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Hello again, and welcome to the fourth installment of my lessons on using FMOD! This lesson will focus on mixing in the FMOD Studio environment. As always, you can jump on back to lesson one by clicking here, or see the entire list of lessons over here. Up until now, we’ve been focused on getting things to play in the editor, and to get the events that contain those things to play the way we want them to. We’ve covered the interface, parameters, and logic function. The next step, naturally, is getting all those fancy sounds to play nice with one another. Just like in any other music situation, you can’t just turn all the dials up to eleven and call it a day (caveat: unless you’re Motörhead and “everything is louder than everything else”). It just doesn’t work like that. You need to have control.
Now, before we begin, I want to mention that mixing is very, very much an art in of itself. It takes years to master when sitting behind a traditional mixing desk, and I make no claim to have mastered the art myself. But even more so than the wizard-like job of engineering in a traditional studio, the work of mixing interactively is even more nebulous. There’s a LOT of ground to cover – much more than is in the scope of an overview lesson attempting to teach the fundamentals and paradigms underlying a single computer program. As a result, this lesson might feel a bit more disjointed, and might be less intuitive, when compared to some of the others I’ve written thus far . The reason for that is because the primary purpose is not to teach you the basics of mixing, but rather how to do it in FMOD. So, like in our introductory lesson, this will very much focus on the core ideas of facilitating a great mix, and the tools used to create those great mixes. With that said, please do not hesitate to send any questions my way regarding FMOD! Feel free to leave a comment here, email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto.com, or shoot me a message on twitter @SoundGuyChris!
So, with that said, grab some coffee and read on to continue.
Welcome to my third lesson on the Audio Middleware Engine known as FMOD. If you’re new here, jump on back to week 1 by clicking here to get the basics down. This week will deal with how to further control FMOD events using the Logic tracks. It bears repeating the analogies I’ve been making (that are hopefully apt!): Everything in FMOD is an Event that details something. Parameters are sort of like adjectives. I don’t have any parts of speech up my sleeve to describe the Logic track, but if Parameter’s provides a description about an event, then the Logic control describes when it happens in time, and how often. Remember how the Timeline in FMOD is just another Parameter, as we covered in the second lesson? Did knowing that bother you a little bit last week? As a Parameter, shouldn’t we have some sort of control over it, like the rest of the Game Parameters we can create? Last week’s lesson dealt primarily with controlling events which spanned just one single scenario. For instance, explosions were the primary example, and while we were able to create a nearly infinite amount of variations of that explosion, they’re only good for whenever you have…well…an explosion happening. While useful, our game will also have events (such as music) that need to work to move fluidly back and forth between different states and levels of action. This is most tidily accomplished by skipping around the Timeline of your events, sort of like skipping back and forth between tracks on an album to suit your mood. The good news is that FMOD does allow you to control the Timeline Parameter. The bad news is that just letting you run wild by stopping, rewinding, and skipping around in time at will would create paradoxes and could literally ruin the space time continuum and tear the fabric of space and time itself…it’s just a LOT of responsibility, for even someone so well disposed as a sound designer. But you DO get some tools. And this week, I’m going to focus on explaining the concepts behind how you can utilize the timeline itself to offer some more advanced and complex control of how the game deals with events that span that can span many different kinds of scenarios (like, say, footsteps, which can happen on dirt, gravel, wood flooring, carpet, etc.) or single, constant events that need to react fluidly depending upon a scenario (for example, music tracks which react to the parameters of the game.)
So, read on to continue, and as always – if you have any questions, require further explanations, or wish to suggest further topics, email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto.com or reach out to me on twitter @SoundGuyChris!
Hello! Welcome back! This is part two of my Introduction to FMOD. Now that we’re done with the absolute basics, things should start moving a bit quicker. The first part of this look at FMOD focused on breaking down the Event Editor and helping a new user find their way around the program, as well as how to lay out samples and modules on the time line. If you missed it, you can find it by clicking here. I closed the last lesson by mentioning that it was absolutely okay if things felt a little bit linear in the last segment. With any luck, by the end of this one you’ll start seeing the power of the parameter and how to really start making the world a bit less predetermined. The parameter is arguably the most important part of FMOD, so if you desire to make a living working with FMOD, make sure you understand what is being presented here. Before stepping forward, please know that I use the words “Game Parameter” specifically to refer to parameters that supply information to, or get information from, your game. “Effect Parameter” refers to the various knobs, levels, and faders in your effects chains and throughout your routing signal path. “Parameter” is sometimes used interchangeably, but most often refers to Game Parameters, especially in this lesson. It goes without saying that if you have any questions about any specifics regarding FMOD, feel free to leave a comment here, email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto.com or shoot me a message on twitter @SoundGuyChris! Knowledge is power, so ask away!
