Post Magazine

March 2010

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G ames lovers, always looking for a more im- mersive experience, appreciate great audio. Even when they don't know it — they've come to expect 5.1 surround and the satisfaction derived from earning access to bigger, deadlier, louder weapons. Remember the audio pro who urges you to "watch Jurassic Park with the sound off " in order to appreciate good sound? Don't play one of today's new videogames in silence — one key thing you'll miss is the voices. Dallas Audio Post Group was founded in 1994 by creative director/super vising sound editor Roy Machado, who positioned the facility as a well- rounded shop offering services in feature film, televi- sion, commercials, corporate and something fairly nichy — voice recording for games. DAPG (www.dal- furnishes all manner of 5.1 audio post and scoring services for game developers but it's the voice production category, often including casting, that has been hot of late. The lead sound designer at DAPG (, Rene Coronado, displays a lot of versatility. Besides his focus on broad- cast and in-game presentations for local heroes the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers and his work as ADR recordist for Fox TV, Warner Brothers and Sony Pictures, Coronado leads the voice recording effor ts on such games as Brothers in Arms, Dragonball Z and the new Borderlands. Unlike posting linear enter tainment, Coronado says, "In a videogame you have to cover all the contin- gencies and you have to read a lot of lines out of con- text because you're never sure what the context is. Borderlands, from Gearbox Software, is a first-person shooter (FPS) that offers a cooperative multiplayer experience involving characters rendered in a blend of CG and hand-drawn/painted styles. The game re- quired "tens of thousands of audio files," all processed in Digidesign Pro Tools, and has about 20 characters running around, Coronado says, needing thousands of files just to cover their various utterances. "In Borderlands, all the bad guys talk to you," Coro- nado says, beyond the usual grunts that come with their attempts to kill you. Given the various scenarios, "you'll catch five or six different phrases per mode of each individual character.The game itself will randomly pick one based on the mode that character's in." Coronado himself voiced one of the bandits in the game but most of the characters are voiced by actors experienced in game production."A lot of what makes Borderlands work is bringing good-quality voice acting into it," Coronado says. "We help with the casting and the direction." He uses Audio-Technica 4050 mics in a proprietary set-up that covers the characters' wide dy- namic range of expression. DAPG conducted their own mic-shootout a while back to determine the best mic for translating between "whispering and yelling." Coronado says, "A lot of the perspective shifts that happen in games happen in software so we tr y to catch everything as on-mic and as true as possible so that when all that post-processing happens inside the programmers' game engine they've got the best signal to work with. We do compress [signals] a little bit, we EQ them a little bit — without crushing them, we kind of fatten them up a little bit. Inside the [develop- ers'] game engine is where all the mixing happens." The big game makers like EA have all their produc- tion facilities, including audio, in-house. Gearbox has its own audio facilities for Foley, mixing and sound design but "will outsource the recording of the voices to people that they trust," Coronado says. "They come to us for the voice production, help with casting, help with directing — to help with the sheer manpower and muscle needed in recording and editing all of these thousands of files. "It's a different mindset and a different workflow — they're asking for different deliverables. It's tough for a videogame production company to build a level of trust with a film audio post house. A lot of film guys Interactive Aud EA Sports FIFA Soccer 2010: Every sound and cheer needs to be authentic or it risks taking the player out of the game.

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