Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Aural Clarity - not just Visual Clarity. Here are some ways to do it.

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Aural Clarity - not just Visual Clarity. Here are some ways to do it.

    I would love to hear what you guys have to say on this subject, what tricks you know of. Especially you long time audio engineers.
    I’ve been an audio engineer for over 20 years. I have mixed, mastered, and engineered many projects. Most of which were music, but I have done some sound design including weapon sound design.
    What I hope to do here is impart some of my knowledge to you, learn new tricks and ideas, and get some of the principals in use in the game. I am sure some of you already know this stuff or just haven’t thought of how it would apply to UT. You might also note that some of this has been used in UT games of the past.

    Visual clarity is something that everyone wants in this game. There should also be aural clarity. It’s not a glamorous subject but it is important whether you know it or not. This aural clarity will help players on a more subconscious level that visual clarity does as visual clarity is much easier to notice and quantify.

    We have a few tools and tricks at our disposal to make the audio clear and concise. We want to be able to know exactly where our opponents are. When, where and what kind of items are nearby. We want to know if a sound is important, ambient, music, or a notification. If a sound is important, it must take precedence over an unimportant sound.

    Here are some ways to achieve this clarity.
    Mastering:
    Here is a trick used a lot in mixing music to help a dense mix sound clear and help individual instruments sound defined and not buried. Besides stereo separation, we also have frequency separation. The idea is to use a 1-band parametric EQ to carve frequency spaces for sounds depending on how important the sound is. But not so much that it sounds unnatural, just enough for some added Clarity . For example center frequency approximately 1.5KHz (frequency range that the human ear is very sensitive while not being too high of a frequency that it would sound unnatural and annoying). Important sounds like footsteps and weapons would have a wide bandwidth boost at the center frequency of perhaps 4dB of boost. The amount of boost would need to be tweaked once all the sounds are put together, same with the center frequency. But it will for sure need to be a wide boost. For the unimportant sounds, like music and ambience, there will be a fairly narrow cut at the center frequency (the SAME center frequency used for the important sounds). This frequency separation combined with stereo separation should help make it so players can actually turn up ambience and music more than usual while still being able to locate enemies and pickups.

    Engine & game settings:
    The frequency separation could actually be a setting in the game instead of done in mastering, with a slider ranging from about 800Hz to 4KHz (or locked at ~1.5KHz) and a “Separation” amount (i.e. boost / cut). It's the same principal as I mentioned in Mastering. The EQ should have a wide boost for important sounds like footsteps and weapons, and a fairly narrow cut for ambient sounds and music. Stereo separation controls for music could also be a setting. It could be a slider that can make the music full stereo / 100%width (default) all the way to full mono / 0%width (as I mention under “music” heading). This will be a compromise for more serious players that like the music but also want to be able to hear the important game sounds around them instead of just muting the music as most players did in the past. Obviously there should be volume sliders for different sound groups as well.


    Weapons:
    Mixed mono, very low dynamic range – pretty much clipped (i.e. LOUD). This is how past UT’s were and for good reason. The dynamic range for all the individual weapons should be mastered at the same time by the same mastering engineer so that all weapons are processed in such a way that they all have similar apparent loudness. This will help the sounds remain all on the same level of quality (sounds coming from multiple people and sources). Players need to be able to hear these sounds very well. An audio purist would say more dynamic range is better, and in most cases that is true but not for a UT game weapon. The weapons from enemies will appear localized to the enemies’ locations on the stereo field and on the 3D map. For your own weapon it will be either stereo or mono directly in front of you. This will help differentiate between your own weapon and your enemy. We can further accentuate this differentiation by giving different EQ curves to your weapons and enemy weapons and perhaps give 1st person weapon sounds higher dynamic range so they are not quite as prominent as the enemies’ weapons. But not so much that our own weapons would sound weak, they must always sound powerful.

    Announcements:
    Need to be attention grabbing, they need to be easy to hear, yet easy to ignore. They should have a mono component with a stereo effect to catch your attention.

    Footsteps, grunts, & pain sounds:
    These should be mixed mono, and have very little bass frequencies so there isn’t an overabundance of footstep bass “thump-thump-thump” all the time. Plus bass frequencies are either really loud sources, or are very close to your ear. Usually an enemy is far enough away that his footsteps would not have those bass frequencies (aka Proximity Effect), and footsteps are definitely not considered a loud source.

    Pickups /respawners
    Mixed mono. Pickups should have unique respawn sounds, and in the case of valuable pickups should also have an ambient sound once they have spawned.

    Music:
    Mixed stereo, yet can be made narrow stereo field or even mono. This would be awesome to make as a game setting along with volume (a “Music Width” slider or knob). As long as there is a way with the audio engine to narrow the stereo field in this way by summing the music channels.

    Stingers:
    A stinger is a sudden loud wide stereo sound, usually used in times where the game intensity is high. The purpose of this sound is to “reward” the player while helping the adrenaline of the player stay high.

