Voice management in game audio

In my experience one of the major themes in audio programming for games has been voice management. Voice management as I understand it is the act of managing the set of playing sounds (voices) and deciding which of those voices should be heard and which should not be heard. A voice represents a single sound file being played back.

A couple of terms I would like to clarify before we begin:

  • a playing voice or real voice is a sound that is currently playing back and contributing to the audio output of the game
  • a virtual voice is a sound that should be playing but is not actively contributing to the audio mix. it may continue to advance it’s playback position until the sound either stops, or de-virtualizes turning it into a playing voice.
  • a sound behaviour can be a set of data – crafted by a sound designer – defining how sounds should be played back. This might include dynamic systems like parameter driven audio properties, multi-layered blending sounds and more

Let’s dive into WHY we want to do voice management:

Esthetic of the mix

One of the biggest benefits gained from employing voice management can be that the mix can be cleaned up. In the full post-production workflow the sound effect editors will cut sound effects for everything and it’s the mixers responsibility to adjust volumes, change equalization and mute sounds so that the most important sounds can shine. For storytelling removing the sounds that do not support the narrative can be extremely beneficial and oftentimes “less is more”.

An additional perspective is Walter Murch’s rule of two and a half.


Playing a sound and adding it’s sample data to the audio mix  costs CPU time so by not playing all the sounds a game may request of the audio engine, the audio system can optimize its performance.

Once we decide a voice shall not be heard we can choose to virtualize it (still keeping track of it’s playback position) and later that voice might de-virtualize again, or we can simply stop the voice. Stopping the sound can be a good choice when the sound is not looping, and is fairly short but this behaviour can also be exposed to technical sound designers.


Performance is dependent on the hardware we measure on so we would also take into account other resources such as memory usage, the availability of SPUs/RSX memory and hardware decompression.

Decoding audio from a compressed format before playback and mix is one of the more processing intensive operations an audio engine will do so leveraging hardware decoders so the CPU does not have to decode in software is extremely beneficial.

On iOS this would mean using MP3, on Xbox One it’s XMA2, PS4 has AT9 and the Switch has hardware support for the Opus codec.

Setting a maximum amount of voices

To begin with we can set a certain number of voices which we want to be able to playback simultaneously. Let’s call that our “Maximum Voice Count” count or “real” voice limit. Our system shall never have more playing voices than this number. Should more voices be requested by newly playing sound behaviours, we must either stop or virtualize already playing voices. Alternatively we might ignore the new sound triggers.

One might also define a “Max Virtual Voice Count” to limit the amount of updates on virtual voice objects, but this can get a bit complicated.


The first approach to virtualizing or stopping a sound could be based on it audibility. We don’t need to render a sound if it is silent because it’s outside of hearing range (based on 3D distance attenuation) or because a dynamic behaviour is manipulating its volume. This could be implemented with a simple volume threshold defining what makes a sound inaudible.

A more sophisticated method could also look at other sounds that are playing and judge if a sound might be masked by a louder sound. One could take the masking approach a step further and implement FFT to determine masking not only based on volume but also based on frequency content.


Controlling the makeup of the mix can be achieved with a trivial to implement system of priorities, where sound designers assign a priority value to each sound and we render the priority sounds first. If some of those were inaudible or we didn’t use up all the available voices we’ll render less important voices also.

This approach can be especially fruitful for esthetic choices and storytelling. We can ensure that the sounds that most important (music, dialogue, cut scene SFX etc) can be heard, no matter what the game is doing at that moment. We reserve the highest priority for sounds which are of utmost importance. These voices should never be virtualized.

Depending on the type of game we can extend this approach by changing a sounds priority dynamically. This could be done via a check if a sound position is on screen (for 2D games) or if a sound is within the listening angle of a cone on the listener object.

In a first person shooter setting with lots of explosions, a cone based approach could prioritize the explosions actually visible to the player over those behind the players field of view comparable to frustum culling in the 3D rendering world.

Cones like these can be used in a variety of ways including adding directionality to sounds (like a speaker in the real world) or using the angle as an input to a filter but that’s a topic for another day.

