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Topic: How to make this sound natural ???

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  1. #1
    Power Profile User lukpcn's Avatar
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    How to make this sound natural ???

    Hi,

    I'm making sound design for a game.... nothing is a problem except footsteps...

    I have to make a sound of footsteps of a person walking on concrete... I have the sound of a footstep but when it's implemented into a looped animation it is so aumtomatic, like a machine-gun effect in old sample based instruments....

    Any clues how should it be done ? maybe programmers should add something to their code or what ?

  2. #2

    Re: How to make this sound natural ???

    Ideally you'd have 7 or 8 variations of the footstep sound, depending on your memory budget. Then you could slightly vary pitch and volume of each footstep as it is played-back, as well as have the programmers implement some kind of random selection. If possible, have them do a last-least type of implementation, where the most recently played samples are the least likely to play next.

    It really bothers me when developers choose to implement footsteps in a game, and then do it poorly. I've even heard it in AAA titles recently. As a player and designer, I'd just as soon hear NO footsteps as hear the same one or two footsteps repeat unchanged throughout the game.

  3. #3
    Power Profile User lukpcn's Avatar
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    Re: How to make this sound natural ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Symbiotic
    Ideally you'd have 7 or 8 variations of the footstep sound, depending on your memory budget. Then you could slightly vary pitch and volume of each footstep as it is played-back, as well as have the programmers implement some kind of random selection. If possible, have them do a last-least type of implementation, where the most recently played samples are the least likely to play next.

    It really bothers me when developers choose to implement footsteps in a game, and then do it poorly. I've even heard it in AAA titles recently. As a player and designer, I'd just as soon hear NO footsteps as hear the same one or two footsteps repeat unchanged throughout the game.
    Thought so... I did 6 variations... but programmers don't listen to me when I say that they should randomize some propperties to make them sound right...

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: How to make this sound natural ???

    I would really push for the last-least randomization described by Symbiotic. It would help.

    However, because we are continuously surrounded by footsteps, our ears are exremely attuned to them, and I actually don't think randomization alone will satisfy your artistic standards. To make it even more complex, footsteps are the snowflakes of the audio world. No two are even remotely similar, so a repeat is extremely obvious to even the least trained ear.

    I have done several films with thousands of footsteps, and the tricks I use seem to really help. They don't translate exactly to your situation, but I can help define what I think would solve your problem based on my experience.

    First, use more samples. I suggest a minimum of 17 discrete samples. For a game, I would definitely trade resolution for quantity on footsteps, since the sound itself is not particularly hi-fi. Footsteps with echo are different, since they need a clean tail, but dry ones on outdoor surfaces can be realized at a low bitrate.

    Second, as you probably noted above, use an odd number. Even if you use five (or seven) samples versus six...and with no randomization, just a repeated pattern, you will get a much less noticable result with an odd number. It confounds the ear's expectation. But--even five and seven are very detectable. As I mentioned earlier, I have not had much luck with fewer than seventeen discrete samples. Our ears detect it easily.

    Third, footsteps tend to record with more "crunch" than we perceive them (primarily because our brains filter them out of our consciousness very effectively unless we are specifically listening to them). So, it helps to "dull" their frequency response, and sometimes their attack, by a bit. This pushes them farther away, and subjects them to less of "the curse." This also helps with bitrate issues, since you can just filter off quite a bit of the high-end completely, and work with lower rates very successfully. Just beware of your conversion process, so that you don't get artifacts. If you filter the frequencies first, and do a spectrum analysis to make sure they are truly gone (you might have to repeat if your EQ's rolloff is gentle), then you should get very sonically pleasing results at minimum storage and bandwidth (and therefore you should be able to argue for more samples with the developers).

    I hope that helps. In the last film I did, I had two different scenes which involved lengthy shots of a single person walking, one in mountains, and one on a country road...so I can definitely relate to the difficulty of it. And your job is much more difficult, since you are relying upon the game itself to execute your design, versus a linear system.

  5. #5

    Re: How to make this sound natural ???

    Awesome tips, Bruce. Many thanks - this is going in my 'tips and tricks' file!!!

  6. #6
    Power Profile User lukpcn's Avatar
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    Re: How to make this sound natural ???

    Thanks Bruce, Gr8 tips.

  7. #7

    Re: How to make this sound natural ???

    I was going to say that I've found keeping the footstep's volume in the mix a few db below what sounds right can lessen the annoyance factor, but maybe with Bruce's approach you wouldn't have to do that

    The other thing to keep in mind is that if you're editing these sounds together from some Foley'd source material, not all footstep sounds will blend with each other nicely. The more similar each footstep sound is to each other the better they'll blend.

    People tend to scuff their shoes a lot whenever they plant a foot for leverage (think of basketball players) so emulating that can add a layer of believability too. If you have access to the animations you can just go through them and mark what's a scuff and what's a step.
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  8. #8
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    Re: How to make this sound natural ???

    One thing I've always hated about footsteps in FPSs is that they're these completely disconnected events in space and that's what makes them so stark and noticeable...Even in games as recent as Doom3. Try instead of just having isolated footsteps, having cloth foley to connect the events. You can hear this effect in Daxter, which only has 3 footstep samples; when masked by the sounds his furry body and backpack make, you never even notice that it's the same footstep sounds playing over and over....plus it gives the character more weight and well...character....

    The foley and footsteps I've done for Gears takes this concept to an entirely new level and because of fewer bandwidth limitations than the PSP, I have massive amounts of footsteps and body/armor foley out the wazzoo. As a result, the characters sound huge and deep.

    -Jamey

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