AES Section Meeting Reports

Boston - November 11, 2008

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AES Boston Chapter
November Meeting
with Keith Zizza

On Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008, the Boston Section of the Audio Engineering Society held a joint meeting with the Boston Post Mortem Group at the Skellig in Waltham, MA. The evening featured Keith Zizza, who gave a presentation on "Developing Audio for Video Games". Keith is currently the Art Director, Composer and Sound Designer for Tilted Mill Entertainment.

Zizza discussed the role and responsibilities of an audio director in games and outlined the components of a game company. He summarized three components of creating an audio engine — Music, Sound and Dialog. Between these components lies thousands of considerations for the aesthetic and technical aspects of the game. Middleware is used for file management; music/dialog/sound effect manipulation and environmental/main mix processing. He listed a few applications available by such companies as Miles/Rad, Microsoft, Audiokinetic and Flight Technologies. There is also custom programming support for interactive music tools, timing tools, hard coding and audio debug tools.

Using Children of the Nile as an example, Zizza gave an overview of soundscape layers: ambience, figure sounds, building sounds, user interface, dialog, and music. Storyboards are used to block out the scenes and actualize the sound layers that will be needed for the game.

He stressed to "keep it real" by serving the game and not getting too bogged down with things that would make the game unplayable on lower-end computers. A good audio director has to be organized, creating an audio design document is a good way of managing this task. He played a few musical examples as well as scenes from Children of the Nile to show how all the elements come together for the final product.

Keith Zizza has been a professional audio designer since 1991, and has worked for more than 13 years exclusively in audio for video games, most recently as Audio Director for SimCity Societies (EA), Caesar IV (VU Games/Sierra), and Children of the Nile (Tilted Mill Entertainment). In all, Zizza has worked on more than 25 AAA titles for the PC platform. He has written audio articles for, as well as developed game audio curriculum for The CDIA/Boston University and Berklee College of Music. Zizza is also a Gold member of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.).

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AES - Audio Engineering Society