The Making of Sunrider’s Sound Effects

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Hello Peeps and Peepettes,

 My name is Steve and this is.. my first ever blog post really. Sunrider’s creator kind of asked me to write one, I suppose it would have been a better idea for me to constantly be doing it for my own records but.. oh well, might as well start now. Besides that, I’m not positive what all will come of this but I’ll get started anyways. Note: I joke too much, be ready for that.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to start at the beginning. I got involved with Sunrider on accident I feel. I was bored one day and started surfing through voice acting forums. I am no voice actor but figured I’d send auditions out anyways. (I actually ended up in a Skyrim mod somewhere. There’s a walkthrough on YouTube and I heard my voice, I jumped back in my seat.) I sent in an audition to be the Sunrider’s Captain, but also mentioned I’m a sound designer. Mike Salyer immediately got back to me and brought me on as a sound designer rather than a voice. So here I am.

For those of you who skipped that last paragraph, welcome to this one, those of you who took the time to read the last paragraph, thank you and here’s the next. I’m a sound guy, It’s hard to talk sound without you being able to hear it, so I’ll be doing my best. The process of working on sound effects is a lot more time consuming than one may expect. But at the same time, it all varies on the one doing the work. My workflow may take 5 hours to make an explosion compared to someone who does it naturally. But then my laser sound may be awesome after 20 minutes while the guy next to me takes 3 hours.

I should also mention somewhere around here that my work takes place in DAWs. (Digital Audio Workstations) I most prefer Logic, Reaper and Reason 7 these days. I’ve used ProTools, but I’m not too fond of it, some of you may have dabbled in Fruity Loops, Cubase, Sonar or even Audacity is considered a DAW. This project doesn’t have me working in FMod or WWise which are more typically used in video games. I don’t think Ren’Py supports them though.

It all begins with your base sound though, how you go about acquiring it and what you do in manipulation. We’ll start with the base; one of my first sounds for Sunrider was a gigantic laser that fires from the ship itself.  (Editor’s note:  Steve is referring to the Vanguard Cannon.)  Sam’s words were something like “Make it huge and ridiculous.” So huge and ridiculous was my goal. It started with my going out to find Foley work. Foley is the act of recording something and using it for something else. (Like footsteps in a movie, or the classic star wars light saber which was actually an old TV set and the motors within a projector. The loud alien horns in the recent War of the Worlds movie is actually a didgeridoo playing an A note.) I went to a local machine shop and recorded a bunch of motors and whirring gizmos and everything that would grind. Slapped them all together and.. it sounded like crap. This is where some people are great at a sound, where others are not. I moved on to synthesizing. Synthesizing is something I’m better at.

I should start by saying there are a ton of synths out there, like Massive, Malstrom, Logic’s ES2 or the ESX24. The list of synths is massive. But at the time the only synths I could use were Logic’s stock synths. I created a varying amount of instruments, layered them onto each other and got the sound you’ll come to hear in the future. Synthesizing is something I can do because it allows for a lot of experimentation in a shorter amount of time. The problem is finding the exact sound you’re looking for by manipulating white noise with every type of sin, triangle or square wave available. This is when I went to Sam about Malstrom. Malstrom is one of the most powerful (In my opinion) synths out there. Malstrom is used through Reason 7. And its allowed for the creation of almost every sound effect you’ll hear in game at this point. The main hold up being the Mech’s Flying sounds.

Flying mechs have proven to be very challenging. Almost everything I’ve tried has resulted in very unpleasant sounds. I’ve actually made the leap to begin recording animal roars. A growling bear or a roaring tiger at the zoo may actually be what you hear when you fly the Blackjack around the board. Hell you may even hear a pig in there and not realize it. Such is Foley.

Malstrom and its many parameters

The rear of Malstrom, its ability to connect to multiple others boards

The other stuff I’ve been working on for Sunrider is the voice acting. Though we have some awesome voice actors and actresses, voices require work after they’ve been recorded. There’s a lot to consider in this when becoming a dialogue editor. Every single line, from every single actor is going to be different. And as such needs to be treated differently. When Kira Buckland (Asaga) recorded her lines in her personal studio booth wherever it was, Mary Morgan (Chigara) would have recorded her lines somewhere else, in a different room, different atmosphere, with a different microphone. Giving two completely different sounds. This is where I come in and equalize their voices; make them clearer in a sense. Compress their voices, make them so they don’t fly outside your speaker’s range, and add noise filters to remove any background noise. I go and remove “Pops” whenever someone makes a “P” sound. Then finally add a slight amount of reverb to make their voices seem as though they were all recorded in the same room. (Or inside the Sunrider or a mech cockpit.)

Working on some 90 samples of Kryska’s voice (Cayla Martin) within Logic Pro 9

This may all seem boring but it’s my life and so far I enjoy every part to it. Though I didn’t get to make the cool music for the game, I’m cool with that because I’m a terrible composer anyways. Normally on the audio side, a game will have a dialogue editor, sound effect creator and a composer. Sound unfortunately takes so much time. It’s fun; don’t get me wrong, but its incredibly time consuming listening to every single laser, explosion, dialogue line (I think we’re somewhere on the border of 800 lines of dialogue I’ve edited), and so forth over and over until it’s right.

Ha, I tried to stay broad and vague without getting into too much detail but this ended up much longer than I thought it would. My apologies. If anyone would ever like to hear more specific stuff though, please, feel free to get ahold of me. I do enjoy talking about this stuff but don’t want to bore the people who aren’t interested.

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