SFP: InFamous for PlayStation 3

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

CREATIVITY, COLLABORATION AND LOTS OF PERCUSSION MAKE FOR COMPELLING GAME SCORE

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Next, Mayer and Bajakian decided to shift the focus of their percussion experiments to SCEA's studios. The company's recording complex comprises a warren of smallish 5.1 rooms that allow everything from tracking to mixing to editing to voice-over. “With more home theaters out there and a lot more emphasis on high-quality audio, it's no longer about pumping videogame audio over TV, and we take that very seriously,” Bajakian comments as he sits in the Chris Pelonis-designed control room. The studio is equipped with a Digidesign D-Command console, scads of great outboard gear, multiple video screens and a truly formidable 7.1 setup — with huge loudspeakers designed by Pelonis and built by Tannoy. “At Sony, [director of services groups] Dave Murrant, Chuck Doud and [director of tools, technology and services] Buzz Burrowes worked to put the budget together and worked with Chris Pelonis to create a set of facilities that are consistent from room to room. We have whole hallways of editing suites that correspond sonically to this main room — the speakers are smaller but they're custom-made by Chris and Tannoy to deliver very flat frequency response and they're very consistent. We've found that what we mix and master in these rooms translates great to automobiles and home theaters and stereos and boom boxes alike.” Not surprisingly, Pro Tools is the recording format of choice here; there are rigs in every studio room.

Mayer and Bajakian turned the tracking space adjoining the control room into a veritable percussion jungle. In keeping with the spirit of the field recordings, most of the “instruments” that were tapped, banged, shaken, beaten and bowed were not conventional drums, but other objects — from trash cans, to plastic buckets, to boxes of broken china. And then there were musical instruments that became percussion devices.

“We suspended a cello horizontally and took a cello bow and started doing things that were probably way out of line,” Mayer says with a laugh, “violating this cello, bowing across the bridge and beating on it with drumsticks and creating a collection of samples that became the basis for a really great, intense combat piece that Amon created early in the project. I also spent a lot of time with Clint, with Amon producing us, banging on a Chinese zither called a guzheng or a zheng, which we had here in the studio. We had no idea how to actually play it, so I had drumsticks and I was playing a pattern on one side of the instrument, and Clint was on the other side bending the strings in time, so we had this little duet of this bendy percussive thing, and Amon made that the basis for the whole section [in the game] where Cole is going back into the city. Then, in one of the combat pieces, instead of an action hi-hat [pattern], Amon used recordings of me playing on a concert euphonium that's suspended — I'm playing it with wire brushes and dowels and things like that. It's a brass instrument being abused. We had a concert bass drum and Amon got us to turn it on its side and string bungee cords across it and play the bungee cords instead of the bass drum, and record the bottom of the bass drum while we were doing it.” They also recorded the sound of peas rattling across the surface of the drum. “We weren't concerned with realism; we were concerned with getting freaky, cool sounds. Amon drove a lot of that.

“For us, collaboration is a big deal,” he continues. “We felt like we hit a gold mine early on [with the composers]. When you get all those machines turning in unison, you get something that is way greater than the sum of its parts. Not only were Amon, Jim Dooley, Mel Wesson and Martin Tillman willing to work together, they were hungry for it, so when things started to gel and come together and we started to hear the results of assets being passed back and forth — usually through us — all these unusual things started happening musically.”

Bajakian also lauded “the intense collaboration, where everyone put aside their egos and instead wanted to work with each others' materials, handing things around like they were balls in a rugby match. For example, Jim Dooley got the idea to record the Prague Strings doing a whole bunch of loose aleatoric gestures; things that were often dissonant: Start at the top of your string and slide your finger down slowly, get loud in the middle and then taper off. Things like that — effects. He had a whole library of effects and he shared them with everyone on the project — Jonathan used them in some of his compositions; Amon used them in some of his.”

But let's not forget that this isn't just an exercise in producing cool, unique music. As Chuck Doud observes, “We could produce as much awesome music as we want, in almost any style, but translating that into the experience of the player that enhances his game-play is a completely different challenge.”






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