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The Sound Design of inFamous Second Son: Neon Power

An in-depth look at the resources captured and used to create the sound design for the Neon powers in inFAMOUS Second Son

In contrast to past inFAMOUS games, Second Son was a tricky beast in that our power sets were pretty abstract. Electricity can really hurt someone, but smoke, neon, and video? This was definitely one of the many challenges we faced with the sound design of the powers. For neon, we took a pretty direct approach and then got creative with our source materials.

We struggled early on with making neon sound “neon” and not “laser.” There was some confusion during development in which power we were making as those two words were often interchangeable. (Fetch even refers to herself at one point in the game as “Laser Girl”). Making her sounds laser-y was ok, but at the same time I didn’t want to tread on the hallowed ground of Ben Burtt. I actually cursed his name a few times during production because Andy had made some beautiful sounds that unfortunately sounded too Star-Wars-laser-gun. Andy  had a REALLY long spring (originally an induction coil for an industrial kiln we got from a local glass maker named Chris Daly) attached to the ceiling of his office. Whenever he would accidentally hit it, I would hear the telltale “pew pew” in my office next door.

The first element we captured which really felt “neon” was an actual neon tube. We have a couple Sly Cooper neon signs in the office, so I took my Barcus Berry contact mic and attached it to one and got some really nice neon hum. For more variety we captured a bunch of fluorescent lights as well, both via contact mics and using a Sennheiser MKH 8060 to capture various flickering sounds of turning them on and off. I have a very old fluorescent fixture in my house that created some amazing sounds which we ended up using for neon power sources powering down. And Delsin’s neon drain was composed of several tracks of neon hum processed through Izotope Iris with various frequencies cutout and some filter sweeps.

For the rest of Delsin’s powers, Andy got REALLY creative. As you’ll see in the video below no sounds were off limits and we used a broad range of varied sounds to create the final neon palette. Andy used Zynaptiq’s Morph plugin extensively to do some interesting blends of EMF interference and various hits on the aforementioned induction coil. Other tricks up our sleeve included an old signal generator I have which emits square and sine wave sweeps and some very cool power on and off sounds and a crazy electric shocking device from the 50s which would shoot small arcs of electricity at anything you put near it.

Once we got our power set close to completion, it was time for another milestone meeting and thus time for another movie to show off our work. The response from the team from our previous movie, the smoke “Sonic Equation,” was so overwhelmingly positive, I felt compelled to do another. Sure the equation doesn’t EXACTLY equate to the sounds as they are in the game, but it at least shows off part of our design methodology as well as the fun we’re still having.

Next time, we’ll discuss the enemy concrete powers and show some of the abuse we wrought upon varied chunks of concrete!

This blog originally appeared here.

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