jkuehlin

Hey audio guys...how are your coding/programming chops?

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Open ended question to anyone who would care to discuss.

I know there are a lot of career musicians who are also highly competent in writing code. The same way that there are great music attorneys who had a successful career in performance, then went to law school. And the same way there are career musicians that transitioned into ministry, or finance, or business, and have become church music directors, or CFO's of music companies.

A lot of musicians seem to want to avoid the coding, scripting, and programming end. Does anyone else here find the design or logic end of the game world just as much fun and intriguing as playing your instrument? Just curious! :D

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@jbadams, certainly does count! :D What I'm wondering is how many game audio guys struggle with the programming vs excel at it. I think I've sensed a mentality that middleware removes the necessity of the coding from the audio implementation process, but I don't have enough experience in game audio yet to know how valid or invalid that is. I also am just now taking my first steps into this field, so I haven't had enough experience with Wwise or Fmod to know. I'm training pretty intensively with C#, Blender, and Unity right now. I hope to start drilling with Wwise and Soundminer within the next few months. 

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I'm not an audio professional in games, but my understanding is that there's almost no need for any programming competence for musicians or audio people these days. The various middleware tools and engine facilities make integration a code-free experience.

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That's gonna be me :D
Professionally, I'm a dev but skill-wise, I'm both, dev and "audio guy", as I started both even before elementary school. I think, those are the greatest passions in my life. Well, that's a lie. There are just too many things for a top list... There is gaming, writing, game design, etc. Too much to do, too little time, you know the drill :D

Anyway, to get to your question:
Personally I do use fmod. Not for the sake of not having to program but rather because the tool itself is so very powerful. I use it for adaptive music and for dynamic sound effects controlled by the game (like engine sounds, weather transitions and so forth). It does have some flaws, though. For example, you can't spawn oneshots at random locations in 3d space. Still, very powerful.

You got a point there, however, regarding the avoidance. It is true that you don't want to get ripped out of the process when doing your audio stuff every time, having to switch back and forth between tools and even mental states. I like testing out my stuff in fmod first, tweaking all the nobs until I'm happy before I start implementing. You can then simply send parameters from Unity (in my case) to manipulate what you've already tested in fmod. That's very smooth work flow in my opinion.

I do, however, love to program. So that's nothing to do with it, no struggle whatsoever. I just prefer to concentrate on one thing at a time.

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4 hours ago, ptietz said:

It does have some flaws, though. For example, you can't spawn oneshots at random locations in 3d space. Still, very powerful.

 

Hey @ptietz! Thanks for the thoughts. So in your example, would you perhaps let Fmod do a lot of the heavy lifting on workflow and processing, then code sounds to spawn in random spots? So In other words, does having the knowledge to code help you if you run into a limitation within the middleware?

I'm far from proficient with anything outside of the audio world at the moment. But THOROUGHLY enjoying the classes I'm taking on C# code, even if its total noob stuff like making guess a number games on Visual Studio. And honestly, I've sat in on a few game design teams and tried to contribute to audio. I got sick of feeling like the idiot in the group and apologizing for never knowing what anyone was talking about when the rest of the guys were sharing ideas. They were cool, never made me feel stupid about it, and were well aware of my lack of Unity and C# knowledge. But I also had started studying code just to be able to communicate and understand ideas. Even a few months of basic C# and Unity bootcamp helped me tremendously so far.

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@jkuehlin exactly. For instance, you could spawn an fmod "3D event" on a Unity GameObject and position that randomly.

And besides that: Keep your head held high. Programmers do have their own vocabulary as do musicians. For beginners, it's hard to get into it. But start talking about wave forms, pre-amps, ring modulation, arrangements and phase interpolation and I'm sure they'll quickly start speaking more understandably to you :)

To answer your question, though: Coding always helps. Even in real life as you begin to see behind the things and how everything comes together to make something work :)

Best Regards

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3 minutes ago, the incredible smoker said:

You should make your own gear, its even more fun, and way more achievable then games.

@the incredible smoker, I can see what you're saying about being more achievable. But I'd think the downside is that your buyer base is also incredibly small, and the lack of new/current gear that addresses real workflow issues or does anything better than something else already out there would be a problem.

Here's the way I look at this. As an audio guy, if you help an indie musician or film maker, you're really in the service of helping them express themselves and fulfill a dream, with the possibility of bringing it to market, even if the market realization is purely a pipe dream. In other words, some people make records and films for the sheer enjoyment of it. I don't know anyone who builds an audio plugin with no intention of bringing it to market. But I'm so new to the programing field I can't say authoritatively that people DON'T code plugins for fun.

