February and March of 2008 saw the scheduling and recording of the majority of the voice assets in the game. Eric Weiss, voice-over and talent director at Vivendi Games in LA, was instrumental in getting the best performances out of all the foreign voice talent and, most crucially, out of 50 Cent and the G-Unit.
Eric and I had worked together previously on Scarface and he had also directed 50 Cent and the G-Unit for the 50 Cent: Bulletproof game back in 2005, so there was already a familiarity and respect in place with 50 Cent and the Violator crew. Eric flew to New York for a week to direct the sessions, where I listened in and aided with context direction via a phone link to our studio in Vancouver.
All the G-Unit members recorded for the game. Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, and DJ Whookid were incredibly professional and accommodating to our script, offering suggestions and very often more appropriate "street" alterations where necessary. Curtis Jackson himself was fresh from working with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino on the set of the movie Righteous Kill, and as soon as he entered the voice-over booth his professionalism was evident.
Curtis also has incredible stamina, more than any voice artist I have ever heard; he did four straight hours of shouting lines from our in-game script and did not once want to let up for a break. Among the other actors for the game were Lance Reddick (The Wire) who plays Carter, and Dwight Schultz (The A Team) who plays "The Harvester" Wilder.
We also made use of Side UK for a few of the voices such as Omid Djalili (The Love Guru, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) who plays likeable hip-hop wannabe Eddie in the game and who was recorded in the UK under the on-site direction of our own Game Director, Julian Widdows.
50 Cent was fresh from working with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino on the set of Righteous Kill
The cutscenes in development at Rainmaker were delivered on the production Alpha date, giving me two weeks to complete the primary pass of sound effects cutting and pre-mixing for our Sound Alpha date. The cinematics were are all pre-rendered FMVs, and because the in-game characters, sets and effects are all of such high resolution, it is often hard to tell the difference between in-game and cut-scenes.
Due to the high quality rendering of these scenes, there was great incentive to get them to sound as cinematic as possible. A week of Foley recording was carried out at Sharpe Sound in Vancouver, and these Foley tracks were integrated directly into my Nuendo sessions back in the mix studio at Radical.
Working on FMV cinematic visual assets offers much more creative inspiration for the soundtrack than NIS in-game cut scenes in games, as the latter tend to give very low resolution, grey-blocked assets to the sound designers to work on.
The more detail that is visible in the final movies that go out to places like Foley outsourcing, the better the quality of work you get back in the end, due mainly to it being obvious what materials the characters are walking on and interacting with. As well as this, having all the visual and particle effects as part of the movies adds additional clues for the sound designer.
Music and dialogue assets were edited and mastered at Radical by our senior studio engineer Lin Gardiner, ensuring that all the levels of both the score and the licensed tracks from various sources all had consistent volume levels.
Right from day one of my involvement in the project, I wanted to repeat the success we had with the Scarface game in terms of post production time allotted after Beta so we could take time to polish and finesse the game's sound with everything in place. Sound Alpha and Sound Beta dates were established with the project managers to occur two weeks after both production Alpha and Beta.
It was also always the plan to use the newly constructed 7.1 post-production mix suite at Radical Entertainment, which had recently been set up and calibrated by THX, as the ideal location for the final mix of the 50 Cent game, taking full advantage of the inter-studio sharing between Vivendi studios.
The studio had been designed from the ground up to not only handle the mix of internal projects at Radical, but also to accommodate private VPN based projects from other studios. Audio Lead Mark Willott flew out from Birmingham to Vancouver to join me for the final two week post-production audio phase on the project during August of 2008.
The post-production plan that we followed allowed for a week of sound effects replacement, during which we played through the entire game, flagged priority sound effects that we felt could be improved and used Radical's in-house sound designer, Cory Hawthorne, to re-work any sounds that we needed to replace.
Cory would create several versions of each new sound, each with an identical memory footprint to the sound that was being replaced, and we would then try it out in the game. More often than not we would decide on one of those replacements there and then to be the new sound.
Post-production sound design and mixing took place on site at Radical Entertainment in Vancouver. One of the first titles to be mixed on the newly built 7.1 surround mix stage.