Designing Music NOW

Dedicated to the Craft of Creating Music for Video Games and Interactive Media

NEWS: Chanel Summers Contributes Audio Chapter to Upcoming Book on Level Design

NEWS: Chanel Summers Contributes Audio Chapter to Upcoming Book on Level Design

Game Audio Level Design

We are very proud to announce that Designing Music NOW Managing Editor, Chanel Summers, has contributed a chapter to an upcoming book. The book, primarily about level design in games, is called “Level Design: Processes and Experiences” and is being published by CRC Press and edited by Christopher W. Totten.

Chanel, a pioneer in game audio as Microsoft’s first Audio Technical Evangelist for Microsoft and a member of the original Xbox team, is co-founder of audio design group Syndicate 17 and a leader in audio for VR and mixed reality projects. She is also a world-traveling speaker and long-time game audio educator, as well as a lecturer and director of the Experimental Audio Design Lab in USC’s Interactive Media & Games Division.

Book Summary

In this book, veteran game developers, academics, journalists, and others provide their processes and experiences with level design. Each provides a unique perspective representing multiple steps of the process for interacting with and creating game levels – experiencing levels, designing levels, constructing levels, and testing levels. These diverse perspectives offer readers a window into the thought processes that result in memorable open game worlds, chilling horror environments, computer-generated levels, evocative soundscapes, and many other types of gamespaces. This collection invites readers into the minds of professional designers as they work and provides evergreen topics on level design and game criticism to inspire both new and veteran designers.

Creating Seamless Loops

Creating Seamless Loops

Creating Seamless Loops

Loops are the basic building blocks used to create many video game soundtracks. They are a critical part of interactive music because they allow scores to adapt to any length of play time. The average person may take three minutes to complete a specific game level but the score still needs to sound flawless for the player who spends eight extra minutes exploring. Loops allow a short amount of music to last as long as necessary. This makes writing seamless loops a mandatory part of any game composer/sound designer’s toolbox.

Creating the perfect loop is simple once you know how to do it. The first concept to understand is that a loop is just a circle. To create a seamless loop, the end of the segment needs to perfectly match up with the beginning of the segment. If the waveforms don’t join there is an audible ‘pop’ or ‘click’.

SOLO STRINGS REVIEW SERIES – Review Friedlander Violin by Embertone

SOLO STRINGS REVIEW SERIES – Review Friedlander Violin by Embertone

Virtuoso Violin Sampling

Great sample libraries are tricksters. They fool the ears of highly trained musicians and listeners into believing that a live performer is playing. Embertone takes this concept to the utmost and achieves a kind of realism only dreamed of in years past. The Friedlander Violin surpasses other solo string instruments in its sheer realism and wide range of customizable articulations.

From its brilliant legato implementation to is impressive real-time vibrato controls – this library does not disappoint in any way. True legato gives you both bow change and slurred legato, but you can also turn that off to get maximum performance. Portamentos are speed controlled. Though it is a solo instrument, there is a unique ensemble feature as well that creates a virtual ensemble, complete with humanization controls which allow you to randomize the timing and pitch of the ensemble. The name of the library comes from Dovid Friedlander, Associate Concertmaster at the North Carolina Symphony, a virtuoso violinist who was recorded with a close mike in a dry environment. All of these features are available at an incredible price: $125!

PERCUSSION REVIEW SERIES: Noah Bells and Alto Glockenspiel by Soundiron

PERCUSSION REVIEW SERIES: Noah Bells and Alto Glockenspiel by Soundiron

Introduction

In this review, we check out two new tonal percussion libraries libraries by Soundiron: Noah Bells and Alto Glockenspiel. Previously, we reviewed the incredible Soundiron Symphony Series Brass and Symphony Series Woodwinds. As with most Soundiron libraries, these were recorded in the same large cathedral so that they all sit beautifully together in the mix. Noah Bells and Alto Glockenspiel are small libraries that can be bought very inexpensively. They are not limited, however, as you can extend them with tons of sound design capabilities that Soundiron packs into most of their instruments. They are MUCH more than their name implies, thanks to the extensive tweaking and exotic patches included in these libraries.

We have included video reviews, a custom demo piece using only these two libraries, and lots of tech and articulation info for both of these libraries in this article. We also conducted a video interview with Soundiorn Co-Founder Mike Peaslee, which you can check out here.

Demo Piece by Lawson Madlener

This piece only uses the Alto Glockenspiel and Noah Bells. I used the different mallet types for each instrument as it’s own part, so I was able to get more depth out of two instruments than one would expect. Orchestration-wise, I basically wrote for them like three marimbas. The exception is the light rhythmic percussion which is pitch-shifted swipes in the Noah Bells, creating some counter rhythms in the background. I used both close and far mics on the glock, and just the close mics on the bells. There is no external processing at all.

