MPSE Wavelength

Spring 2020

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M OT I O N P I CTU R E S O U N D E D I TO R S I 41 unique experience. "[The Foley is] helping tell a story. We have to provide many different options so, whatever environment we are in, we believe when each unique event happens depending on how the user interacts in the space." The concern for cinematic fidelity from the assets is extremely important both to live up to the franchise expectations and to ground players in the experience. Bolen elaborates, "In the game world, you have to be concerned with optimizing assets, compression, fidelity, memory constraints. In the film world, the expectation is that, at the top level, you're working at a minimum of 24/48 PCM.wav, cutting and designing for a presentation pumping through a theatrical Dolby ATMOS array of full-bandwidth speakers. "At first blush you may believe that creating an engaging VR experience within a franchise such as Star Wars is simple. There are 40 years' worth of assets available to you. "[Yes], we can just sit down with your mix session and take assets directly from the final feature film and import that directly into the audio engine for playback at the same fidelity for the end-user. If we're making an environment from the film that is familiar in sonic fidelity to the feature film, we want to make that as close to the theatrical impression as possible." But this is not simple drag-and- drop storytelling. This process merely provides a starting point that only really provides a baseline of familiarity, quickly. Bolen confesses, "It's nice to make those technical decisions without having to think about all the prep work of pre-mastering assets before data compression, data management, dynamic range compression, etc." But in a nonlinear world, where the player controls the speed of the timeline and the interaction with the environment, you have to achieve a very detailed level of depth to provide both narrative cues and reinforce the player's integration in the VR world. For example, you have to anticipate wild gesticulations from players like me, gob-smacked by just how much fun it is to swat away laser blasts from stormtroopers or enter a lightsaber duel. I readied myself and the blade hummed by my head before I parried the droid's first attack. Caught off guard, it let out a chirp, spun, and attacked again, getting the better of me. "Oh, you're going DOWN, DROID!" I shouted into the empty office. What I needed in that moment was to let go and feel the force flow through me, like a young Skywalker or perhaps like Paul Stoughton. As audio lead and sound designer, Stoughton claims to be able to get through most rounds of the Lightsaber Dojo with his eyes closed because so much attention has been paid to the behaviors, vocalizations, and combat tells of the characters that Paul can recognize the enemy's proximity and when they're about to attack you. In the eyes of the dev team, this is a huge win as it speaks to the cannon of the franchise. Combined with becoming familiar with the rhythms and patterns of your character's own attacks and defensive maneuvers, Vader Immortal allows the player to embody a true Jedi through training. The first three episodes of Vader Immortal are currently available on Oculus Quest, Rift, and Rift S, and will be coming to Playstation VR this summer.

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