Voice- & Instance-Limiting

When a sound behaviour has multiple blending sounds it can take up many voices at once. We can define a number of voices all instances of that sound are allowed to use. Once a sound behaviour exceeds that amount we use the same audibility & priority factors to determine which voices shall be freed. The voice limiting sound can also apply to all instances of a sound. If a certain sound gets played over and over, the audio engine will only play a certain amount of voices related to that sound behaviour.

A similar approach to voice limiting is instance limiting but instead of limiting how many voices can be associated to a sound behaviour, we limit the amount of simultaneous instances of that behaviour. If a sound behaviour uses more than one voice per instance (blending sounds together) we can control how many of these sounds we allow to exist at once.

When applying either these limiting approaches it is important to define how to proceed once the limit is reached.

  • Should a new playing sound instance be ignored when the limit is reached?
  • Or should the oldest instance be stopped – or virtualized?
  • Do voice- and instance-limiting clash or create undesired behaviour in this combination?
  • How does this system interact with the others?
Decoupling Voices from rendering

To enable proper voice management it is important to decouple the idea of a voice (what should be playing back) from the audio rendering object. In Unity the AudioSource component is responsible for rendering audio and submitting the sample data to the Mixer.

In Moona – our tool at A Shell In The Pit Audio – has a pool of AudioSource objects which voices can take from. Is the pool empty a voice will request to steal an AudioSource from a voice of lower priority. If the pool still can’t provide a source the voice will go into a virtualizing state which determines if the voice shall remain virtual, or stop.

Voices in this case are C# objects that have little to do with the underlying audio engine. They are simply a control structure that might be controlling an AudioSource. Upon entering a virtualized state, the voice will return the AudioSource to the pool for reuse.

When aiming for sample accurate playback upon de-virtualizing a voice or when dealing with timing critical material (eg music) one might want to pay attention to tracking the virtual voices’ playback position in relation to the pitch the voice is playing. Additionally many decoding algorithms can not seek to specific sample positions easily but will seek to the nearest decode block in the file.

Closing Notes

Voice management can use various factors to decide which voices to play and which should be virtual. All of these systems should go hand in hand to achieve the best possible mix and keep hardware requirements down.

Once we have determined which voices we actually want to hear playing, we can save computing resources, clean up the mix and focus attention the players attention to whats important.

Many thanks to the members of the game audio coding community at audiocoders.slack.com especially Aaron McLeran and  Guy Somberg. Your input was invaluable <3

Transitioning from sound to code

I was working with sound for quite some time. First as a DJ, then starting to create beats and little musical sketches on Soundcloud (RIP 💜). After high school I ended up as an intern at a company that just had an opening for a sound designer and I fit in really well. At that point in time I had absolutely no experience doing sound design except for programming some synthesizer patches. Over the next there years I got to experiment and learn as much as I could. On the job and in my spare time. Sound became my life.

Up to that point all my knowledge came from musicians around me with some recording experiences as well as the Internet in form of music production tutorials. The knowledge I had was shallow and fragmented. I decided to pursue a deeper education as there is only so much that the internet can teach you when it comes to specialized knowledge.

Moving continent was a whirlwind experience. My studies in sound design at the Vancouver Films School taught me everything I wanted to know about linear media and so much more. But they also introduced me to the basic concepts of game audio. This seemed a much more creative environment to me. Not only were there no restrictions on which DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to use but the interactivity opened my mind to the possibilities of the current century. You can make sounds and decide how they work together through code!

After school I started my career as a freelance sound designer specifically aiming at games. I had a couple of interactions with developers and ended up creative sounds for games that shipped (and some that didn’t). I participated in game jams. But what really got me was the same issue I had with film sound: the restriction in tools. This time the DAW was my choice, but the audio facilities in the game engines my clients were working in were rather limiting. Random sound playback had to be implemented from scratch and middleware tools like FMOD or Wwise were a struggle to pitch.

As I was wondering how I could improve this situation I started learning C# scripting in Unity. Then my dad came to visit me in Vancouver and we ended up costing together for a few days – him explaining to me some fundamental data structures and how to use them in the context of the Unity API. We ended up costing a simple yet powerful audio tool that enabled me to do all my audio implementation independent of a programmer, as well as the skills to tweak and improve the tools behavior.