Now, read on to continue!
Hello! It’s been a while! A long time ago, I may or may not have promised a tutorial on FMOD, and in either case it’s been on my to-do list, so I’m gonna begin the process in striking it off here, right now. Welcome to the first post in my series on the use of FMOD. I was inspired to write this tutorial after meeting some of the FMOD/Firelight Technologies crew in March 2014 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. You may have noticed, if you’ve come across my blog before, that all of my previous writings on game audio engine tutorials were written about Wwise. So why am I climbing aboard the S.S. FMOD now? Well, I’m not really doing that. I’m actually trying to just ride both horses. Why start now? Approximately five years ago, I rather disliked FMOD. The program felt kind of nebulous, it’s usage (which either I misunderstood, or it did not explain) went over my head, and the documentation for the software was notoriously under-developed and sparse. In short, the choice to use Wwise was made for me when I simply could not access the program, and so Wwise was what I stuck with. Fast forward to 2014, the FMOD Designer is now replaced with FMOD Studio and, even more excitingly, it is now absolutely free for indie designers to use in their games. Because of the flexibility that FMOD offers, there can be no excuses anymore. Any and all interactive audio designers should be expected to know FMOD, and Wwise, inside and out. These programs are no longer just for the big boys, and are no longer out of your budget or your reach. I would dare be the person to make the bold claim that you should never again be working on a game that is not using some sort of audio middleware ever again.
What gives me the authority to make such a claim? Because, as the FMOD manual so succinctly describes it: The sound file is not the sound that the game needs. A game designer, and certainly a game audio designer, does not live in the linear world. You only have so much space on your CD/DVD/hard disk for menial footstep samples. We can do so much more, with so much less. Especially in the indie games world, the lines between the sound creator and implementer are blurred and you will make your job so much more rewarding, while also increasing your value as an audio designer when you know and understand how to not only create the sounds your game needs, but how to implement them – something FMOD allows you to do quite easily. It is no longer acceptable to simply be satisfied with delivering folders full of .wav files to programmers and expecting them to put them in the game for you. You are much more than that.
Before we get down to business here, I want to stress one thing. This is not a tutorial on FMOD, per se. There are going to be few step-by-step directions tailored to fit specific scenarios. The scope of these lessons will be in attempting to teach newcomers to FMOD the basic concepts underlying some of the more important functions of the program and many of its common uses. As always, if you have any questions, need help, or want to request a specific tutorial on a subject in greater detail, feel free to email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto(dot)com, or find me on Twitter and pop me a message @SoundGuyChris! Now, with all that said…read on to continue!
Alright. Here we go. No sense making a big thing of it: This is my top ten albums of 2013. Lots of albums were considered, and though I liked certain albums more than some of the ones presented here, these are the ones that I felt I enjoyed the most, showed the most improvement in bands, or for whatever reason felt deserving to be acknowledged here. Feel free to disagree.
