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50 Cent: Blood on the Sand: Audio Postmortem
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50 Cent: Blood on the Sand: Audio Postmortem

April 15, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

After a week of sound replacement, we moved on to a week of mixing for the Xbox 360. One of the unique aspects of mixing video games is that, as there are no standards in place for reference level mixing and monitoring, as there are in movie post production, most of the competitive games are of dramatically varying output levels.

It was decided that we wanted to mimic the output levels that Gears of War had used, as this was the game we had been most closely modeling in terms of gameplay and target audience.

To this end we attempted to get our output levels as close to Gears of War as possible, listening at slightly underneath the -79dB reference level as we mixed and referencing the output surround waveforms generated by the game, generally this is somewhat quieter than we would prefer to mix a game, but it matched the expectations of the audience for this kind of game.

As well as matching cinematic levels with those of in-game sounds, much of the actual in-game interactive mixing involved ducking out explosions, ambience, music and physics sounds whenever important dialogue was installed. This was achieved via the installation of mixer snapshots that are triggered to coincide with the event in the game, and then un-installed on event completion.

After playing through and mixing the entire game in surround, final checking of the stereo and mono down-mix was achieved using the Studio Technologies Model 79 monitor controller built into the mix studio's console desk.

Proprietary mixing technology, Noisemaker, developed by Justin Cadicott at Swordfish Studios, allowed for the installation and live tuning of mixer snapshots during game play.

Finally, after mixing the Xbox we cloned all the mix settings for the PS3 version of the game and tweaked a few levels for the discreet PCM 7.1 mix output. The game had been running in 7.1 all through development on the PC, so there was very little extra work to do in order to support the two extra channels required for the PS3.

Missed Opportunities...

There are always sacrifices to be made as production deadlines loom closer, and there were a few features and areas of content that we could have improved given more time. 

We did plan to record a significant amount of new and replacement revision lines for the game with 50 Cent and the G-Unit. We managed to get these pickups recorded with all of our actors except the G-Unit in the end, purely due to scheduling conflicts and requirements which meant that we needed to cut off our content implementation before we could get any of the new assets.

This is one of the areas that we all felt the quality of the game's dialogue assets could have been improved, offering tighter integration with the events of the level designers. In the end, what is in the game could certainly have been improved, but is still of high enough quality that we were happy we could complete development on the title.

In terms of music, some of the features were very late at going into our code. Beat-mapping that would allow us to transition the Swizz Beatz score on the exact beat was very late going into the game, but an essential feature that needed to go in.

One feature that we did have to drop was random selection of parts within a looping track which we had to forgo due to the risks involved with introducing new FMOD code updates into our Alpha build.

As such, it was designated as something that we didn't need to have in order to ship the game, and so rather than have randomly looping parts with each track, we simply had a single .wav track made up of the four previous random parts.

Given these slight improvements and missed opportunities, the whole audio team is very happy with the final game we shipped, especially given the pressure to deliver quality in a high-profile license IP such as this. I'd like to extend my personal thanks and congratulations to everyone in Birmingham, LA and Vancouver who worked on the audio and helped to create a great sounding hip-hop game.

Audio Credits

Swordfish Studios
Rob Bridgett - Sound Director
Mark Willott - Audio Lead
Justin Caldicott - Senior Audio Coder
Andrew Green - Audio Coder

Vivendi LA
Voice Director - Eric Weiss
Music Licensing - Steve Goldman
Recording Engineer - Mike Patterson

Radical Entertainment
Post-Production Sound Design - Cory Hawthorne
Music and Dialogue Mastering and Editing - Lin Gardiner

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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