Understanding Integration

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Alexander Brandon



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Real-time effects were used in Halo 3 to achieve EQ and lowpass filtering with Waves technology. This allowed radio effects to be used on voice-over files without the need for a duplicate file. Quite an achievement, but how else can we use real-time effects?

The next phase of real-time effects is represented by examples such as applying a Lexicon or Waves reverb in real time as you walk into a room. If you've defined occlusion and obstruction, chances are these volumes can double as “reverb zones.” You may have heard of EAX 4 (Enhanced Audio Effects) functionality from Creative Labs, the creators of the SoundBlaster soundcard line and parent company of E-mu Systems. Working entirely in software, EAX can allow reverb crossfades through different zones and pre-loading other zones so you — the game character — can stand in a small hallway area with a “plate” reverb effect while firing a shot into a heavily reverberant room and hear that reverb.


A lot of folks — myself included — might insist that creating an entire soundscape in real time is the goal, yet that scenario is rarely the reality. Here are some proven, pro techniques for getting the most from what are often limited resources.

If you have an immersive, rich landscape with dozens of sounds of varying lengths (a blustering wind, an ocean, birds chirping, a distant foghorn, planes flying overhead), processing all those sounds just might put too much strain on your channel count. In lieu of this, playing a multichannel surround file might alleviate the problem and generate the more intense experience that you'd prefer the listener to hear rather than leave more to chance in a real-time mix. And to help you along, numerous vendors offer surround ambience collections, with walla and sonic backgrounds in a variety of sound effects packages suited to the needs of the game or film designer. For details on many of these, check out “Total Immersion Effects” in the February 2008 issue of Mix.


Imagine a game in which you had 500 unique attack sounds per character, which isn't out of the ordinary. I wouldn't be surprised if Capcom's highly anticipated Street Fighter IV had this amount. But say you have a fighting game with more than two characters onscreen at once (say, four, as in Gauntlet) and each character has a few hundred moves, each with its own set of visual effects and sound needs. One way to circumvent this is through toolboxes: batches of sounds that can be used for multiple situations.

In the case of melee attacks, for example, you can use a set of small, medium and large whoosh sounds, as well as a whole slew of exertions (guttural “hah!” and “rgh!” grunts that go with the territory of melee attacks). For the folks on the receiving end of the attacks, a set of impacts can be used. Here, a couple dozen toolboxes spread across categories of impact (a simple example being “small,” “medium” and “large”) and the use of a good randomization scheme should ensure that there's no repetition. This will save precious channels and memory while allowing you to focus on the all-important “money shot” sounds.


There is far more to be explored in the world of game audio integration, but other duties have called me away from writing “AudioNext.” So I must bid a grateful farewell to Mix. It's been an honor to have written for the best-known magazine in audio production, and I wish the best for everyone reading this. Hopefully, I'll see some of you at GDC next year!

Alexander Brandon is the audio director at Obsidian Entertainment.

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