Friday 1 February 2013

2013 MAS Awards: nominees announced

The nominees have been announced for the 2013 UK Music and Sound Awards.

This is the second annual UK Music And Sound Awards, which recognises creative excellence in music and sound in the videogame, film, TV and advertising industries.  This is the only UK award to focus specifically on music and sound design in the creative industries.  This year also sees the first International Music and Sound Awards, to be held in Cannes in June.

Last year's ceremony was a blast, with music from The Noisettes, The Phenomenal Handclap Band, Newton Falkner, and DJs for the night were Gary Numan and Ade Fenton.

There are 2 game related categories in this years awards, to be held at Troxy in London on February 21st.

The nominees in the 'Best Sound Design: Gaming' category:
Battlefield 3
Mass Effect 3

The nominees in the 'Best Original Composition: Gaming' category:
Dear Esther
Wonderbook: Book Of Spells
The Secret World

Nominees in all categories can be seen here.

Congratulations to all those nominated!

If you're interested in submitting titles for the international awards, you have until the end of March.  To be eligible, the titles must have been released between 1st October 2011 and March 31st 2013.  If you want to submit a title, please follow this link and hit 'How to enter'.

Thursday 24 January 2013

On The Subject Of Loudness

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here.  Not because I had nothing interesting to say, it’s just that it’s been incredibly busy.  Every year I seem to say that the last year has been the busiest ever, and then the next one is even busier.  Anyway, busy is good!

Every year, Sony Worldwide Studios runs an internal tech conference alongside the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  I spoke there a couple of years ago on the problems we as developers, publishers and platform holders had with loudness on our platforms.

At the same conference, the subject of loudness was raised by another couple of speakers, and we decided there and then to form a group to look at the issues.

So in March 2011, the Sony Worldwide Studios Audio Standards Working Group (ASWG) was formed, consisting of Gene Semel & Marc Senasac (SCEA), Keiichi Kitahara (SCEJ) and myself representing SCEE.  The first task we set ourselves was to address our loudness problem.

In the last couple of years we’ve made considerable progress.  Firstly, we studied the state of loudness in current media, measuring the loudness of over 120 games, TV shows, films and adverts.  In November 2012 released our first paper entitled ‘Average loudness and peak levels of audio content on Sony Computer Entertainment platforms’, based on the ITU-R BS.1770 and EBU R128 specs.

Measuring the loudness of interactive content is an inexact science, and we’ve been working with closely with our own First Party Quality Assurance departments on how to effectively measure the loudness of the titles we develop and publish.

Internally, our recommendations have been adopted by all first party studios, worldwide.  They’ve also been received very well by the wider industry, and we’re currently in discussions with a number of industry bodies about wider adoption.

So, I’m doing a number of talks over the next couple of months about the work we’ve been doing, and how we measure loudness in interactive media, both in production and at QA.

On Thursday 7th Feb 2013, I’m speaking at the Audio Engineering Society 49th International Conference on Audio for Games in London with an imaginatively titled talk, ‘Measuring Loudness in Interactive Entertainment’.  I’m also on a panel the same day entitled 'Theoretical,Technical & Practical Frameworks for Interactive Mixing: A Moderated PanelDiscussion', with Tom Colvin, Jon Olive, Xavier Buffoni, Stephan Sch├╝tze and moderated by John Broomhall.

At the end of March, I’m at the 2013 Game Developers Conference at the Moscone Centre, San Francisco hosting the Audio Boot Camp with Scott Selfon from Microsoft.  I’m also on a couple of panels; the first with Mark Yeend (Head of Audio, Microsoft), Gordon Durity (Audio Director, EA) and Adam Boyd (Audio Director, Activision) about loudness standards in the games industry, where we’re at and the progress we’ve made so far. The second is entitled 'How to Mix a Video Game - And Not Die Trying' with Juan Peralta (Skywalker Sound) and Rob Bridgett.

Once this two months of madness is done I'll post up a transcript of my loudness talk here.

Friday 2 March 2012

Off to Boot Camp

Flying out for GDC tomorrow.  We have a great line up for the Audio Boot Camp on Tuesday (6th March), which is being held from 10-6 at Room 3010 in the West Hall.

