Blog Posts

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The Sound Design Of: REDOUT

What Is Redout? Redout is an Anti-Gravity Racer from 34Big Things, a company from Turin, Italy. My first experience with AG Racers was playing Extreme-G on the Nintendo 64. Every race felt like riding a futuristic roller coaster at a breakneck pace. Later on, I became re-acquainted to the genre as an adult with WipeoutHD. I spent a lot of time with Wipeout and really loved the imagination that went in to the design of the racecourses. When I discovered Redout I felt as if I reconnected with an old friend I had nearly forgotten about. The words to describe what it’s like roaring down a track at over 1000kmph, on a track that could only exist in the dreams of the bravest hyper-coaster architects, are hard to find. “Fun” doesn’t do the game enough justice. While Redout does a lot of things incredibly well – namely, racing fast – it’s sound design unfortunately falls a bit short. With just a few small improvements, the developers can leverage the sound design of the game to truly complete the experience.

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The Best (mostly metal) Albums of 2016

It’s that time of year again! That glorious time where I get to throw out my opinion out there and pretend like it matters to you. It’s time for my Best Albums Of 2016 List! Now, full disclaimer, I mostly listen to metal, and this list is almost exclusively metal. If I broadened out to include game soundtracks, film scores, or even pop records, rest assured it would change dramatically. But metal is what I’m good at and metal is what I love, so metal is what you’re getting. Let’s start with the Honorable Mention Albums, in no particular order: Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason: An amazing record, but, frankly, not different enough from previous releases to warrant inclusion on the list. Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us: A great record, but the hype machine, combined with the mean-spirited antics of the band definitely impacted my impressions on the record. Violet Cold – Magic Night: A solid showing from Violet Cold, but I felt like other bands kind of did what they were doing better. Vektor – Terminal Redux : A solid effort from a great band, but Vektor has never really been my style and so I don’t see myself really getting much more mileage out of this record. Gojira – Magma: Like Meshuggah’s outing, it’s a solid record with no real fault except for not being distinct enough from it’s sibling albums. 10. Alcest – Kodama (Prophecy Productions) I’m a sucker for concept albums. When I heard Kodama, I knew it was going to wind up on this list somewhere. Kodama is directly inspired by legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. It’s dark and brooding, and brimming with emotion. It’s not quite as impactful as I found Les Voyages de L’Ame, but it’s an amazing and wonderful album in it’s own right, that really encapsulates the black-metal-meets-indie-rock-meets-shoegaze sound that they helped popularize. 9.Nine Inch Nails – Not The Actual Events (The Null Corporation) I don’t care about the opinion that this is an EP and not a full length album. It rips. It’s only the second EP that the band has ever released, and everyone considers Broken to be a NIN classic, so why can’t this be? This one is unique: It’s the first time Trent has another bandmate. Atticus Ross now shares the spotlight and NIN is officially a two-piece band. It’s a short twenty-minute EP with very little frills. It’s a bit more The Fragile than The Slip and I’m more than okay with that. 8. Fleshgod Apocalpyse – KING (Nuclear Blast) If you forgot that KING released this year, I would forgive you. The Italian titans of symphonic death metal released the first single, The Fool, on Jan 1st 2016 and then dropped the full length KING in February. It’s been out for a while now, and lots of other great albums have come into focus since. On this album, I think Fleshgod finally gets the production perfectly on point. There’s a […]

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Plugins: The Great Free And Cheap VST Round-Up

