When you think of the most talented people in the industry, often they are equally skilled in self promotion. But what about the skilled sound designers that hide in the shadow, only producing noise through a .wav. The humble creators. Bless you.
One of those lab rats is the anonymous bonson.ca. One of the best sound designers I know and have had the opportunity to record (and be recorded by). With an impressive credit list, you have undoubtedly heard his work. That said I’m proud to interview Bonson.ca on his first large sound library release: WINGS!
WINGS is your first large sound library release. I had a chance to listen to it and the first things I noticed is how good the designed elements are. Was any reference material used and what inspired the processing?
Thanks for the compliments Alex. I spent a lot time researching. I watched and analyzed as many movies as I could that contained wings… Jurassic Park, A bugs Life, Harry Potters, LOTR, etc, etc. I tried to cover all angles with as much variations as possible. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to produce a sequence for a film or video game, and not having enough source material!
I began my career in post-production doing TV commercials and after 10 years I made the switch to Video Games (and have been there for the past 10 years). I understand very well the difficulties of working under pressure with the high expectations of clients. I wanted to create a good enough sound library that you could just grab a sound and use it in your production. Or if time permits use the Source category to build and customize your our wings. By no means did I invent this structure, there are great sound libraries that apply this concept. I honestly think that it was the proper way to release WINGS. More work for us, but worth it!
How many recording session did it take to collect all of the source material? Did you record in different locations? How many people were involved?
We had one giant day of foley recording. There were four of us working in one of the best foley studios here in Montreal. There was one engineer, one foley artist, one foley assistant and myself coordinating it all. Before we start recording I send reference material to all the people involved. I let them know what i’m looking for and what to avoid. Organized in an Excel documents with descriptions, video references, etc, etc. They do their research and come back with new ideas, sound props and whatever we could use to generate a wide range of interesting sounds. It was a very collaborative effort.
We ended up with a ridiculous amount of objects to record. From real feathers to umbrellas, leather jackets, mini electric fan, huge heavy blankets. In some cases we needed three people just to grab the blankets and another one to create the movements! Apart from the foley session I’ve been recording material for over a year, around the time I started envisioning the project. I ended up with a huge 32GB session that needed to be edited. The final collection has 4.31 GB for the 192 kHz version. This is the “crème de la crème” of the recorded material.
WINGS is an original concept and finding good source material has always been a challenge. On The Secret World I remember having to record all of my own sounds because pre-existing libraries didn’t have the amount of variation needed for games. What was your inspiration?
My inspiration came from my own experience of not having a single Wings library available. This resulted in having a lack of good sounds to do my 9-5 job (I’m a full time senior sound designer for video games). Also talking with friends, colleagues and hearing their own experiences just like you. Here are some of the props we used.
What type of equipment was used? Can you share any good discoveries or tips?
We use Pro Tools HD and record at 192 kHz, 24 Bits using Neumann TLM 170, DPA 4006, and some of my personal microphones like : Sennheiser MKH 8040, MKH 30, MKH 416 into my Sound Devices 702T. When I was planning the foley session, I didn’t want to overkill with microphone options, but rather focus on a good fat clean sound. As opposed to having several microphones with different perspectives.
For this reason when we recorded the props, all microphones were tested. We changed perspectives, patterns, positions until we found the specific sound we’re looking for. In many cases it was simply one or two microphones. Using different perspectives is great for other types of sources, but for WINGS I wanted to keep it simple and efficient. We then record a single prop using that layout. Once we move on to another prop, we listen if that configuration still works. Or back to the drawing board until we find what we want. Once we find the desired sound, that’s when the magic happens.. We start doing single movements, then doubles, arrivals, passbys, hovers, etc, etc. I rediscovered my love for foley, and now more than ever admire the people doing it professionally (the engineers and foley artist). In my opinion Foley is like playing an instrument, you can have 10 foley artists use the same prop and end up with 10 different versions. A good tip: Get the best foley artist and engineer that you can afford, it is worth every penny.
I noticed Bonson.ca has a few other library packs, the HOCKEY360 and FREE libraries. Can you tell us anything about the HOCKEY360 library?
Sure. The Hockey 360 Library is the product of several recordings I did in Montreal, in one of the biggest indoor stadiums. I recorded with binaural microphones, it’s a perfect fit for this kind of ambience. I’m now working with a Binaural Head. I have the head, ears and wind protection. I also have an Acoustics Engineer friend that will help me calibrate it. All that’s left is to put it all together. Compared to Wings it was definitely more relaxed. It involved less people and the subject wasn’t as ambitious. It was great to see how the fans of Montreal love hockey! The amount of energy in the audience was awesome. The Free Library is from my personal recordings, the idea is to have the community know a little more about how Bonson sounds 😉
What’s next from Bonson.ca? Are you open to collaborations with other field recordists and sound designers?
I have a couple of libraries that are in the process of being edited and mastered. I hope to launch them by the end of the year or early 2015.. And yes, I’m open to collaborations! I’m actually collaborating with some close friends on other libraries. If there are people out there with a good subject and have recordings that deserve the time and effort, please contact me 😉 Thanks for the interview Alex !!!
To pick up the library for your project please visit http://www.bonson.ca/product/wings/ . To receive a 15% discount please fill in the details below.
Make sure to visit http://www.asoundeffect.com/ for all of your independent sound library needs. A resource that should not go unnoticed!