Here's the list of speakers for the day:

Martin Stig Andersen (Sound Designer, Limbo) - Audio Implementation
Jason Graves (Composer, Dead Space) - Music
Mike Caviezel (Audio Director, Forza) - Sound Design
John Byrd (Gigantic Software) - Mixing
Bernard Rodrigue (AudioKinetic) - Programming
Alistair Hirst (Omni Audio) - DSP
Sergio Pimentel (Nimrod Productions) - Legal/Business

The day will be hosted by Scott Selfon (Microsoft) and myself, and all speakers will be attending the lunchtime surgeries to chat to attendees.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday 22 February 2012

SCEE audio team prepare for the zombie apocalypse

I love this pic!

A couple of months ago our London Studio audio team took part in the 2.8 hours later event, defending London from the undead hoards dressed as the Scooby Doo crew.

As valiant as they were, they weren't able to hold back the zombie masses for long, and eventually succumbed to wandering the streets of London looking for brains.

Left to right: Joanna Orland, Joe Thwaites, Nick Ward-Foxton, Alastair Lindsay and Malin Arvidsson

On a related note, I wanted to go to this talk at the Cambridge University Science Festival, but they'd sold out before I had a chance to reserve tickets :-(

Monday 20 February 2012

All In The Mix

This is a transcript of a talk I did on game audio mixing at the Brighton Develop Conference, in the UK in July 2010.

Remember, this was written to accompany a Keynote presentation, but I can't post that here, so you'll have to imagine it.  It looked awesome ;-)

All In The Mix

What's the difference between LKFS and LUFS?

As part of my work, I've been reading a lot about audio loudness standards recently.

There seems to be a bit of confusion between LKFS and LUFS, so I thought I'd explain the difference between these two measurements.

So, the short answer to the question, what's the difference between LKFS and LUFS is.....nothing.  Not any more anyway.  They used to be different but now they are effectively the same thing.

Here's the long answer:

About 4 or 5 years ago, the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) released a paper, 'ITU-R BS.1770 - Algorithms to measure audio programme loudness and true-peak audio level.'  It described a way to measure the average loudness of a piece of audio and gave you a value for the audio as a whole.  The units it used were LKFS, which stands for Loudness, K-Weighted, referenced to digital Full Scale, averaged out over the duration of the piece.

The EBU (European Broadcasting Union), took this and ran with it.  However, over time they discovered a problem.  It was too easy for long quiet sections of audio to bring down the average measurement.  So they released a paper, 'EBU R128 - Loudness normalisation and permitted maximum level of audio signals', containing a few modifications.

They introduced some new units, namely LUFS (Loudness Units, relative to digital Full Scale), LU (Loudness Units), and LRA (Loudness Range, a measurement of the dynamic range, measured in LU).  The LRA measurement was actually developed by TC Electronics, who are part of the EBU PLOUD group.

The big change was the introduction of a gate that would stop data being taken into account if the level dropped below a certain threshold.  Because consumers judge the loudness of any particular piece of audio based on the loud parts, what the EBU called the foreground loudness, this gate would ignore any data that was 8 LU below the ungated measurment, so quiet sections would not skew the overall measurement.

So, at that point, there was a difference between LKFS and LUFS.  LKFS was the ungated measurement, and LUFS was the measurement that included the effects of the gate.  Generally, on your average TV programme (over a period of say 20-30 minutes), the difference between the LKFS and LUFS measurements is usually between 1-2 LU.

However, in March 2011, the ITU updated their paper with ITU-R BS.1770-2, incorporating the changes the EBU recommended in it's paper R128, namely the gate.  Both the ITU and the EBU agreed that they would both change the threshold of the gate to -10 LU.

So, as of March 2011, LKFS = LUFS.  The EBU were hoping that the ITU would drop LKFS and adopt the EBU's LUFS units, as Florian Camerer, the chair of the EBU's PLOUD group told me that the ITU spec doesn't follow standard naming conventions for units.  However, they didn't, so we're stuck with both of them.

Personally I find it a lot easier to speak of LUFS, as it's easier to describe the differences in material as being 3 LU, as opposed to 3 L_lowercase K_.  But hey!  Anything is better than nothing!

How does this blogging thing work then?

I've been thinking about starting a blog for years now, but never got round to it.  Working for SCEE I'm constrained over what aspects of my work I can talk about publicly.  However, over the years I've done a ton of talks at various conferences, mainly the Game Developer's Conference and the UK's Develop Brighton Conference, as well as various talks at UK universities, on all aspects of audio for videogames.

So, I'm going to start posting them here, as well as any other stuff I happen to find interesting at any particular point.

Watch this space!