are very small and obviously used on computers, so I always deliver them
on CD-R. With the advent of broadband connections, I occasionally transfer
files over the Internet directly to the people who need them. Usually,
though, its less hassle to simply burn a disc and meet in person
to go over the material. In any event, delivering the material in the
format and sample rate required by the programmer is of paramount importance.
I have found 16-bit/22 kHz, AIFF format to be a safe bet for PC-based
games, but the situation depends on the platform and RAM resources for
sound. For example, the Sony PlayStation 2 console runs at 16/48. At the
projects end, I deliver all the materials in high-resolution format;
if the game gets ported to another platform, the audio elements can be
converted from the masters.
Audio for the Web is still in a state of flux, with many different competing
formats. RealAudio, MP3, QuickTime, Windows Media, and LiquidAudio are
the dominant formats for Web playback, but by the time you read this,
there could be more. If you are delivering audio to a developer, you might
not need to worry about this. For example, if the audio is part of a Flash
or Shockwave presentation, you can deliver stereo WAV files at full resolution,
and the application will compress the data for you. However, listen to
the results before the audio gets posted. Alternatively, you can get the
appropriate software tool to convert your high-res files into a compressed
format. Dont be afraid to tweak settings and compression rates until
you get the smallest file that still sounds good.
When all the hard work of the sound designers, dialog editors, and composers
is done, one task remains. This is the moment that strikes fear into the
hearts of all involved, a process that can turn perfectly nice, sane audio
professionals into bloodthirsty maniacs. This is The Mix. Actually, the
mix can be the greatest source of satisfaction on a project. In the mix,
you can hear, under the best listening circumstances, all the elementsmusic
and sound, foreground and backgroundcoalesce into a beautiful partner
to the picture.
The mix can also be a session fraught with frustration, difficulty, and
disappointment. Problems can crop up in a mix when there is too much to
do within the time allotted, when sound elements are inadequate, and when
people disagree about the decisions being made. Nearly all this can be
chalked up to miscommunication or lack of preparation. How can you make
sure that you have done everything possible to contribute to a smooth
You never know ahead of time exactly how a mix will sound. But you can
rely on experience and guesswork to imagine which elements will be where
and use this information to create your tracks accordingly. Scanning the
scene for likely dialog and music moments helps you to leave more space
in your work for a cooperative mix.
For example, say youre working on a close-up of two soldiers conversing
on the front lines while grenades and bombs are going off in the background.
Without hearing the dialog, you know it will be the most important sound
in the scene, and mixing explosions behind the conversation will greatly
impair the intelligibility of the words. That type of foresight lets you
select explosion sounds that fit the context; you want low-end sounds
without frequencies in the range of speech that are somewhat dull and
that are generally low-key.
Marco DAmbrosio, a film composer in the San Francisco Bay Area,
makes sure never to reach a high point in his music during an explosion.
Instead, he leaves room for the sound designer to put in a big boom, and
he puts the musical climax afterward. Planning and imagination make the
difference between sound components that complement, rather than compete
with, one another.
Magazine, March, 2001
© 2001, Intertec Publishing, A Primedia Company All Rights Reserved.