    Ambience:
    Higher dynamic range, mono and stereo sounds. Things like machinery, light buzzing, birds, frog, fire, etc should be mixed mono. Whereas things like a machine room, many frogs, many birds, wind, cave sounds, etc should be mixed stereo.

    Interface:
    Currently there is a low pitch wOOw sound when you hover over selections on the UI. This is exactly the opposite of the sound we would actually want. While it is a nice sound, it isn’t used in the right way. For hover sounds, we want a quick and crisp sound (like UT99’s tick sound on the interface). It needs a sound that is instantaneous and happens as fast as the UI animations are. Right now the hover sound is very sluggish making the interface “feel” lagged when it is in fact very quick. The current sound would be good for screen changes, or something that has an animated effect or is in some way a little slower.

  • #2
    This is amazing! Thank you for taking the time to write all of this. It is always nice to have a refresher course. Also great to see that there are great audio people with decades of experience on this forum. Much to learn for sure! Thanks once again!

    Although I do agree that all weapons or perhaps even other sounds would ideally be mastered by a single engineer, but how practical or likely would that be given that this is a community driven project. I understand the concerns, but I am trying to think how we would be able to set a standards if everyone is creating sounds with their own unique setup?

    Comment


    • #3
      Surprised me that you're professional audio engineer since you were famous to me for your visually outstanding and highly script-featured dynamic mapping in UT3. I just had to play a whole InstantAction match against 1 bot only in CrystalSkullRC2, just to focus on the audio. It was indeed as impressive as the visuals, I can say. With big Teufel 5.1 speakers and a 3rd party .dll (UT3's stock openAL doesn't work for me), I had the full surround immersion!

      I have too little idea of audio to judge most of your suggestions here, but I can say at least: I feel the same about too diffuse menu selection sounds.

      Maybe offtopic because it's more "music & immersion" rather than "aural clarity", but what I mainly wanted to post is, that I very much liked the sound stingers in the music tracks of UT3 maps and wish to return!
      The music adapted its feel/mood according to the events in the match, I wish every music composition for the new UT will also be designed in that way, to fit to every gameplay moment optimally.
      http://250kb.de/u/150227/p/qqYY9pJVAxBj.png
      My views on the new UT in a nutshell │ Social MarketplaceModern UT4 AllNew Dynamic StandardsMore iconic U and the 4 neededUE4 Free - I Epic

      Comment


      • #4
        Can we get rid of my loud feet and the huffing.
        Sombrero Galaxy [NGC 4594] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sombrero_Galaxy

        Comment


        • #5
          I was already thinking about how someone central to Epic would need to process the sounds and maybe even mix and master music. At least a final master.
          Trevor B.
          Voice Work
          Sound Effects

          Mercenary and Gen Mo'Kai ------------------------------------ Link Gun

          Comment


          • #6
            By Audio Clarity, I don't know if you also mean manipulation of indirect sounds. That is sounds behind notable scale objects like walls, which would offer the player better clarity of where the sounds occur. Now I am not suggesting something complex like checking for sound reflections or what this GAMMA* University students seem to refer to as Diffracted Shadowing:
            https://youtu.be/MQt1jtDBNK4?t=89

            In their example the effect seems heavily exaggerated unless there simply isn't any sound propagation occurring within the objects or even air. Having that effect would help understand if sounds occurring behind the player are of any consequence while at the same time being busy dueling another player. An example of this would be playing the Spacer map against bots and standing in the Shock Rifle spawning position. You will hear a lot of conflict around you as though it is in direct line of sight, when it is not.

            I installed the Unreal Tournament Editor and it sounds like there is some code responsible for manipulating a sound in case the player is behind a wall. I check this by throwing grenades from the rocket launcher, while hiding behind a corner and can sense that it that sounds different, seemingly only with a slight lowering of the volume. I think it should also apply a low-pass filter.

            * - Geometric Algorithms for Modeling, Motion, and Animation (GAMMA) research group in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

            Comment


            • #7
              I would personally love to have a working 5.1 channel support again, since the pre-xmas build the rear channels are way too quiet so it sounds very unnatural when sounds come from behind and is barely heard and you can't hear an incoming rocket shot from behind until it already has hit you making you not possible to rely on positional cues right now like I always have in the past UTs (and the older builds).

              PS, headphone user but 5.1 channel HRTF works better than stereo in ~95% of the games roughly but UT in the current build belongs to the exceptions where it's broken.
              Last edited by RPGWiZ4RD; 01-29-2016, 01:34 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Pendrokar View Post
                By Audio Clarity, I don't know if you also mean manipulation of indirect sounds. That is sounds behind notable scale objects like walls, which would offer the player better clarity of where the sounds occur. Now I am not suggesting something complex like checking for sound reflections or what this GAMMA* University students seem to refer to as Diffracted Shadowing:
                https://youtu.be/MQt1jtDBNK4?t=89

                In their example the effect seems heavily exaggerated unless there simply isn't any sound propagation occurring within the objects or even air. Having that effect would help understand if sounds occurring behind the player are of any consequence while at the same time being busy dueling another player. An example of this would be playing the Spacer map against bots and standing in the Shock Rifle spawning position. You will hear a lot of conflict around you as though it is in direct line of sight, when it is not.