Sharing my learning experience on Twitter I soon was approached by my friend and now boss to join A Shell In The Pit Audio as the companies audio programmer. I’m still learning everyday and improving my skills. Stepping deeper into the depths of the audio architecture. This is the most creative I have been in my career. It feels incredibly powerful being able to create anything I can imagine in code. And it feels incredibly freeing to be problem solving on such and abstract level where subjective options are rare. There real has moved from an esthetic design to a user friendly design. My sound designers need a usable interactions to define interactive sounds behavior. Our clients need a simple to use API to play those sounds.

My audio tools are constantly evolving as I learn and ship games. It’s been a wild ride and I have had a lot of great experiences along the way but my story is not finished here either. Hopefully you enjoyed this little read. If you want to see what I’m up to it want queer thinks in your feed, follow me on Twitter. Otherwise until next time 😘

On Audio in VR

This is a paragraph from my website I wrote a long time ago. Maybe it better sits here now:

With the revolutionary development of modern Virtual Reality headsets players have the ability to transcend the screen and step into the game world with a never seen fidelity. The ability to invoke the feeling of “presence” is only achievable with the help of high quality spatialized audio. The auditory system is communicating with the human brain on a much more direct and unfiltered way.

It is a shockingly different approach to creating experiences. The fact that the listener is physically in the game space (with head and hand tracking in room scale VR) makes being creative in this space extremely rewarding. More on that topic over here.

The problems with spatializing audio and creating a sound field that adheres to the expectations we have in the real word are a fun and exciting challenge.

It’s really interesting to read this after working in VR for a bit over a year. Back when I wrote this I knew audio was important to giving presence, but I had no idea how complex the systems would have to become to really sell the experience.

To see what’s currently hot in VR audio land, check out this talk about the latest audio tech Oculus has been developing (October 2017):

Pretty neat stuff!

What I find so fascinating is that the technology to render audio for this type of game is still in constant flux. Ambisonics has be resurrected from an audio obscurity to a bonafide industry tool – yet the standardization is a mess. Every company uses different encoding- & decoding formats, there are various channel layouts and a whole range of proprietary formats has entered the market as well.

In the Unity VR projects I am currently working on we are mostly using Steam Audio (rebranded Phonon) – one of the best sounding, freely available spatializers around. Unity is adding antive Ambisonics support. Unreal is adding native VR audio features.

I hope this was interesting or – whatever 😛

Practicing Mindfulness

I spend all day in front of computer screens typing. This is not a good thing for my body. What I should do is take regular breaks, take a walk every day, stretch, do yoga, all that stuff. The issue is that I sometimes just enter that zone and dive deep into my work – oblivious of my surroundings and my body.

To combat this “work frenzy” I have started practicing mindfulness and I want to share the first step on this path with you. It’s been working beautifully for me 🙂

I have a Tibetan bell called Tingsha (A tweet with video) which I used to use to meditate. It’s rather heavy so I don’t want to carry it with me everywhere. What I ended up doing was record a single ringing sound (download links below), put it on my phone and let it remind me – once every hour – that an hour has passed. It reminds me to check my mindset, reset, take a deep breath. I take more breaks now and even though they mostly just last seconds or a couple minutes I have realized there has been a major change in my state of mind.

If I am stressed when the bell goes off I will calm myself. If I am sore I will stretch. It has improved my daily life and my all around happiness so here it is:

I recommend you do the same.

I use the app Hourly Reminder for Android (Play Store, FDroid Store) which allows me to set an interval as well as a range of hours through the day that the sound should happen. You can choose any of your phones ring tones or any sound file (I use this one DOWNLOAD: Dropbox, GDrive). I’m sure you will be able to find something equivalent for your phones operating system.

I hope you find this useful and can use this practice to improve your every day life:)



The DIY / technical mind

“I always been very technically minded.”

That sentence looks slightly weird to me. But it doesn’t have to. It can simply feel true. I have been tinkering and “hacking” systems. With my very first computer that I actually owned myself I would do these experiments. Since I really liked hardware I had put in a request at the store from which my mom bought me the parts I had researched to help me assemble the tower and one of their staffers would come by and check on me every now and then. I would receive little tips about static and grounding myself before working with delicate parts. I could asks questions and they were all answered to my fullest content. I went home proud as a peacock and although being allowed a limited amount of ON the computer I would still spend a lot of time WITH the computer.

