AUDIO SPECIAL: Noise in the library
Monday, 4th June 2012 at 3:30 pm
Soundrangers argues whether an audio library can allow for true creativity in games
A sound library offered by the likes of Soundrangers provides creatives with an expansive collection of individual effects and ambients, and in an ever diversifying games industry, it’s an increasingly popular option.
But many sound libraries are general purpose entities aimed in equal measure at film and TV, with games only of passing interest to their curators.
Meanwhile, while Soundrangers’ collection is suitable for the likes of cinematic audio, a wealth of its content is aimed specifically at video games development.
“The whole idea of creating our library started because we could not find material that we could use in games development in other standard issue libraries,” explains Soundrangers co-founder and sound designer Barry Dowsett of establishing the library.
“In a gaming environment you usually have ambiences, and the ambiences need to be level for that environment. And there’s a lot of what we call ‘one shot’ sound effects, so maybe if you shotgun blast, you don’t want to hear that one sound over and over again; you want maybe six or seven of them.”
Available to high-volume users in its entirety on a hard drive, or online via the Soundrangers store for those looking to purchase audio files individually, a huge chunk of what the company provides is designed and recorded so as to allow game-applicable looping and editing.
It all sounds very appealing, but don’t pre-recorded sounds, however tailoured for games, only serve to stifle the creativity of the end user, offering them canned content rather than a blank canvas and box of paints?
“There’s two ways sound libraries can work for developers,” Dowsett replies. “There’s a crowd of people who will use pre-made sounds because they don’t have an internal sound department and their budgets aren’t large. But there’s also a crowd of professional game audio sound designers who also use our libraries as source material for whatever projects they’re working on.
“So while we are making all the specifications for our sounds, we do it for the games developers and there’s a substantial amounts of stuff in our in our libraries that can also be used as a base or content for making other sounds.
“For instance, you could take gunshots and thunder claps and explosions, and a sound designer could combine all those together to make their own unique sound. But an indie developer with limited resources can usually quickly find suitable sounds to put in their game.”
Indeed, every element of Soundrangers work, which also includes doing high volumes of custom audio work, is carried out with it in mind that developers may want to create their own custom loops from the material, or play with the audio in other ways.
BIG SOUNDS FOR SMALL PLATFORMS
Soundrangers material is also conformed so as to make the library’s content suitable to every kind of project from social and mobile right through to console triple-A.
“We try and conform stuff like the ambient recording in different ways,” explains Dowsett. “We have social and mobile people with a lot of memory and bandwidth issues they have to deal with, that mean they can’t take on a big chunk of audio without it really wrecking their footprint, because they have to really leave room for art and animations and all that other stuff.
“So we have to offer really small file sizes, so an ambient might be a four or five second loop rather than one that’s much longer for the console crowd. We pay attention to how our sounds will work in both contexts, and that’s really important and specific to games development.”
Clearly, then, sound libraries can offer freedom, flexibility and a foundation for creativity, as Soundrangers are proving. So next time you consider where you might source those extra gunshots, or want an ambient of a trickling stream, consider joining a library. It might be just what your game’s audio needs.
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