If you were talking about DIY hardware processors or amps, well then yes, but I don't see how that would have much to do with coding :D

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5 minutes ago, jkuehlin said:

I don't know anyone who builds an audio plugin with no intention of bringing it to market.

Now you know me.

 

DIY hardware is controlled by a microcontroller, or might be microcontroller only for virtual analog / digital synthesis..

Compared to games its very small and simple.

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On 9/10/2017 at 9:26 PM, jkuehlin said:

A lot of musicians seem to want to avoid the coding, scripting, and programming end. Does anyone else here find the design or logic end of the game world just as much fun and intriguing as playing your instrument? 

It can be very helpful to know how to implement audio when working in games. I have to help prep files and implement them into Unity but I cannot program a full game myself. I can read some code, do some simple Json or XML but I'd never really call myself a coder. But I can work with middleware or certain proprietary programs that certain developers use. 

It gives you as the audio content provider more direct control over how the sounds and/or music behave within the game. It can increase your odds of being able to make your audio vision come to life. 

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I'm a bit late to this thread I think, but maybe I'd count as a sound guy with programming chops.  I'm a programmer in terms in education and my job, but I'm also a self-taught audio guy- as in I occasionally do mix/master jobs for bands.  It's once or twice come in handy for projects where we needed music for small web games or something, so I'd throw together a quick song or two, do a super quick mix, but then I was also the one integrating the audio into the game.  I don't think that happens very often, so I think it was cool to be able to do the whole process from songwriting to coding the audio into the game.

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11 hours ago, nsmadsen said:

It gives you as the audio content provider more direct control over how the sounds and/or music behave within the game. It can increase your odds of being able to make your audio vision come to life. 

I got on a design team a while back (which has since fallen apart). I was basically the idiot in the group with a bunch of fancy audio gear, but it at least helped me realize what I needed to learn. It came down to the lead guy asking me 'can this be done or not', and the answer was always 'let me find out'. And then when it came down to the GDD and triggering dialogue/sfx on certain cues, I really really needed to know more about what I was looking at in order to know what was triggering what in the game.

But since I've spent the last 9 months re-focusing my career into learning Unity and taking as many C# classes as I could find online (Udemy has been amazing), at the last local game-dev meet up, I was able to at least follow questions that were being asked and discussion around the table much better. If anything, I had really felt the need to be able to speak the same language as other developers. Because ultimately, the service industry component of any audio business is understanding someone else vision. I felt terrible holding the other guys back because they had to re-translate every sentence as if they were talking to an air headed drummer lol.

In the meantime, I finally got my new audio facility open (lost the last one two years ago in a nasty fire). Have 3 staff and intern now, getting ready to launch a killer webpage, and  keeping the lights on with a steady stream of commercial music, advertising and broadcast clients while I'm making the transition to games. 

 

Ps....Nate, and immensely grateful to you and Brian (the Game Sound Con guy) for your pointers a year ago how to get started in this biz...I've followed your guy's recommendations as closely as I can. (Though I haven't touched middleware yet, because I'm still working on getting grounded in the basics for now). Thanks again!

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1 hour ago, jkuehlin said:

when it came down to the GDD and triggering dialogue/sfx on certain cues, I really really needed to know more about what I was looking at in order to know what was triggering what in the game.

IMO in order to do sound right in a game, you need either a programmer with some audio knowledge, or an audio person with some game dev knowledge, so that at least one person involved can be the bridge between those two worlds.  Someone needs to process the audio and get it into a useable shape for the game (in terms of dynamics compression, splitting it into the sound queues, exporting to the right formats and locations, etc.)- and it's my opinion that if the person doing this doesn't have some audio/mixing experience, the results can be less than stellar.  Weird stuff like inconsistent volumes for similar sounds, voices getting buried, subbass getting out of control, overall volume being too low, nothing ducking under other sounds properly, etc.

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On 9/27/2017 at 12:04 PM, trjh2k2 said:

IMO in order to do sound right in a game, you need either a programmer with some audio knowledge, or an audio person with some game dev knowledge, so that at least one person involved can be the bridge between those two worlds. 

Who gets paid more? The guy who designs it or the guy who implements it?

Lets say between 2 guys both working on the same project...one who has a basic knowledge of audio but thoroughly understands the process of implementing it. The other who has a tremendous knowledge of all things audio (tracking, mixing, editing, design, composition, foley, and dialogue), but has a only a basic knowledge of middleware and not a whole lot more.

