Sound Loop Assignment Ideas, Planning and Development

Planning:

For this assignment, I had to pay attention to both its brief as well as the HUD Assignment brief as they work in unison. The concept of the game that runs through both assignments is that of a modern/near future London where three teams race using electric concept cars.

My idea for the tracks and levels were to have them inside a futuristic London and high above it, racing along electricity powered tracks in the sky. I aimed to create two tracks, one combining the howling of wind and the muffled buzz of electricity as one races along above London and the other is a beat that can be applied to most levels in the game, urging players along and getting them excited.

Before working on the final audio tracks, I did research into sound, the creation of sound, sound development software and sound in racing games. I did research on Project Cars, using the discoveries made there to inform the development of my audio loops.

Before beginning experimentation with the creation of the actual audio loops, I downloaded various free sound sample packs from 99sounds.org. I planned to combine and distort these sounds in order to create what I was aiming for when it came to the Electricity and Wind loop.

For the racing beat sound loop, I planned to use instruments and other samples to create a beat that put forward a fast-paced, almost sci-fi, feeling of movement inducing music that could be playing while a player navigates busy futuristic London streets while racing against the clock with several other players on their tail.

To ensure efficiency, I made use of various tutorials, guides and the built-in explanations in the Ableton software, of which I used for this assignment.

Development:

Ableton Screenshot.jpg

For the development of the audio, I first experimented with the Ableton software, learning how it works and the basics of the capabilities of the program. Some quick explanations:

-White button at the bottom of the audio track, once clicked and turned red, primes it for recording.

-Clicking the circles inside and near at the top of the tracks allows you to add sound/samples to those clip slots.

-You can change where the audio from one track is being received from or sent to via drop down menus inside the track.

-To apply effects to your audio, go to Categories -> Audio Effects and then drag the desired effect to the bottom slot on the screen.

-Dragging a sample, found on the side of the screen, into an audio/clip slot allows you to edit that sound. Clicking the play button by the audio slot allows you to play that sample and the vertical green bar at the bottom of the track lets you change the level (output of the track in decibels). This bar is called the fader, where dragging the arrow up increases the volume of all samples inside that track and dragging it down decreases the volume.

-Reverb and Delay can act as send tracks, effecting the main audio tracks. The bar at the bottom is a conditional space, it is the display of whatever you have selected in the main screen. Changing the A or B dials on the audio tracks affects how much A Reverb or B Delay is influencing that track.

-Changing the Dry/Wet on the effect alters the percentage of the sound that is the actual effect and what is the original sound. In regards to reverb, if you set the Dry/Wet to 100%, you will then be hearing 100% of what the reverb of that track sounds like, and not the original audio. To disable an effect, click on the orange and grey circle next to the effect title inside the Audio Effect tab, displayed at the bottom of the screen.

-On an audio track, the Sends function/knob allows for audio to be forwarded to the sends track independently of the original audio track, this allows you to have 100% reverb coupled with 100% of the original audio track. The Sends tracks you edit inside the audio track effects the Sends track (eg. A Reverb and B Delay), and their effects on the audio track.

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-Track Pan pans the track left or right, it is the knob next to the fader.

-Double click on a clip slot to see the waveform of that audio. The sample box lets you edit the actual audio and Transpose edits how high or low the sound is. Seg. BPM changes the Beats Per Minutes (speed), with the Beats drop down allowing you to change how the track is affected, such as the Complex Pro option changing your audio to have a higher pitch while maintaining the same speed/BPM. The white vertical line with a triangle is the gain slider, this changes the clips sample playback in dB (decibels).

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-Numbers at the top of the waveform are the beats, the triangle sliders at the top dictate the start and end of the track/audio and the triangle above that dictates the start/end of the loop.

-The Hertz is the frequency, the lower the frequency the more bass and the higher the frequency the more treble there is. An EQ (Equiliser) allows you to raise and lower the volume of different frequencies. To apply an EQ to an audio track, select the track and then drag the EQ into the Effects slot at the bottom of the screen. The Audio Effects are found on the left hand side of the screen, I used EQ Eight, dragging the entire folder into the bottom slot.

