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Sound Design & Music Production
Posted: Posted January 30th by nullfather

I think that this is a facet of media that we've somewhat neglected around here.

What are your favorite examples of audio design, production, technique, etc.? While this might primarily inspire music-related discussion, it also applies to sound design in cinema, video games, etc.





Blackwater Park by Opeth is one of my favorite albums. Part of the reason for this, beyond my personal identification with the themes and style, is the brilliant audio design. Death metal generally isn't known for having the best production (even though it's considered the studio sell-out genre compared to the crusty, frosty black metal that almost entirely forgoes stereotypical listenability). However, Blackwater Park is one of the gems that gets nearly universal praise - thanks in no small part to how welcoming the listening experience is, despite the extreme and progressive elements. Even though the track is filled with huge sounds, they are carefully fitted together. Even though it transitions into relatively quiet interludes, it doesn't lose power and doesn't jar the sensibilities. Thanks to the skill and experience of producer Stephen Wilson (of Porcupine Tree and several other projects), this album is awash in quality and still proves to be better than most DM albums, even though it's old enough to smoke.

Special appreciation must be given to the fact that this is a death metal album where the bass guitar is not only audible, but actually listenable.





ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is an interesting and relatively unplumbed subject. Whether or not you experience it personally, the fact remains that the art of creating ASMR media is a precise and subtle business. Every detail of these tiny sounds is considered in this process, with people comparing the exact textures of hundreds of different objects and actions in the process of developing a palate that has only recently been discovered as a widespread phenomenon.

The essence of ASMR media is not only audio. It also includes visual, cognitive and kinetic triggers. However, audio triggers are by far the most common (possibly because they are the most technologically accessible). ASMR videos require a lot of attention, with some ASMR content creators going as far as to create custom studios in order to control sound better. One YouTuber, Heather Feather, bought a new house and converted her basement into a soundproof studio, complete with beast editing station, that would be the envy of throngs of bedroom musicians.

One of the foremost artists in this department is Ephemeral Rift, who is possibly my favorite YouTuber to produce this content.



Sound design in video games is often misinterpreted as being just about the soundtrack or voice acting. I hardly ever see someone talking in-depth about the simple, moment-to-moment sounds of gameplay. However, the trench-level sound design is no less important - in fact, it's easily proven to be more important in many cases. Take, for instance, a game like Counter-Strike.



Every gun has a distinct sound - not only for firing it, but for reloading as well. Footsteps are noticeable. Objects like windows and doors make unique sounds when interacting with or breaking them. The sounds carry to different distances and can communicate information to the enemy. Weapon suppressors and slow, silent footsteps are dangerous.

Besides the gameplay importance of these sounds, they speak of a certain time and place as well. The sound of an AWP or Deagle being fired is a nostalgic point for many, while the sound of a knife being drawn or the beeping of a bomb about to detonate instantly raises the heart rate.



What about you? What are your favorite sounds?

There are 4 Replies

The Mario coin sound is a classic. You can play it ad nauseam and it's distinctive, but never gets annoying. A lot of classic sounds like anything from Super Mario 64, including "Thank you so much for playing my game" and the star appearance instantly send me on a nostalgia trip.

I love the different footstep sounds in The Legend of Zelda. It really amplifies the experience when you switch from walking on grass to walking on a wooden bridge. The horse sounds are great as well. Super Mario Sunshine got the sound of gushing water just right.

I'm not sure why, but the menu select sound in Smash Bros. Melee is oddly satisfying. Quick with just the right amount of release and decay. I recall enjoying the sound of Halo's pistol as well, for the same reason as Mario's coin: it sounds better the more you hear it.

As far as effects go, I'm a sucker for those cave and church reverbs. Any game that pulls that off is a winner in my book. I could do without the metal tunnels, though.

Posted January 30th by mariomguy

The Mario coin sound is a classic. You can play it ad nauseam and it's distinctive, but never gets annoying. A lot of classic sounds like anything from Super Mario 64, including "Thank you so much for playing my game" and the star appearance instantly send me on a nostalgia trip.


I really appreciate the sound design in traditional Mario games. It's obvious that they put a lot of effort into designing levels so that it becomes nearly musical as you run through them. The various things to interact with and the general speed and rhythm with which you interact with them creates a distinctive pattern. That's a lot of polish.

I love the different footstep sounds in The Legend of Zelda. It really amplifies the experience when you switch from walking on grass to walking on a wooden bridge. The horse sounds are great as well.


I lot of the reason that I found OoT and WW so compelling relates to the ambient sounds and atmospheric treatment. While OoT was already dark and mysterious simply by virtue of the graphical and scenario design, the gloomy soundtrack and echoing dungeons nailed the audio representation. I really felt like I was in cold, empty, threatening places.

Posted January 31st by nullfather

I don't think about this stuff very often. But now that you mention it, the music I listen to these days is pretty feral. It sounds like some musicians took a voice-activated cassette recorder under a bridge where they happened to find some instruments and played a session before shooting up. It's definitely part of the, umm, charm.

Posted January 31st by Cetasaurus
Cetasaurus
Formerly KM8

Care to share some examples?

Posted January 31st by nullfather
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