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Game Development Dictionary


Audio


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  Term Name Description

Asset

A generic term for graphics, sounds, maps, levels, models, and any other resources. Generally assets are compiled into large files. The file formats may be designed for fast loading by matching in-memory formats, or tight compressions for handheld games, or designed to otherwise help in-game use. It is often useful to have an asset tool chain. The original models may be high-density models with R8G8B8A8 images. You may have a model striper and image compresser that reduces the model for LOD, and compresses the texture to a DXT compressed image. These assets may then go through further transformations, and end up in the large resource file.

Noise Gate

The noise gate is a piece of studio equipment used to control the volume of an audio signal. The original intended purpose of this is to clean up unwanted noise from a recording, but some nice effects can also be achieved using a noise gate. Used simply, the noise gate only allows an audio signal above a certain threshold to play. This can be used to clean up unwanted noise by setting the threshold above the level of the noise. A typical use of the noise gate as an audio effect is to have it controlled by an additional track - for example, a beat supplied by a drum machine. In this case, the gate can be applied over the top of an audio track such as a synth pad, or perhaps vocal 'oohs'. By 'opening' and 'closing' the gate based on the rhythm supplied by another track (which may or may not be audible itself), the track in question is effectively cut up into a nice rythm. This is often used in electronic music, especially Trance. Software noise gates are also available.

Quantization

The act of conforming digital music information (MIDI) to a set tempo and time signature.

Tracker

A music sequencing program, in which the interface is primarily numeric. The interface of a tracker allows the user to arrange sound-samples on a timeline across several monophonic channels. Trackers generally save songs to disk incorporating both sequencing data and samples. This can give a relatively small file size, while still providing a generally better quality of sound that MIDI often produces.

Clipping

Clipping occurs when a device is transmitting more signal than it was designed to handle. The distinct sound of audio clipping is created by the waveforms getting "chopped off" before they (the waveforms) reach the peaks of their excursion. Creating, esentially, a square-wave. The higher the amplitude, the closer the waveform resembles a square-wave, and thus, the more noticable the sound becomes. Clipping is found useful in some cases ie: overdriven guitar effects.

Pre-Amp

A pre-amp is the first device in a gain structure. It is used to bring a relatively weak microphone signal up to line level. It is often found at the top of a mixing console or as a dedicated outboard device. In the mixing console, the amount of signal gain is determined by a "gain" or "trim" knob.

OGG

A compressed file format, similar to mp3. Features slightly better quality at the same compression rate. See http://www.vorbis.com for library and sources. Free, open source. Very liberal license. Can be used commercially without paying royalties.

OpenAL

OpenAL is a cross-platform 3D audio API appropriate for use with gaming applications and many other types of audio applications. Visit site for more information.

Release

The fourth and final part of an ADSR envelope. The amount of time it takes after a key is released for the note's volume to drop from sustain level to zero.

Sustain

As the third part of an ADSR envelope, the volume at which a note is held after the attack and decay until the key is released.

Decay

The second part of an ADSR envelope. The amount of time, after the attack time has elapsed, that it takes for the note's volume to drop to sustain level.

Attack

The first part of an ADSR envelope. The amount of time, immediately after a key is struck, that it takes for the resulting note to reach the velocity (volume level) at which the key was struck.

WAV File

A file which stores audio information, saved with a ".wav" extension. WAV files are commonly used in big budget games because they provide excellent sound quality. But it takes a lot of data to provide such high quality sound. So WAV files are larger than those of other audio file formats. (Microsoft's standard sound exchange format.)

Ring modulation

A ring modulator is used in analogue synthesis. A ring modulator takes two different tones, and plays the sum, and difference frequences of them both. Example: if you run a 500 Hz sine wave and a 600 Hz sine wave through a ring modulator, it produces two sine waves with the frequencies 100 Hz (600 - 500 Hz) and 900 Hz (600 + 500 Hz). With such simple ingredients it is not very useful, but using more complex tones, it generates more interesting results. Nowadays it is rather simple to produce digitally, but back in the old days when everything was analogue, it was a bit more complicated. The most common way to do it involves a ring of four diodes, hence the name, Ring Modulator.

MP3

a format for audio compression, MP3 uses psychoacoustics to eliminate/reduce redundancy.

DLS

Downloadable Sounds. A standard that encorporates custom samples into MIDI sequences. DLS samples are distributed in conjunction with a SMF and are played back as part of the sequence. DLS ensures that a sequence played back on one system sounds the same as the original.

MIDI

Musical Instrument Digital Interface. The interface between different sound hardware and software to pass on musicial information.

MP3

The MPEG-3 format. An audio format with CD quality music. It is usually created by converting a WAV file to the format via an MP3 Converter.

MOD

MOD is a trackerbased music format well used and spread on bbs.

Sidebands

In modulation, "phantom frequencies" that are created when the modulator's frequency enters the audible range.

Signal/Noise Ratio

A measure of how much undesirable noise a signal has in it.

Sine Wave

The most fundamental waveform, which contains no harmonics. All other waveforms can be composed out of an infinte number of sine waves.

Soft Clipping

The effect on a signal typical of an overdriven valve. As opposed to hard clipping, which creates high frequency harmonics, it tends to eliminate these harsh, higher frequencies.

Software Synthesizers

Computer programs that produce sound. They are usually less expensive than their hardware counterparts, though, due to the limitation of computing power, they are seldom realtime.

Solid State Amplifier

A type of amplifier that uses solid-state circuitry, or transistors, rather than valves. This form of amplification has a higher degree of linearity and is more reliable than vacuum tube amplification, though produces harsher tones when overdriven.


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