the game better until the very last moment. Audio is the last step in the process, so the bulk of our work is at the end. In the beginning, we can do a lot of field recording trips, research and development, basic sound design for levels and various foley elements we know will be in the game. But, this is a very organic and creative company. To work on a Naughty Dog title, you need to roll with the punches and be able to pivot.

I started out doing a lot of field recording and ambience building for levels (getting air, winds, birds, appropriate animals, etc.). The very last things we were doing were tweaks on sounds implemented in the game that just weren’t perfect. I think the last thing I did was design some door sounds. I believe I checked in a door sound 5 minutes before we were locked out of doing anything more for the game.
 

Did you do a lot of custom recording for Uncharted 4 – and could you share some details from some of the recording sessions?

We did an incredible amount of custom recordings for this game. I was out recording almost every weekend for various things. I did two recordings in Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles. I needed some Island sounds and waves. I did a recording up at Kern River.

We did an incredible amount of custom recordings for this game

There is a vehicle that plays a large role in the game, so we wanted to get a whole new set of recordings for that. We did a Bullwhip recording session. There is a grappling hook in the game, and we decided that a bullwhip was the best and most diverse sound for this particular tool. We actually recorded multiple bullwhips with different materials to create the full grappling hook set of sounds.
 


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Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

What’s been the biggest challenge in terms of getting the sound right for Uncharted 4?

The biggest challenge was tech and time. The aesthetic was pretty much defined from previous titles. We wanted to push the world of sound within games to a new level, and that just takes time. The tech challenges were huge. This is the biggest Naughty Dog game to date, and the sound grew in both size and demands. Plus, we didn’t have all the time in the world, the game had to come out! So the biggest challenge was figuring out what we could do to push audio in games to the next level, but also come out with a product in a finite amount of time. It was an interesting dance.
 

You’ve done several indie SFX releases yourself – any sounds from those in the game (or from other indie sound libraries)?

I used both! The indie sound libraries are an incredible source. I especially loved the diverse ambience libraries that are out there – it’s amazing what locales are being recorded! For my own SFX Libraries released, I definitely used them. The reason I started making sound libraries is because I didn’t have enough source in commercial libraries.

The indie sound libraries are an incredible source. I especially loved the diverse ambience libraries that are out there – it’s amazing what locales are being recorded!

Usually during a project, I’ll find that I’m missing something or wished I had something more unique, etc. That’s when I’ll start making a sound effects library. I’m actually currently working on a SFX library that should come out in the next month or so that came from a HUGE frustration I had in Uncharted 4 sound design. I won’t give it away just yet, but keep your eyes and ears open for that soon!

With my Punch Sound Effects Library I released, I used some of those punches to brighten up impacts in various places. For the Gore Sound Effects Library I released, I used that for various blood splats and gore sounds within Uncharted 4. I even used my Catalina SFX library on my website for Island sounds and wave sounds.
 

Video: The Sound of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End:

Want to learn more about the sound for Uncharted 4? Check out this great video from The SoundWorks Collection, featuring Audio Lead Phillip Kovats, Senior Sound Designer Robert Krekel, Senior Programmer Jonathan Lanier and of course Senior Sound Designer Jeremy Rogers:

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Any standout moments working on the sound for the game – and do you have any favorite sounds in there?

I love Uncharted. I also love all the puzzles in the various games, so one of the coolest moments was getting to work on some puzzles in this new game. I always had a smile when I was working on that! I also got to work on some of the big moments in the game. There is this section where something crazy happens and it’s classic Uncharted. I won’t give it away, but it was really fun working on that.

My favorite sound is actually a bird sound. It was an accident. I was working in Soundminer and had the pitch down 50%. I think I was previously working on something else that needed the pitch down. Anyway, I was searching through bird sounds and all of a sudden this amazing bird call came out of my speakers. I’m not even sure it was a bird, haha, but it was haunting. It totally made this one section in the game for me.
 

A big thanks to Jeremy Rogers and team for the insights on the sound for Uncharted 4!

 

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Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • This is a unique bicycle library that captures this characteristic bike in clean, quiet, nicely performed true exterior rides. Including multiple perspectives, speeds and actions. From fast passbys on asphalt to slow onboard recordings and smooth stops.

    The UglyBike is a typical old bicycle that’s working fine, but needs some TLC. It is a bicycle that’s just average, a little rattle a gentle scrape, a bike that everyone has had but got traded in for a newer one. A story of unrequited love.. :)

    Speeds and actions:
    Three speeds. Departures from slow, medium to fast getaways. Arrivals from slow stops with gently squeaking handbrakes to heavy stuttering skids.

