The Value Of A Sound Design Team

  • May 9, 2015
  • By Somatone Interactive

Creating soundscapes, not just sound to enhance player experience

While working on a farm-themed game recently, the client told me that they had found a bird sound effect for sale on a website that they thought was similar to a bird sound we had given them. He asked, should they consider just buying their sounds one by one from an online source?

For a simple game with very minimal sound needs, the answer might be yes. If you just need a single bird sound, or the sound of a door closing, you might find what you need from an online library. The majority of the time, however, you will not be able to come up with an overall quality audio experience just by sourcing some raw sound effects. Even in the case of something as simple as a door closing, the timing of the animation, the material of the door, and the space that the door is in need to be considered in order to make an appropriate sound for it.

The farm game is a good example. There were a few simple sounds needed, like the bird, a cow moo, and so on, but almost everything else required hours of work from one of our designers. One short little animation for a power up was a barn quickly shaking, expanding, and then the doors blowing open in a cartoony way. The animation only lasted about three seconds, but in order to create the proper effect, ten separate audio files had to be recorded or sourced from our library. It needed a couple of wood-creaking sounds for the barn expanding, a synthesized sound of a rising pitch for the barn getting bigger, an old fashioned camera flash kind of poof sound for the barn doors blowing open, a wood hit for when the doors bang into the barn, sounds of air whooshing out, some chickens clucking, and a few more. Then, a designer has to put these together in a way that sounds natural and convincing. The end result is a sound effect that matches a unique animation exactly, something not possible when sourcing sound effects from a library without a design team. Buying each of these sounds individually and having someone that’s not an audio designer put them together would not only get a lower quality result, it would also actually cost more. Below is a video example of the sound design that was just described.

This just scrapes the surface of what the audio team does as an integral creative partner. Experienced sound designers approach a project from a holistic perspective: they’re not creating isolated sounds, they are creating soundscapes — an overall integrated sonic experience that includes the creation of SFX, music, voice-over and then finally, the careful mixing all of the elements so that they work together in the game to provide the best experience for the player.