10. Kvelertak – Meir [Roadrunner Records]
I first saw Kvelertak live, opening for Converge, and they gripped me with their solid stage performance and for how much fun they really seemed to be having. But after that, I kind of forgot about them for a while. It’s not that I didn’t like them, they just didn’t stick around much in my head long enough to revisit them on an album setting, on my own time. Then the band kind of exploded in popularity when I wasn’t looking and the video for Bruane Brenn came out and I was hooked. It’s really kind of low-hanging fruit to hate on the “black-and-roll” bands out there, and I know it’s not super-heavy metal, it’s not super-thrashy, it’s not super-technical or even super-memorable in the long run, but it’s got great vibes, fun leads, great songs, and plenty of sing-along chorus-y goodness (if you can understand and sing Norwegian). It’s got a lot of things that it lacks in, but it makes up for it in one category that placed it on this list: It’s a FUN album. For Fans Of: Mastodon, Baroness, Red Fang
Standout tracks: Bruane Brenn, Kvelertak, Månelyst
9. Expire – Pendulum Swings [Bridge Nine Records]
When I first discovered Expire, a few weeks after this LP dropped, it was in constant rotation for weeks. Some metal purists would make the argument that hardcore isn’t metal, but I’m not one of those people, and I fully embrace the hardcore scene for being every bit as violent, heavy, and full of heart as any mosh pit ever was, sometimes even more so. This album rules, and it relies on its generous portions of heavy riffs, great amounts of tact, and spitfire lyrics to prove that point. My only real complaint with the album is that a few of the tracks sound a bit same-y, but it’s nothing incredibly difficult to bear. Sometimes, more of the same is perfectly acceptable. Get ready for the gang vocals. For Fans Of: Backtrack, Take Offense, Trapped Under Ice
Standout tracks: Just Fine, Abyss, Pendulum Swings
8. Protest The Hero – Volition [Razor & Tie Records]
There’s a lot of people who just don’t “get” Protest The Hero. For a very long time, I was one of them. I didn’t like the vocalist, I didn’t care for the over-the-top-ness of it all, I didn’t get the endless soloing. But then I saw the video for Clarity and I was instantly interested in the album that was garnering SO much buzz. When I finally got around to checking it out, I didn’t have to question my allegiance to this band. Whatever they’ve changed since the last time I heard them, I’m incredibly happy that they did. They just sound better. It’s concise, but with lots of room for play. Clean, without being sterile. I don’t have much to say about this album because of the fact that I have so little to compare it to, but suffice to say that it’s GOOD. It’s memorable. It’s melodic. It kicks off on high gear, and stays there for, pretty much, the duration of the course. A slew of great guest work spots (thirteen guests over eleven songs!) and drums by Chris Adler of Lamb of God (which incidentally, puts his work in his own band to shame by a certain stretch) really bring this album over the top. For Fans Of: The Safety Fire, Coheed & Cambria, Between The Buried and Me
Standout tracks: Clarity, A Life Embossed, Drumhead Trial
7. Carcass – Surgical Steel [Nuclear Blast]
Carcass. No seriously. Carcass is on this list. It’s 2013 and we’ve got a new Carcass album. Swansong was released in 1996. It’s 2013. Do you feel old? I was in kindergarten when the last Carcass album dropped. Before this year, I had no business calling myself a fan of the band because any shows were reunion shows and the music was nostalgia for times I wasn’t musically conscious for. To reiterate: I WAS EATING DIRT ON THE PLAYGROUND AND ORDERING HAPPY MEALS WHEN THE LAST CARCASS ALBUM DROPPED AND NOW THERE’S A NEW ONE. You know what else came out in ’96? Space Jam. Let that sink in for a second. Surgical Steel is awesome. It’s seriously awesome. Reunion albums usually suck. This one…Well, not so much. Great leads aplenty, epic riffs on par with the some of the finer moments of eras past. It feels a little long, maybe even a bit nostalgic (and some tracks, like the opener I could probably do without), but the tracks that NAIL it are there, and in full force, with plenty of that undersold humor a la Keep On Rotting In The Free World. It’s not QUITE as good as Heartwork, but after 20 years, Heartwork is now a staple album in any metalheads collection, and so, this is a respectable attempt in my book. I would bet that if it was released in ’98, it could potentially rival Heartwork as their career-defining album. For Fans Of: Death, Grave, Suffocation
Standout tracks: Unfit For Human Consumption, The Master Butcher’s Apron, Mount of Execution
6. Gorguts – Colored Sands [Season of Mist]
Gorguts might just be the band with the MOST hype behind them this year. This album is as monstrous as you would expect if you were familiar with any of their previous works. It’s filled with heavy, crushing, technical riffs, and the occasional smattering of orchestral string goodness. I’m really fond of where Colored Sands has taken the Gorguts formula, and while I kind of think it’s a little TOO similar to what is arguably their magnum opus, Obscura, but it’s not at all a bad thing. The drums are absolutely massive, and the guitars make sure that every single riff slams you by throat, but the real commendation goes to bassist Colin Marston, with one of the sickest tones I’ve heard in model metal, providing excellent counter-point and proving that music theory is not just for over-zealous guitarists. It’s at once incredibly visceral, accessible, and grooves like no other. The production and songwriting is top notch, and you could listen to it ten times and still find something new to like in each listen. Anyone calling this a reunion lineup as if it were inferior is out of their minds. It’s brutal. It’s elegant. It’s melodic. It’s dense. It’s HEAVY. Give it a listen. For Fans Of: Ulcerate, Atheist, Negativa
