About this blog
This journal is intended to be an insight into not only the composition of music for a game currently in development, but also the relationship between developer and audio professional.
Entries in this blog
Before any music was composed for Black Shuck it was key to put thought into what sound palette would work for the purpose of the game. Details of the game and references from the development team led us to agree that keeping the audio quite minimalistic, dark and atmospheric would be the best option. This isn't a game that requires a Hollywood style score. But rather one that plays with the consumers emotions. This needed to be portrayed not just with the gameplay and visuals but also with the audio. In the next few entries in this development blog I will discuss how some of this has been achieved.
As the game is set in the Georgian Period it made sense to me to use instrumentation that would have existed around that time. One of the key instruments of that period was the Harpsichord. Looking back at reference words and music though, the Harpsichord by itself didn't quite fit the bill sonically. This is where production techniques were utilised to help transform the Harpsichord into an instrument that sonically would work better.
Below you can hear an unprocessed, very basic chord progression played on the Harpsichord. As you can hear the instrument is quite brash and in your face. As this game requires some more atmospheric, darker tones some production has to be be done to get a tone that suits.
Below you can hear processed versions of the chord progression and also a note that has been time stretched and reversed. As I'm sure you will agree these are far from the original sound of the Harpsichord.
The screen shot below shows what processing was involved on the chord progression. The equaliser eliminated a lot of the high end of the instrument, pushing it further back into the stereo field by taking away the higher frequencies. The clip distortion then added some grit to the sound. This is then followed by chorus, flange and delay.
Such production techniques are useful as you can still use an instrument that is say relevant time period wise but doesn't quite suit the mood of the game. So by steering away from using standard sounds or presets, you can increase your sound palette by manipulating the audio.
Been a bit of a gap between the last dev blog and this one. Have been a bit busy up until recently but back on the ball now.
I am inclined to say that the planning stages of audio creation are the most important and pivotal to the overall outcome. It is during the planning and research stages that you allow your mind to explore the different possibilities. If you just dived into composing you could get so focused on the music that you wouldn't pay attention to the timbres being used and what would best suit the game.
During this planing stage references are incredibly helpful. In the early stages of speaking about the audio for Black Shuck, Chromium Gamesroom were very clear about references. As well as providing musical references they also sent through images so a grasp could be taken on the environment of the game. All of these helped a great deal. Such images can be seen on their website - http://www.chromium-gamesroom.com/BlackShuck
Reference images, music and key words allowed me to start putting a sound palette together. Knowing the game is set in the Georgian Period gave me the ability to utilise instruments of that period. But rather than just using them as they are it was more interesting to implement some audio production techniques to help them suit the game better. This will be further demonstrated in future dev blogs.
The topic of references again harks back to that of good communication between all people involved in the project. Being able to communicate expectations and ideas clearly is critical to success in every walk of life. This is especially true when working as an outsourcer and not always being in the heat of the development so to speak.
If there is one part of the current project I am extremely grateful for it is that of clear communication.
When composing for a project it is often all too easy to get wires crossed and for each party to not understand what the other is trying to say. Throughout this project though this hasn't been the case. From the very get go the developers (Chromium Gamesroom) have had the clearest of ideas of what they want and have portrayed it perfectly. I believe this is down to very careful planning and also research. Their planning has allowed them to create a very insightful document which breaks down characters, scenes, scenarios, emotions, key words and locations into very concise areas. This document has allowed both sides to asses what each area requires with regards to audio.
Clear communication came into play today after I had sent over some drafts of audio. Some areas of my audio were needing refinement. Rather than just saying they didn't like them, I got nearly a whole A4 page of notes, explaining where they think it could be refined, what they liked, what they didn't like. There was clearly a lot of though put into it. It's this sort of communication which makes a project so much easier. And outsourcers really appreciate it as they get concise feedback. I don't think this is just the case for audio professionals but anyone who is outsourced for a job.
Their research led them to have very clear views of the sort of style they wanted the audio. However I haven't been restrained in my creativity. In fact quite the opposite. I have been able to treat some of the composition like sound design and really go against what I would usually do. Which is very challenging and rewarding.
Both of these areas are key when planning not just the audio but also the game overall. Like any project, for it to be a success a solid plan needs to define every step. As my Dad would say about construction; measure twice, cut once. Always refine and then execute. Yes there will be mistakes along the way but they will help you learn and develop and overall make the whole project even better.
I can't share any audio just yet, but a trailer is being released soon and I will breakdown the audio to explain how it fits with the concept of the game.
With the blessing of the guys at The Chromium Gamesroom I have decided to start this development journal as a means to reflect on the whole experience of composing for a video game. As well as covering composing and production aspects of music I aim to highlight in as much detail the relationship between developer and composer, what struggles are encountered, etc.
I shall soon follow this up with another post and post as regularly as I can whilst working on this sound track. Posting audio updates will be pivotal at points to illustrate areas. So I aim to do this as much as I can as long as the developer is happy with it.
My wish is that this makes some interesting reading. If it doesn't then at least there's something to read to remind me of how bad I am at writing developer journals.
Ciao for now