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-The Q dial effects how smoothly the EQ raises or lowers the frequency. The EQ graph shows the frequency and decibels of various parts of the current audio, allowing you to manipulate the prevalence of various frequencies. This lets you distort the audio and tailor it to your needs.

I used the EQ, as well as Reverb, to create my Wind and Electricity loops. I first created them separately, experimenting with various different sample found on the site 99sounds.org. Once I found the ones I liked, I manipulated them until they sounded how I wanted them to. In the waveform editor, I ensured I had the right parts of the audio looped using the start/end loop handles to ensure a good loop. Once I had the two separate audio tracks completed, I exported one and then brought it into the other Live Set (files/working documents in Ableton). I then made the two separate audio tracks/clips record into the Master track. I then played that, extended the run time and exported it as a .wav. I then uploaded that to my blog, embedding it using Soundcloud.

The track itself includes the muffled sounds of rushing wind and the hum of electricity akin to that of a nearby power plant/generator, almost similar as well to a Tesla coil. The electrical sounds are meant to represent exposed electric currents forking between raised bars alongside the edge of a flying track high above London. These bars, with their electrical fencing, are alternate versions of the protective barriers that are used on roads alongside the edge of mountains.

Electricity and Wind Loop:

Some experimentation using samples:

Wind Loop Process:

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Wind Loop:

Electricity Loop Process:

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Electricity Loop:

Racing Beat Loop Process:

For the Racing Beat I used several instruments. Clicking on the audio clip of the instrument I am able to use it to create notes. I changed the tempo to 140, the tempo being how many BPM there is. The marker snap at the bottom right divides up the space and edits the beat sections. I regularly changed this to create different length beats and spaces in between those beats. The MIDI editor preview is above the keys when editing and using an instrument, this allows you to hear the notes when you play them in the editor. Double clicking  in the instrument track allows you to edit it. After much experimentation with different instruments and the creation of notes within a few beats I selected the notes up to a certain beat. I then used Ctrl+D to duplicate and paste them, ensuring a long enough cycle to ensure a smooth loop that still maintains interest and variety.

With multiple notes spread across several beats, I experimented with changing the marker snap to split notes and create divides between some. Some notes were split up into small divided ones, some were medium length ones directly beside each other and some were long, lengthy notes to create smooth areas of rest.

Once happy with the overall beat, I began to edit and add effects as well as add some more instruments and variation later on.

I used the Compressor Audio Effect to push certain frequencies down. The side chain compressor made so that when the kick (bass drum) comes in, the bass lowers in volume. To do so, I added the Compressor to the bottom Audio Effects slot, clicked on the arrow next to the title, clicked side chain and then chose one my audio tracks to edit. I set the Ratio Knob to 100%, meaning that fore every decibel above the threshold, it lowers the volume of the chained track by the set ratio. Editing the Attack affects how quickly the volume is pulled down, in this case I set it to 0%. Release changes how quickly the volume gets let back up, here I set it to about 50%-60%. I put the threshold to about -20 decibels. Once the volume passes this threshold, the compression and all the effects within that compression, will start to take effect. I set the Out to 2.97 dB, this pushes the whole track volume up.

I then added an instrument with a higher, sharper pitch/frequency. I copy pasted the notes I previously had (by Ctrl dragging the bass clip from the Bass Azimuth Track to my new instrument track, holding shift and using the arrow keys to move the notes up (transposing them) to an even higher pitch. I then used the marker snap again to vary the sizes of the notes, affecting their length and spacing. I made some notes longer and some into multiple shorter ones. I dragged collections of shorter ones to half their length by selecting groups of them and dragging them together, shortening them to allow time between their notes. Once those notes were in place, I added a Ping Pong Delay to B Delay, maxed out the Dry/Wet and increased the B Send on my recently added instrument track. This causes the notes created by this instrument to output 100% of the Ping Pong Effect created using those sounds, as well as 100% of the original sound.

To add some more auditory interest, I used the notes from the Kit-Core track that created distorted radio chatter at certain parts of the loop to emulate race track announcements or perhaps advertisements in the city. This alludes to the outside world without distracting from the overall beat and loop.