Standout Tracks: The Battle of Chamdo, Colored Sands, An Ocean of Wisdom
5. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us is the Killer [Party Smasher Inc., Sumerian Records]
The Dillinger Escape Plan is one of my favorite bands ever. Filled with visceral riffs and sheer chaos on the stage, they write some of the best music on the strange side of Faith No More. As they step further and further away from the sheer abrasions of Calculating Infinity, they only prove that they’re refining their craft, not changing it. There’s a lot going on in here, for as stripped back as some of the production elements have become, as opposed to the bombastic horns found in some of the other albums (granted, there’s still weirdness and experimentation here, but it’s not quite so up-front-and-center as say, in Ire Works). In fact, if there’s only one constant in the frantic insanity that is Dillinger; it’s that they’re not afraid to experiment. Greg’s voice is front and center, and there seems to be a lot less time for noodling around like in some other records, but the real commendation goes to Billy Rymer and his incredible drumming performance the entire way through. The guy’s got chops, and though he’s restrained at times, he comes through in full force with every single one of those laser-precise beats. For Fans Of: Every Time I Die, Converge, Protest The Hero
Standout tracks: Prancer, One of Us is the Killer, Hero of the Soviet Union
4. The Ocean – Pelagial [Metal Blade]
It’s really easy to forget that this album was released way back in April of this year. It’s somehow quite improbable to me that a band called The Ocean, who are famed for their conceptual albums ranging from critiques on the Human Condition, to religion, to the genesis of the earth itself, has never written thematically at length about the ocean itself. Well, fear not, The Ocean finally did it, and the result was released in a really slick, limited edition package with stacking vinyl plates representing the different depth zones of the ocean, and a great art book to go along with it. The album is an impressive fifty-three-minute long journey, literally, down into the ocean starting from the surface and down through the Epipelagic, Mesopelagic, Bathypelagic, Abyssopelagic, and Hadalpelagic zones. As the pressure rises and the depth increases, the music becomes more and more dense, darker, and begins to chug more slowly. The entire atmosphere shifts away from the beautiful melodies at the beginning of the album toward the more haunting, atmospheric, chugging-along of the latter half. My only real complaint with the album is something that the band itself addressed: The lyrics. They don’t really seem to fit with the theme of the ocean-inspired music (and really, what would the lyrics be about when keeping with the theme? Miles of open water, punctuated by the occasional fish?), and for that reason I greatly prefer the instrumental version – which the band has openly made available. It’s an incredibly solid record from front to back, filled with an astonishing variety, despite its incredibly precise theme. For Fans Of: Cult of Luna, Between The Buried and Me, East of the Wall
Standout tracks: Bathypelagic II: The Wish In Dreams, Mesopelagic: Into The Uncanny, Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe
3. Nails – Abandon All Life [Southern Lord Recordings]
Remember what I said about hardcore, and how I said that only twats will discriminate against an entire genre? Well, if you’re one of those twats, you’ve missed Nails. And my friends, this is NAILS. If you missed out on Unsilent Death in 2010, then you absolutely need to GET. WITH. THIS. PROGRAM. Nails manages to straddle the line between Grindcore, Hardcore, pure, unadulterated death metal and whatever variety of the –core genres that effectively describes two middle fingers aimed directly into your eye balls, hissing and sputtering and calling you names. It clocks in at about 17 minutes, so it feels more like an EP sometimes, and it manages to stuff ten songs into the time frame. Of note, this is the second album on this list thus far to be produced by Kurt Ballou of Converge (the other being Mier by Kvelertak), and the production really reminds me of some of the heavier bits of Converge, which is hardly a bad thing. Suum Cuique is the albums/bands longest song at a whopping five and a half minutes (an entire third of the album, pretty much), and Wide Open Wound is another 3:30-ish…so the remaining 8 songs split the last 7-ish minutes. In other words, this is one WILD and angry ride from the very first note to the last. Everything about this thing bleeds red: the tightly compressed and confined production, the battering ram guitars, and the absolute disregard for anything but a sonic beatdown. The whole package just makes you want to smash the nearest skull in half. And you will. I promise you. For Fans Of: Turnstile, Rotting Out, Weekend Nachos
Standout Tracks: Tyrant, Suum Cuique, Abandon All Life
2. Cult of Luna – Vertikal [Indie Recordings]