For example I would research ways to make it run more quietly and then build a crafty little hard drive suspension out of wood and old bicycle tires. One of my favorite tings to do with my new hardware was to “maintain” it. One way I would do this was that pretty much weekly I would disassemble the machine, vacuum all the fans, and reassemble it again. I felt good about knowing and being confident in handling my hardware. I often times would also install the operating system from scratch (XP back then) and try to optimize the process. One big one was learning about partitioning and keeping certain files wile still being able to completely wipe the OS. I installed the OS so many times that I ran out of activations (I believe with XP that was something like 50). What that is to show is that I strived very much to be literal in this computer environment. I tough myself a lot and asked for help sometimes but I worked hard and kept at it even if things didn’t work out all the time.

After teaching myself how to DJ and having a rather big gig at a party some students at my high school organized I realized I wanted to take my sound ideas into a different direction. A friend of mine pointed out Ableton Live to me and gave me a 20 minute introduction (and it’s Live we are talking about :P) but it gave me some basic starting points to get into exploring this new environment. I would open up the software, click and drag and poke and prod. Sometimes I would spend an hour, sometimes just fifteen minutes. Eventually I would run into something that simply would not work and I would give up and close the application again. And then a day or two, a week or sometimes months would go by and after which I would give it another shot. I would try and try and finally something would stick. I learned the interface, how to make it make a sound, and eventually how to retrieve a file I could share with people. And then I discovered that the Internet had all this figure out already. There were hundreds of tutorials on Abletons feature set, fantastic long form courses that teach the ins and outs and a lot of tutorials that would cover other software, but it still applied. FM synthesis is simply a concept. It exists in a lot of DAWs, plugins and hardware but the underlying principles are the same across the board.

This learning process continued after school at my internship at CPP Studios where I started building towers and I remember thinking “They are paying me to assemble PCs? I love it!”. Over time I started doing sound design, production and VO recording, music editing and eventually composition for all sorts of projects there and my internship turned into a full time position but the learning continued. I studied After Effects, nerded out with the fabulous IT mastermind Frank, and also continued teaching myself getting better at sound. I always say I would spend 40% of my time on the job and 60% of the time how to do my job better. And I got better. Actually way better than I expected to become. I found something I loved and the rabbit hole did not seem to end.

After some time I realized I reached a point where “more EDM production tutorials” would not bring me any closed to where I wanted to go. I was hearing a difference between the presentation of feature films, commercials and my work. I was missing something. And now the lesson I didn’t have the perspective for at the time:

“I didn’t know where to look further.”

What I needed were the right keywords to type into DuckDuckGo (which I had just discovered). I needed a new set of leads to follow up that were less music oriented. There were a couple. The fantastic creativefieldrecording.com blog as well as musicofsound.co.nz but I had not figured out how to go from there. (more resources on my resources post)

I had reached a point where I wanted to do better sound design, and that term is so washed out and means different things to every person saying it that it became really hard to dig deeper. I didn’t mean sound design in therms of sculpting a synthesizer patch. I meant gluing my mix together, making it more believable, a better workflow to do post production. On the one hand I was doing all my sound design for all these “film productions” in Ableton Live, which in hindsight was a mistake. I felt comfortable there and didn’t want to learn new tools. On the other hand it was about mindset of when to do which aspect of the sound work. What needs to be captured on set, what in the studio. How to you build a world – NOT a music track. At this point in life my energy to dig deep was slowly getting lower. I spent more time consuming, less time teaching myself. I realized the trend and started looking for places where I could get access to mentors. I was looking for a place where I could ask questions and then DO stuff. I wanted to get educated and then get back to work. I had already two and a half years of working with performers, clients, colleagues. I wanted to get back to that as soon as possible.

Universities were out of the question. I did not want to spend four, six or even eight years at a campus, doing “university life”. I wanted quick results. There were a couple of options but they mostly catered to the “audio engineer” side of things and I thought I knew enough about that aspect. And then I remembered an interaction years back. When I first started putting creations up on Soundcloud (RIP) someone had approached me, complimented my work, potentially critiqued it and asked a favor. It was something along the lines of “I just submitted an entry to this competition and if you like it can you vote for it please?”. I listened to some entries, decided my contact was really good and better than most entries and voted. My contact won and that was that. Now I remembered that that person had applied at this school for a sound design course and won a scholarship. I reached out to them, stated my desire for knowledge and my current activities and then asked if I should enroll. The short reply was “Yes. Do it.”. I also met with a kinda big mixer in the German feature film scene who a friend of mine put me into contact with. I showed the mixer my work and mentioned the school and when the second person in a row told me to go I knew I had to.

