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Career in music and sound within the games industry?

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How to live off one can of baked beans per month. ;)

Seriously, I don't think there are many opportunities out there so your search for work might be tough. I think you'd do well to ensure that your range of knowledge covers everything from music composition in a variety of styles to creating and manipulating sound effects in the studio. I'm sure there are jobs where you wouldn't need such a wide range of skills but when you bear in mind that there is probably only 1 sound engineer on a project which has 20 programmers and designers, you're going to need some transferrable skills to make you stand out above the rest.

I'd say that understanding equalisation and compression are massively important, as they will play a role in pretty much every part of a game's audio in some way. Learning how to record a variety of sounds will also come in very useful if you need to generate sound effects. As I said music composition is going to be helpful if you find yourself needing to fill a combined 'sound and music' role, and that includes theory of melody/harmony/rhythm on top of an appreciation for appropriate instrumentation for each genre. Learning how to dub audio onto video could be beneficial for cutscenes. etc.

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I agree with Kylotan. The more varied your skills are the more useable you are to dev teams. On top of music composition and SFX creation...learn to produce quality dialogue. I swear, most of the work I'm getting now is all dialogue.

I do have a degree in audio engineering and that helps tons, so I do recommend schooling and/or classes. But the most momentum I've gotten is through working on projects. Do small ones, do free ones to start. Get involved in machinima and mods. These two categories can have really high production values and although they very rarely pay, they are both good experience builders.

Truth is, most developers don't like to work with people who haven't done "anything" even if their stuff sounds great.

Also, find games where you can locate the sfx directory and go ahead and replace them with your own sounds. Either alter the existing ones or practice making your own. My first attempt at this was The Typing of the Dead demo for the PC. FUNFUNFUNFUNFUNFUNFUNFUNFUNFUNFUNFUNF

If you want practice matching audio with video, get a prog like FRAPS or GameCam and record some game footage and replace EVERYTHING. Or for practice at cutscenes, download movie scenes or trailers. Here's a link to one I did for the Punisher.

The Punisher

Just putting together that scene I learned so much and increased my craft threefold. SFX, Foley, ADR, Soundtrack, and Surround mixing...all important.

Of course it helps to have some good equipment (mics, monitors, software, etc...) but you can practice all day long on cheap stuff until you are ready to upgrade.

Hope that helps a little. Feel free to ask more kvestions!

Tony

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I've found that film scoring and game scoring are very similar. Depending on where you live there can be plenty of opportunities to do film scoring, which will help you with getting experience. From there just hop over to game projects.

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I agree with Kylotan that you really need a good breadth of audio skills. In my brief stint working in with a small game studio, we had only one sound guy who made all the sound effects and wrote all the music. Even then there was downtime, so he helped out with the art.

If you're just interested in audio, then it might be worth looking to see if you work as a consultant, but I'm not that knowledgable about how that works.

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I think that it may have been true in the past that one person would do music and sound, things are now definately moving away from that and going towards a film post production way of having different people for different disciplines. Areas such as dialog, sound effect creation, implementation, localisation and of course music are now commonly done by different people. Also, outsourcing audio is becoming far more common, there aren't many devs that have all inhouse audio.

I'd agree with Kylotan that there really aren't many positions around, this is compounded by the fact that university's and courses are spitting out more and more people that are all fighting for these jobs, plus the industry always seems to be going through a 'tough time' and so you've got highly skilled people getting laid off all over the place that you'll have to compete against. I don't beleive audio education is neccessary but it gives you chance to practise and learn by doing... and that is the most important thing you have to do. The best way to learn audio is, like was said above, to recreate a scene with totally new sounds... maybe work on a film as a freebee doing post sound. Just replacing some wavs in a folder and running a game wont really teach you about mixing, balancing and most importantly 'designing'. Sound design isn't about 'putting sounds into something' it's about creating an emotional response and a enveloping experience and reality for the viewer/listener. And you have to learn how to do that... if you want to make a scene or situation feel more scarey/lonely/happy/dangerous/sexy/tacky/etc how do you enhance that feeling with the sound design? You have to be an 'ideas person' i think...

But enough rambling... more practical and technical things that you should learn about:

surround sound... VERY important nowadays. Go to Dolby.com and read all technical docs on the formats and techniques, they have a game section but it's often more useful to read film sound tricks when learning about sound as game audio is still maturing so there isn't as much material out there.

Audio processing in all forms. From broadband noise reduction to granular resynthesis. Any plug-ins you can get your hands on will teach you more about audio. There are countless free VST's on the web. The processes i use every single day without fail are EQ (generally very smooth filters with no resonance are most useful for sound design), limiting/loudness maximising and samplerate adjustment (speeding up, slowing down). Resist the urge to use cracked stuff, you'll presumably be working for a software company too at some point... so it would be rather hypicritical.

