Evaluation of my final piece.
What was the purpose of the project? What did you hope to learn?
The purpose of this project was to explore the correlation between audio and visuals in order to evoke an emotional response from the player and from that I was hoping to develop my understanding of how audio effects a player’s perception of imagery.
What was the theme for the project?
The themes for our project are the fact it is based in a feudal-Japan style realm, created and controlled by a Japanese demon (yokai). This means we would focus heavily on the aesthetic of this style (Environment style). Also the main character is suffering from memory loss, and part of the game idea would be the main character regaining his memories, and then the character escapes in order to look after and return to his little sister (Identity, Family). The games mechanic is based around the demon beto-beto san forcing the player to flip a coin in game, deciding whether the next in-game day would be peaceful and bright, or dark and creepy. The player is reminded to flip a coin by the hourglass tattoo on their arm, however even if they don’t look at the tattoo, a dragon roar shall remind them to, however if they decide not to flip the coin, then the game will automatically switch to night mode. This is to generate a sense of anticipation in the player and the character, creating fear of the night time mode, the way we have justified this mechanic is that beto-beto san feeds on fear, until the character goes insane or runs out of lantern fuel in game, then beto-beto san can attack in night mode. There will be randomly generated lantern fuel containers, and once the player has used all the lantern fuel up, he will go crazy with fear, meaning the demon has no more use for him, and will kill the player (fear, difficulty, dread).
How have you developed your ideas?
Well to get to our final idea we went from wanting to create an entire 3D environment set around feudal Japan to focus on what we both really wanted to do but we decided to keep to the themes of our previous idea and even developed on it as we changed the idea of a hack and slash to a horror adventure game which would play around the ideas of fear and how the atmosphere can effect the player.
How much reference material did you find (primary and secondary research)? Do you think you could have done more? If so, explain what you think you could have done.
I found a good healthy amount of research/reference material but most of it was secondary and I could have probably done more primary research; a big issue I had with that though was to do a lot of that primary research I needed time and money, and although there are places in England that are based on Japan, to get the real feel of those areas I would have needed to go to Japan, either way I should have done more primary research and will keep that in mind in the future. I could have gone to the Japanese gardens in London and tried to record some sounds there or at least get a feel for what I’d need, a problem with that though is it may sound more like a city, especially with the background noise that would be there.
Which developers, art movements, designers, media companies/campaigns and industry examples have you looked at to assist and inspire you? Why?
I was thinking about ways to be able to record wind and control it without having too much noise pollution or if I recorded it outside I might not have gotten what I was after as it could have been to harsh or not harsh enough; and so I was told about Ben Burtt who discovered when dragging a bag along a carpet that it sounds an awful lot like wind and it was fairly easy to control which helped me a lot as I ended up doing the same.
I also looked at games such as Tengami and Fatal Frame as they are both set around Japanese culture and there is a big contrast between them which was great for me as my pieces would contrast between peaceful and horror ambiance.
Tengami was very peaceful, it was a puzzle game for relaxing and I even did primary research and played it for myself to get a feel for the sounds and it even assisted me when it came to looking for a temple bell sound as I remembered back to it and what sort of bell sound it had.
I listened to multiple pieces from Fatal Frame and I was even inspired my work a bit with how it’s ambience alone created a horror atmosphere which was primarily what I planning to do, it also helped when thinking about what noises can be put into the ambience to really build up fear in a player, but although I was inspired to put a sound within the horror piece that was much more direct I did not include eventually due to difficulties recording it.
I also looked at Ric Viers’ book “The Sound Effects Bible” and it actually assisted me greatly not just for my FMP but for my future as I learned a lot about recording sounds, I was mainly focusing on sounds I would most likely use in my FMP at the time but I know there is much more to learn from it. From this book I learned about recording certain things such as ambience, rain, monsters and footsteps.
Explain how your production board presentation went. What feedback did you receive and how did this help you focus your production?
It went quite well, we were prepared for most questions and also got a lot of healthy feedback. I was told to research more into sound designers and I didn’t quite do that, I looked into Ben Burtt which assisted me but other than I could have done much more research into sound designers. I was told that I should probably try experimenting with pieces online and putting audio to them which I did not do in the end due illness and when I was thinking about it more, it sounded like another project in itself and I didn’t want to stretch myself too thin and get too stressed other it as that would have then impacted my final piece. I was told to try be as creative as I can and not be generic which is surprisingly hard to do as there are so many industry clichés and is definitely something that I’ll have to improve on as my final piece wasn’t too creative, but some of the methods I used were.