                I installed the Unreal Tournament Editor and it sounds like there is some code responsible for manipulating a sound in case the player is behind a wall. I check this by throwing grenades from the rocket launcher, while hiding behind a corner and can sense that it that sounds different, seemingly only with a slight lowering of the volume. I think it should also apply a low-pass filter.

                * - Geometric Algorithms for Modeling, Motion, and Animation (GAMMA) research group in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
                By "audio clarity" he means that the audio will be clear and not messy or noisy. That is all.
                The new UT is coming along nicely...
                Maybe a new Unreal would be a good idea for Epic's next project? It's certainly somewhat overdue...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Though not nearly 20 years, I have some experience in the field of sound design, arrangement and psycho-acoustics, and one trick the movie industry uses, specifically in horror films is the emphasis of certain subsonic frequencies. For example, our ears can't pick up 18Hz, but our eye retina can. This frequency applies pressure on retina, creating a slight feeling of uneasiness and suspense. This frequency is usually boosted using a parametric EQ in suspenseful string arrangements, and contributes to the feeling of "Something is about to happen!"

                  I am currently experimenting with various psycho acoustic effects of sub and super sonic frequencies and will soon post a string arrangement as a sample. "tarnationsauce2" Thank you for the info, I am happy to see experienced professionals share their knowledge here.

                  P.S. Do you suggest low dynamic range on the weapon sounds to keep the relative levels as close as possible?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    An interesting analysis of sounds from the OP and rightly so. UT4 deserves this kind of analytical approach to the audio and providing the mixing and mastering engineers have systematic experience with games and not just sound tracks or music, it's something you'd actually expect from an A class game. It's certainly not a bad thing to remind the devs of it's importance.

                    With regards to boosting sounds based on their importance for the player, this could also be achieved by compressing all other non important sounds on the master bus in favour of agreed important sounds. That way, you won't get an increase in db from -0 overall but selected sounds will still cut through at the moment they are triggered. This concept would have to be done rather subtly though but could work to good effect.

                    As I've said in previous posts, I think a simple in game sound mixer including basic EQ would save the player from exiting the game to adjust the sounds based on their preferences if they even have the option from the desktop..

                    Regards.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      ideally customers should tweak that individually for his needs on both global and per-gear/map/gamemodes/daytime with several different(pre-defined and user-created)profiles, eg tweakable 10-band parametric EQ, dynamic compression (kind/mode, release, rate, target, gain, etc), HRTF tweaks, hardware profiles, room profiles and etc.
                      among that perhaps accurate enough Dynamic Range compression - would be most important one.
                      i wouldn't expect it to had Foober2000 -alike DSP engine(plus community-madeplug-ins) or supplied within (now defunct/orphaned. except Tivo-ized in QuickSync and Creative SW versions)ffdshow audio engine(BASS from un4seen isn't bad either), but it may be very functional, extensible and helpful. i guess.
                      Anyone can be "Wrong", this is Right. at-least for sane specimens.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Covers my biggest gripes with the audio in game and goes much further. From a players perspective it is just too damn hard to tell whats going on most of the time. Sounds are difficult to isolate (or individually ignore) and many of the important ones are made even harder by being very low pitch to boot.. Never have I played a game where it's so common for other players to just walk up behind each other totally unnoticed--a problem made worse because even relatively distant weapon noise completely drowns out nearby footsteps.

                        And somebody fix the mouseover sound for menu buttons, can literally play dubstep with those things.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          +1. Good stuff.
                          Snir "DDRRE" Hassidim - Living and breathing UT since 2002!
                          "When Video Games and the Enterprise Meet" - Read my chronicles of building a gamers club at my workplace.
                          Facebook | LinkedIn

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by en. View Post
                            Covers my biggest gripes with the audio in game and goes much further. From a players perspective it is just too damn hard to tell whats going on most of the time. Sounds are difficult to isolate (or individually ignore) and many of the important ones are made even harder by being very low pitch to boot.. Never have I played a game where it's so common for other players to just walk up behind each other totally unnoticed--a problem made worse because even relatively distant weapon noise completely drowns out nearby footsteps.
                            Yup, big issue right now, agree 100%. Unimportant sounds drown out the things you need to hear, and from what I can tell there is no subtlety to directional indication, its either coming from the left side of your crosshair, or the right side, with little to no in-between to identify front/back/up/down. Leads to serious trirox/flak abuse right up the wazoo.
                            NoBrainsNoAims^ // nbna^
                            My movies on YouTube:
                            UT2k4: UT~]i[mmortalZ Part 1
                            , Part 2 / UT~]i[mmortalZ 2 / UT Immortalz 3
                            UT4: Rocket Jumping - Titan Pass

                            UT4: Frag Highlights #1 / #2 / #3 NEW

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Can we have EAX?

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X