The Banner Saga - Update #29, Sound
Update #29 for The Banner Saga is about the sound and audio in the game as made by Kpow Audio.
When creating ambiences for games (this applies equally to film), I am striving to make them blend into the background, and not mask any important in game sounds. For most ambiences, these are the most important qualities that I am attempting to resolve.
In order to achieve this, I need to firstly focus on the repetition and timing between audio occurrences in the sounds. This means spacing sounds, and adding and removing sound occurrences in my audio sequence. I then work on the frequencies in the sounds, using equalization to mold them into the right sound. Finally, I work on their sound propagation, and the sound of the space in which they are to inhabit. These are the steps necessary to mould sound into something suitable for the space. Just adding reverb is not enough - the sound needs to be purpose built for the space’s reverberation and delay treatment.
The first task I need to do to ensure the ambience retreats into the background is to select the correct sounds. The more particular you are about the sounds you choose, the better results you will get. Don’t settle for an slightly inappropriate sound if you know its going to be a lot of work to massage the audio to make it sound right for the space. Often I will find nice long stereo files that contain approximately the right sounds, but they always need some work to be made to fit the particular space I am attempting to create. Usually they will need to be edited, removing anything that pops out and distracts you from the space and time of the location. I say time because often with an ambience the frequency of occurrence of particular sounds is something that needs to be considered. If there is too much happening, the space feels cluttered and busy. Even if you are depicting a busy location such as an outdoor market, or a busy mall, too frequent a bunch of sounds together and you have a mess. This kind of cacophony can be used as an effect, but in games you don’t have control of the player’s orchestration of the world you are creating. Therefore care must be taken to design the sounds in a pleasing, but apparently random manner. These same sensibilities are used when designing a more molecular, procedural ambience - tuning time between ambient audio events is what makes these spaces feel ‘right’. It is something that I learned after doing this for a long while, less is more often than not, more. Keep most things subtle, and let the occasional sound pop out only if it sounds perfect to do so.
Removing anything that pops out is a balancing act. A space is determined by how the sound and its propagation ‘sits’ in the space. We manipulate this with delays and reverberation. If nothing pops out at all, the reverb doesn’t have the material with which to bloom, and therefore describe the space. So I am not trying to get rid of every descriptive sound, I am trying to ensure every sound is right. It sounds the right distance away for the space I am trying to describe, it sounds at the right level (usually low, but not always), it occurs infrequently or frequently enough to be believable.
Information aboutThe Banner Saga
SP/MP: Single + MP