Ambience is the blurring of designed emotion and reality, evoked through your subconscious.
The ability to create a parallel reality without questioning the origin or intention is a unique opportunity. As sound designers, we’re sonic architects with the ability to shape whatever emotion we chose. For game audio it is no longer a technical limitation, but a creative leap.
An ambience transition test… the concept is capturing a location without context. In post, conduct the emotion through processed elements and slowly introduce the locations actual sound. The equivalent to fading from black & white to color.
Stereo 24bit / 96KHz
Recorded in Lachine (Google Maps)
The concept of recording and using proper day periods within a video game world has always attracted me. By proper I mean capturing a locations actual 24 hour cycle, as opposed to recreating typical soundscapes in post. It’s a concept that’s not always feasible because a) the time required to record and b) library material not always containing same locations at different times of day.
Roomtone is roomtone no matter what time. You may choose to add occluded traffic if in a city apartment, but generally you can build it in post-production. When it comes to forests, jungles, cities, mountains, etc the time of day influences the tone and believability. Mostly through wild life, insects, wind intensity and distant sounds.
This past weekend I decided to test out this concept. I grabbed some gear and hiked outside a small village near Quebec city called St-Antoine-De-Tilly (about 2h30 drive from Montreal). I recorded in four different locations at four different times of day: 5AM, 11AM, 5PM, 11PM. This allowed to build a small library of forest sounds throughout a 24h cycle. An interesting analogy is the way my voice timber changed throughout the day while slating location and time… similar to the way the environment did!
Now that I have my sounds recorded and edited let’s see how we can put these sounds to use in some game audio! Excerpts below.
Stereo 24bit / 96KHz
Had a chance to record an occluded mechanical grinder throughout our buildings twelve stories. One of the most interesting sounds was in the stairwell, walking up and down each floor was like adjusting the wet / dry mix.
Over 45 minutes of audio was edited using different mics and perspectives. How to turn an awful sound into library 101. Here are some samples of the recording to download.
Mono 24bit / 96KHz
Rode NT4, NTG3
Game Design and Architecture are fundamentally similar. Both strive to balance design and utility with narrative and charm.
I seem to be obsessed with architecture these days and equally inspired by instagrams accessibility to great shot. I must admit though one kind of feeds the other… It all started when designing sounds for the Raid Boss monster on The Secret World.
The concept of what makes something colossal actually feel massive. Visually you think shadows and lighting. A big building will create huge shadows, a long corridor will have a vanishing point. The audio representation of size is usually created with reverb, delays and frequency response. For this monster I found myself using a lot of tricks to fool the ear, using harmonics and attenuating other sounds for clarity. With a battle containing 10 players you’re competing with a lot of sounds! All that to say I started using architecture as inspiration.
Was talking with a workmate earlier about environment sounds and why urban planners don’t spend more time designing our cities soundscapes. Perhaps stricter laws need to be enforced for SPL (sound pressure level) outdoors and not just in the workplace. A quick look at the Canadian laws regarding SPL: Levels of Sound – Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Part VII.
And from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: “Sound is what we hear. Noise is unwanted sound. The difference between sound and noise depends upon the listener and the circumstances.” Great quote!!
If you have an interest in the affects of SPL in the workplace, education establishments and cities check out Julian Treasure’s TED talk below on encouraging designers to focus more on SOOOUND.
* This was first published on CreatingSound.com and was edited by Ariel Gross
I had the opportunity to attend GDC this year and to meet some of the people behind the games I play and consider references. I got to pick at their brains and get details about their approach.
One thing they all shared was the need to push the boundaries, refine the processes, or further advance their toolsets. The conversations usually involved a technical challenge, followed by some sort of solution. Some of the solutions were temporary while others were more permanent. The process of constant iteration and improving the pipelines was to achieve the goal of creating a better product and to create a more immersive experience. But to the end user, what does that all mean?
What happens under the hood is a mystery. Even between departments it is sometimes difficult to fully understand what’s going on. Of course, players might understand the concepts of reverb, asset variations, and interactive music, but what really matters to them is what it sounds like.
That’s why some games just work. It’s because they’re designed for the player. They’re not created to be played exclusively by other developers and lost in a jargon of technical approaches. They’re intuitive. They’re challenging, but easy to understand, making the player’s progress fun. That comparison can be seen everywhere, and a good (but extreme) example is architectural functionalism. The core concept is this: Does the design serve it’s purpose?
Who do you design for? The designing process involves me thinking about the player. How will he or she interact, or interpret what they hear; is it clear? There is a part of me that also thinks of how my colleagues will hear it. To create something my peers can enjoy and analyze often helps push the product even further. However, when taken too literally, this can lead to the demise of the design.
When we think next-gen, we think more versatile tools, a more dynamic mix, more variations, more access to gameplay elements. Well, maybe, and I assume this list won’t harm the experience, but what truly makes a great sounding game for the player? I wish I had the answer. Hell, what it sounds like to me depends on so much, time of day, my mood, the listening environment… I don’t think there is just one answer, but i’ll throw one out there and see how it sticks.
Transparency. We prototype, design, and master, constantly refining our toolsets, all while compromising to fit within our technical limitations. All of that just to make things work, but the real challenge is in making it seamless, unnoticeable… as in nobody noticed it. This brings me back to the title question: Who are we catering to? Let’s not forget that.