Hours 0 – 2: Footsteps, Swamps, Lazers

This weekend I decided to begin my project by recording sounds for a potential game. I approached a developer (who will remain anonymous in case I don’t get the game) about sound designing for their project, and was happy to find they were more than willing to consider me among their other potential sound designers. They already had a few portfolios, and had sent each designer a short clip from the game in order for them to work with to give the developer an idea of their capabilities.

They sent me the clip too, and I spent a day recording and producing all of the assets for the game. I also decided to (in an effort to hopefully impress) break down each element and implement it into a theoretical FMOD session, as if I was working with the game in-engine.

The game is a top-down shooter, set in a fantasy/sci-fi world, featuring a bounty hunter as the main character. The clip I was sent focused on a swamp level, and as such, all of the recordings I made were for assets in a swamp setting.

So I had to break down the content of the video and isolate the individual assets I needed to create. The original video they sent me was silent, and I added a couple more clips taken from their game trailer (which just had music on) in order to bulk out my demo.

The sounds I needed to make were footsteps, a general ambience, some movement in water, some creature vocalizations, a hovering robot companion and a lazer gun (there were also a ‘collect’ sound for picking up an item, and a hovering jetpack, but these were made from previous recordings).

The footsteps I recorded in my garden, with the 633 and Sennheiser MKH416 shotgun mic. I recorded two different selections of footsteps, about 8-10 ‘grassy’ steps and then I poured some water in with the grass to record about 6-8 ‘muddy’ wet steps. The production process was relatively simple, I edited the sounds down to an individual file, tried to remove as much ambient background sound as possible with volume automation and some EQ, and then bounced each sound down as it’s own individual file. I then used the footsteps in a multisound module in FMOD, randomly playing each sound with subtle volume and pitch randomisation. I used both the grassy footsteps and the muddy footsteps separately, but both triggering simultaneously, with the intention of possibly applying a volume filter parameter if the sound were to be implemented into an engine, according to the water content of the environment.

The ambience was tricky, as I sadly didn’t have access to a swamp. In this instance, I had to use some pre-recorded audio content as it would be tricky to re-create the sounds of insects, frogs, etc. Given the freedom of working on the project, I think I may nip down to a petshop and see if I can pick up some live crickets or similar to record their chips.
I found in my library however, a swamp ambience and some cricket ambiences. I also added layers to the ambience by recording some birdsong in my garden, recording some water drops in my bathroom, using a wind recording (and cutting the high end to create more of a low end rumble) and included some rain/thunder sounds I recorded last year.
I also added in a reed shake element, intended to re-create the movement of reeds in the wind. In order to keep this sounding natural and organic, I recorded about 8 takes of me subtly shaking a handful of reeds and then used them in a scatterer sound module in FMOD to trigger them at random intervals.
I dropped the pitch of the birdsong I recorded, in order to make the sounds deeper and bigger. Incredibly, the birdsong translated well when pitched down and sounded like some cool sci-fi creatures (which was perfect for my environment).

All of the water sounds (movement and droplets) were recorded up in my bathroom. We have a bathtub in our house, and so I ran a shallow bath, poked the mic over the side and recorded some water sounds. In the video, the character faces two frog-like creatures who emerge from underwater; I recorded this by simply lifting my hand from underwater. As the character begins to shoot at them, they become agitated and begin to move around; I recorded this by slapping the top of the water with the palm of my hand.
The water sounds are subtle in the mix of the video, but I think it all helps to add to the believability.

The creature vocalisations I recorded myself, and made a horrible rasping sound by sucking air through the back of my throat to resonate my tonsils (something along those lines, anway). It sounded cool and I applied some light distortion and reverb to the sound in order to place it within the space.

The lazer was a tricky one – I hadn’t made a great deal of lazer sounds before, and had to do a little research before I made this one. I’m pleased with the result, although given the situation of actually working on the game, I’d do multiple variations of the sound for implementation, rather than just two (which is what I made).
The main element of the lazer was a sine wave, which I automated the pitch of in order to make the classic ‘pew’ of a lazer gun. I automated it from quite high to very low within a very short space of time (about a quarter of a second) and I thought it sounded quite cool. I then layered in some gunshot and explosion recording, to give more sonic excitement to the sound, as well as two kick drum sample – one snappy and harsh to give a nice transient to the shot, and the other was more of an 808 style low kick, in order to add some nice low frequency elements.
I used an array of distortion and compression on individual elements and on the overall sound, in order to make it harsh, punchy and to glue all of the sounds together.

The hovering robot companion is a cool one – I decided to just implement it in FMOD rather than try to re-create it in the video. I came up with this cool idea of creating a speed parameter for the movement, and adjusting the sound based off of that parameter. I took a simple synth loop, and added lots of different affects that automate with the parameter; as the initial speed increases, the volume and pitch raise from zero, in order to give a kind of start-up sound. As the speed rises to the top level, I used a tremolo and flanger plugin in FMOD to create a kind of shimmering, modulating sound as the robot is at speed. I’ve included the FMOD session video I sent to the client below, so this should give you more of an idea of what I did (as it’s difficult to explain with words).

The collect sound was an asset I recycled from my last game (as I didn’t use it and it fitted with the feel of the pick-up in this game) and the hoverpack was built from a deodorant can flamethrower I recorded for a previous project to make rocket engines, and this time bit-crushed it a little and added some chorus to make it sound more sci-fi-y.

I’ll put the video I arranged sound to below, as well as an FMOD walkthrough I made for the client. I hope this is interesting and potentially some help to you if you’re getting to know FMOD.

My sound design demo:

My FMOD walkthrough:

Hopefully i’ll be back very soon with more fun and exciting recordings. Thanks for reading!!

-Barney

http://www.barneyoramgameaudio.co.uk

Hours 0 – 2: Footsteps, Swamps, Lazers

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