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Getting the Job: Audio

Getting into the game industry can be very difficult, even with good skills. The guidance and advice section will give you more direct advice on what you'll need to be good at and which areas to concentrate on in order to significantly improve your chances.

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Audio Overview

See the job role sections below for specific details about getting each job:

Sound Designer

Doing sound design for games is one of the most varied and diverse fields of audio production and as such you need to have a broad knowledge base. Your work will be varied, from the creation of individual sounds right up to full and highly complex mixes accompanying the imagery of the game. Because game audio almost always accompanies a visual, it is important to understand the complex relationship between image and sound. The right sound may originate from a completely different object to what you see on screen, for example. Therefore doing any work to picture, such as films, can help you learn skills and techniques that will be very useful for games.

Like many aspects of game development sound design is partly technical and partly creative and so you need to be able to think pragmatically while also having a high level of imagination. Not only is it useful to know how to use audio software, but also how audio and sound works in both the real and digital worlds. A great deal of a Sound Designer's time will be spent implementing the audio they have created, so a very high level of computer proficiency is required. Level design experience is also useful, as you will be using similar interfaces to implement the audio into the game worlds. You should also have experience in sound and voice recording, surround sound systems, data reduction techniques and various forms of synthesis.

Best Tip:
Do as much and as varied work as possible. This will increase your knowledge and open your mind to different ways of tackling things. Take a scene from a film or capture some game footage and recreate the audio for it. Once you've started, fight the urge to listen to the original audio, then when you've completed it, go back and compare your audio with the original and see what is different and why. Learn as much about audio software, plug-ins and processors as you can. Numerous freeware applications are available on the Internet, so you don't need a large budget.

Music Composer

Music for games is a hybrid of film-score, making tracks and creating music that is interactive. You should know how a film-score works; what tricks composers use to highlight an action, underscore a scene and mimic an on-screen action. You should have an understanding of how interactive music can work and what methods there are of creating it. You'll also need to find ways of translating this into video games.

You'll need to be able to compose, arrange and produce music in styles ranging from epic film score to electronica to 1950s big band, and most things in-between. You'll need a good working knowledge of sequencers, vst instruments, midi, plug-ins etc... Coming from a film-music background helps, as you will have already developed many of the skills required.

Although it's technically not essential to be able to play an instrument, it helps. Even with the best programming it's always better to have live elements in a piece. A broad knowledge of music, instruments, and being able to think creatively are essential.

Best Tip:

  • Try to actively listen to as much music in as many different genres as possible.
  • Try and deconstruct pieces that you think work and see what harmony, chord changes, rhythms etc. the piece is using. Don't aim to emulate another composer, but it can help you learn about how you come to write your own music.
  • Although there are so many methods of composition, if you're writing a piece of music it can be beneficial to sketch it on piano first, then work out your arrangement later.

Submission Guidelines

Sound Designer
Sound design is about creating a reality and an environment through audio, as well as guiding the player's emotional journey. Any submissions should aim to achieve this, just having good quality audio is not enough. Recreating a sequence from a film or game creates the opportunity to do this. It should be made clear what you did to create the audio so that we know exactly what to evaluate. Try to send examples covering as many different styles as you can so that we can judge your flexibility and imagination. It is an advantage if you can avoid using sound libraries; most Sound Designers know them very well and they tend to make your work sound generic, so original recordings are always best.

Music Composer

  • Please submit showreels on disc (CD-ROM or DVD).
  • You should be demonstrating that you can score to picture, write in different styles, and create music that's interactive.
  • Take some game, film, or animation footage, and try re-scoring it in your own way.
  • Do try and avoid over-using sample libraries.
  • Don't just send in a collection of dance tunes created in Reason/Acid etc.
  • The pieces don't have to be long and they don't have to be too complicated, just enough to demonstrate your skills.

Resources

For more information on specific job roles, see our Job Roles: Audio section.