Images courtesy of EA Sports.
Will Morton, founder and director at Solid Audioworks, knows how much an immersive soundtrack can enhance a player’s experience. Morton is an award-winning senior sound designer and dialogue supervisor who formerly worked at Rockstar North, where he enhanced many high-profile video games, including the Grand Theft Auto series. He founded Solid Audioworks with partner Craig Conner in 2014, to provide audio production, sound design and dialogue for some of the most popular video games on the market today. These include detective action-adventure game L.A. Noire and western-themed adventure Red Dead Redemption. Most recently, Morton and Conner provided cinematic audio for Madden NFL 2018 from EA Sports™.
In addition to working on the sounds for the gameplay mode, Solid Audioworks was tasked with the cinematic mixing for Madden NFL 2018: Longshot, the game’s playable story mode. The narrative is about the journey of a young QB from his high school team to a starting position on an NFL roster based on the decisions the gamer makes along the way.
Solid Audioworks relied on NUGEN Audio’s Halo Upmix to ensure the game’s ambiences provided players with a realistic and captivating experience. Prior to using Halo Upmix, Morton tried a lot of different upmixers and was never fully satisfied with his results. “The final mix always felt artificial and clumsy,” says Morton. “Halo Upmix allowed us to produce a phenomenal mix that sounded incredibly clean and natural. The intuitive GUI enabled us to focus on subtle details and produce the exact results we wanted to hear.”
This same ideology came into play when NUGEN Audio first decided to create Halo Upmix. Existing customers were consistently asking the company if they were going to develop an upmixer, so NUGEN decided to look into it. By researching what was on the market, NUGEN discovered that most of the solutions that existed had been around for a long time and had not evolved with the growing industry standards. NUGEN Audio believed that it was possible to build more advanced algorithms that would not be hindered by the limited computing power that was available at the time.
Halo Upmix addresses the challenges facing today’s upmixer by offering an intuitive solution that has the ability to upmix without changing the original character of the sound. It is also downmix compatible, supports creativity through enhanced access to unique algorithms that are not found in existing products, adapts to changing workload demands and provides product support for immersive audio.
Solid Audioworks studios are outfitted with one general purpose foley/vocal room for recording dialogue and one “messy foley” room, where the team broke, pounded and smashed various objects to simulate the sounds of a typical football game. Morton also hired off-site sound recordists to capture ambiences outside for an extra realistic layer. Using Halo Upmix guaranteed a seamless mix for a soundtrack comprised of multiple recording techniques and environments.
Morton addresses the challenges of having different sounds from diverse environments. “We had a variety of sounds and dialogue to work with when we sat down in our main control room. Our challenge was creating a consistent, dynamic mix from audio assets that were recorded in different formats, at multiple locations with varying channel counts and mic configurations.”
Halo Upmix was an essential tool for tying these elements into an organic, accurate mix. With intuitive controls and powerful, real-time analysis, Halo Upmix allowed Morton and his team to fine-tune every aspect of the mix to compliment the sounds of both gameplay and cutscenes. Having a solution designed to transform any soundtrack into a full, cinematic production allowed Solid Audioworks to use natural sounds and reverb to create ambiences that adjusted with shifting gameplay environments, as well as increase tension when the script called for it.
Morton explains the ease-of-use and benefits of using a solution that helps preserve the organic sound of the game and dialogue. “It was truly an ‘out of the box’ experience. After integrating Halo Upmix into our workflow, it was incredibly simple to manage these assets and focus on specific details that really tied the mix together. From every piece of dialogue to each snap and tackle, we could adjust the soundtrack and effects accordingly, which helps to engross players in the game and create an authentic experience.”
The proprietary algorithms produce a natural, coherent spatial upmix, preserving the character of the original audio without adding any artificial reverb, chorus or delays. The inclusion of an artificial intelligence neural network allows Halo Upmix to 'understand' the audio it is working on. With the 'Exact' control engaged, Halo Upmix can be used with confidence that the original source integrity is precisely preserved in the downmix. NUGEN Audio has introduced updates since its initial release enabling use within Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D and Ambisonic VR environments.
Although Foley work and capturing the essence of an environment through sound alone can be a daunting task, Morton has always been passionate about providing gamers with the most authentic and engaging experiences. “I live and breathe game audio, and even when I was eight years old I knew I wanted to be creating sound and music for video games as a career,” says Morton. “Going to work in our studio is a genuine pleasure for me.”
Learn more about NUGEN Audio's Halo Upmix.