Living sound.

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Interface sound effects.

I was recently commissioned to design 3 sets of sound effects for a Software as a Service application. These sounds needed to be consistent with one another, intuitive and easily remembered. They also needed to be abstract and non-vocal, so the obvious way to design them was by using synthesizers.

So I fired up Ableton Live and a host of VST synths and started layering notes, stabs and chords. Once I had a decent amount of these exported (about 50 or so) I opened them up in Adobe Audition and started cropping them according to my needs. I ended up with 3 sets of 11 sounds, mastered and normalized to about -15 dB. I then submit them for testing, and I had to make a few rounds of revisions before they were perfect.  So, in case you’re wondering what came out of this, here they are:

Vampyres? Indeed!

It’s been a while since I last posted, mainly due to the amount of work I performed these last months. In short, I expanded my epic orchestral music portfolio, I added quite a lot of sound effects to my collection and I also purchased a brand new workstation (PC, core i7 based).

However, none of this is as interesting as the work I did on a mobile Vampire video game. I’ve been working with an absolutely amazing team, Fox Creative Group, with which I got along perfectly. As you can see on their website, the story revolves around vampires, with a pretty interesting gameplay twist. Basically, the game is GPS based, and the player goes around town hunting other players and having lots of creepy fun. I believe this concept has yet to be explored, and can yield a great gaming experience.

As I already had some horror sound design experience, this wasn’t a very difficult task. However, it was still a challenge, given the limitations of mobile platforms. I had to design the individual vampire sound effects with iPhone and Android devices’ speakers in mind. So these are the sound effects on which we agreed so far:

There may be some more before the launch, but for now these are the basic actions that the player has to perform.

Anyway, I look forward to the moment I can actually play the game and enjoy biting some of my friends and relatives. But until then you can listen to the hunt theme:

Some more horror.

Since last week I have been working on a large zombie survival first person shooter video game. My main task for now is to design creepy, dark, empty, fear inducing atmospheres, something I am really fond of. Given that these sounds will be played simultaneously with background music and sound effects, they need to be subtle in both amplitude and frequencies. So I stayed mainly in the low end, making full use of lowpass filters and equalizers. I also used lots of spacious reverb on long release synth notes, so that the drones gained a feeling of continuity and consistency. One can almost relax while listening to them, so enjoy:

Geography vs Music

I’ve been writing a lot of music for video games lately, and the themes were predominantly geographic. Places like Australia, Nepal or Amazon were required to have a theme, among others. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is ethnic instruments, but surely that isn’t enough.

I chose to acoustically describe the outback by creating a laidback atmosphere and by using lots of reverb and delay. The beat isn’t punchy, but rather softened by a lowpass filter. For the finishing touch I added some ethnic percussion not necessarily originating from Australia, but siting well in the mix:

 

As for the calm heights of Nepal, I wrote something rather minimalistic, with a guest appearance by sitar. The backdrop is a simple pad, while the tempo is taken care of by staccato digital percussion. I like this track so much that I’m thinking of expanding it to a glitchy downbeat full production somewhere in the near future:

 

Horror sound design

A few weeks ago I worked on a very exciting sound design project. The idea was to design sets of 8 sound effects relevant for a specific theme. Of course I didn’t miss the opportunity to create something rather fear inducing, in the form of a horror atmosphere.

The elements are 4 sound effects and 4 drones. The sound effects are manipulated everyday sounds (tire screeches – mad witch, dog snarls – raging zombies, duck quacks – zombie crows and metal impacts – random horror atmosphere element, respectively). The drones are created with the help of Ableton Live and VST synths, with quite a lot of elements in the fx chain. So do let me know if this is scary enough :)

Angrier Birds?

It’s official. Angry Birds has penetrated through every social, technological, geographical or OS stratum and has become the definite trendsetter in mobile games worldwide. On top of app sales, Angry Birds is selling merchandise like there’s no tomorrow. Consequently, many developers take said recipe and add their personal touch to it, some succeeding interestingly and some failing hilariously. It’s not as bad as it sounds, however, as this cute critter recipe still gives way to loads of possibilities regarding gameplay, design and concept. And this phenomenon may not be as harmful as one might think. After all, many of the top 100 downloaded games for iDevices revolve around cute little animals and their exploits, not necessarily being Angry Birds clones. And unprecedented sales, coupled with the recent surge in app development for smartphone OSs, is making this a serious business and a goldmine for developers worldwide.

Although I had been working on similar projects for a while, I never gave it too much thought. I simply do my job and write cute/funny/playful music for games. And although I do my best to avoid sounding too much like any established product, sometimes the developer himself asks it. And that’s when I have to find the balance between being original and preserving “that” feeling. Do I succeed interestingly, or do I fail hilariously?

Video game themes

What I love about sound design is that it stimulates my creativity far beyond anything else ever did. Apparently unrelated activities such as audio editing or sound effects design can get my creative juices flowing faster than I can concentrate on putting them to good use. For instance, a few weeks ago I wrote 6 different video game themes while editing audiobooks. And they are merely what I managed to filter in the few spare hours I get after work. Here’s 3 of them:

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