I wrapped up my work at CPP and announced heavyheartedly that I decided to go to Canada to get better at sound design. The entire company (who I am still in love with – more on that some other time) was extremely supportive and helped me prepare for my big adventure. And I was off.

Vancouver Film Shool offered exactly what I was looking for. I knew my sample rates and Decibels, but I received additional information on how and why. We worked primarily in Pro Tools (as alas that is what the film industry defaults to) but this forced me to learn a new tool and take on a different editing mindset. It had so many options and abilities Ableton Live never had and never will have. That is a tool to make and perform music. Pro Tools definitely is not. You can create music in the but I personally never would want to. PT basically is a digital tape machine. And that can be a great thing. I learned how to better layer sounds, use various fade types to great effect, do fader moves on big consoles, and all the details about the film production workflow I could dream of. And I loved it!

And I hated it. So much tedious back and forth and manual conforming and nitty gritty work and all this to get a couple minutes of video sound good. PT has been developed in a era where computers were a new thing and a lot of the opportunities the digital world bring had not been discovered yet. And it shows. It’s a digital tape machine.

A classmate pointed out Reaper to me and I started researching. It is being developed by this small company called Cockos centered around Justin Frankel (the creator of WinAmp) who was frustrated with the options in the digital audio editor market and created his own. Cockos is all about sutainability and creating a deicated community. The company does not advertise their product. You either hear someone mention it or find it by chance somehow. Their product is in a constant state of development. There is a version number and it goes up ALL THE TIME. Every few weeks there is a biggish update bringing more stability and new features. Often these features come from feature requests made by the user base. Sometimes features come out of the blue. Suddenly reaper enables people to write notation, and print sheet sheets. I don’t think anyone saw that coming.

There is something about Reaper that also appeals to me related to the very first sentence in this article. It’s extremely customizable. All the menus (File, View etc) as well as context menus (right clicking on the play button, an audio item, a fader etc) all contain various things called actions. “Create a new project tab” is an action as is “Reverse the selected items” as is “Jump to the next zero crossing in the waveform”. And all the menues and all the shortcuts basically just link to those actions. You want a menu to show something? Add it! You want a keyboard shortcut to mute all tracks? Add it. Another apsect of actions is that you can create your own. You can stack them and combine then to to very cool things like “jump to the start of the selected item and the advance 1.5 seconds, set the fade in with curve type log then jump to the end and fade out over 10 milliseconds and also turn down the item by 6dB”. And now you can add that to a menu or a shortcut or you can use that new action as part of another custom action. This is so extremely flexible it makes repetitive and tedious tasks so easily automatable. Then there is the builtin scripting engine which allows people to create new funtionality and access the lower level workings of the software or to change functionality comletely. Some of the ideas get then later rolled into a builin feature of the DAW itself. This is how I as a user want to be treated. All the power to change things. A large community of people sharing ideas, features, customizations, themes and actions. And a company that does not care about profits but about creating a great tool and fostering engagement.

There is a huge downside to all this. There is so much you can do and the software has as a result had a really easy time adding new and powerful features that it can be really daunting to start exploring Reaper. Especially coming from another DAW where certain workflows or methodologies are more dogmatic it can be hard switching into an environment where anything can work any way.

“You have to decide how you want it to work.”