Get yourself a copy of Reaktor or Max/MSP and learn how to build a few synths and effects. Not only will it teach you a lot about audio in general but it will also come in usfull for when you want to test out audio systems for games without having to get a programmer to do it. I recently did this for a engine rev system for a car game and it was invaluable.


Basically, just read and do as much stuff as you can, it'll take a few years and you NEVER stop learning :) Once you've got the 'skills to pay the bills' getting work is an altogether different issue and jobs are never 100% secure in the games industry, so if you're looking for an easy career then look elsewhere, it HAS to take over your entire life and you'll get totally burnt out doing it too... but i absolutely LOVE doing audio and wouldn't want to do anything else... but it totally isn't for everyone so if you're at all feeling a bit unsure then it's not for you basically.

PM me if you want me to point you to a few places that can be useful... hope that somewhat helps :/

cheers

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Definitely agree with all that above.

Though I never said putting audio into folders is all there is to sound design...he was asking where to start. Replacing game sfx is a good safe place to start. I "designed" all the sounds I put in that "sounds" folder and I played through the game. Made notes of what worked and what didn't work then "designed" some more sounds to replace or alter the previous "mix". Then I played through the game until it felt it had a good "balance"! That's sound design and a simple feedback loop at the most basic level.

Being able to do the holy trinity of game audio, score, sfx, dialogue isn't essential...but it sure opens up more doors than only being able or willing to do one.

In house game audio...that's entirely different. It would seem like the consistent workload of budgeted/backed projects would mean you don't do a variety of things, they get doled out to people in your department for maximum efficiency.

Like in the film world...a fellow audio engineer of mine's first task as sound designer on a big hollywood film was all doors.

The doors?

The doors. You do all the doors. Opening, closing, slams, jambs, creaks, knobs. Every door in the film...that's you!

The doors?

The doors. Hey! There's a lot of doors in this film! If you can do solid doors for the next few pictures we'll move you up to birds and animals. I'll see you in three weeks!

Yes! He said I'm doing birds and animals next!

I'm looking forward to it! Seriously! I'm having tons of fun freelance, one day writing pirate tunes, the next day screaming a hundred deaths, the next designing the sound of a table coming to life through the power of smiling children (don't ask)! But my family deserves something more stable and so I also strive for a more stable position...looking forward to 14 tracks of just one door closing!

Tony

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Quote:
Original post by anthemaudio
I never said putting audio into folders is all there is to sound design


Sorry, i didn't mean to imply that you had said that, i was more trying to say that you'll have to be able to think beyond the individual sounds... i was talking in a more global and hyperthetical/bullshit fashion :) You're right, it's a quick way to instantly see the affect of different audio, i was looking at it in a career development sense i guess, i think we were just looking at it in different ways.

As it turns out, i work as an audio designer in-house. I wouldn't agree that you get less of a variety, if anything you probably end up getting MORE variety because there's always something weird going on that requires audio aside from actual games: videos, pitch work, presentations, that sort of thing. I've ending up doing some incredibly bizarre things and i value the variety. I worked freelance before and i am much happier working inhouse. Plus i think it's good for the projects as the audio department is much more integrated into the game team... but that's just my opinion.


Quote:
Original post by anthemaudio
Replacing game sfx is a good safe place to start. I "designed" all the sounds I put in that "sounds" folder and I played through the game. Made notes of what worked and what didn't work then "designed" some more sounds to replace or alter the previous "mix". Then I played through the game until it felt it had a good "balance"! That's sound design and a simple feedback loop at the most basic level.


I think we're talking about different things again. The balancing and mixing you're talking about here is different to the envisaging and creating an environment and experience i was talking about. I'm just being pedantic i think, but it's something i feel quite passionate about. 'Designing' you can do with a pen and paper (and a lot of meetings). You don't need to actually 'make' any audio to design it... if you get what i mean. It's about trying to find themes, codes and conventions for each piece and give important elements some sort of resonance beyond just the sounds that you hear. For instance, the project i'm currently working on is heavily populated with audio referentialisms which we've carefully planned out with the game team and have carefully defined audio timelines and cross referencing, etc.. It's trying to put more thought into the audio of something that makes it infinately more exciting and interesting... even though the VAST majority of people wont even notice... but hey, it is sound afterall, no-one bloody notices ;) What i was getting at in my initial post was that sound design isn't just about putting nice sounding audio into something, it goes beyond that, and if you want to do sound design as a career you have to be the sort of person that can think about things like that...

This probably all sounds like a load of moaning about nothing... but i guess a lot of it stems from the fact that the term 'sound design' is a bit of a misnomer and i'm forever having discussions with people about this subject. So apologies if it sounds like i'm having a go, that isn't my intention, i also think i'm somehow managed to steer this thread away from it's initial question... urrr... sorry about that :(

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