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Meris Ottobit and the Videokid game

Behind the Sound Design of The Videokid Game

The Videokid sound design Meris Ottobit DPA

Claudio Somigli of IBC Sound discusses how he and partner Chad Raymond recorded and designed the sound library behind the retro 80’s style game by Pixel Trip Studios, The Videokid.

Pixel Trip Studios produced The Videokid, a newly released game for Android and iPhone, in association with Blue Zoo Animation. All the audio production and post-production, including designing a library of unique sounds, was done by iBc Sound in the UK. It was a very interesting project, as they needed to create specifically de-rezzed, 8-bit style audio for every character and sound effect in the game. They’ve done extensive research on real 80’s video games in the process.

Sound Network got to ask iBc Sound director Claudio Somigli some questions about the processes behind the audio production for the game, like how they got that de-rezzed sound on characters’ voices.

SN:

Can you tell us a bit about iBc Sound and how it began?

Claudio: Sure! iBc Sound was co-founded by me and Chad Raymond during our final year of university. As everybody does, we started very humbly with some small commercials and some independent short films shot across Brazil, Italy and the UK.

Our aim was to work our way up in the film and documentaries industry steadily. To cut the story short, not long after we started the company we had the pleasure (and luck) of working on a game designed by Pixel Trip Studios called “The Breakout” [http://www.pixeltripstudios.com/thebreakout/].

It was a great experience for us due to the fact that Adam Jeffcoat granted us absolute creative freedom; he understood and trusted most of the creative sound decisions we made throughout the project and as a result we built a great game as well as an invaluable relationship with Adam. After the completion of The Breakout we made a decision to branch out into the world of gaming and animation. We also kept in touch with Adam, who was always willing give us constructive criticism on other projects we had been working.

To our delight, at the start of September 2015 we got another call from Adam at Pixel Trip to take care of all the sound aspects of The Videokid game, a retro 80’s kind of game where the lead character has to deliver pirate VHS tapes on a skateboard to his customers, before meeting his girlfriend Jessica.

SN:

Can you give us a little synopsis of The Videokid game?

Claudio: The Videokid is an insanely tough retro-runner made to test your skills and reflexes to the max. It’s a mobile game loaded with 1980s nostalgia where your task is to deliver bootlegged movies on videotape to your customers on a skateboard. You get points for pulling off skating tricks and causing general destruction and mayhem, trashing every house in sight and steering clear of the cops. When you upgrade your stats and reach the park in time you get to go on a date with your girlfriend. (Just like real life then!)

iBc Sound creating sound effects for the Videokid game

SN:

How did you decide on the production angle?

Claudio: This immediately proved to be an interesting project, as whilst brainstorming with Adam and the game designers for ideas we straight away established that we wanted The Videokid to be deeply absorbed in an exaggerated and nostalgic 80’s style. It needed to remind us of our childhood experience when we used to watch the Goonies, listen to Michael Jackson and the music from the video games was purely 8 bit sounding.

We sat down with the game designers in the very early stages of the game, just when a first alpha (ultra basic) version of the game was developed and decided on what sounds were strictly needed for the gameplay and what sounds would have established the characters of the game itself. We really wanted the game to have its own identity and the only way we could do this was to create from scratch as many sounds as possible. Time was tight and we couldn’t invest in any additional equipment so we decided to tackle all the sounds with what we own in the most creative way and with very little spending.

SN:

OK. Can you tell us about the gear you used, and what worked and what didn’t?

Claudio: Our plan of action was…

Generic Sounds and Crash Sounds:

  • DPA d:screet™ SMK4061 (stereo kit)
  • DPA d:screet™ Necklace mic
  • Zoom H6 recorder
  • Røde NTG 2
  • Rycote Boom and Blimp
  • Bag of VHS tapes
  • Trusty Skateboard bought on Gumtree for pennies
  • Some road cones
  • Plenty of perspex sheets
  • A whole scrapyard to play with

Characters:

8-bit synth reward/bonus points:

  • Massive
  • Absynth
  • Magical 8 bit Plugin
  • Zebralette
  • ESP (Polyphonic synth)
  • Guitar Rig

iBc studio for Video Game Sound Design

We gave ourselves a good week to play and experiment with mic techniques, trying to think as much out of the box as possible. We spent a good couple of days annoying the neighbourhood just roaming around and recording generic skateboard sounds. In this process we came up with some good ideas that proved to be crucial for the mix down of certain sounds, such as wearing the DPA Necklace microphone whilst recording every skateboard move. The necklace mic mixed well with the shotgun and gave perfectly balanced sounds for most of the skateboard sounds.

Another great day for production sound was the afternoon spent at a scrap yard in Greenford. We knew that there would have been all kinds of animation and crash sounds in the game so we decided to create our own library of sounds to fish from. Here we used the DPA d:screet™ stereo set of 4061s a lot for sounds like windows crashing and the like, and the NTG 2 mounted with boom and blimp for the car wrecker (we really didn’t want to get too close to vans and cars being smashed and dropped from 4 meters high!).

SN:

What about the game characters’ voices?

Claudio: As you play the game, you’ll notice they have parodied characters from 80’s movies walking, shooting, running and screaming down the streets. For this part of the production Pixel Trip spent a lot of time researching the right phrases to make every character as recognizable as possible. From our point of view we wanted the characters’ voices to be crisp and clean but at the same time have that dirty 8-bit texture that would have been prevalent in 80s style games. It’s here that the Meris 440 mic pre together with the Ottobit bitcrusher made a massive difference in helping us tailor the right sound.

Our setup for all the recordings was:

  • Logic Pro
  • Motu Ultralite MK3
  • Meris 440 mic pre and Ottobit bitcrusher in a 6-slot API Lunch Box
  • Sound booth with Rode NT2-A

The audio flow was pretty straightforward:
Røde NT2-A > Meris 440 > Ottobit > Motu > Logic Pro

We needed maximum flexibility for the post production and the send option of the Meris 440 proved to be vital for this task as it let us record a dry signal just in case we might have wanted to re-amp some tracks or perhaps mix them in a different way. With the help of Adam Jeffcoat (Director) and the sound booth at BlueZoo Animation we spent a fantastic day recording them screaming, laughing, acting and the session proved to be incredibly successful.

Meris Ottobit and the Videokid Game

SN:

How did you mix everything together in post-production?

Claudio: The post for the game was (and still is) huge. We took care of pretty much everything but the main music theme which was composed by the legendary Savant! From remixing the soundtrack, special playblasts that happen throughout the game, composing new jingles to associate them to the playblasts and obviously all the generic game sounds rested on the shoulders of iBc Sound.

We wanted the players to hear the Foley effects in first person, i.e. from the perception of The Videokid on his skateboard, rather then making players feel like every sound was bound to the constraints of the screen that they were playing on. “Immersion” became a large focus point for us and we pushed a lot of time and energy into this area of things. Every layer of sound that contributed to a playblast was tailored to the gamer’s point of view (the video kid), exploiting panning automation and stereo image to the maximum to achieve this. Another important point for us was repetition and the gamer’s gratification.

We needed to avoid repetition but without forgetting about the player: it’s the player who is ultimately responsible for those sounds and his sonic fulfilment is dependent on them. During the post-production we really wanted to be as creative as possible without over cooking our sounds with too many plug-ins. Here the Ottobit Bitcrusher unleashed its great potential as we re-amped a bunch of sounds that were lacking a bit of character and it let us create multiple versions just with the touch of a few knobs.

The Videokid Promo Video

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