That’s a big one. It takes a lot of time and effort getting to grips with all this freedom. There is so much customization and if you have done any work in any DAW you have some ideas how things are supposed to work. And the defaults suck. That at least was my experience. If I was teaching sound design or something along those lines I would teach Reaper and I would first teach myself the defaults and see how well they actually work. When I started out I wanted Reaper to work like a hybrid of PT and Live. I spent four months learning about Reaper and studying endless resources (as you can find on my resources post) trying to bend the software to my will. Then I started using Reaper and realized that I had started building my configuration with a lot of assumptions. Some of my ideas didn’t work out as expected and some thing I simply had not thought of at all. I ended up customizing Reaper over and over and the software becoming a welcoming work environment and the best partner a sound designer could ask for. For me. Other people would probably have a really hard time working with what I created. And some didn’t. My colleague Em made the switch from PT to Reaper in less than two weeks with some support from me and some dedicated learning. She wanted to leave the PT world and did so very successfully. Others rely on certain workflows so heavily and Reaper is not a magic bullet. It can do a lot of things you can’t possibly do anywhere else and there is some stuff I know can’t be re-created there.

What this comes down to is that being inquisitive and digging deeper usually requires some keywords to search for, possibly a mentor to ask for advice and a lot of dedication. The first you can get from the second. The third you have to bring yourself. The second is an interesting one. In Germany I didn’t feel like there was community to reach out to to ask for advice. Maybe I didn’t see it. In Vancouver is so blatantly obvious and vibrant you almost can’t miss it. And everyone is sharing their wisdom and helping each other get better. It’s hard to find your way if you don’t even know there is a way and I want to ask you the reader to think about these things:

  • Is there something you want to pursue and you don’t know where to get started? Are there people you admire who seem to hold the keys to your dreams? Take all your courage and reach out. Ask for advice and chances are you will receive. This is different in every industry and culture but you have to give it a shot. If you are shy ask someone close to you to help establish contact.
  • Are you a person who is active in what you are passionate about? Do you have the feeling you kinda know what you are doing? If you do it for work you are already far ahead of so many who want to do the same thing. Reach out to people who seem interested. Offer help where needed. Give critique answer questions. The most important part is to point people the right direction so they can explorer further.

I would not be where I am without people willing to give advice, offer guidance, pointing out directions that might interest me. That classmate of mine who pointed out Reaper to me probably regretted it a little later. I became obsessed and would not shut up about my discoveries. But I am forever grateful to him because he enabled me to foster this need to learn and tinker and explore technical possibilities. I want to enable other people to do the same.

If you have questions or seek guidance please reach out. Everyone starts somewhere. There are no stupid questions. And people who do what they love and don’t want others to succeeded are not the ones you aspire to become. Fook those people.

“Please don’t skip this part”

This is hard to talk about but it is very important to me as I’ve seen the effects myself.

The audio and games industry has turns out to consist of loads and loads of white men. There are other ethnicities and other gendres, sexes and orientations but they are not represented in a fashion that studying the current set of existing living people would suggest. This is NOT because these fields mostly attract white men. This is because we grow up in society that has certain expectations and we are around people who think certain ways and say certain things. Every person alive has bias and you can not simply say that you don’t care. Your bias affects people in real life. Even in subtle ways. I want to suggest that these underrepresented groups are

A) deterred because the game and audio industry is so dominated by white males
B) are not being considered fit for certain roles or at companies based on bias
C) deserve a bit of special attention. There is no room for sexist, racist jokes. There is no room to assume that because of X also Y must be true.

I ask you to be open minded. To accept that you have bias and then try to sense where it lyies and how you can live with it. Is there a way that you can un-bias yourself? Maybe a very subtle low-pass filter for the consciousness? I am convinced you can. These things are learned and indoctrinated and you have no fault for having bias. But if you choose to ignore that fact, if you choose not to accept it and the responsibility that comes with it then you are to blame. On the other hand if you embrace it and decide to be conscious about your bias, to think about how or where it may affect people and you decide to try not act upon your bias but upon facts instead I applaud you. You should be proud and if no one notices then you just have to know that you are trying to be a better person and that’s what counts.

Closing note:

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you found something interesting in here and I hope you can go out and explore something you are passionate about. Please reach out if you found this interesting, you found this disturbing or there were typos:) I hope you have a very fine day ahead!



Some good game audio resources

I speak to people sometimes and last night has been a very active and talkative night. I spent the day doing my audio programming work and had some great successes solving problems I was tinkering with for a couple of days now. At some point I decided that I could not possibly do anything to top the already great workday so I switched gears a bit.

