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Audio Postmortem: Scarface: The World is Yours
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Audio Postmortem: Scarface: The World is Yours

March 22, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5
 

What Went Wrong

1. Design Changes During Production

Though unavoidable and clearly for the greater good of the game, the change of direction for the project midway through development brought about by a six month extension to our Alpha date, and presented challenges for the dialogue system and for the flexibility of the content we had already recorded.

These changes meant that many scenes that had been written for the story were cut completely, and although some scenes were re-appropriated they did not make as much coherent sense as the full scenes they used to be. Many characters were also cut from the game, as well as many side missions for which very specific characters had been created, cast and recorded. Those characters now were only to appear in the game world as pedestrians, which made them seem a little odd without their context.

With all the ripples that the extension gave us, these changes led eventually to a much more streamlined and solid product. The extension in the amount of time we had also allowed us to plan and execute the post-production mixing, and thus gave us a huge gain in terms of final audio quality.

2. Cinematics Production Cut Off Too Late

Production of the huge amounts of cinematics that we have in the game was eventually cut off around two weeks before we went off-site to Skywalker to mix the game’s audio. This gave us a mere two weeks to work on Foley performance, recording and editing for those scenes.

Due to the huge amount of cinematic cut-scenes in the game, we had to prioritize the more important ones to receive the attention of full Foley, as there simply was not enough time to perform Foley for all the cut scenes we had. Our internal Foley team, Scott Morgan, Cory Hawthorne and Roman Tomazin, worked for a solid week in performing the Foley, and then a further week editing and bouncing down the Foley mixes for integration into the sessions which contained SFX and dialogue.

This practically left no time to do mix-downs of the final sessions including dialogue and sound effects, so the team were put under a great deal of pressure to bounce out and mix all the cinematics for the game in both Pro Logic II encoded versions and in Dolby 5.1 six channel mixes. These were all bounced out over the course of two or three long evenings and the intention was not to touch these mixes once we got to Skywalker.

However, once arriving on the stage we found we needed to add more sounds and balance the sounds in some of the cinematics, so as we came to them we re-bounced them on the mix stage. A dedicated month for Foley and premixing the cinematics is a must for future productions of this scale.

3. Dialogue

Recording the amount of dialogue we did, in excess of 33,000 lines, was a huge undertaking. Recording wasn’t completed until March 2006, totaling almost a year and a half of VO casting, recording, editing and implementation.

One of the things that contributed significantly to this amount of time was the extension to the project half way through the first phase of our recording, and therefore new designs and ripples in the narrative meant new characters and new scenes, and a good amount of callback sessions were required half way through production.

Improvements to the dialogue system soon became evident when we realized the huge amount of content we had to manage. A simple, dedicated database system would need to be developed to enter, sort, organize, print, edit and debug all the dialogue. We used Microsoft Excel to manage the entire dialogue on this project, which although workable, proved very hard to manage and debug, making dialogue management a full-time job.

It also proved inflexible later on in development when we needed to re-appropriate lines of dialogue to be used in new situations, as our naming convention dictated the use of dialogue in the game to a great extent, and meant we had to duplicate and rename content in order to get it used in new places in the game. The development of a flexible system, which treats functionality independent of filename and which packages the files needed per character only at the build process, would help tremendously on similar scale projects.

In Conclusion

The big qualitative win for the audio production was certainly in the post-production phase carried out over a four-week period off-site from development. This gave the audio a chance to shine and to receive the attention and polish that it had needed. Everyone involved at Skywalker gave the production a huge burst of enthusiasm at the end and made a huge contribution to the overall quality of the game’s audio.

Another huge driving force behind the whole off-site post-production period was having our audio programmer, Rob Sparks, on site with us, not only to underpin the work we were doing, but also to fix regular audio bugs as we went.

Music licensing and casting were also major contributors to the success of the audio on the title for which Steve Goldman (music licensing), Eric Weiss, Rob King and Chris Borders (Casting) must receive mention. As was the support offered by Vivendi’s marketing department, our Executive Producer Peter Wanat, our Senior Producer Cam Weber, design lead Pete Low, and art director Michel Bowes who all really understood the power of sound on this title.

Data Box


Staff:

4 full-time internal audio staff and around 50 contractors

Audio budget

$2. 5 Million

Development time

3 Years

Street Date

October 2006

Platforms

PS2, Xbox, PC

Hardware: Radical Entertainment:

Mackie Control Universal and Mackie Control Extenders


Motu Ultralite Soundcard


Creative Audigy2 ZS Soundcard


Marantz SR4300 Decoder


JBL 4408A Monitors


Toshiba Satellite Laptop PC

Hardware: Randy Thom

Pro Tools HD4 on a Dual 2.7 Ghz Power PC G5 Mac


Wacom Cintiq tablet


Neovo 21"LCD


60" Pioneer Plasma monitor


Meyer HD-1 studio monitors (LCR)


15" custom subwoofer


M&K (Miller and Kreisel) surround speaker array


Digidesign ProControl 16-fader control surface


Soundweb 9088 Networked Signal Processor

Hardware: Skywalker Edit Suite

Pro Tools HD v6.9 on a Dual 2.7 Ghz Power PC G5 Mac


Blue Sky Sat 6.5 speakers

Hardware: Skywalker Mix E (Elia Kazan)

Dolby DP654 decoder (provided by THX)


Genelec 1032As for surround monitoring, with M&K MPS-5310 Subwoofers


Euphonix System 5 for summing.


Long wooden board with a Scarface towel on it for Aesthetic purposes.

Software: Radical Entertainment

Nuendo 3 with surround plug-ins, Sound Forge 8, Vegas Video 6, Waves Platinum Bundle.


AudioBuilder (proprietary engine)


Max MSP (batch processing patches built by Scott Morgan)

Software: Skywalker Sound

Pro Tools HD


Waves Gold and Waves Platinum


Pitch 'n Time by Serato


Altiverb by Audioeas


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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