Audio Engineering Society

Chicago Section

Meeting Review, September 21, 2006

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9/21/06 Meeting Highlights
by Nick Kettman

The September 2006 meeting of the Chicago AES Section was held at Midway Games, located on Chicago's north side.  Dan Forden, Midway's company-wide Audio Director, presented on the topic of video game audio.  Approximately 40 audio professionals were in attendance.   Presentation topics included a history of video game audio, a history of Midway Games, the process of creating game audio, and a description of the current game audio landscape.  After the presentation, a tour of the Midway audio department was conducted by Mr. Forden and two of his senior audio engineers, Vince Pontarelli and Rich Carle.

Mr. Forden gave a brief history of video game audio, including a description of the technological advancements which have taken place over the last three decades.  He provided audio examples which contrasted the synthesized bleeps and bloops of games produced before the 1980s with the complex, multichannel playback systems in use today.

The process of creating game audio involves several steps.  The audio designers first must collaborate with game designers and technical directors to determine the overall audio design.  Then audio assets (voice, music, and sound effects) are created and formatted for the target game platform.  Implementation of these audio assets involves attaching them to in-game events or objects and determining how the sounds are rendered.  Finally, mixing the audio is an on-going process during which the audio levels are checked on a variety of playback systems, from "lo-fi" television speakers to surround sound systems.

The meeting concluded with a tour of the Midway audio department.  Mr. Forden, Mr. Pontarelli, and Mr. Carle demonstrated the studios which they use for recording dialogue, creating music, and mixing multiple audio assets.

Midway was started in 1958 as a manufacturer of amusement equipment.  Over the years, Midway has produced best-selling video game titles including Defender, NBA Jam, and Mortal Kombat, to name only a few.

The Chicago AES Section would like to extend a special thanks to Matt Booty, Senior Vice President of Midway Games, for hosting this meeting.