A while ago someone asked me to write an article about audio programming and I’ve been putting it off for a week or so and decided it was time to give it another shot. I sat down in the hammock at the co-working space I work at a couple days a week and started writing. I skipped the intro and ending but got a whole bunch done with screenshots and everything. I’ll share the article here once its done;) Then I wanted to change it up again and I began writing this post. During the whole time I sat in the hammock an art show started getting set up around me (there are quite a few events here).

Update (2017.02.23):
Here is that article I mentioned: An Introduction to Game Audio Scripting (Part 1)

Various people noticed me sitting in the hammock and came over to chat. With some I would talk about politics, leading an ethical life, food or – what I’m most passionate about – my work. Every now and then I run into someone who is really interested in sound design or game audio and wants to know more. I’ve been in the same situation and find a good starting point to dive into a topic can be hard. I was lucky enough to have people who were willing to share their knowledge with me and guide me along the way to a career in game audio. Here I want to share some good resources for people to explore – a little list of things I want to recommend you check out if you are into game audio or sound design in general.

Some basics before we get going: You should have a web presence. A website (with a real top level domain), a twitter account (browse the #gameaudio hashtag and follow people who do interesting stuff) and some business cards. If you are not a total pro at graphic design hire someone to design these for you. Study how other people present themselves and “borrow” the ideas you like. I hired an artist who was recommended by a friend and decided to print my cards on a special paper with a lot of people remarking on the fact. Also participate in game jams like Ludum Dare and Global Game Jam. Are there local meetups (see below / have you tried meetup.com)? Get your face ot the house, meet people, get invested and be consistent. Onward!


One of the coolest places to lear about various aspects of game audio is the “Beards, Cats and Indie Game Audio” podcast by Matthew Marteinsson (Klei Entertainment) and Gordon McGladdery (A Shell In The Pit Audio). Sometimes with guests and sometimes with questions from the twitter-verse Matt and Gordon always put on a good show and bestow us with their game audio wisdom. (DISCLAIMER: I work with Gordon at ASITP now) You can find their podcast at: https://indiegameaudio.podbean.com/

The first sound design podcast I ever discovered was the Tonebenders podcast by Timothy Muirhead and René Coronado. They cover various film and field recording topics and generally sound design. Sometimes they have guest contributions. Every single episode is pure gold! http://tonebenderspodcast.com/

“Level With Emily Reese” is a very inspiring podcast where Emily interviews composers for games and covers various aspects from aesthetic choices, over working with developers and some times technical aspects of how music for games works. Find it at: https://lwer.podbean.com/

A new addition to my podcast subscriptions is Twenty Thousand Hertz about interesting and weird sounds: https://www.20k.org/

The Gameaudio Podcast is an interesting one with a highly irregular schedule , but you can rely on it to be active every year around GDC, the Game Developers Conference held in San Francisco. If you end up being in town at the time there is a whole crowd of audio people gathering every morning of the conference around 7am at the Sightglass café not far from the Moscone Convention Center. Also come to the game audio lunches at the carousel across the road! I believe there will be a game audio micro conference in the sunshine there this year:) The podcast  sometimes has episodes coming out through the year as well. Just put it in you RSS feed already! http://www.gameaudiopodcast.com/

A fairly new addition to the game audio podcasts has been the Sounbytes Podcast by Barney Oram and Derek Brown. You can find their show here: https://thesoundbytespodcast.podbean.com/

There is the weekly Game Audio Hour which you can catch here: http://www.gameaudiohour.com/ Sometimes covering more musical topics but always interesting.

If you have a website, a blog or a demo-reel and you are starting out in game audio, do check out the “Reel Talk” show on twitch by Power Up Audio‘s Kevin Regamey in collaboration with Matthew Marteinsson (the same as mentioned above). They review demo-reels, give constructive feedback on sound designer’s portfolios and generally have valuable things to say about presenting yourself to potential clients: https://www.twitch.tv/powerupaudio


If you want to learn about field-recording, selling sound effects for a living or how professionals capture audio in the wild you don’t have a chance but to study “Creative Field Recording” by Paul Virostek. Incredibly insightful articles, he also sells multiple books on sound recording and the sound effect business and has great overviews over field recording gear for every budget. http://www.creativefieldrecording.com/

I could not make a list of sound design resources without mentioning the “Music of Sound” blog by Newzealand sound designer, field recordist and audio genius Tim Prebble. He runs the “A Hiss and a Roar” sound store, takes amazing photographs and compiles the most fascinating and wonderful parts of the internet in his “Deutrius” posts: http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog/

