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The Fourth Annual Interactive Music Conference
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Group Report: The Sound Pressure Lobby

Participants: Alexander Brandon; Straylight Productions
Tony Chu; T-Square Design Dan Brown; Apple Computer
Dennis Staats; Dolby Laboratories Bobby Prince; bobby prince Music
Stan Neuvo; Ion Storm Facilitator: David Battino

Our mission: To encourage content providers and equipment manufacturers to provide high-quality computer audio and promote awareness among media and consumers of the benefits of it.

It is well known that audio takes second place to visual impact in computer and game console content.  This is the natural consequence of real life, as visual aspects are more noticeable to the recipient, and generally more necessary than that of the aural.  However, one should not discount the importance of the role that a powerful soundtrack plays in an enveloping entertainment experience.  Numerous studies point out that an engrossing sound experience enhances the value of entertainment and even "makes the picture look better".

At this current time, quality audio is the exception rather than the rule. This situation is compromising the effectiveness of the experience that would be gained if more attention and resources were devoted to enabling the best the audio world has to offer.

The Problem:

What is "quality audio"?
It is somewhat difficult to categorize many audio-based aspects of content and the delivery systems used to support their enjoyment by the consumer.  Describing the experience one might use terms such as moving, dynamic, expressive, fresh, etc.  Unfortunately, such terms are rarely defined and may mean entirely different things to different people.

Who defines "quality audio"?
Obviously, individual opinions primarily dictate what is "quality audio".  However, what may be appealing to one party may be entirely unacceptable to another.  Thus, the opinion of "experts" is frequently sought.  This is perhaps most evident in the existence of reviewers who bring forth their opinions in the form of columns in periodicals and other distributed media.  Currently, little attention is focused on the subject of audio by these experts.  Reasons for this may include, lack of one or more of the following:

  1. Interest
  2. Knowledge
  3. Terminology
  4. Standards
  5. Time investment

The Solution:
We propose that a working group be formed within the industry known as the Computer Audio Experts Group (CAEG).  It will promote quality audio in games, other computer applications and the hardware that supports this agenda.  Without such a group, audio quality will undoubtedly continue to take a "back seat" position to that of the visual.  This group would be populated by persons within the industry who stand to gain by the improvement and promotion of quality audio.  The group's mission would be to promote the importance of quality audio to programmers, producers, executives, consumers, retailers, and the media.  The group will be funded through dues charged to its members.

It will establish standards for audio hardware.  Some of these physical specifications might include:

  1. Bit depth
  2. Sample rate
  3. Frequency response
  4. Distortion
  5. Noise (S/NR)
  6. Perceptual coding benchmarks

It would also establish benchmarks such as:

  1. CPU utilization
  2. Number of channels
  3. RAM utilization

These standards and benchmarks would for the backbone of the group and promote the growth of quality audio through testing and analysis.

How it will be done
The group will begin with two main tasks.  The first would be to form an internal committee that will promote quality audio to key players in the industry.  Some of these key players would include:

  1. The press
  2. Platform manufacturers (executives, marketers, engineers, etc.)
  3. Content producers (sound designers, programmers, etc.)

These key entities would be visited by members of the committee to discuss our mission, to provide reasons for participating in the effort, and the rewards of doing so.  The main tool of the group would be a multimedia presentation, most likely in the form of DVD or an equivalent. This presentation would include the following:

  1. Demonstrations of low-quality vs. high-quality audio
  2. Demographics
  3. Marketing statistics
  4. The benefits of doing high-quality audio

The second task is to establish awards to be given for both technical and artistic merit.  Audio professionals are passionate about their craft.  They have made it their life's work and are driven to produce the absolute best product they can.  Frequently, these efforts are not recognized by the general public, manufacturers, the media, and even their own peers.  Game soundtracks and other computer-based entertainment are often not recognized for either their technical merit nor artistic value.

We propose the establishment of awards for the computer audio community.  These awards would be granted by the voting of the members of the group.  Such awards would be given on a regular basis.  The categories for these awards would include the following categories:

  1. Best overall game sound
  2. Best sound design
  3. Best audio coverage by the media
  4. Best hardware

The award would be supported by the use of recognizable logos controlled by CAEG and other promotion.

section 7

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select a section:  1. Introduction  2. Speaker Summary  3. Executive Summary  
4. The Big Picture Group  5. The Impact of Digital Distribution on the Various Constituencies Within the Music Industry Group  
6. The Apostles of the Church of Appliantology Group 
7. The Sound Pressure Lobby Group   8. Schedule & Sponsors