|The Tenth Annual Interactive
PROJECT BAR-B-Q 2005
Group Report: New Approaches for Developing Interactive Audio Production Systems
|Participants: A.K.A. "Open Resource Game Audio System Managment Group"|
Peter Drescher; Danger
|Alistair Hirst; Omni Interactive Audio|
|Steve Pitzel; Intel||Steve Horowitz; Loud Louder Loudest|
|Stephen Kay; Karma Lab||Guy Whitmore; Microsoft Game Studio|
|Roger Powell; Apple||Devin Maxwell; Loud Louder Loudest|
|Todor Fay; New Blue||Oren Williams; Dolby Labs|
|Matt Tullis; Dolby Labs||David Lieberman; Anigraphical|
|Facilitator: Linda Law; Project BBQ|
Problem Statement Summary
The group discussed designs for an interactive audio production and auditioning system that could be marketed to a wide audience in order to motivate software developers to create the necessary tools. We identified the problems faced by interactive audio developers and the hurdles that must frequently be overcome. We discussed the Phive Stages of Game Audio Development: Pre-production, Prototyping, Production, Polishing and Phinal Testing.
The need and desire for a standard, open, game audio production and auditioning platform has been discussed at BBQ numerous times in the past (by the Big Picture, Foghorn, and iXMF groups, et al), and yet there has been little progress, despite the obvious advantages such a system would have on workflow efficiency and audio production costs. Why? The answer seems clear: the interactive game audio market is not big enough to justify the cost and effort of tool development. Nonetheless, the need exists. How do we bring such a product to market?
The group came to the following realization: that by looking beyond the niche of game audio production, new (and possibly mass) markets for interactive audio development tools can be identified.
The solution proposed by the group is to suggest standards and methods for developing an "interactive audio authoring and auditioning system" that can be marketed to non-game audio producers, including:
But first, an open, standard system must be designed. In order to accurately define the technical issues such a platform must address, the group performed the following exercise:
1. Guy Whitmore to talk to David Battino re: contact information on Ableton
Live (to gauge interest in interactive audio)
Year after year at BBQ, many of the smartest people in the interactive audio industry have discussed the need for an interactive / adaptive audio production and auditioning system. All agree that creating such a product would not be an especially daunting task technically and that "if you build it, they will come" (meaning, there already exists a customer base for the product). Nonetheless, no one has yet attempted to create the system. Why?
One answer is that proprietary systems are already in use by numerous game developers (XACT, for example). These systems are created in-house and usually only address the needs of the developers' products, even though they all basically do the same kinds of things (use of scripts, providing hooks into the game engine AI, etc.) It seems like a great deal of time, money and effort has been wasted in re-inventing the wheel, while simultaneously failing to advance the overall art form of game soundtrack scoring.
An open, non-proprietary system for producing interactive audio content can significantly improve the audio developers' workflow (and thereby reduce audio development costs) by simplifying the process composers and sound designers must utilize to audition music and sound effects in the context of gameplay. This can save countless hours of effort, free up programmer resources, and enhance overall interactive audio quality. Such a system might ultimately retire the need for in-house studios using proprietary tools, if the system can be made available and desirable to a wider market. As in the Hollywood film model, a well developed set of tools can open up competition by studios and content providers, thereby lowering costs and increasing choice.
We believe that the key to enhancing the workflow for producers of game audio is a tool base that crosses over into the pro-audio market. Once interactive audio production tools function with pro-audio development packages such as Logic or ProTools, or used with stand-alone applications such as Ableton Live or Acid, the doors may open for the creation of interactive soundtracks on a mass market scale, as has happened in the film industry. The engineering hurdles must first be addressed, but at this point, the barriers do not seem too high either technically or financially. The proof is in the work of the last 10 years of BBQ reports, and in this group's discussions.
While many of the problems outlined above are out of the control of audio professionals because they are rooted in current approaches and attitudes in game development, better tools and workflow could make the audio portion of game development smoother, easier, enabling better results and advancing the art of game audio. This problem was recognized by the 2003 BBQ group that worked on the iXMF rollout.
Developers, publishers and content creators are currently wasting time and money by working with multiple and incompatible audio systems. Even though there have been many advances in implementation, creative control is often still not in the hands of the audio artist, remaining the responsibility of the game programmer. This compromises quality and wastes resources, problems that are exacerbated when developing multi-platform titles. Completion of the iXMF spec in itself is not enough to solve this problem so we are providing a roadmap for its accelerated adoption by the industry.
Once the iXMF spec is completed, the difficultly is in getting the tools created to support it. Working with open standards will provide a wide enough user base to encourage the development of the tools required by interactive audio creators, and probably spark new applications as yet unforeseen.
The group came to three important realizations:
By combining these ideas, tools can be reusable from game to game without having to waste time and money on redundant efforts. By using open standards, and leveraging the capabilities of existing software tools that also require real-time manipulation of audio, new markets can be created and served.
In order to accurately define the technical issues and possible market opportunities for an interactive audio authoring and auditioning system, the group defined the phases of game audio development, discussed common problems for each phase, and suggested possible solutions. The list of solutions is intended to help define market opportunities for interactive audio systems outside of the traditional game audio development business.
1. Pre-production Phase
2. Prototyping Phase
3. Production Phase
4. Polish Phase
5. Phinal Testing Phase
The "evolution" analogy:
SO, if "interactive audio tools" are the "legs", and "dry land" is the game audio industry, then perhaps we can help along development of the tools we want by first creating them for the "fresh-water lagoon" of new markets that could benefit from interactive audio capabilities. Once the tools exist, game audio developers could use them to run.
The "camera phone" analogy:
Perhaps something similar can be done for interactive audio authoring tools. For example, a DJ wanting to create long, evolving dance tracks might take advantage of an interactive or algorithmic audio system during a live performance. Such a tool might be the solution to a problem the DJ didn't know he had.
Other Reference Material
IASIG's Interactive XMF specification (not yet published)
What is Interactive Audio?
Towards Interactive XMF
Foghorn report from BBQ 2000
Big Picture report from BBQ 1999
select a section:
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