Vertikal opens with “The One” – it sets the stage for the album to come – a large monolith, if I had to give it a physical description. According to hearsay (and Wikipedia!), the band apparently noted that their last two albums (Eternal Kingdom, and one of my favorite albums of all time, Somewhere Along the Highway) had a very organic, rural concept to them. So, with Vertikal, they chose to aim for a more urban theme, based loosely on the 1927 film Metropolis, and the themes come through in every aspect. In fact, with that in mind, everything makes sense: the fittingly vertical album art which reminds me of a dense, urban skyline, the stacked and double, triple, quad-tracked layers of music which every once in a while opens up as if looking up to the sky between rows of buildings in some futuristic, downtown city, complete with Klas Rydberg’s vocals literally echoing down the city blocks. There’s a notable increase in the amount of synths and the soundscapes are as vivid as they ever were, and they appreciably feel much less organic than the synths and soundscapes on, say, Somewhere Along the Highway, most notably in the 19 minute epic Vicarious Redemption. The production is a complete marvel: It’s not often a band with seven members can have every instrument blaring at full force and you can distinctly pick apart all of them, even though the densely-layered guitars. If you’re already familiar with the work of Cult of Luna, you won’t find an incredible amount of exploration and “newness” to it all, on the other hand, if you’re already familiar with Cult of Luna, you’ll understand why this isn’t a problem at all. For Fans Of: Pelican, Neurosis, The Ocean
Standout Tracks: I, The Weapon, Synchronicity, Vicarious Redemption
1. Deafheaven – Sunbather [Deathwish Records]
If you know me, you already knew this was coming. Sunbather surprised me as much as anyone. There is a world of art out there, and everything has a story to tell you. But in the world of art, there is this one, exceptionally small circle of works that, instead of allowing you to come with your preconceived notions, asks you to simply be absorbed and to follow its lead. You’re not obligated. You’re welcome to leave at any time. But you don’t. Sunbather is one of those works. Musically, this is far from one of my favorite albums, but the production is just too stellar. It’s certainly got the expected black metal feel during its dense passages, and the more “open” sections certainly have a lot of room to breathe when the guitars finally thin out, but as a whole the composition all feels like it serves only the purpose of creating textures and soundscapes, rather than serving any one individual song. It goes deftly from one track to the next – long songs punctuated with and alternated by shorter segues. It’s a veritable production primer wrapped in one package: One minute the guitars are hammering away at you, and the next they’re soft acoustics, one song the drums are in your face and the next they’re miked from miles away. Something I really love about many of the lead lines like those in the title track, Sunbather, is that they are often somehow transparent: You hear them, you feel them, but you won’t remember them outright. You remember the emotion of Clarke wailing during the finale of Dream House, or the contrast between the recordings of a street-corner preacher talking about hell, and the very real personal hell of Kerry McCoy’s opiate addiction, put on public display in Windows, are just two moments that leave lasting impressions. I just can’t find much fault in the album. Sure, it’s quickly become easy to hate because it’s too hipster for black metal fans and too black metal for the shoegazing hipsters, but while the internet metal nerds were waging wars over this album, it was still spinning endlessly in my car stereo. In fact, the ONLY negative thing I can say about this album is that it will forever overshadow their previous album Roads to Judah, which is a great album in its own right. It’s also pretty cool that Deathwish Records has put out my favorite record two years in a row (Last year being Converge’s All We Love We Leave Behind). There were a LOT of albums that came out this year, and for me, Sunbather is my 2013 Album of the Year. I invite you to listen to it below. For Fans Of: Liturgy, Alcest, Loma Prieta
Hey there folks.
I’ve decided it would probably be a great idea to start doing more hands-on stuff with both Wwise and Unity. So, I’m going to start by showing you how to integrate the incredibly powerful Wwise middleware engine into Unity. I first got my hands on Wwise three years ago, and boy, was that program a nightmare at first. I didn’t understand how you could use sliders and graphs made of arbitrary parameters to “code” sound and then make them somehow fit into a game. I mean, the concept was there, but trying to practice Wwise in the capacity of designing sound – before I even knew how to use Unity, let alone integrate the two tools together, no less – was an incredibly huge challenge that took much longer than it rightfully should have. Keep in mind, back then, the Unity Integration Tool wasn’t immediately accessible the way it is today; you had to actually ask for it from AudioKinetic, and the documentation was not as good as it is now, either. As of the past few versions of Wwise, that particular barrier of entry has effectively been eliminated. It’s now easier than ever to implement high-quality, nuanced audio into your games using Wwise and only a handful of necessary commands.
So today, we’re going to set aside using both programs, and focus on making them talk to one another. We’ll come back to doing stuff with them another day.