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Feature: 'Sounds Of The Snow'

In one of the more unconventional Gamasutra articles we've ever published, Finnish game sound designer Tapio Liukkonen (Broken Alliance) writes passionately about the n
Finnish sound designer Tapio Liukkonen has lived almost his entire life in Finland, where the four seasons are strikingly disparate. Temperatures in summer can reach 104 degrees, while in winter they can fall 40 degrees below zero. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why winter is all the more special to Liukkonen: "To me, winter means a lot. I like winter and everything that you can do then. It also has extremely wide and specific soundscapes. Lots of things affect the soundscape, like temperature, quality of snow, location, etc. I prefer the real sound of snow instead of Foley sounds, because you can't create as unique a sound with Foley as with real field recording." Why not, and what are some general problems of winter field recording? Liukkonen explains the key issue in brief: "It is faster to work in a studio because everything is close and there aren't any unwanted noises. In the field things can go badly, and it can take time. But if you know how to record sounds and you are aware what you need, you can save time in the editing and mixing processes. Real sound can fit as it is -- but studio recordings probably need editing. For example, if you record footsteps in 5F (-15C) weather, you can record it from the right distance, you get the right surface and quality of snow, and you'll have the natural ambience. Creating the same sound in a studio environment can be tricky. You have to eliminate room tone, you have to have the right items to make a sound which sounds like snow, and you have to get the right ambience. By ambience I don't mean background noises and whatever -- I mean the ambience which characterizes the sound itself, so that it isn't too "dry". You can now read the full feature, which contains some surprising and intriguing detail on the particulars -- and indefinables -- of snow sound (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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