Plugins, Plugins, And More Plugins! So let’s talk plugins: The sheer expense of getting into sound design is one of the largest hurdles that beginners must overcome. But, it doesn’t have to be a dead end! If the Sound Design Santa didn’t leave all the plugins you wanted under the tree, I’ve pulled together a list of free and cheap plugins to get your sound design juiced up without breaking the bank. These are some great tools, at an affordable $50-or-less price point. It’s important to keep in mind however, that the plugins don’t make the designer! These are tools, and at the end of the day, how you use them is more important than what you’re using. Nobody ever got a gig simply because they owned the Decapitator. With that in mind, and without further ado…here’s what I’ve got for you! Bundles: Off the bat, here are some excellent vendors who have generously given out either cheap or freeware bundles of their software: Blue Cat Audio – Blue Cat Audio has a superb freeware pack that includes 6 plugins. Among them, the Frequency Analyzer is particularly important to any toolkit, and the 3-band EQ also boasts a frequency response chart. I also appreciate the Gain Suite for the ability to link multiple instances of the plugin together, providing easy control over multiple tracks. Melda Production –  Melda Production also has a generous freeware pack. The pack includes a whopping 30 plugins, with some standouts: the MCompressor, a 6-band EQ, noise generator, tuner, and an excellent utility rack. It can be upgraded for €49 to add a few extra features. Variety of Sound – VOS offers sixteen free plugins. Of note, the FerricTDS tape saturation and ThrillseekerVBL compressor are great. Most importantly, the preFIX preamp/alignment tool should not be missed if you ever work with mic arrays. Toneboosters – For about the cost of a large two-topping pizza, you can grab the Toneboosters Essentials Suite. It includes a saturation module, all-in-one modulation plugin, bitcrusher, 6-band EQ (with spectrum analyzer!), de-esser, noise gate, reverb, and compression unit. An absolutely outstanding set of plugins for only €20. Willing to pay for a subscription service? The Slate Digital “Everything” Package costs around $20 a month as well. I love being able to turn off my subscription when I don’t need it at a given time. It’s also nice to purchase perpetual licenses for the plugins that are consistently relied upon. I also HIGHLY encourage checking out Stillwell Audio. Stillwell offers an impeccable lineup of tools that are both fairly priced and cripple-free. Of course, though, please do the right thing and pay for them if you like them. EQ EQ is arguably the most important category of them all. There’s a ton of stuff out there, as you’re probably aware…but here’s a few that caught my eye, and that I rely on on a regular basis. Tokyo Dawn Labs “VOS Slick EQ” (Free / $30) – the VOS Slick EQ is an excellent 3-band […]

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Well Here I Am Again!

So, it’s been a good long while. I’ve been working on a ton of projects, handling the day job, etc, etc etc, you know. Life. This blog kind of fell (guiltily) by the wayside. I’ve dutifully responded to as many questions as I’ve gotten via email (which I’m grateful for, by the way!) and with GDC around the corner one more time, I figured it’s really time to get my ass in gear and spruce this place up. So I’ve relaunched my main portfolio site and combined it with my blog, all on one spiffy wordpress website without any hacky code from me. Learned a lot about CMS and customizing CSS along the way, and so here I am, again, to talk about whatever I learn about along the way. Expect something shortly. Maybe a mini review of something I’ve heard recently, or a recording or two. 🙂 We’ll see!

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A Tutorial Look at the Unity-FMOD Example Code

A Look at the FMOD Example Code: Lately, I’ve been working through drafts of how to best write code modifying parameters in FMOD through Unity C# code, but, honestly, I’m way out of practice and I still don’t have the best answer yet. To re-familiarize myself, I wrote this up for some of the folks who have been emailing me about how to work with Parameters in code. I suspect that many of those questions have to do with not completely understanding some of the best coding practices with FMOD so I wrote this up using the included FMOD Tutorial file. It is a heavily commented, re-organized and restructured version of the FMOD StudioEventEmitter.cs document which is imported into your project as part of the Unity-FMOD Integration package found on the FMOD website. Please forgive any formatting errors – I tried to pretty-ify this as much as possible to ease in readability, but I’m painfully aware that other desktop monitors might display this differently. In any case, without further ado here is the FMOD Example Code, re-structured and described in detail:

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Miller Puckette’s “The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music”, Ch. 1 Exercises

“The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music” – Miller Puckette, Chapter 1 Hey folks! I recently came across the phenomenal book, available for free online, “The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music” by Miller Puckette, renowned designer of Pure Data the open-source cousin Cycling ’74’s famous Max/MSP environment. It’s a fascinating subject and I highly recommend checking it out here! I wont lie, a lot of this book has the tendency to go straight over my head in a lot of places if I don’t read and reread sections of it, so I’m doing the exercises here, publicly, so that I can hopefully make sense of what Mr. Puckette is saying and to maybe elicit feedback and correct the places where I’m not understanding some of the mathematics and relationships being presented, since there’s no answer key given. I’ll attempt to work through the answers in as long a form as possible to break it down to the simplest level and explain/show all of my work along the way. Though the book appears to be geared more toward using the concepts in the context of PD or Max, I’m more interested in more wholly understanding digital audio, so just for the heads up: somewhere down the line, I may skip a PD-centric question or two 🙂

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An Introduction To FMOD, part 5: Integration Into Unity

Lesson 5: Integration Into Unity Alright! Now it’s REALLY been a while since last time! I think it’s finally time to start wrapping up these lessons by answering the one question that everyone has: “Alright Chris, I’m now a master of FMOD thanks to you, but now I need to shove this thing into Unity and make them work so that I can be the master of Interactive Audio!” Well first, that’s not a question, but point taken – to the folks who have e-mailed me, prodding me into finishing up, I can only offer my sincerest apologies because life has gotten way busy this past year. Thanks for the outreach. 🙂 We’re gonna do this. Right here, right now. If you’ve followed along with the set of tutorials so far, you should be able to efficiently bring your ideas into FMOD using the tools available to you. If you need a refresher, you can check out the overview of all the lessons at this link here or hop back to the very first one here. Unlike the last four lessons, this lesson will not build on previous concepts directly since this lesson will focus on integration concepts in tying FMOD into Unity. However, it is still crucial to know the inner workings of FMOD before you try tackling integration, so review if you need to. The instructions are the easy part – it’s knowing the concepts that will take you far. Let’s get started. And as always – if you have any questions, require further explanations, or wish to suggest further topics, email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto.com or reach out to me on twitter @SoundGuyChris!