    Five perspectives:
    1. Onboard Front: captures the whirring tire and surface sound.
    2. Onboard Pedal: nice overall combination of pedaling, crank creaks, chain rattle, tire and surface sounds.
    3. Onboard Rear: close up sound of the rear axle, with chain, sprocket and switching of gear.
    4. Tracking shot: mono recording of the passby, keeping the bike in focus while passing by.
    5. Static XY shot: stereo recording of the passby that emphasizes speed.

    Overview of perspectives and mic placement:

    Onboard recordings are 2-3 minutes long depending on speed. Higher speeds > shorter duration.
    All 3 onboard mics are edited in sync with one another to make layering easy.
    All Passbys, Arrivals and Departures move from Left to Right.

    Metadata & Markers:
    Because we know how important metadata is for your sound libraries we have created a consistent and intuitive description method. This allows you to find the sound you need easily, whether you work in a database like Soundminer/Basehead/PT Workspace work, or a Exporer/Finder window.

    However, we are aware that some people have different needs for different purposes, so we’ve created a Metadata Reference Guide that explains the structure. And because we’ve automated the metadata proces, you can be confident that a ‘find & replace’ command will always replace all instances.

    Download our Metadata Reference Guide

    Download complete metadata PDF

    If you have any questions about this, contact us!

    Additionally, we added Markers to some wave files, so specific sound events are easy to spot in Soundminer or other database apps.

    Need more?
    The UglyBike library is part of the complete ‘City Bicycles’ library package available at www.frickandtraa.com. It consists of all 4 bicycles and includes additional surfaces and extras ranging from one-off  bicycle passes captured in the city and bounces and rattles. The extra bicycles surfaces and additional effects are also available seperately here on ‘a Sound Effect’. If you’ve bought a single library and want to upgrade to the full package, contact us for a reduced price on the complete City Bicycles library. Every part of City Bicycles that you paid for will get you an extra reduction on the full package.

    Video Thumbnail
    Responses:

    344 AUDIO:City Bicycles has a plethora of content, for a great price. The perfect balance between a great concept, great presentation and outstanding execution, lands them an almost perfect score of 4.9..

    The Audio Spotlight: City Bicycles is worth getting if you are in need of great sounding and well edited bicycle sounds.

    Watch a video created by Zdravko Djordjevic.

    Video Thumbnail

     

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    This library features a wide range of recordings from various museums and galleries, each differentiated by the nuances of their size and space. All recordings feature pristine echos, walla and movement. The library includes stereo & 5.0 recordings from:

    • War Museums
    • History Museums
    • State Museums
    • Science Museums
    • Art Galleries
    • Photography Galleries
    • State Galleries

    All sounds were recorded using a stereo pair of DPA 4060s, DPA 5100, Sound Devices Mix-Pre 6 and Sound Devices 788T.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1556056800
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    The performances include starting, idling, departing, arriving, and passing by from 6 exterior perspectives at slow, medium, and fast speeds. 10 additional perspectives feature motor, interior, exhaust, tracks, and other locations that capture idles, driving, and steady RPMs from onboard the tractor.

    Includes extensive Soundminer metadata.

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    16 synchronized perspectives capture both onboard and exterior performances. Eight onboard perspectives (12 channels, including 4 in AMBEO) recorded driving at steady RPMs, with gearshifts, and ramps using microphones mounted in the engine, interior, and exhaust. Eight other exterior perspectives (18 channels) showcase driving at fast, medium, and slow speeds approaching, departing, and passing by. There are also steadies in neutral, blips, and performed effects, as well as an Altiverb impulse response.

    All clips have 18 fields of Soundminer, BWAV, and MacOS Finder metadata.

  • Sports Downhill Skiing Play Track 37 sounds included, 13 minutes 08 seconds mins total $35 $30

    Get ready to hit the slopes with this wintery gem of a sound library!

    Taken from many trips up and down the slopes in Upstate New York, this library gives you in your face gliding swishes, crunching carves, turns, stops, passbys from the left and right, falls, jumps, landings, poles poking and scraping the snow, chairlift machine sounds, bindings, and more!

    If you need authentic skiing sounds this library has you covered. Whether you need to create loops and insert carves in a video game or film project or if you need lengthy recordings of full trips from the top of the mountain to the bottom this library will give you it all. Enjoy Downhill Skiing!

    14 %
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    Ends 1555970400
 
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