It’s just a few more days until the Game Developers Conference kicks off in San Francisco. Like the professionals they are, the website’s nifty shortcuts can direct you to the Audio Track Sessions listed for the event. The Audio Track is comprised of the panels dealing with game music and game audio production.
The Audio Track brings the industry’s top professionals to share their knowledge and experience from the real-world, addressing these unique problems: aesthetic, technical, business, logistical and then some.
The highlighted sessions for 2015 feature panels such as “Soundtracking Hell – The Music of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls” and “Women in Game Audio” (Something that should interest any fans of our “Matron Maestras” articles), amongst others. An entire session schedule can be found of GDC’s website with dates, times and other pertinent details. It’s a pretty expansive list, showcasing just how technical the world of video game music has become.
I’m quite jealous of our own Michael Hoffman, who will be attending the event for OSV. For anyone else making it to the conference who’s a fan of the audio side of gaming, this is something you’ll want to browse through.
GDC 2015 – Audio Track
Creators of a new game documentary have launched a Kickstarter. The project titled Beep is intending to take a look at the history of game music and sound. Everything from the old school sounds of arcade games all the way to the games of today. The focus isn’t just on the music of these games. The documentary will also be an exploration of audio design, voice work, and the use of chiptune and other game sound technology outside of the gaming medium. A book will also accompany the documentary to supply more detailed information about the various subjects covered in the film.
There are already plans for interviews with major members of the game audio community. Raising money through Kickstarter will aid the creators in being able to travel and interview composers and sound designers. Several composers have already been named for interviews including Tommy Tallarico, Winifred Phillips, Shota Nakama, Peter McConnell, and many more.
Rewards for backers include copies of the documentary, book, soundtrack, t-shirts, and many other physical rewards. The Kickstarter has already raised over $15,000 of the needed $40,000 pledge goal. If this sounds like a project you’d like to see made, definitely check this Kickstarter out.
Detune, the company which brought the Korg M01D to the Nintendo 3DS last year, is bringing another synthesizer program to the platform. This latest music program is the Korg DSN-12.
What on earth is the Korg DSN-12? Well, it’s a synthesizer program that allows you to assemble music patterns to create your own songs. There are twelve analog monophonic synthesizers, sixty four sequence steps for building songs, a series of effects that you can use for the synths, and the ability for users to exchange and share data between systems.
One of the main features is a 3D oscilloscope, which gives you a visual representation of the sounds that you are creating. You can see this used in the demo songs below.
Because this is on the 3DS, users can make use of the touch screen to configure note patterns, sequences, and other attributes. With these tools you can create real time changes in a live performance or simply build a sequence for a static composition. The Korg DSN-12 will be coming to the US and Europe on the Nintendo eShop this fall for the 3DS and 2DS. Be sure to check out Detune’s main site for more information.
Anyone who is a fan of game music is probably familiar with game composer Austin Wintory. He’s written music for games including flOw, Monaco, Journey, and more recently The Banner Saga. The writing and recording of the The Banner Saga soundtrack in particular has sparked a fight between Wintory and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM).
The problem that the AFM has is that Wintory composed music for the game as a non-union job. Despite the fact that Wintory wrote and recorded the music in Texas, a state that has right-to-work laws that would allow even union musicians to do non-union work, the AFM is threatening to fine Wintory up to $50,000, claiming he violated union rules. Wintory and other composers have been unable to write game scores through the union due to the horribly written contract by the AFM for game music projects.
Wintory has gone public, criticizing the union’s contract on twitter and more recently in a Youtube video (seen below). In the video, he details the massive issues with the contract that the union heads created for working with game developers and publishers, as well as their recent action against him. The contract, titled the AFM Video Game/Interactive Media Agreement, was written back in 2012 and has been universally rejected by every game studio and criticized by many composers and musicians. As a result, this has forced any composers or musician looking to do work in games to do so outside of the union.
Because he has spoken out about the mess that the AFM has created for its own members, the union is retaliating by fining him. Wintory feels that the AFM is trying to use him as an example to keep other union members in line and frightened. It doesn’t look like Wintory will be backing down any time soon. In his own words, “I refuse to live in fear, and I especially refuse to live in fear of my own union.”
It’s unfortunate to see that there are so many talented musicians and composers being prevented from doing work in the games industry because of the AFM’s contract. Worse still is that instead of listening to the concerns and criticism from their own union members, the heads of the AFM have chosen to threaten and bully people, like Austin Wintory, who are speaking out. Personally, I think it’s great that Wintory has chosen to speak up about these issues. Hopefully this is a problem that can receive more attention and be resolved. Be sure to check out Wintory’s video and spread the word.