How did your work change through the project?
I ended up going against my proposal a bit as I separated the coin flip and the tattoo into 2 different tracks which to be honest is something that I should have thought of doing in the first place.
I removed the footsteps sound from the horror ambience piece as I had trouble recording it and I know I could have done better in trying to create or get the specific sound I was after but I was against the clock a bit and so I focused on making sure my other sounds were as good as I could get them with my skills.
I also made the design decision to remove the sound of rain from the peaceful ambience track as I believed that it would make the atmosphere change more impactful and much noticeable sound-wise.
Which technical skills, methods and techniques did you use?
When it came to research I was aware of how to use a computer and google as well as how to use the website ‘http://www.harvardgenerator.com/’ when it came to referencing any sounds and research I used/did.
I knew how to record and use the microphone I had, I also used the camera on my phone to record some sounds where I would then split the video from the audio and delete it.
I used the Blue Microphone’s Snowball iCE USB Microphone
I used Audition CS6 and Audition CC 2015 and some of the effects I can use within it such as the reverb tool to make the audio sound more surrounding, I could use the pitch adjuster tool to make sounds higher or lower for instance in my dragon roar lowering the pitch was needed to get the sound to where it was, very importantly I could use the noise reduction tool for any background noise that had to be removed from my recordings so that only the sounds I wanted to be heard could be heard during my final piece. I could also use the amplification tool to adjust the volumes of the pieces separately but I could also use the volume adjusters in both Audition and Premiere for when I was putting it all together so that sounds would only stand out if I wanted them to and vice versa. I also used the fading tools in Audition to fade each individual track differently and how I wanted which really helped when fading between calm ambience to coin flip to horror ambience.
Above is just an example but I knew what sample rate I should use as well as what bit depth to get a nice clean sound but without making the files too big for uploading and downloading as I used my personal OneDrive to transfer the files from home to school and vice versa. In premiere I also used its preset fading techniques on the images to make the transition much smoother.
Below will be the methods used for recording and editing each sound:
When it came to recording the final one I used I decided to make the noise myself by horsing my throat and trying to roar, I only really got a snarl but it worked. I amplified the sound, I added reverb to make it sound like it’s reverberating out of the dragon’s mouth slightly and I mainly edited the pitch to make it much lower. I recorded it with a pop filter over the microphone.
I went and got sand in a small container and gently poured it out Into a glass which not only allowed me to record it in a more controlled environment but also gave me a slight hint of the sound of it hitting glass as it would in an hourglass.
I went to a small woodland area nearby one morning to get as little noise pollution as possible and when birds would be the liveliest and I recorded 2 different tweets, both of which were separated from all other noises as I waited for ideal times to record them from all other sounds. I didn’t do much editing to these, I only effected the amplification and did any noise reduction that was required to keep them as natural as possible. They were recorded on different days from each other.
I went online to get the base sound due to time limitations to experiment creating it and an inability to go record one in person. I slightly amplified the bell and added a small amount of reverb in order to make the sound reflect off the outside of the bell more and I’m personally pleased with the result of it so I decided to keep it in the track, and it queues well with the Hourglass tattoo track.
I took influence from Ben Burtt who while creating the sounds for Wall-E discovered that wind can be created by dragging a bag along a carpet. I’m glad with the finished recording I got and the edited version, I only reduced background noise from the laptop and lowered the amplification slightly due to how close I recorded it to the mic. I did have the problem of space to record on so by itself the bag being turned around can be heard.
To record the sound I tried things such as tapping a coin on scissors and many other objects to get that metallic sound but I realised that I also have to get the ringing sound of the coin flip as well and decided to try tapping the coin flat faced against the side of a short but wide glass and was very pleased with the result, with a little amplification, editing the pitch so the sound was higher and experimenting with reverb to get closer to the sound I was after it was as good as it was going to get, It’s not the best but for my level of skills I was quite impressed.
Storm – Thunder & Rain:
I was out for a walk so I got my phone and started recording a storm that was just rolling in, not the funnest of experiences but I had to get it before It passed. I amplified it in editing and I also copied one of the thunderclaps and made it much more frequent.
After trying to edit the wind I used in my calm ambience piece more to make it sound eerie I realised that I’m not good enough to do that yet and even with researching into I couldn’t find much that could help me, so due to time running out I decided to download and loop a clip online.
A lot of techniques are also probably listed above but to get a little noise pollution as possible when recording I would record in my room with the door shut and tell my family to try be as quiet as possible or I waited to when they were quiet and the only background noise was the mac which was easy to get rid off using the noise reduction tool.
