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Atlantis - Sound Design Implementation

July 1, 2017

So, a couple of weeks back I decided to actually be productive, and as a TL:DR, being productive is pretty darn good for the brain.

 

The project I decided to work on was called Atlantis, it's on the Epic Games marketplace if you want to look it up, the project itself I assume is meant to show off a texturing middle-ware, something like that, but when I saw the project it actually gave me inspiration to tear all the audio out of the project and implement my own using Wwise and my trusty old Rode M5's.

 

So the first day or so of working on the project was actually nothing to do with doing any sound design, first I had to get through the, buggy at first; Wwise-UE4 implementation, luckily though, the Wwise launcher has a button to do all of that for me, so I pressed that sucker and made a coffee (Autonomy is cool y'all).

 

I also wanted to 'fix' the projects atmosphere, for whatever reason, the people who did the lighting in this project really liked warm lighting, and warm lighting isn't all bad, however it doesn't scream 'Atlantis' to me personally. So I moved all the lighting balance to a slightly more blue/green colour; much more lost underwater city-ish.

 

Finally, with the Wwise integration sorted out, I could actually get on with audio, right? You'd think so, but I wanted to see if I could get the Wwise project streamed from my NAS, that way I can work on the audio on my laptop, while letting my desktop deal with making things look damn fine.

 

So, if you aren't too interested in how UE4 reacts to pointing it to a project file on a drive within the computers network, you can skip this paragraph, it didn't work. Admittedly I didn't spend a whole lot of time working this in, as it was a trivial thing that doesn't make the process of audio mixing a whole lot quicker... but it does make it a little more convenient. Because I had set up the project nested deep within the reaches of my HDD that is probably older than the rest of my computer, the UE project wanted, to have the Wwise project in close proximity. Apparently UE4 doesn't like long distance friendships, what a pity, so I resorted to just having the Wwise project audio backup to the NAS, that way it's a relatively quick sync for me to be able to adjust sound levels etc. However, due to the file not syncing back to the desktop, I couldn't add any files/events to the project through the laptop, I'll investigate how to get this done better in the future, but this works fine for now.

 

You'll be glad to know that now I could get on with audio, and you may be wondering at this point as to why I messed around so much at the beginning, and this is because I'd sooner get everything to a state where I don't have to tinker with it at a later date, because I know that would make me procrastinate.

 

When I'm working with environmental projects, my workflow is basically getting the small environment sounds out the way (i.e noise from outside the room etc.), because these sounds are often forgotten about, meaning the soundscape sounds a little empty. For this, enter the fan oven from my kitchen. The ambiance I wanted to establish with this sound is as if it a room lost and suspended miles beneath water, with water flowing around the room and slight suggestions to this room being part of something much bigger, as that structure in the middle isn't just holding the ceiling up.

 

Next up, the fires, these are a little touch to the scene, which just add a bit of depth to the entire project, now recording fire is easy... when you can find a fire. Luckily for me, I have a friend that has a make-shift fire pit, which is perfect, it saves a lot of time trying to synthesis something which will only end up sounding artificial. So I gave said friend a visit, had a pint, and spent an uncomfortable amount of time sitting in silence, with a microphone dangerously close to a fire. The result was definitely worth the risk of the microphones (Which are still alive, I'm sure you're glad to know).

 

For the general noise within the room, I decided to utilise the water pump within my desktop, which makes a weird noise when you put in to 100% speed, so I tried my very hardest to put fit one of my M5's somewhere inside the computer, and hit the record button. This recording took a bit more effort to get it to a point where I was happy with it, so I notched out any frequencies that I thought sounded 'off' and did a general mid-range scoop, I'm sure nobody will miss the mids anyway. After that I threw a light overdrive on the lower frequencies, this gave a saturation that sounded more natural to the ear, and allowed the recording to sound bigger than it actually was.

 

Now for the only sound I didn't record, the water dripping from the ceiling, for whatever reason I just could get the combination of water dripping onto concrete to match how I had envisioned it in my head, so after a good couple of hours getting some well deserved weird looks from my neighbors, I decided to hit up Freesound, and yet again, the folks over there didn't fail me, I found a nice sounding water dripping sound that had the consistency (For lack of a better word) that I wanted. I've made sure that I mentioned them, as per the CC license because I'm not a monster.

 

This next bank of sounds was the machine looking objects scattered throughout the room; My favourite to work on as there was so much potential to get it right, it also allowed me to utilise Wwise RTPC feature, allowing for some spooky sounding machines. So I'm a synth enthusiast, this helped a lot because it took a good day of working on these to get them to sound how I wanted, and I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of the results, the sounds themselves have an almost harmonious feeling to them, however, due to the random pitch applied in Wwise, there is a slight dissonance, which definitely re-enforces the broken and forgotten feeling of the room.

 

Another element of the sound that was implemented as I mentioned earlier is the use of an RTPC (Real time parameter control) to further manipulate the sounds of these spheres and the big machine in the middle, the RTPC isn't an overly complicated one, all it does is adjust the pitch based to the distance the actor in the scene is from each sphere, however the impact this gives to the scene is much larger, as it makes if feel as if the objects themselves are aware of the actors presence, and is trying to resonate with the actor, and I'm not afraid to admit it's a pretty cool sounding element to the scene.

 

And that is basically all this project consists of, all that was done from there is everything was fed into a reverb to sew everything together and a general balance was done, so without further ado, here is a render of the scene:

Overall I'm very happy with how this turned out, the project allowed me to demonstrate that I can do sound design, and I can use Wwise, and I can have get pretty passionate the whole process of sound design.

 

There are some errors in the video, for some reason the water decided not to animate when exporting to Rec. 709, there was also some colour grading and a overall gain boost in the video, so if you want to see the project and run it on your local system, you can download that here:

 

http://bit.ly/2sdKoMl

 

The project itself takes a bit of time to load and it will go through the same sequence as in the video, but after the sequence ends, it will let you walk around for your self, you may notice some lighting bugs, that's normal... I just do audio.

 

If you've made it this far, congrats, hopefully it won't be too long before I update with something else, but I say that every time, so I'll see you in about 6 months, yeah? I hope you enjoyed reading my sarcastic rambles about sound design, and if you do sound design yourself, this project is a treat to work on. Plus its free, and free = good.

 

Dan

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