On the Cover: Naughty Dog Puts a Byte into Game Audio

Sep 9, 2010 1:37 PM, By Tom Kenny


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Justin Monast, Naughty Dog director of information technology

Justin Monast, Naughty Dog director of information technology

Naughty Dog occupies a full floor within a five-story building in Santa Monica’s Water Garden area. Isolation was a focal point from the early meetings, as was HVAC and electrical. (Pelonis is an avowed fan of balanced power.) From the first meetings, Naughty Dog made it clear they needed the Media Room to be something for everyone. It had to be able to show dailies, host training exercises and serve as a meeting place for brainstorming between and within departments. It needed to show the latest titles and updates in press previews and serve as a final mix room. And, of course, people needed to play games. But it was clear they wanted a first-rate theater, not a multipurpose room.

“One of the things I really pushed for was couches in segments instead of the typical seating in a theater, with director’s chairs and captain’s chairs and the editor and three or four people discussing a movie,” explains Monast. “With games, you might have 30 employees talking about certain aspects of the levels with animators and programmers. So for that many people, it’s a much more inviting and comfortable area. There are actually two sweet spots in the room, for 5.1 and 7.1, and his subs are just amazing. We’ve had the composers who scored the Uncharted games come in, and they were just blown away.”

“Low end is a given any time you work with a game company, and they definitely need to hear it correctly,” Pelonis says, calling it, with a wink and a nod, a 7.2 room because of the two Pelonis Signature Series subs. “The stuff that these guys play isn’t wimpy. The low frequencies are the most difficult and problematic to deal with in any room. They’re also the big determiner of whether you get a nice, wide sweet spot or a small, confined sweet spot. By reducing boundary interference with welldesigned and well-located acoustical systems, the typical bass buildup—the pressure zones as I like to call them—is mitigated.”

The “acoustic system” Pelonis refers to is The Edge. Basically, it provides a very gradual transition from absorption to dispersion and diffusion as the frequency rises. As the system becomes more reflective, it transitions into dispersion as a result of this faceted geometric condition, similar to the varying well depths of a Quadratic Diffusor. While he has never been a big proponent of back-wall diffusion, he says there is an inherent diffusion and dispersion characteristic in The Edge without the splashback in the mid to high frequencies.

“You will find some diffusion occasionally on my back walls, and I’m not at all saying that is a wrong approach,” Pelonis explains. “But you have to be cognizant that if you get in the proximity of where all this phase gradient is occurring, you will find your head swimming in a comb filter. That said, I do have some of Peter [D’Antonio’s] diffusors back there, but probably less than a quarter of what you might see in other rooms. If you think of The Edge creating a ‘W’ on the back wall, in this case, the valleys of the ‘W’ are where I added diffusion. Over the past 25 years, I’ve learned to blend the rest of the room into the system so that every aspect of the room is more meaningful acoustically than maybe what it was when I started.”

Pelonis had just shy of 12 feet height to work with within the isolation shell. There is trapping in the ceiling, as would be expected, and he incorporated some proprietary new techniques for dealing with absorption along the soffited speaker wall, a common trouble area where front meets side.

Pelonis Signature Series speakers, built and distributed by Tannoy, are used throughout the room, with three passive PSS 110s across the front and two on each side, placed for optimum 5.1 and 7.1 listening positions. (“I don’t like them less than 100 degrees off the center of the front wall for 5.1,” Pelonis says. “And I prefer in the 115 to 117-degree range.”) The PSS 12LF subs are flush-mounted as well and were doubled up to maintain the impact throughout the room. All amplification and processing is also by Pelonis.

“The team at Sony Computer Entertainment is really top-shelf, and we’re pretty fine-tuned at this point,” Pelonis concludes. “They’re extremely efficient from a design-build perspective, and I’ve learned to value working with people who not only have experience, but who understand what I’m after when I sit down to listen to a room.”

Tom Kenny is the editorial director of Mix.

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