SFP: InFamous for PlayStation 3

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson



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InFamous sound team, standing (L-R): Joel Yarger, Michael Bricker, Matt Levine, Ernest Johnson, Marc 
Senasac. Seated: Clint Bajakian, Jonathan Mayer, Chuck Doud, Scott Hanau.

InFamous sound team, standing (L-R): Joel Yarger, Michael Bricker, Matt Levine, Ernest Johnson, Marc Senasac. Seated: Clint Bajakian, Jonathan Mayer, Chuck Doud, Scott Hanau.

Tobin would turn out to be the lynchpin in a close-knit, highly collaborative music team put together by Mayer, which also included the award-winning TV/film/game composer Jim Dooley, British composer and ambient score designer Mel Wesson, and the innovative electric cellist Martin Tillman, whose work has graced such soundtracks as Blackhawk Down and Ali. Mayer also wrote upwards of 40 minutes of music and, with producer Bajakian, performed on some of the percussion tracks that were sampled and altered by Tobin. Chuck Doud, director of music at SCEA (and a former game composer himself), was the benevolent overseer and financial manager of this adventurous project, which stretched the in-house team in ways that it never had been before.

“More and more,” Doud comments, “we sort of modularly let [the music tracks] grow as we go, because we can all have ideas for what we want and what we think is going to work, but until you really start hearing your ideas come to fruition and get them in the game, you don't know exactly where you want to go with it. That's why, if we bring on multiple composers for a project, or even just one or two, we won't immediately contract out all the minutes we need for the game. We'd rather let it evolve organically. And that's exactly what happened with InFamous. For us, InFamous was an opportunity to break new ground with regards to how the music was produced. The aesthetics of the game were so unique and compelling, and it challenged us in so many ways. There was a lot of cross-pollination going on between all the composers.”

The first order of business for the music team — before Tobin or any of the others had been brought in — was to do field recordings with a portable rig of “found objects” in various locales, including a scrap yard where cars were being crushed and another that was filled with sundry metal items. Mayer explains, “I took a bag full of mallets and a metronome and started recording grooves on car parts and old radiators — anything we could find, including some of the machinery they were using for crushing cars. There was an old streetlamp that we played with all sorts of different things, like rubber xylophone mallets. It was 15 or 18 feet long, so we'd put a mic at one end and then do runs up and down. So that became like a pad. Then we found this big piece of steel that had these cubby holes for an office mailroom, and we put the mics on one side and guys with sticks would tap on the other side, and it sounded like a whole bunch of guys drumming.

“When we came back from that recording session,” Mayer continues, “we set ourselves to work setting up a sample library, not thinking too much about the cues or the pieces of music we were going to make, and we just tried to find things that were useful and cut them up and organized them nicely. At that time we had just contracted Amon, and we told him we'd gone out and done this recording and he said, ‘Give me all that stuff!’ I was trying to clean it up, but he said, ‘No, give me everything you've got; don't mess with it!’ The way he approached those first few cues — and it actually carried throughout the game — really blew us away because it was amazing how refined and musical a sound came back to us. They were finished, glorious pieces of music. He did a really good job of adding some analog synth sounds that really complemented these stark metallic and percussive sounds. A lot of it was in the arranging and the way he laid things out — he did an amazing job of leveraging the space in these sounds.”

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