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Next-Gen Audio Square-Off: PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360
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Next-Gen Audio Square-Off: PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360

October 10, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

What are the most interesting features that have been taken advantage of for the PS3 for audio? More channels? Dynamic compression?

GS: Some obvious advantages are pooled memory and the cell architecture that allow for some serious processing power for more real-time interactive mixing. More channels are good but not necessarily always better.

What game has impressed you the most for the PS3 with its use of audio?

GS: Uncharted was a huge success both graphically and audibly. Just as with the previous generation consoles, things only get better with time and I'm excited about our future projects in development and raising the quality bar that Sony is known for.

What is the average amount of audio memory that you are seeing used in PS3 games?

This is always the first question most sound designers care about when preparing for a new product. The average have been around 30MB, with some more some much less. Given the PS3's pooled memory RAM resources, negotiation all the way through development isn't unusual as the game is realized and resources make themselves obvious in terms of productions priorities.

What would the next big step be for audio hardware and software in games? Realtime synthesis of voice / sfx? Planar emitters?

The future of developing audio for interactive media will be tools that expose and allow complete customization of hardware and software resources for both the audio and programming teams. Tools that account for very fast iteration is the definitely the future, both from a sound design per sound perspective as well as sounds all at once mix perspective.

Having the ability to interface with art assets and allowing those assets to scale automatically as they are updated as an example, will be critical for maintaining quality with smaller teams and/or limited resources. Lastly, I foresee more robust real-time logic systems that will allow sound designers and production directors to actually make decisions and mix the game at a "post-production" like stage of development.

The Contenders Face Off

Essentially the playing field looks about even between these two heavyweights. While the Xbox 360 still has a lead over the PlayStation 3 in terms of sales numbers, in terms of raw power for audio many cross platform games have very equivalent sound quality, most notably BioShock.

Xbox Contender: Halo 3

Marty O'Donnell directed audio for the worldwide hit Halo 3. In Halo 3 a great marriage took place between the ubiquitous Waves software bundle and a video game. I chatted with him about how Waves was used.

How did you hook up with Waves for realtime use of their effects?

Marty O'Donnell: I've been talking with Brian Schmidt about using Waves with the Xbox for a number of years and he put me in touch with Paul Bundschuh from Waves. Paul and I had a great conversation and we started moving forward on making it happen.

Which effects did you end up using?

MO: We used the L360 which is based on the L1 rather than the L2 (L2 too much of a CPU hit). It really worked well to have a great compressor/limiter at the end of the chain. We also used Q extensively. We would have loved to have used RenVerb because it sounded absolutely beautiful, but it was way too big a hit on CPU.

How big a difference did you hear in quality of effects from native effects?

MO: Q gave us much better range and control for EQ than the standard stuff in the box. The Xbox never had an L1 type of DSP before so there's nothing for us to compare it with. We would try settings in Pro-Tools with the plug-ins and then duplicate them in the 360 and the sound was basically identical. I really wish we had had more time to see if we could have optimized the RenVerb.

Did you use off the shelf Waves licenses or special embedded system algorithms for more optimized realtime performance?

MO: We had engineers both here and at Waves to optimize the performance of these plug-ins. Waves was great to work with as a company.

What kind of CPU hit did you register, was there a battle over the CPU for realtime effects?

MO: Well, now you're getting too technical for me. Like I said, some stuff was too expensive and we had to minimize the hit as much as possible. This wasn't something that the Waves engineers were used to doing but once we met with them and showed them what we needed they really came through. As you know, in games there is a CPU battle for just about everything.

Were you able to crossfade effects (such as two kinds of reverb from one location to another)?

MO: We were already crossfading reverbs in our engine, so we thought we'd be doing that again, but since we didn't use Waves reverb it didn't come up. We used modified reverb from the XAudio stuff.

Have you heard any feedback from the team or the buying public on the difference the new effects have made in Halo 3?

MO: None of this stuff is revolutionary and basically I believe that all our progress is being made in many different subtle ways. The public seems to like the audio design of Halo 3 and Waves is one of the reasons why.

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