Have you ever wanted a place where you could go and pick from a pool of video game composers to find someone to create your game’s soundtrack? Well, that’s what our friends over at Scarlet Moon Productions decided to make available.
Scarlet Moon Artists is a group of talented game and media composers from around the globe who have come together to offer their services to game developers of any caliber in order to broaden their musical reach. And it’s a fantastic lineup of composers to be sure, spanning decades of experience. The group currently consists of:
Vince DiCola & Kenny Meriedeth (Rocky IV, Saturday Morning RPG, Transformers: The Movie)
Shinji Hosoe (Mega Man Network Transmission, Ridge Racer series, Tekken Tag Tournament 2)
Hiroki Kikuta (Koudelka, Secret of Mana, Soul Calibur V)
Osamu Kubota (Beatmania, Granado Espada)
Justin Lassen (Herbert the Misanthropic Fly, Otomedius Excllent, Synaethesia)
Goomin Nam (Bar Oasis series, Monarch: Heroes of a New Age, TalesWeaver)
Dale North (Dragon Fantasy Book II, OverClocked ReMix contributions, Silent Horror)
Jinbae Park (PangYa Portable, Ragnarok Online, Ridge Racer 7)
Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII, Gradius V, Valkyria Chronicles series)
So if you’re looking for a splash of musical excellence in a game you’re working on, why not check out Scarlet Moon Artists and see what they can do for you!
If you frequently explore YouTube for videogame music covers, chances are that you’ve encountered the videogame rock arrangements by Jules Conroy, aka FamilyJules7X. If you haven’t, then today you are in for a treat. For the past three years Jules has been arranging and performing music from videogames and uploading videos of these arrangements to his YouTube channel. He’s covered games including Donkey Kong, Pokemon, Binding of Isaac, Final Fantasy, and Elder Scrolls to name just a few.
This year, to celebrate the three year anniversary of his videogame cover projects, Jules put together a seventeen minute long medley of game music. As the title suggests, “Replay: A Metal Tribute to the History of Video Games” is a guitar cover tribute to videogame music and covers the medium’s more than thirty year history. The medley starts off at the year 1972 with the original Pong, works it’s way through classic Nintendo and Sega games, and proceeds to go through every year up to 2014.
As if the size and scope of this medley alone wasn’t impressive enough, Jules completed this project, start to finish, in just eight days and during the same week as his college finals. According to his video description, he only had four days to record the guitars, one day to do the arranging, one day for the drums, one day to mix and master the music, and only one day to edit all of the video footage. He set it up as a challenge for himself and the results are quite amazing. It’s an impressive feat to get all of that done in such a limited time frame. If you’ve never seen or heard his arrangements before, definitely give the FamilyJules7X channel a look. Metal fans and videogame enthusiasts will not be disappointed.
The Video Game Orchestra (or VGO, for short) has been putting on stellar shows in either rock band or full symphonic orchestra formats for many years now. They’ve played many venues within Boston and have also traveled across the US to bring their unique musical stylings to other conventions, concerts, and events.
The group, led by Shota Nakama, has expanded its scope in the last year. Alongside the task of mixing down their first album (Live at Symphony Hall … review coming soon!), the VGO has also participated in the performance, recording, and mixing of some great game soundtracks. Most recently, and perhaps most notably, was their work on Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. They’ve also worked on God Eater 2, Ace Combat 3D: Cross Rumble, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. They’ve also done strings work for IMERUAT’s second album, Propelled Life.
To let the world know that Boston’s premier orchestra now has studio capabilities, they’ve launched SoundtRec. What is SoundtRec? To quote directly from the site:
SoundtRec Boston Offer:
- ANY INSTRUMENTATION & ANY GENRE
We will coordinate from vocalists, string quartet to full orchestra, choir, rhythm section to big band in various styles of music – Any instrumentation and any genre that meets your projects’ demand.
- REMOTE RECORDING
No time to fly over to Boston? It is not a problem because we offer remote recording! You can be at any place with internet, even at your comfortable home studio to monitor the sessions and give us feedback.
- COMPLETE BUYOUT & AFFORDABLE RATE
We offer an affordable rate and complete buyout. Please contact us for the details!
- PROVIDING EXTRA SUPPORT
Not only musicians, but we do also have world-class arrangers, orchestrators, copyists, lyricist and engineers available for you to support your musical creativity!
This is certainly great news for both independent game studios that want high quality audio, as well as traditional studios that are looking for a new venue to record their work.
The site offers examples of SoundtRec’s recordings, including their work on LR:FFXIII and the Live at Symphony Hall album that was published just last week. Be sure to check it out!
Here on OSV we focus primarily on the music of videogames. However, we do occasionally review music software, as these programs are a vital aspect of music writing and creation. While there are some game composers that are lucky enough to work with live musicians and orchestras, many still rely on sound libraries and samples to produce our favorite game music.
