Meeting Topic: Portals: The Secret Weapon of AAA Game Audio Spatialization AND Attempting to achieve in-person AND online meetings
Speaker Name: Ian Shores, Highwire Games, Dan Mortensen & Lawrence Schwedler, AES PNW Section
Other business or activities at the meeting: Announced December 7th, 2021 for Sylvia Massy's Mind-Blowing Microphone Museum, PART 2 on ZOOM only. https://www.aes.org/sections/pnw/ for details.
Meeting Location: Digipen Intitute of Technology, Redmond WA USA & online via Zoom
PNW Section held its first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA, and simultaneously online in a special hybrid in-person/online meeting. Sound designer Ian Shores shared his knowledge of game audio spatialization, while PNW Members Dan Mortensen and Lawrence Schwedler assembled a system to allow Zoom participants to see, hear, and interact in real-time with attendees at the meeting in person. Approximately 14/34 were AES members on Zoom and 6/26 in-person. All in-person attendees were required to show proof of COVID vaccination or negative PCR test as per Digipen and local regulations, and masks were mandatory.
Realistic game audio spatialization is a complex and holistic experience, and many techniques must be employed to create good spatial fidelity. (AAA is an informal classification used for games produced and distributed by a mid-sized or major publisher, which typically have higher development and marketing budgets than other tiers of games.)
Ian Shores played a trailer for their "documentary-experience" game, "Six Days In Fallujah," about real veterans' experiences in the Iraq war. He recommended using headphones to take advantage of the HRTF effects. He went on to talk about how sound changes when occluded or obstructed, and how that is put to use in a computer game. A demo reel was played which flew through a virtual house during a rainstorm, with various sound processes changed while moving through the house and encountering a piano, people conversing, or a window breaking.
Portals are just that, openings between spaces such as a perceived source and the listener. An analysis of how sound changes when going through such portals, with transmission loss and acoustic diffraction, can be used to make gameplay sound more realistic. The virtual house fly-through was played again, but with different sound processing.
Ian fielded many Q&As with in-person and Zoom participants. After a break (in-person attendees got real cookies), all attendees gave short self introductions, then PNW Committeeperson Dan Mortensen and PNW Treasurer Lawrence Schwedler discussed how they set up the A-V systems that allowed in-person and Zoom attendees to all hear and see each other and interact in real-time at low cost. Multiple cameras, projectors, Zoom computers, a mini TV-studio, a full audio system, international consultants and a crew of dedicated operators were involved that rehearsed for 2 full days prior to the meeting.
Special thanks to Digipen and Dansound, Inc.
The Digipen Crew:
Digipen Sound Lab Manager: August McCubbin
Video Switcher Operator: Ben Schwedler
Cameras: Jarek Agcaoili, Michelle Mayer, Jonathan Larson
International consultants: Gordon McGregor - Glasgow; Bob Smith - Perrinville
Ian Shores - Audio Design Lead, Highwire Games, is a committed, passionate, decisive, and collaborative audio designer. He is the full time Audio Design Lead at Highwire Games in Seattle, where he works with industry veterans Marty O'Donnell, Jaime Griesemer and more to create highly polished and innovative independent games. His most recent title, Golem, shipped exclusively on Playstation VR and remains one of the standout games on the platform. It was nominated for the 2018 Game Audio Network Guild's "Best Sound Design for an Indie Game" category and was awarded "Best Dialog for an Indie Game." Ian is currently creating the audio for Highwire's next title, Six Days in Fallujah, a documentary shooter about the Second Battle of Fallujah in the Iraq War, told by the people who actually experienced the conflict. He has a discerning ear, over 20 years of classical musical training, a passion for bleeding-edge technologies and an eagerness to push the boundaries of what videogames can be. Ian graduated as the valedictorian and with honors from DigiPen's Bachelor of Arts in Music and Sound Design program in 2017.
Dan Mortensen is President of Dansound Inc., which specializes in live sound reinforcement. He is currently serving on the Committee, and has previously held the posts of Chair, Vice-Chair, and Treasurer. After 30 years on the Committee, Dan continues to find that serving the AES PNW Section in one capacity or another is still one of his favorite things. For nearly a year, he's been hosting a weekly Section Zoom meeting called "Tea Time Topics" in which a bunch of really smart people share presentations about something they are interested in (a wide range of topics!) and the 50th meeting is rapidly approaching. It's open to all, and info can be found at www.aes.org/sections/pnw/ttt
For almost 13 years he has enjoyed researching the history of CBS's 30th St. recording studio, home to the Section's late friend Frank Laico; much of that research can be found online at the Steve Hoffman Music Forums.
Lawrence Schwedler is a musician with twenty years of experience in the video game industry as a composer, sound designer, and audio director. In 1993 he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in classical guitar performance and electronic music from the University of California at Los Angeles. He was a founding member of the Modern Arts Guitar Quartet, an avant-garde chamber ensemble which toured Europe, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. From 1999 to 2012 he worked for Nintendo Software Technology as Audio Director, where he produced music and sound for fifteen game titles and received credit as co-author on two United States patents, one for interactive real time music composition and another for interactive wave table sound generation. In 2012 he left Nintendo to design and direct two new undergraduate degree programs in music and sound design at the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond.
Additional meeting information is at the PNW website, https://www.aes.org/sections/pnw/ .
Written By: Gary Louie