How should you mix / master when producing music for Video Games?

8

Should anything be done differently when mixing and/or mastering for Video Game music, considering it will play along with various other game SFX?

Should a certain range of frequencies (or multiple bands) be "cut" out of the music to leave room for the SFX to come through during the game?

In terms of loudness during mastering, should you leave more headroom compared to a track that is intended to be played by itself?

I assume this is something that has to be communicated with the Game Designer / Developer to see how many possible SFXs can go off simultaneously at any given time in the game (including what types: low end rumbles, mid-rangy, high-end noises).

Any suggestions / interesting reading on the subject?

Thanks!

bigp

Posted 2012-07-15T16:23:48.787

Reputation: 945

You shouldn't really do anything to change your mix. The middle-ware (what is used to connect the audio and the game) handles everything. All I can really suggest for game mixing is to stem EVERYTHING. Have stems for your strings, drums, guitars, vocals, etc. That will make the producers love you as an engineer. – None – 2012-09-25T16:27:56.233

Answers

3

From the individuals I know in this space, I understand there is an element of side-chaining which is utilised in many high end games, but apparently an equally important aspect is in composing your score to include multiple paths:

I haven't got the right terminology for this, but effectively what they do is use side-chaining to reduce the volume of the music channels when an event occurs (eg a missile explosion) and also reroute the score from a 'steady state' bed through to a more dynamic element which is already mastered to cope with that event.

There is obviously a high level of complexity in this, but it does provide a more immersive audio environment, and allows you to use side-chaining a little less.

Rory Alsop

Posted 2012-07-15T16:23:48.787

Reputation: 5 762

Perhaps they just use a normal compressor on the music, the threshold of which is pulled down for SFX events, instead of actually lowering the volume? – leftaroundabout – 2012-07-17T12:24:18.440

Hmmm - will need to go and check. You could be right - I can't remember the wording they used, but that could fit the description. – Rory Alsop – 2012-07-17T12:36:31.750

For the purpose of clarity: either of these options would mean that the music produced would not need to be tailored to the specific use, correct? – None – 2012-07-19T20:55:49.950

2

Interesting reading on the subject: LucasArts patented the iMUSE (Interactive MUsic Streaming Engine) in the early 90s, which was a (genius) musical system that transitioned between music as the player transitioned between scenes.

Essentially, when the player chose to move from one scene to another, certain instruments would fade out, and new ones (with a more appropriate tone) would fade in, providing a natural transition to the tone.

Darthfett

Posted 2012-07-15T16:23:48.787

Reputation:

1

I am no expert but wouldn't it be nice to create a sound engine that could support something like side-chaining. Although hard to achieve (mostly due to performance issues) I think this would be a killer thing for the premium game industry...

Oliver

Posted 2012-07-15T16:23:48.787

Reputation:

it is already done :-) – Rory Alsop – 2012-07-17T11:48:45.927

@DrMayhem - Where is this being done? Are you talking about a specific sound engine for games? – None – 2012-07-17T11:53:16.743

I haven't seen enough details about "standard" sound engines. The impression I got was that while they weren't utilising anything as clever as a full on DAW, they were tracking the core music volume against other sounds in a very basic way - I can see if I can get more details from them. – Rory Alsop – 2012-07-17T12:00:51.547

I would really appreciate it. If you find out anything that this side-chaining technique can be used in Flash, I would really love to know what can do this! :) – None – 2012-07-17T13:00:26.403

I've tweeted to Andre Michelle, one of the creators of audiotool.com. I asked him if he knew if such thing could be accomplished at run-time in Flash. Hopefully he will have an answer soon! :) – None – 2012-07-17T13:08:20.997

1

Not to be a killjoy, but this isn't an answer and the comments are turning into forum-style discussion. Please take this to chat if you could!

– None – 2012-07-18T16:41:50.973