A Sound Effect has a fantastic blog about all things audio as well as a podcast that’s on every now and then. Loads of immensely valuable stuff there as well: https://www.asoundeffect.com/blog/

Related is the Designing sound blog with a whole range of sound resources and articles: http://designingsound.org/

The Sound Works Collection is a great inspiration with amazing behind the scenes looks at big movies and interviews with sound designers and mixers: http://soundworkscollection.com/

(Update 2017.01.29)
Anne-Sophie Mongeau has areally nice bog and in general I think her internet presentation is one of the best for an audio professional I’ve seen so far: https://annesoaudio.com/


A great tool that has helped me do my job as sound designer more effectively has been the REAPER Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW for short). It is a highly customizable sound design and music composition environment at an unbeatable price point with an incredibly caring and sharing community. The software itself can be found at: http://reaper.fm/ There is an unlimited, infinete demo. If you dig it also check out the Unofficial Reaper Blog by Jon Tidey which holds all kinds of miracles: http://reaperblog.net/ Then the official site holds a vast library of video tutorials by the amazing Kenny Gioia: http://reaper.fm/videos.php If you are a Pro Tools user you will probably find the quick tips by David Farmer especially interesting: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLph_cdD_oxjXLrQvbQdp36BEMTfQJ4k8X Oh I also made a tutorial about rendering sounds real fast in Reaper: http://reaperblog.net/2016/06/advanced-game-audio-sfx-render-workflow/ A recent blog that popped up has been Adam Croft‘s adventures into Reaper scripting as he is exploring how to extend Reapers functionality and adding new features via the built-in scripting engine: http://adamtcroft.com/ Then there is Raymonds blog also about Reaper scripting and other things: https://www.extremraym.com/en/

An interesting way to get sharing with the audio community is to join “The Soundcollectors Club” which is about sharing sound effects and expanding your sonic palette at https://thesoundcollectorsclub.com/

Another place to do something similar is https://www.crowdsourcesfx.com/ where you contribute a little part to a huge library and get all of it as well as a share of the royalties from selling it.

If you are looking to get into audio programming specifically I can recommend “The Audio Programming Book” available at MIT Press and “The Pragmatic Programmer” for general good practice and healthy software development mindset. I have other resources and books on my reading list and will update this post as time goes by.

You should look into game audio tools in general such as FMODWwise or Fabric. Pick one and start learning some dynamic audio implementation. There are some tutorials out there like the ones by Dani Kogan.

I really enjoy seeing good talks about the technical details of game audio. Sometime I rember to add them to this playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqrMQvig3uIv9y7R8E-o2e3SCdzYAhD0g


If you are lucky enough to be in the Vancouver / Seattle are come check out our Vancouver Sound Design meetup: https://www.meetup.com/Vancouver-Sound-Designers/ as well as the Full Indie meetup where we have 200+ indie game developers meeting every month with talks and stuff: https://www.meetup.com/Vancouver-Indie-Game-Developers/

Seattle has an amazing community as well. The way to get in touch would be the yahoo email group: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/SeattleGameAudioGroup/info

Closing notes:

I spent the whole evening in that hammock talking to people and getting inspired. That is the last thing I want to recommend to upcoming game audio people. Go out and mingle. Show yourself and your passion and get pulled into other peoples interest as well.

If you are keen on updates come follow me on Twitter @chtammik where I often times babble about game audio stuff and games I’m working on. As I mentioned before I work as an audio programmer at A Shell In The Pit. We do all sorts of cool stuff! Other than that there is not much left to say.

Thanks for stopping by and please leave a comment with additional resources I’ve missed or if I spelled your name wrong or something;)



Update (2017.01.28):

Some kind people have shot me these following links that I want to share here as well:

  • http://www.nicolasfournel.com/
  • https://christianfloisand.wordpress.com/

Update (2017.01.29):

A couple of things I wanted to add were not really related to audio but great places for interesting ideas and inspiration:

Update (2017.02.05)

A really important one is this talk about contracts and how important it is to be clear in business by Mike Monteiro called “F*ck You, Pay Me”: https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=KlKub99rG_4