If they are BOTH on the same project, who is most likely getting the bigger paycheck?

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I have no idea or opinion as to who gets paid more- but what does that have to do with anything?  What's more important, the pay scale or the quality of the output?  Ideally, I'd want BOTH of those people on the team, so that they can meet eachother half way, be able to speak the same language, and produce the most appropriate result for the project.

 

Edit:

I guess better way to put it is that there's any number of reasons why one might get paid more than the other, but both are probably cases of "you get what you pay for".

Edited by trjh2k2

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7 minutes ago, trjh2k2 said:

but what does that have to do with anything?

Your awareness of the demand for certain skillet specializations has enormous impact on your marketing, business strategy, career path, direct competition, and what you can or can't offer a team.

9 minutes ago, trjh2k2 said:

What's more important, the pay scale or the quality of the output? 

Thats like asking what's more important, an ignition or a gas pedal. Both the skill set and the pay scale are necessary parts of a system, and if the engine lacks either it doesn't run. You get zero output if you pay zero dollars.

14 minutes ago, trjh2k2 said:

Ideally, I'd want BOTH of those people on the team, so that they can meet eachother half way, be able to speak the same language, and produce the most appropriate result for the project.

Great. So do I. The original question is which is worth more money.

16 minutes ago, trjh2k2 said:

I guess better way to put it is that there's any number of reasons why one might get paid more than the other, 

Such as?

 

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^ Pay scale is going to vary all over the place based on location, their experience level, specific skillsets, demand, their pay negotiating skills, etc.  That's like asking "do artists get paid more than programmers" with zero other context.  There's no concrete answer to that.  Some artists get paid more than some programmers, some programmers get paid more than some artists.  Audio engineering and programming are both fields that have a wide ranging pay scale.

If your question is more of a "which is more valuable", or "which one is more worth throwing money at", etc., then my answer is that if either one is particularly skilled, I would value them equally.

 

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18 hours ago, trjh2k2 said:

If your question is more of a "which is more valuable", or "which one is more worth throwing money at", etc., then my answer is that if either one is particularly skilled, I would value them equally.

Sounds fair. I'll take that answer.

 

 

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Maybe a better answer is that in 90% of cases that I've been involved in, the audio guy was outsourced and the programmer was an employee.  A large part of that is the fact that game dev is 90% writing software, so there's just not enough work to keep a full time audio guy employed, not at the scale of the places I've been.  If you're an audio engineer, then I'm sure you're familiar with how outsourced/freelance/etc. kinds of audio can end up working- and how there can be a huge range from "we paid some guy $100 to throw some sounds together" to "we booked the studio for a week with an engineer at $50+/hr."  When it comes to game programming, I think it can work a bit the same way: anything from "hey dude, come program a game with me in our spare time for fun (aka zero money)" to high paying engineering jobs.

To get back to your original post though - I've noticed that there's a pretty big overlap in software guys/tech-y-people and musicians.  I play in three bands currently, and one of the bands is more than half made up of software engineers.  Lots of the guitarists I know are also programmers on some level.  It might just be a coincidence though.

Edited by trjh2k2

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I'm not an audio professional in games, but my understanding is that there's almost no need for any programming competence for musicians or audio people these days. The various middleware tools and engine facilities make integration a code-free experience

While middleware is great, it doesn't make game audio integration a code-free experience. There's still a lot to do even if you're using something like Unity or UE with "play FMOD event on collision" style UI. Sometimes you need fairly subtle logic to prioritize and call FMOD or Wwise events, which requires coding.

To answer the  original question, I have both music and CS degrees, and I've found that having good programming chops has made more valuable as a game composer/sound designer. It helps to 'speak the language'. I've written up audio specs for programmers, and by putting them into very 'programmer-istic' format, it was easy for the game programmer to understand how I wanted the sounds/music created specifically implemented. And in a couple cases, I've dug into a games code to make sure that the music/sound I was hired to make was being implemented in the game correctly.

Although it isn't really so applicable these days, when I started, I had my own "sound engine" for various arcade, Genesis, SNES, PS1 games I did audio for. If I wanted the engine to have a new feature, I could just add it to my engine.

Quote

oes anyone else here find the design or logic end of the game world just as much fun and intriguing as playing your instrument?

That all said, although I enjoy the logic, etc of programming, if it's not audio programming (which is fascinating), then I find programming to be really uninteresting.

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