Halo Anniversary Disneyland Adventures | Music Centerstage in Game Releases

Jan 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson

PYRAMIND, SKYWALKER SOUND UP THE MUSICAL ANTE WITH HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED ANNIVERSARY, KINECT DISNEYLAND ADVENTURES

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Chanticleer and the Pyramind Studios team for <I>Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary</i>. From left, front: Lennie Moore, Cortez Mitchell, Adam Ward, Brian Hinman, Gregory Peebles, Paul Lipson, Kristofor Mellroth, Jace Wittig, Peter Steinbach, Michael Axtell, Eric Alatorre. From left, rear: Matthew Oltman, Matthew Curtis, Ben Jones, Steve Heithecker, Michael McNeil, Casey Breves, Alan Reinhardt, Michael Roache

Chanticleer and the Pyramind Studios team for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. From left, front: Lennie Moore, Cortez Mitchell, Adam Ward, Brian Hinman, Gregory Peebles, Paul Lipson, Kristofor Mellroth, Jace Wittig, Peter Steinbach, Michael Axtell, Eric Alatorre. From left, rear: Matthew Oltman, Matthew Curtis, Ben Jones, Steve Heithecker, Michael McNeil, Casey Breves, Alan Reinhardt, Michael Roache

SKYWALKER SESSIONS
The orchestral sessions took place on Skywalker Sound’s enormous 60x80x30 Scoring Stage over five days this past June, with the studio’s director of music recording and scoring, Leslie Ann Jones, engineering and Lipson producing. Pyramind’s Michael Roache was production coordinator, and Skywalker’s Andre Zweers was the primary Pro Tools operator. The group known as the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra—contracted for the sessions by Janet Ketchum—is made up primarily of players from the San Francisco Symphony, Opera and Ballet Orchestras, but also draws from the Marin Symphony and the Oakland East Bay Symphony. This is a union gig, so it does not come cheaply, but not long ago, game-makers managed to cut a special deal with the American Federation of Musicians in which musicians are paid more up front for videogame music sessions to compensate for the fact that there are no “back-end” residuals as there are for TV and film. Conducting was noted game music composer and conductor Wataru Hokoyama.

For the Halo sessions at Skywalker, the strings were recorded separately from the brass and woodwinds on alternating days in different sessions so there would be greater flexibility in the mixes. “The cellos played a crucial role in the score and needed to be very prominent in the mixes, so isolation was very important,” says Gordon. Jones and her team still set up the room as if a full orchestra would be playing at once—with strings in front, brass in the rear and a slightly baffled middle section for woodwinds—and assigning spot, section and room mics accordingly. Among the mics Jones selected were C12s for first and second violins; U67s for violas; KM84s for celli; and M49s for double-bass, all through Neve 1081 console-controlled preamps. Other models included Neumann KM 140s for flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoon, also through the Neve preamps; Neumann TLM 170s on trumpets; U87s on trombones; two M149s and a KM 143 on the French horns (front left/right and rear, respectively); and a Neumann M147 on tuba, all through Grace 801R preamps. There were also two high L/C/R “trees” up front and center for an overall view of the strings; one had three Neumann M50s going through GML preamps, the other was testing the new Telefunken 261s through John Hardy Jensen pre’s (“hung adjacent to M50s so I could compare them,” Jones says). Additionally, Jones put up a pair of wide mics, surrounds, a mic dedicated to LFE and a pair of Neumann KM133D (digital mics) “as an experiment to get a mid-room sound of the brass.”

Everything was recorded through the studio’s Neve 88R console to Pro Tools|HD at 24-bit/96k—though because of limitations in the original Halo engine, the music appears in the Anniversary game at 16/48. Lipson and Andre Zweers executed the session edits, and then all the various stems and sessions from Skywalker and Pyramind went to Gordon, who mixed and mastered all of the in-game music, as well as the double-CD soundtrack and the limited-edition vinyl release.

“What happens with games like these is the cue count goes through the roof and the number of files you have to keep track of and the asset management required is phenomenal,” Gordon says. “This is why we have a full-time project manager to keep track of all the different takes and which tracks and stems go with which, because you’re recording material in one studio that needs to get mixed with material from another, so we’re very fortunate to have Michael Roache there every step of the way.”






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