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An Introduction to FMOD, part 4: The Mixer

Lesson 4: FMOD Mixing Hello again, and welcome to the fourth installment of my lessons on using FMOD! This lesson will focus on mixing in the FMOD Studio environment. As always, you can jump on back to lesson one by clicking here, or see the entire list of lessons over here. Up until now, we’ve been focused on getting things to play in the editor, and to get the events that contain those things to play the way we want them to. We’ve covered the interface, parameters, and logic function. The next step, naturally, is getting all those fancy sounds to play nice with one another. Just like in any other music situation, you can’t just turn all the dials up to eleven and call it a day (caveat: unless you’re Motörhead and “everything is louder than everything else”). It just doesn’t work like that. You need to have control. Now, before we begin, I want to mention that mixing is very, very much an art in of itself. It takes years to master when sitting behind a traditional mixing desk, and I make no claim to have mastered the art myself. But even more so than the wizard-like job of engineering in a traditional studio, the work of mixing interactively is even more nebulous. There’s a LOT of ground to cover – much more than is in the scope of an overview lesson attempting to teach the fundamentals and paradigms underlying a single computer program. As a result, this lesson might feel a bit more disjointed, and might be less intuitive, when compared to some of the others I’ve written thus far . The reason for that is because the primary purpose is not to teach you the basics of mixing, but rather how to do it in FMOD. So, like in our introductory lesson, this will very much focus on the core ideas of facilitating a great mix, and the tools used to create those great mixes. With that said, please do not hesitate to send any questions my way regarding FMOD! Feel free to leave a comment here, email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto.com, or shoot me a message on twitter @SoundGuyChris! So, with that said, grab some coffee and read on to continue.

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An Introduction to FMOD, part 3: The Logic Track

Lesson 3: FMOD Control How To Think Like A Time Lord, And Other Useful Tips For Everyday Sound Design Welcome to my third lesson on the Audio Middleware Engine known as FMOD. If you’re new here, jump on back to week 1 by clicking here to get the basics down. This week will deal with how to further control FMOD events using the Logic tracks. It bears repeating the analogies I’ve been making (that are hopefully apt!): Everything in FMOD is an Event that details something. Parameters are sort of like adjectives. I don’t have any parts of speech up my sleeve to describe the Logic track, but if Parameter’s provides a description about an event, then the Logic control describes when it happens in time, and how often. Remember how the Timeline in FMOD is just another Parameter, as we covered in the second lesson? Did knowing that bother you a little bit last week? As a Parameter, shouldn’t we have some sort of control over it, like the rest of the Game Parameters we can create? Last week’s lesson dealt primarily with controlling events which spanned just one single scenario. For instance, explosions were the primary example, and while we were able to create a nearly infinite amount of variations of that explosion, they’re only good for whenever you have…well…an explosion happening. While useful, our game will also have events (such as music) that need to work to move fluidly back and forth between different states and levels of action. This is most tidily accomplished by skipping around the Timeline of your events, sort of like skipping back and forth between tracks on an album to suit your mood. The good news is that FMOD does allow you to control the Timeline Parameter. The bad news is that just letting you run wild by stopping, rewinding, and skipping around in time at will would create paradoxes and could literally ruin the space time continuum and tear the fabric of space and time itself…it’s just a LOT of responsibility, for even someone so well disposed as a sound designer. But you DO get some tools. And this week, I’m going to focus on explaining the concepts behind how you can utilize the timeline itself to offer some more advanced and complex control of how the game deals with events that span that can span many different kinds of scenarios (like, say, footsteps, which can happen on dirt, gravel, wood flooring, carpet, etc.) or single, constant events that need to react fluidly depending upon a scenario (for example, music tracks which react to the parameters of the game.) So, read on to continue, and as always – if you have any questions, require further explanations, or wish to suggest further topics, email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto.com or reach out to me on twitter @SoundGuyChris!

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An Introduction to FMOD, part 2: The Parameter

If Everything is an Event in FMOD, then parameters are how you describe everything. Parameters are adjectives that describe the scenarios that take place in your game world.