Today, we are looking at the Impact Soundworks library Celestia: Heavenly Sound Design. The library was created by Andrew Aversa, Jordan Aguirre, and others at Impact Soundworks. Many videogame music remix fans may be more familiar with Aversa and Aguirre by their artist names, Zircon and bLiNd respectively. This latest library is advertised as a collection of atmospheric and ambient hybrid synth sounds. The focus is more on the softer and ethereal synthesizer instruments, rather than heavy hitting and dramatic instruments. With all that said, let’s take a look at this latest product. (more…)
If you happen to be one of the lucky people able to swipe a badge for PAX East next month in Boston, you probably know it’s a big deal to spend your time wisely at such a huge event. Why not take in a panel dedicated to music composers and their craft?
“Maestros of Video Games” panel will feature a bunch of notable game composers from across several well known titles and genres such as Garry Schyman (Bioshock Infitnite, Dante’s Inferno, Destroy All Humans), Cris Valesco (Mass Effect 3, Borderlands, God of War series), Peter McConnell (Broken Age, Psychonauts, Sly Cooper series) and several more and they share their experiences in the industry and their works on some of the biggest franchises in gaming.
The panel will be on Saturday, April 12th at 12:30pm in the Condor Theatre. Be sure to check it out!
At this year’s D.I.C.E. Summit, composer Austin Wintory gave a talk titled “Music’s Rising Tides”. In his presentation, Wintory discusses the emergence of technology that has allowed for the democratization of music writing and distribution. He strikes a very optimistic tone about the ability of creators to put their work out onto the internet and have it recognized. Among examples, he cites his own positive experience with releasing the soundtrack to Journey and his interactions with people who shared the album on Youtube.
Part of what he is encouraged by is the lowering of financial barriers for writing music. To help illustrate his point, he composes a piece of music on stage, using only a laptop computer and a midi keyboard. Making music that is commercially viable is something that has become accessible to more people in recent years, and Wintory sees this as a positive development for the art.
It’s an excellent talk from an experienced member of the videogame and music world. What do you think of the presentation? Do you agree that the ease of access to music making is a positive thing, or is it causing the market to be over-saturated with too much noise?
TED talks have always been about presenting ideas worth spreading, so I’m glad to see they’ve put Chiptunes on display. TED talks try to gain a deeper discussion in a local field, TEDx is more for local programs, and Dan (Dan Behrens, aka Danimal Cannon) hit it off. As Dan described Chiptunes, he defined it as…
… Any music made using, or emulating the sound of, old video game consoles and their soundchips.
Technically with that definition, the PS4 could also be considered platform for Chiptunes, but it’s the sound that Dan and the others are attracted to, not particularly a beefy console. Dan’s chip of choice being a classic Gameboy, he continued into his list of consoles that other artists use to make Chiptunes. Consoles such as the NES, Genesis, Commodore 64, Atari Amiga, and many others. As Dan described, it’s really about taking minimalist hardware, and pushing it to the maximum potential.
The talk itself features some excellent music past the 4:35 mark. Take a listen.
Dan went further to talk about a trend taking place in music software, one that makes music controls easier to use, but leaves you ignorant to what the controls directly changed to achieve its sound. For instance, if you use a plug-in that has a fader controlling a “Smash” parameter, what is the “Smash” doing exactly? Does it EQ the sound? Is something being filtered? Does it matter? By using plug-ins like that, Dan considered it a failing to learn.
Dan also stated that such software is good for businesses, which is true. Music software that gives the end user the sounds they desire is often the goal developers strive for. However, Dan insisted that Chiptune is not a response to such easy-to-use music software, but rather it evolved by itself into where it currently stands in the community.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you agree that simple and easy to use software actually does make you less curious about how the sound was achieved?
With an interest in chip tune music must come a certain desire to figure out the best reproduction of those chip tune sounds. Having a synthesizer myself, I always thought creating a chip tune piece was as simple as using a square wave coming out of my analog SH-201. Everyone has a different method, but this was my approach. Despite different approaches, there is a tremendous difference in the sounds produced from any sound chip, let alone those in video game consoles and handheld devices.
For instance, the timbre of a C64 square wave sounds way different than an NES square wave. They are both square waves, yet the aesthetics that make up the sound drastically differs for each system. If you were going to create an NES based chip tune, it wouldn’t help to emulate chip sounds from a C64, or in my case, my analog SH-201. How can someone spot the difference? Inverse Phase, Mr. MAGFest, as some call him, often teaches people the differences, so they could be armed with an applicable sound palette before creating their own chip tunes. Today, I’ll go over some of these differences thanks to a lecture by Inverse Phase titled Music from Old Sound Chips.