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March 2017

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AUDIO FOR GAMES 31 POST MARCH 2017 W ant to drive a Lamborghini Centenario LP 770-4? For $1.9 million, you can! Or, for just $60, you can get a simulated experience with Forza Horizon 3 by game developers Playground Games and Turn 10 Studios. They work hard so that their racing games deliver compelling driving expe- riences. Here, Nick Wiswell, audio director at Turn 10, shares some insight with Post on the studio's vehicle recording process and the importance of sound. Also, field recordist Watson Wu shares his approach to recording rides for the popular Planet Coaster game while field recordist Max Lachmann of Pole Position Production talks about WWI fighter plane recording for Battlefield 1. In all of these games, the audio pros agree that sound is half of the experience. FORZA HORIZON 3, FORZA MOTORSPORT 6 Forza, known for emulating the real-world per- formance and handling of a wide variety of cars, has been a racing game staple for Xbox players since the first release of Forza Motorsport in 2005. Every year since 2011, there's been a new Forza title release, alternating between Forza Motorsport developed by Turn 10 Studios, and Forza Horizon developed by Playground Games (in association with Turn 10 Studios). The latest iterations are Forza Motorsport 6 (2015) and Forza Horizon 3 (2016). Audio director Nick Wiswell at Turn 10 Studios in Redmond, WA ( turn10) oversees the sound on both titles. Each title has a two-year development cycle, and features 400 to 600 cars (including all the expansions and downloadable content). That's a lot of car to cover in a short amount of time! Wiswell, who heads a sound team of nine people at Peak Production, says, "I started recording cars 17 years ago. I've recorded quite a few and have learned a lot along the way." Wiswell explains that the approach to recording vehicles is dependent on how the vehicle sound will be assembled in the game. The two main methods of assembly are the looping model, in which pitch shifting is used on a series of crossfading loops to cover the rev range, and granular synthesis, which works with recorded tracks of a vehicle acceler- ating and decelerating. The assembly method will significantly influence how the sounds are recorded in the field. Forza Motorsport 6 uses a looping model. To get great loops, Wiswell says it's best to record a car while it's on a dyno. "We can program the dynos we use. We can say I want this car to be at 7000 RPM, at full-throttle, and hold it for 10 seconds. You can get these perfect, full throttle loops," says Wiswell. Another advantage is that the car is station- ary, so mics can be positioned around it without having to be attached to it. Wiswell says, "There are naysayers who feel you can't build a great sounding car anymore with a looping model. I disagree. Forza Motorsport 6 is a great-sounding game and every car in that uses a looping model." For Forza Horizon 3, the Playground Games team developed a granular synthesis engine that's used in combination with the looping model, since the two games share vehicle sounds. Granular synthesis models use acceleration and deceleration runs. As an alternative to using a dyno, the sound team typi- cally takes a car to a runway, drag strip or racetrack that has a long, straight section. They record the car in second and/or third gear, accelerating from just above idle all the way to the rev limiter, and then decelerating. "We don't usually record in the higher gears just because you can run out of runway really quickly," notes Wiswell. Several recordings of each car are necessary to capture its nuances. And while the total number of sounds captured will depend on the car, Wiswell says, "You'll always need the sound of the exhaust, the engine and the intake system." To mic the engine and the air intake, Wiswell prefers DPA 4061 and 4062 lavalier mics, which are small and easy to position. "For Forza, we've recorded many cars that are really tightly packed — like the Mercedes C63, Lamborghini Gallardo and Lamborghini Aventador. There isn't a lot of room to put a mic," says Wiswell. He has also used DPA 4011 cardio mics, and 4007 omnidirectional mics. "Omnis are good because they seem to handle wind noise better than a more narrow-patterned mic." Wiswell likens a car to a big wind instrument. The engine is like a player's lips. It can increase and decrease the frequency of vibration and the amount of air that goes through the piping. The air intake is a key piece, sonically, because the air being pulled through the system creates a resonant tone. The length, diameter and shape of the piping deter- mines how the car sounds. "Why does a Ferrari sound like a Ferrari? It's because Ferrari has spent years making sure that their exhaust system is built in such a way to bring out that 'Ferrari' character. Many other companies, including Porsche and Lamborghini, do that too. Most of the time, car and engine designers are looking to bring out a specific sonic signature," says Wiswell. To capture those specific characteristics, a vari- ety of microphones are needed. Different mics are better at picking up different frequencies, or are better at coloring the sound in a complementary way. Wiswell works with the game audio team at Warner Bros. Sound, which includes sound ef- fects recordists Bryan O. Watkins and John Fasal. "Warner Bros. handles the vehicle recordings for us," says Wiswell. "John [Fasal], one of the most well- known and revered recording guys in Hollywood, has a great suite of gear that he knows really well. When he hears a car, he knows what types of micro- phones will work best to capture that car's sound. You can have a car like a Bugatti Veyron that is all bass-tone and air; it's super bassy. Then you have a screaming Ferrari. Or a roaring muscle car. Every car sounds different and there isn't one mic out there that will work for every job, for every car." When choosing mics for vehicle recording, Wiswell recommends mics that can handle high sound pressure levels, since race cars at full throt- Forza Horizon 3

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