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  • Adaptive Audio: A Beginner's Guide to Making Sounds for Video Games

    [01.27.09]
    - Dan Carter and Michael Worth

  • Title box: Adaptive Audio Microphones, Computers, and Synths -- Oh, my!
    All the jobs a game audio designer does require specialized audio hardware and software.

    Before we go any further, let's address the "Mac versus PC" issue. The answer is simple: It does not matter. As long as the audio designer is comfortable with his system and can make high-quality assets quickly, it doesn't matter which system he uses. This holds true for the "which DAW is best?" question as well. Remember, it's the Indian and not the arrow. Period.

    For good sound design, composing, and dialogue recording, a game audio designer will want: a multi-track DAW, a two-track audio post-production program, a hard disk field recorder (if originally-recorded sounds are needed), sound effect libraries with software to organize them, and effects (equalization, compression).

    Here are some of our suggestions for putting together some equipment based on price considerations.

    If you have no money:

    • Multi-track DAW (PC): Get Reaper. It's inexpensive ($50 if you don't use it commercially, $225 commercially), and it's rock solid. Comes with effects and is very compatible with other music software.
    • Multi-track DAW (Mac): Logic 8. It's very inexpensive ($150) if you're a student, and still a great price ($500) if you're not. It has full multi-track capabilities, and comes with a two-track audio editor (Soundtrack Pro) bundled with it.
    • Two-track audio editor (PC and Mac): Audacity. You can't beat free! It's a great audio application for polishing and trimming your audio. And, it's free! Also, check out Wavosaur, another excellent choice, but for PC only.
    • Portable hard disk recorder: None. They're too expensive. Use stock sound libraries instead.
    • Sound effect Libraries: Web search, and find some free FX.
    • Library organizer: iTunes! It's free and has the ability to read and edit the sound file's metadata (the data that describes the sound file). This is extremely important when confronted with all the sounds you have to keep track of.
    If you have some money:
    • Multitrack DAW (PC): Reaper is still a good choice, as is Cakewalk's Sonar Home Studio.
    • Multrack DAW (Mac): Logic 8. Because of all the built-in synthesizers you get, it's still a great choice. And, it comes with loops and samples of sound effects and instruments.
    • Audio editor (PC). Sony Sound Forge, a fantastic and versatile program that won't break the bank.
    • Audio editor (Mac): DSP Quattro. Good, mid-level priced audio editor.
    • Portable hard disk recorder: Edirol R-09 Hard Disk Recorder, M-Audio Microtrack II. They're clean, can connect to an external mic, and record at 24bit/96kHz rates. What more do you need?
    • Sample Libraries: SoundSnap. This is an online resource, where professional sound designers post their effects for royalty-free use. It's a monthly subscription, but boy, is it worth it!
    • Library organizer: Soundminer's Miniminer (see below).
    If you have a lot of money:
    • Multitrack DAW (PC): Steinberg Cubase, Sonar Producer Edition. These are the top of the line for PC. Optimized for 64-bit, built in effects, these are great programs for sound design and music composition.
    • Multitrack DAW (Mac): Apple Logic, Pro Tools, Digital Performer. Logic still has the most "goodies" that come with it, but both Pro Tools and Digital Performer are all over the industry, and are immensely powerful.
    • Audio editor (PC): Sony Sound Forge, Steinberg Wavelab.
    • Audio editor (Mac): Bias Peak Pro.
    • Portable hard disk recorder: Sony PCM-D50, or D1 (a lot of money).
    • Sound effect libraries: Sound Ideas 6000: The General, Hollywood Edge. These two libraries are some of the best ways to start your sound effects collection. They contain all the categories of sounds, from air conditioners to zebra attacks. They're expensive, but they'll allow you to create almost any sound effect asked of you.
    • Library organizer (Mac and PC): Soundminer. It is the de facto industry standard. All the large libraries listed above use Soundminer's metadata format. Prices range from $199 for the Miniminer to $899 for SoundminerV4Pro.
    For effects and synthesizers, these resources provide reviews:
    Michael Worth and
    Dan Carter are co-founders of Game Music, Inc. They work with game producers who
    want emotional, thematic music for their games.


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