ORCHESTRAL REVIEW SERIES: Symphony Series Woodwind Solo and Ensemble by Soundiron

ORCHESTRAL REVIEW SERIES: Symphony Series Woodwind Solo and Ensemble by Soundiron

Introduction

In this review, we will talk about the newest Symphony Series components: Woodwind Ensemble and Woodwind Solo. Previously, we reviewed the incredible Soundiron Symphony Series Brass. The Symphony Series so far contains Brass, Woodwinds (created by Soundiron), and Strings (created by AudioBro) both as individual instruments and as ensembles. The Soundiron contributions to the Symphony Series are both recorded in the same large cathedral so that they sit beautifully together in the mix. One of the most exciting things about this library to me are the “expression” patches – which give lots of runs, aleotoric runs, and flourishes that can really add life and realism to your compositions. Like the Brass Ensemble and Solo we reviewed previously, these are all state of the art sample libraries, and the “engine” is as smooth and easy to use as you would expect.

We have included video reviews, a demo composition from Lawson Madlener, and lots of tech and articulation info on both libraries. For the tech and articulation info we drew directly from the product page as there is a LOT of depth in these products and we didn’t want to miss anything. We also conducted a video interview with Soundiorn Co-Founder Mike Peaslee, which you can check out here.

Pros: Soundiron quality, incredible variety of articulations including multi-tounged articulations, and cool aleotoric performances on every wind instrument. Soundiron has created one of the easiest to use and robust Kontakt engines available, plus it’s compatible with the free Kontakt Player.

Scoring to Picture! Game Composing’s Final Frontier Part 2

Scoring to Picture! Game Composing’s Final Frontier Part 2

The game audio community is a unique and special place to work and be creative. I’m grateful everyday to be part of such a supportive and giving community where camaraderie and helping one another seem to be the central tenants. It’s within this environment I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and ideas about the world we work and play in. My intent with this blog series is to honestly critique the current state of composing music for games in a constructive voice, with the desire to advance our craft and culture, particularly as it relates to the ideas I brought up in Part 1, Scoring to Picture.

So with that in mind, do sound designers like games more than composers?

No, off course not! We all love and enjoy games in unique ways across many genres, regardless of the audio hats we wear. Admittedly, the intent of my subtitle quip is to provoke thought, as it alludes to an underlying sentiment among our ranks, and leads to a much more relevant question which is: “Have sound designers embraced games as a medium to a greater extent than composers?”. To this question I believe the answer is an undeniable yes!

Anecdotally, when I’m hanging out with sound designers the conversation tends to center around sound creation PLUS the systems and techniques by which those sounds are setup in-game. Not to mention how those sounds relate to other elements of gameplay. Whether it’s car simulations, a weapon’s level-of-detail, footsteps on materials, or ambient systems, the emphasis of conversation centers around how sound works inside of and in relation to the game itself.

By contrast, a group of game composers will talk about their linear DAW setup, sample libraries, outboard gear, synths, the studios where they recorded and mixed, the soundtrack release, live performances etc. All extremely important, but notice that these are aspects of music production that apply to all mediums; including film and TV. The emphasis of conversation tends to focus on how music is produced prior to game integration, as well as its ancillary uses outside the context of the game.

The reasoning for this discrepancy is twofold, both of which will be discussed further in this series:

The culture and marketplace of professional game composing
The demands of contemporary game development including team structure

DMN Podcast Ep. 19 – Composer Rob Kolar

DMN Podcast Ep. 19 – Composer Rob Kolar

Introduction

It has been called the Renaissance of Television with such fantastic shows as Game of Thrones, Veep, and Breaking Bad. Each year, amazing new series arrive to occupy our minds and cause us to binge watch on stream-able services like Netflix, Amazon, and HBO NOW. Enter, The Detour, starring Jason Jones and co-written by Samantha Bee on TBS. This road trip comedy in the vein of a twisted Vacation narrative required special music, and the director of the pilot, Steve Pink (of High Fidelity and Hot Tub Time Machine fame), knew that. He was a fan of the band “He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister” and so he emailed Rob Kolar, co-founder of the group along with his sister Rachel and his wife, Lauren.

According to Rob, this email could not have come at a better time, as it was a difficult time in his life professionally and financially. After a very successful first season, Rob has been tapped to score the new season of The Detour and also has a new band that he is taking on the road this summer called “The Kolars.”

Rob’s unique original songs have been featured in many hit series such as Showtime’s award-winning drama “Homeland,” ABC’s Golden Globe nominated “American Crime,” the comedy series “Community,” FOX’s “New Girl,”and CBS’s top-rated, critically acclaimed comedy “The Big Bang Theory,” as well as several more.

Fun fact: Rob is the grandson of iconic British actor Robert Shaw, known for pivotal roles such as Captain Quint in the classic thriller, “Jaws”

I was instantly attracted to Rob’s music for its innate cinematic character. Some of my favorite bands such as Nick Cage, Tom Waits and Lou Reed all come to mind as I listen to his eclectic and eccentric take on life and the road. He claims inspiration from bands such as Pavement, Spoon, and Wilco as well as Psychadelic bands such as Syd Barret. As a live act, his bands glow with originality and character, with a hint of the theatrical in all the performances I have seen on YouTube. His new band, “The Kolars” is on tour this summer – see below for the tour dates and get out and see them if you can!