John Broomhall talks with composer & audio director Stephen Baysted about creating sounds for the immersive racing sim
HOW DID YOU JUGGLE YOUR HIGH-LEVEL MUSIC ROLE WITH AUDIO DIRECTION?
The secret is hard work and unerring focus. On Project CARS 1 there were just two audio designers - me and Greg Hill - so I was shoehorning music time in here and there across the development cycle. For PC2, I had a larger team of designers and programmers, initially focusing on sound design, updating middleware and modifying pipelines. I cleared four months to concentrate just on music.
TELL US ABOUT PROGRAMMING AND TECH...
We were fortunate having two extremely talented audio programmers for our final year overseeing integration of new middleware (REV), updating existing tools (FMOD) and coding custom DSP. For engines there are two principal approaches: crossfading loops from steady-state recordings under load or granular playback of acceleration and deceleration ‘ramps’. In PC2 we use both, overcoming the inherent drawbacks in each. Middleware choice has a significant impact and FMOD studio played an important part, enabling us to mix the entire game as well as individual cars ‘live’.
WAS THERE AN OVERALL AUDIO ‘MANIFESTO’?
To create the most immersive, exciting aural experience of driving a simulated racing car. It’s not an arcade racer so our goal: represent car sounds accurately and convincingly but, pragmatically. Players need certain sounds there to actually play the game successfully, sounds they wouldn’t necessarily hear in reality – like tyre scrub and skids – a primary indicator of loss of traction, grip and even onset of an accident. Conceptually, other psycho-acoustical questions present themselves: what do racing drivers actually hear, given a fireproof balaclava, earplugs with radio transponders, and full-face helmet? All have significant impact on both amplitude and frequency range.
HOW DOES MUSIC FIGURE?
Not during gameplay – it would interfere with principal auditory mechanisms necessary for actually playing the game and might shatter immersion. Musical ‘impact’ must happen within the menus - the underlying concept to get inside the racing driver’s mind. These gifted sportspeople who with raw determination, skill, and inner strength, go all-out to win at almost any cost, and capturing a sense of racing at the highest levels of motorsport: adrenaline coursing through veins, extreme physical challenges, psychological and emotional pressures, ever-present danger and conversely the thrill, elation and rewards.
It’s an epic cinematic score but also has reflective, meditative moments. There are also additional layers of real-world non-musical sounds (‘pit to car’ radio, engines, trackside ambiences) to help further immerse you. Several tracks also feature interviews with Ben Collins (the Top Gear Stig, and race engineer voice of Project CARS 1 & 2) speaking candidly about the cut and thrust, plus what made his idol Ayrton Senna unique.
HOW WAS RECORDING AT AIR STUDIOS?
An absolute joy and privilege working with some of the world’s finest musicians at a world-class recording studio. The sessions went remarkably smoothly thanks to good preparation and an amazing team. I’ve worked on several film/game titles with The London Metropolitan Orchestra so director, Andy Brown, knows how I like organising sessions and setups. Orchestrator Simon Whiteside translates my midi mockups to score whilst ace engineer/mixer Jake Jackson ensures recording sessions run like clockwork.
John Broomhall is a game audio specialist creating and directing music, sound and dialogue. Find out more at www.johnbroomhall.co.uk