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Racing Beat Loop:

Diary of work:

29th November:
Researched how audio is recorded for racing sims, the software used, terminology and other information.
6 December:
-More research in regards to audio and sound, more about psychology this time. Listed questions and talking points to use for research mini-essay.
2 January:
-Watched videos showing the sound of various cars in the game Project Cars and worked on the research
10 January:
-Researched how to create sound loops and ambient sound loops
21 January:
-Learning music software and experimenting with the creation of sounds and loops
23 January – 5 February:
-Organising assignment
-Learning and experimenting with software
-Development of sound loops
-Creation of final sound loops
Research, explanations, evaluations, development work and notes were created and completed during the entire process of the assignment.

Sound Loop Assignment Research/Project Cars Analysis

Sound in Project Cars:

The majority of diegetic sounds in Project Cars, and most other racing simulation games, are the sounds of the cars themselves. This may include revving, accelerating, skidding and driving in general. With the capabilities of games increasing, the attention to detail required to create a polished experience to meet the majority of today’s audience’s expectations is much higher than it used to be. The sound of rain hitting the windshield while your windscreen wipers scrub them off is something that is not important in regards to the actual game play, but rather for the overall user experience and immersion that the gamer wants to feel when playing that game. Environment sounds usually take a backseat in driving and racing simulation games, with the sound of the car itself usually overpowering any background noises. However, to create an immersive experience, the use of environmental sounds to create moods for the various racing tracks help keep the player immersed and engaged.

Different maps and tracks have different ambient and background sound effects, some might have thunder rumbling overhead accompanied by a steady downpour of rain hitting your windshield while others might have the roar of the wind ripping past you as you speed along the track pursued by the other racers and cars.

In regards to non-diegetic sounds, there barely are any. Most of the time the game tries to keep you immersed by presenting only sounds you would expect to hear from inside the car that you are currently racing. Most of the non-diegetic sounds are revolved around the menus and loading screen, with the soundtrack accompanying your menu screens and voices providing tutorials and rules for certain races, tracks and mechanics.

The sounds present in Project Cars are usually triggered via the player interacting with the game, such as pushing a button to increase speed/rev the car. The game seems to aim for realistic sounds to couple with the realistic graphics and game engine. With the aim being the authenticity of the cars, a sacrifice is made in regards to the overall user experience, an example being how pleasant the sound of a speeding formula one car is when right next to your ear. With the player being the driver of these cars, the sounds will of course be loud. How this comes across will vary from player to player. Obviously, the game has a specific target audience; car and racing enthusiasts. This, however, leaves out a large demographic of potential buyers. The graphics and authenticity might entice buyers that are usually not interested in this genre but the authenticity of the sound might turn away a few. This is not exactly the case however for all of the cars, there are plenty whose sounds do not fatigue the ears. This can possibly cause a bias for some people, choosing cars on the grounds of their sound rather than how well they perform inside the game. The sounds of all the cars vary from pleasant to fatiguing, as I mentioned above this can turn away many people, entice hardcore fans or create a bias for certain cars and car types. Editing of the sounds to make them more pleasant for the average gamer would detract from the realistic and authentic aspects and goals of the game but make it more accessible for the general public and casual gamer.

The sounds themselves seem quite authentic, climbing in volume and pitch as the cars increase speed and cutting to and fro from that iconic sound of a car speeding along a race track as it brakes or shifts gears. The sounds have a short fade in and out with the idle engine sound playing when the car is not in motion. The idle engine sounds differ from car to car, showing the dedication of the game development team in regards to the authenticity they have tried to create through the capturing of the sounds for this game. There are usually transitional sounds that accompany the fading in and out of the different sounds that have been triggered by the player.

Most of the sounds in the game are the sounds of the cars, with the only silence being before the cars start driving and if you stop your car without any others around you. During this time the only sounds present are from the engine of the car, playing its idle sounds.

Overall, the majority of the sounds in the game are focused around authenticity and accuracy, aiming to create a realistic and immersive driving experience by surrounding the player with realistic sounds collected from life; recorded from the virtual cars’ real life counterparts.