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Sound Designing The Hunger Games iOS Game "Girl on Fire" 2

Sound Designing The Hunger Games iOS Game "Girl on Fire"

March 24, 2012

5 Min Read

... a brief introduction. I'm Marty Peters, co-owner and "Creative Audio Artist" with Ozone Music and Sound. My partner Chris Hugan and I have been in business as Ozone for over 9 years. We make you listen, creating sounds of all types, for gaming, advertising, films, and recording artists. Recently we had the opportunity to join an unbelievable team of artists to build what is arguably one of the most anticipated movie tie-in iOS games EVER. When the call came in from indie game icon Adam "Atomic" Saltsman, (Canabalt) we jumped!

The Hunger Games "Girl On Fire" was released on iTunes this past Wednesday.

It was roughly two months ago we began the creative adventure of designing all of the sound effects for this game. The initial list of sound effects needed wasn't massive, but as is often the case in game design, especially that of those with extreme delivery schedules, it kept growing as the development progressed. Though the game art and play are reminiscent of the 8 bit Nintendo days, the sound design needed to be somewhat of a movie caliber, full and big (the game is best experienced with headphones).

  We started with the Foley elements; these are elements that require a real time performance for authenticity while recording. Number one in the process was the footsteps. Our lead character in the game, Katniss, is always running. She is specifically running on four distinctly different surfaces throughout the game.

  In the forest it is the lower level "forest floor" and upper level "treetops", for the former it was mulch and crushed up dried leaves on a crumpled up piece of canvas over a carpeted recording booth floor, and for the later it was whole dried leaves, twigs and grass clippings, and dried sea grass on a hard floor for some extra crunch. We captured these with a two mic setup. A Sennheiser MKH 416 on a low close perspective, and a Neumann U87 from slightly wider position to capture a more natural sound, we used this same mic setup for most of the effects recordings.

  The other footsteps are in the train yards of Katniss' home District 12. The upper being the old rusted tin rooftops of buildings, and the lower being dirty stone streets. For the rooftops we utilized 2 4x4 pieces of corrugated steel roofing on top of each other on the carpeted recording booth floor, the two pieces moving under the shoe movements created a really nice "loose" metal feeling that sounded great! On the lower stone streets we used a few large brick paver stones with sand and pea stone gravel poured on top of them.

  As with all footsteps in game you need to have multiple variations of single footfalls so they can be programmed with the animation. This is where our very talented Foley performer Greg Facca came in. Applying various "weights" of impact, ever so subtle shuffles slips and slides with each footfall, which by the way he performs with his hands, not feet. The in game result is a seemingly never ending loop of varying footfall sounds with each step Katniss takes, all the while never drawing attention to the fact that the running footsteps are constant during nearly every second of game play! Similar to the footsteps are the various "jump up" "jump down" sounds, utilizing very similar materials and techniques with much larger impacts, leaf crunches and shuffles.

Another group of performance effects in this game are the voice cues for Katniss. These are not actually dialog, but required the ability of an actress to perform various emotive grunts exhales and screams. Because Katniss is a teenager the voice had to sound like a younger female, and couldn't be just any old voice talent. Fortunately my daughter is a teenager, and an actress! We captured Katniss jumping down to the forest floor, leaping up to the rooftops and grunting and screaming as the Tracker Jackers sting her with their hallucinogenic poison. In game, you'll believe.

  Some of my favorite sounds to create were Katniss firing her bow at the Tracker Jackers. I utilized a combination of things for these sounds. Her arrows are visually unique in this game, which required a very stylized sound for the "launch" and "flying" of the arrow. It's much more of a sci fi style of air movement, and when the arrow hits the Jackers, it's more of an organic "crunch" into their armored exo skeletons with an effective combination of  "thump" and "crack", intentionally avoiding the cliche' "squish" or "splat" of killing a bug, 'cause these things are beasts, not just little annoying insects.

  I could go on for days, this project was such a blast to work on. We're very proud to have been a part of it. Thanks to all the guys involved. Our director, Adam Saltsman. Mark Johns and Kevin Coulton, who fleshed out the design and programmed the game. Lead artist and animator Paul Veer, and Daniel Baranowsky who composed an amazing original soundtrack inspired by the film. Of course, we can't forget Suzanne Collins for writing the hugely popular books responsible for all of this, or the great people at Lionsgate for bringing this story to the big screen and an even greater audience.


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