Monthly Archives: July 2013

A friend pointed me to this interview with Don Veca about the original Dead Space game. Here’s my favorite bit:

This was the birth of the game “fear emitter,” which is simply a first-class game object that designers can place in the world or attach to other objects, most notably, the enemy alien creatures. Fear emitters are simply a “sphere of influence.” However, with this one tool, we can affect a myriad of audio sources, such as music, streamed ambience, adaptive ambience, reverb control, general mixing parameters, or whatever. But… of course, the devil’s in the details.

And here’s a little bit of Dead Space gameplay video to give you an idea. It starts with action, but moves to an exploration sequence where you can get a sense of these horror emitters.

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello

Tom Garner is a postdoctorate in Denmark who has written a very readable article about his research in “sonic emotioneering”. Put another way, how to scare the pants of the audience with sound design:

“Of the research that has been conducted, several objective acoustic characteristics (that are expected to be effective irrespective of other factors/contexts) include:

  • Rapid onset/offset (tempo): Increases anxiety by way of connoting urgency.
  • Source delocalisation: Obscuring the source’s location via masking with other sounds, moving a sound quickly and irregularly through a 3D sound environment and/or, utilising reverberation to generate reflections that disorientate the listener.
  • Extreme frequency: creating high screeches or low rumbles that reliably connote threat of an unknown nature.
    • Defamiliarisation through distortion: taking a sound that is characteristically comforting and distorting or blending it with other sounds to decontextualize the original sound and create a sense of the uncanny and unease.
  • Immediate attack: Sudden shifting from silence/low volume to high volume.
  • Extended acousmatic attack: Slowly increasing volume but with no visible source, suggesting an unseen threat is approaching.”

Some of these techniques seem applicable to scoring and some do not. What’s very interesting is the importance of a 3D sound environment, which brings to mind the importance of producing music in surround sound (and just like with visual 3D, it’s a good idea to think using surround starting in the earliest sketching phase, not just at the end during the mix).

The idea of disorientation is powerful. Common horror techniques might start with ambiguous ambient pads, slowly introduce dissonance to amp up tension, then launch a sudden attack of extreme rhythm and dissonance.

This paper inspires to work more with auditory distortion. Perhaps you can giving the audience a familiar musical theme – it doesn’t have to be creepy – to work as their comfort zone. As the characters descend into isolation and danger, the music disorients the audience by subtle skewing – using pan, timbre, reverberation and EQ, and perhaps lessening reliance on dissonance and bizarre sound design.

What comes to mind is a piece I’ve posted before by Giacinto Scelsi, the Italian composer whose Hymnos is based on a single note, which evolves with extreme precision throughout the orchestra. While I find the piece itself to be very beautiful (and not at all terrifying), you can imagine how this music in an interactive environment could be used to signal varying levels of danger and peril in the game environment.

Here it is, in

2 parts:

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello
Kaya Savas from Film Music Media interviewed me about No Place On Earth. He asks good questions, some of which I had never thought about before!

Film Music Media has lots of composer interviews, and what I really like are the articles that branch out beyond film music to overall geek-fandom: read their takes on Marvel vs. Michael Bay, Dad comedies on network TV, and Batman vs. Superman.

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello

Color correction and visual effects master Stu Maschwitz shows how to take an ordinary piece of footage and completely remake it with common digital color tools. The reference pictures are Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Terminator Salvation, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.

I’ve observed with USC / SCA filmmakers working on color – overhearing comments like “there’s too much green in that shot – see that? we need more yellow here” makes you realize that some people have more of an eye for color than others.

This video makes for a great education for the colorblind like me.

Episode 22: Creating a Summer Blockbuster Film Look.

There is something of a long introduction to the video, so skip ahead to 3:25 or so

to hear Stu’s breakdown.

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello
Soundtrax.fm is a film music radio station. I enjoy their playlists quite a bit, which tend towards current and recent movies and video games. The station is on
iTunes or as a web player.

The station recently added No Place On Earth into rotation and I did an interview with the host Chris Brown. Listen to the entire interview or just tune in, they are sprinkling short interview segments into the rotation.

UPDATE: Here’s the YouTube embed:

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello

I’ve been playing through the Breitkopf collection of 371 Bach chorales, which set these short four-part choral pieces to keyboard. It’s as if you could download the dailies from Citizen Kane and recreate the edit in Final Cut.

Bach’s chorales are a how-to coming directly from the master. They are drawn from hundreds of Bach’s works. They are harmonizations of simple melodies. Any given melody has many possible harmonizations (indeed some melodies are harmonized multiple times in the collection).

Bach used chorales in his teaching, providing his students the melody and bass parts with the assignment to fill in the alto and tenor.

Playing through all 371 chorales reveals patterns. Bach’s stock phrases become readily apparent. Unusual modulations really stand out. You see a lot of “tips and tricks”, so to speak.

Most importantly you learn balance, which is always so hard to define and pin down (and which, by the way, is

probably the real secret to all well-constructed music, no matter the style).

Here’s one of the more famous chorales, “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” – this is in four parts, with the choral parts doubled by the orchestra:

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello
The spotting is telling – when the fight begins, it’s pathos, and we hear battle music.

The moment the first joke hits, the pathos is over and the comedy begins, and the music drops out.

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello
Hey, it’s summer, holidays are coming up in both America and the US. Why get work done when you can read the entire Inception script online?
Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello
Film Music Magazine included No Place On Earth in their June soundtrack picks:

…”the main feeling that “No Place On Earth” evokes is a hauntingly beautiful nostalgia for a past.”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello