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Finalizing Audio For Game

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Hi I was wondering if you folks hire out to master your audio, or if you do it yourself? For hiring out, what prices should I expect to pay? How do I go about finding a good mastering house? Everything I find is geared towards mastering for cd's. To my ear there seems to be a difference between games and cd's. Mostly in the area of dynamic range, but also overall loudness and frequency distribution. I can sort of fake it, but that finishing touch is so very important. I have heard mediocre compositions that sound great because of the final polish, and great music that sounds mediocre because of a lack thereof.

Stuff you may not be interested in: I am putting together some demos, learning the tools, etc for game audio production. WHile I have found many great topics, there seems to be not a whole lot out there in the realm of mixing and mastering specifically for games (well there is 'mixing' using things like wwise but that is not really what I am looking for at this point). So far the best I have found is that mastering for games is similar to mastering for movies as opposed to mastering for commercial cds.

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Hello,

Mastering is the last step in preparing the music for its final application.

Most music we hear has little dynamics, I'm sure you've heard of the term "Loudness War" - basically every pop/rock track that's supposed to air on the radio is mastered for the purpose of going head to head with all the other tracks.

With game music it's a different thing. You've already mentioned a certain similarity between game music and film music: picture yourself meticulously scoring a track to a cinematic scene - the music can end up having a lot of dynamics, which is actually desirable in this case. Mastering this with the same hard multi-band compression and limiting approach as the pop/rock music would be quite counterproductive.

Another thing to think about is playback systems: while mastering engineers for movies have the big cinema speakers in mind, we game people need to consider the music might get played back by the tiny speakers of an iPad - and still needs to be audible.

That said, for game music I don't outsource the mastering process but rather do it myself: I don't need the biggest most artfully compressed "sausage wave", I simply need to make sure it sounds good on the system it needs to sound good on and has the dynamics needed for the scene/level/menu screen/whatever. Giving that job to someone else would make me lose some of the control of the overall sound.

The mastering process's sonic influence is overrated in my opinion: a weak mix will sound weak even after the best mastering, and a good mix will sound good even without mastering.

Cheers,
Moritz

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I agree with Moritz. It's all about the mix. If that ain't done right then mastering doesn't help that much. I haven't used any mastering services myself. I just use Izotope's Ozone for my mastering needs. :)

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I agree with Moritz too, very good points.

We recently did all the audio by ourselves to a title we are about to release (http://www.gamedev.net/topic/619961-need-help-in-choosing-a-name-for-my-upcoming-game/).

I feel that mastering for game music is not well developed, especially if it is made for non-PC devices or handhelds.

The missing tool that I'd like to have is a VST or some plugin that simulates the output of a device such as the iPhone. Or even better, a setup that will stream the audio output from the audio software directly to the device itself in real time - this way it'll be much easier to tweak the sounds and volume/compresing etc.

Cheers,
Guy

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The missing tool that I'd like to have is a VST or some plugin that simulates the output of a device such as the iPhone. Or even better, a setup that will stream the audio output from the audio software directly to the device itself in real time - this way it'll be much easier to tweak the sounds and volume/compresing etc.

You can set up a pair of small cheapo multimedia speakers next to your studio monitors as a reference and toggle them with a monitor controller switch.

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The missing tool that I'd like to have is a VST or some plugin that simulates the output of a device such as the iPhone. Or even better, a setup that will stream the audio output from the audio software directly to the device itself in real time - this way it'll be much easier to tweak the sounds and volume/compresing etc.

I also wanted a nicer way to preview audio in the devices, and you just gave me a nice idea for a VST, I'll give it a try this weekend.

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[quote name='GetLastError' timestamp='1328862687' post='4911596']
The missing tool that I'd like to have is a VST or some plugin that simulates the output of a device such as the iPhone. Or even better, a setup that will stream the audio output from the audio software directly to the device itself in real time - this way it'll be much easier to tweak the sounds and volume/compresing etc.

I also wanted a nicer way to preview audio in the devices, and you just gave me a nice idea for a VST, I'll give it a try this weekend.
[/quote]
Sounds good! How are you planning on tackling this, via impulse response?

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To other composers, do you use master bus EQ or compression on your tracks?

I'm not all into the loudness war thing and crushing the dynamics because I know that takes the emotion out, I make hip hop/rap beats and I still don't do that

But what do you do to give your audio track that final crisp and sparkle that's ready to go into a game?

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Hey Lavontae,

Why don't you post this in the recent thread about mastering? Would have been a perfect fit.
Maybe Nate could merge the two topics? (EDIT: Thanks Nate! :))


But what do you do to give your audio track that final crisp and sparkle that's ready to go into a game?

Depending on what the track needs, I either use the PSP VintageWarmer, iZotope Ozone or both in combination.

The PSP VintageWarmer is for coloring the track with a bit of drive, while Ozone is a very neutral tool. I usually don't try to "fix the mix" - if I've done a good job selecting good timbres and blending them well, all that's really needed on the mastering bus is a bit of EQ and a bit of multiband compression, mostly to deal with the lower frequencies and to add a bit of air, and a limiter to bring things up to a good loudness level.


I'm not all into the loudness war thing and crushing the dynamics because I know that takes the emotion out, I make hip hop/rap beats and I still don't do that


The great thing about the down- to mid-tempo break beats you hear in rap music is that you can compress really hard and turn them up really loud and they'll still have good dynamics because they usually involve single hits/short notes/good amounts of silence in-between that keep the music alive.

Cheers,
Moritz

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