What were the key areas of development in this project?
Key areas of production would be first recording sounds required and making sure I have everything, although I tackled each thing separately, I would record the tracks for a whole main piece then edit them all. When I had every sound for a piece done I would then put them into multitrack sessions where I could listen to them all together and adjust their volume and adjusting what ear it’s heard in more if it’s a stereo track and if it requires that. I did this process for all 4 main pieces.
I then went into adobe premiere and put the images from my friend and my audio together, once together I would listen to it with it all together and adjust volumes and amplifications in premiere and audition were I thought was necessary. I then added fading to the images, exported the finished product once I was happy with it and uploaded it to YouTube.
What experiments and exploration did you do? How did it affect your project’s development? Were there any significant changes?
During my dragon roar I experimented using my voice to create the roar and was very pleased with the result. I did a good amount of exploring online to assist me with the dragon roar and coin flip pieces but they did not change my work, they did however affect my project development by helping get sounds I was pleased with much earlier than I would have as I had good examples to compare them to. Any significant changes that occurred during my project are mentioned at the top of my production section.
Is the final product appropriate for the intended platform/purpose?
I would say my audio is appropriate to go on VR other than the dragon roar which is synthetic in sound and from just these examples I see no reason why a more developed version would fit the intended platform. It can be questioned whether it reached its intended purpose as it was meant to more evoke emotional responses from the player using audio and visuals but I think it more affects the meaning of the piece instead but that’s subjective to who listens to it.
Identify the strengths and weaknesses in your final product
The dragon roar and the eerie wind were big weaknesses in the audio of our final product as the dragon roar was noticeably synthetic and eerie wind ended up seeming calmer than the gentle breeze in the calm ambience piece.
In the visuals we think that the clouds and the rain are too blurred and the rain isn’t consistent as some areas are much brighter than the rest, for example at the top of mountain. The visuals could have been more photo-realistic because we feel that somethings just don’t look real enough.
We believe that with it all together it sounded really good even with the noticeable weaknesses.
The audio all flowed smoothly into each different piece and the sounds would stand out but they also felt natural within the ambience pieces, especially the calm piece.
The detail and effort into each concept piece really stood out especially in the middle piece.
The audio and the concept art correlate really well to show the atmosphere and how it changes and it really set the feel of what we were after.
Find a similar product – place it next to your own – what comparisons/difference can you identify?
As a comparison we’re using the Ashen falls concept art and sound teaser as it is the same sort of thing as what we did except that our’s shows atmosphere change whereas Ashen falls does not.
We feel that Ashen Falls is much more photo-realistic than the artwork we had but then again they probably had more time and they were probably a professional concept artist.
Ashen Falls uses much more direct noises than us to convey its horror which is something I could definitely learn from and it also uses music to help immerse the player whereas we did not.
Ashen Falls is much more blatant about its horror where we used a more misdirected source of horror where we try to build on fear alone using darkness and audio, Ashen Falls has more direct threats that can be seen.
Review your proposal – what changed, what developments did you make, did you manage to complete everything you set out to?
The time of the ambience pieces were lowered from a minute minimum to 45 seconds+ which I believe didn’t really impact my work at all.
I differed to my proposal a bit as I did the research into calm and horror ambience a week early, I didn’t experiment with audio to online concept pieces, I explained why not earlier in this evaluation. Neither did I do research into how to use audition but rather learned how to use it as I went along.
I developed my bibliography as well and used more references than are in the proposal.
Are you happy with your final piece? Are there any elements you like in particular?
I am very pleased with my final project as I thought that despite my not so large amount of experience with sound engineering and Foley that I have and I’m really proud of how the coin flip sound came out, I’m aware it’s not the best but I impressed myself with it. I also thought that the calm ambience piece came out really well and I actually found it kind of relaxing which is what I was after, I wanted to disturb relaxing peace using audio and I believe that I did.
Is there anything you would change? Why?
I would gladly improve my dragon roar so it’s not synthetic and my horror ambience piece so I could make it feel more like genuine horror instead of just stormy ambience because It would have fit our purpose much better that way. I would like to improve the overall quality of the sounds purely because I feel like it could be better.
Has your experience during this project changed your career goals?
No this project has not changed my career goal of becoming an audio engineer, although I’m aware I have a LOT to learn my experience and enjoyment of doing this project have not changed them at all.
Lost At Sea. (2015). Ashen Falls – Concept Art & Sound Teaser. [Online Video]. 9 June 2015. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24DVApbWq2c. [Accessed: 17 June 2016].