Sound Design Project Reflection
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
Now that this project is coming to a close I can slowly start to relax (only a little though) and look back on what I have done and achieved throughout this process. As sound design was a completely new concept to me it was a bit of a learning curve to try and understand how to go about making sound designs for a project which for me was a Zombie horror game level environment and a video showcase of it.
The most important event that happened in the project was the change of project planning from being purely sound design for the game level to working on the video of the environment as well. Even though this did increase my workload I believe it made my job easier in regards to producing the sound design assets because I could implement them into the video and see if they would work or not straight away, and if they didn't I could change them accordingly. The biggest thing this work process helped with was the creating of the music track as before I would have just blindly produced music to what I thought the game environment was like, not composing in along with the other sounds and make it all fit together. It also allowed me to be more free flowing and not get stuck on using specific Keys, Tempo, or Meter, so I could focus on being truly creative with my composition which in my own opinion let me produce a better track than what I would have.
There was a down side to this process of music composition though which was, when it came time for me to chop up the track into section to be implemented into different areas of the game environment I didn't have any defined start or finish points that would loop together nicely. What I had to do in the end was work out how to cross fade the start and finish of a loop to back a seamless transition. For the next time I do a project like this even if I do still go with a free flowing approach to composition I will divide up the video into sections of which I will make the music within them loopable to avoid this mistake. This might also help me to make sure each section does sound relatively different.
An issue that arose in the implementation of the sounds in the Unreal 4 game engine with FMOD was that the the animator wasn't able to get specific trigger zones for the footsteps and different music areas. This meant that the game level wasn't as immersive as what I would have liked it to be with having to settle with just a basic footstep sound and areas where the music doesn't transition seamlessly. I think this was partly due to the inexperience the animator had with using Unreal and implementing sound into it. If we tried to put the sound assets into the environment sooner we potentially could have asked Game Design students for assistance which would have improved the quality of the product in the end, but all of the other sound assets work well to produce the eerie horror atmosphere we were going for.
One of the aspects that helped towards the relative success and completion of the project was my work ethic and being able to get things done when they need to be. This was really crucial on this project because I wasn't just doing work for myself it was for Animation students as well who were relying on me to get things done for them on time. Due to the fact that I wanted to do a good job and produce sounds they were happy with I would constantly show them my progress and make sure that I'm on the right track and in line with their creative outlook of the project. For this process being able to communicate with them was key which was made easier as I know most of them very well. Even though I did get my sound assets and video sound design done on time I should have been more proactive in making sure the sounds were implemented into the game sooner to avoid the problems I discussed in the paragraph before.
Even though I managed my time throughout the project well and completed all my task on time I still could have done better to leave myself more time to work on other projects or help out other people with theirs. Doing this would not only give me experience working on different projects than what I would normally do it would also get me working with different people as well which is something I need to do more. As I mostly like to work on things by myself it can be difficult to want to work with others so in future I really need to try and be more open and accepting to collaborating with my fellow audio engineers.
I have used many processes that are new to me in this project, mainly being manipulating different sounds and samples to create a sound design that can be implemented into the game. Most of what I have learnt has been software based as I didn't do any physical recording of sounds for the project, apart from making some very odd Zombie noises and squishing fruit. The recording of the squishy, gory sounds used to represent the Zombie eating someone worked out well but the Zombie noises, grunts and snarls didn't turn out as good as what I would have liked so in future projects I would be better off trying to find proper voice actors to make those sounds for me.
Overall I think what I produced creatively was of a relatively decent quality and everything came together to produce a good horror atmosphere. I would like to do more recording of my own sounds in future project instead of relying on sound libraries but seeing as this was my first attempt I thought it would be best not to stretch myself to far and create a bigger project scope than what I could accomplish.
I was also happy with the horror music track I produced as well, but after listening back to my reference tracks from the game Amnesia: The Dark Descent I felt that my track might have been a little too busy with too much going on all of the time. I feel that next time it would be better to make something ebbs and flows more producing greater dynamics and movement, in saying all of this it is still effective at conveying a horror environment.
Working with students from another discipline was a good experience which helps to simulate what I would potentially be doing in an actual real world work environment as a freelance audio engineer. As I knew the Animators project so well through observing its development I had a good understanding from the beginning of what was need to be accomplished with the sound assets. Meetings with the lead Animator to discuss and work out exactly what we want the end result to sound like was an easy process with both of us having mostly the same ideas. Like I said before keeping the Animators constantly updated meant that I never went of track from what their ideas were and they could give me feedback as to how they thought everything was progressing.
As we all had the same ideas in mind for the project I was allowed to have free rein creatively for the sound design process and they all trusted in my abilities enough to let me do that. I have no doubt that if I strayed to far off track they would have said something but luckily what I was producing was what they were after. Working with people in future that I don't know as well will be more challenging than this experience but it has set me up with a good understanding of what is expected of me.
All up I think the whole experience was quite rewarding and gave me the opportunity to work on an aspect of audio that I wouldn't have usually gone for. It would be good for next time to work with other audio engineers on a sound design project that is bigger in scope and that requires more complex sounds to further improve my skills and get more experience working in a bigger group environment.