Audio Engineer - Computer Games
The Audio Engineer creates the soundtrack for a game. This might include music; sound effects to support the game action, such as gunshots or explosions; character voices and other expressions; spoken instructions; and ambient effects, such as crowd noise, vehicles or rain.
The soundtrack helps to create a more immersive experience for the player by reinforcing the mood of the game. It can also enhance game play by affecting the tempo and adding emotional depth.
Audio Engineers work for development studios, both independent and publisher-owned. The size of the audio department depends on the company, but can consist of just one or two people who are sometimes required to work very long hours, particularly as launch dates approach.
Budgets and resources vary, but the role of Audio Engineer is becoming increasingly important as game projects grow in complexity, with some titles requiring full orchestral scores.
Audio Engineers also work for specialist outsourcing companies and localisation services that re-version games for different territories.
What is the job?
Working to a creative brief, the Audio Engineer produces a sound design for the game and, when this has been agreed, realises it. This might involve the composing, scoring and recording of music.
The Audio Engineer will sometimes also audition and record any actors that are needed – in other languages if the game is being re-versioned – and this might involve lip synching to animation.
They are responsible for sourcing any sound effects that are needed, improving or creating them where necessary. These might be real or imaginary sounds, depending on the type of game. The Audio Engineer then edits, mixes, and masters the music and sounds to produce the soundtrack for the finished game.
Creating a soundtrack for a game is a complex process. Games are non-linear, interactive experiences and the Audio Engineer needs to keep that in mind, particularly when scoring music.
There are various technical constraints to be taken into account as well. The Audio Engineer also has to work to production deadlines which are often very tight.
Typical career routes
There is no set route to becoming an Audio Engineer in the games industry, but a musical background is essential as the role usually involves composing and performing music. Experience of sound recording, editing and mixing is also required.
Relevant skills can be transferred from other sectors.
Most new entrants to the games industry are graduates, but there are also opportunities for individuals with a talent for music and sound engineering, demonstrated through a personal portfolio.
Domestic equipment is increasingly accessible and sophisticated, providing opportunities to learn and experiment.
Recruiters will be looking for creativity, resourcefulness, a range of styles and a love of games, rather than competence in specific technology and tools.
Essential knowledge and skills
Game production is a collaborative process. Audio Engineers need excellent communication and interpersonal skills to be able to understand what designers and producers want from them and to keep up with any changes. They also need to communicate effectively with the programming and art department teams.
The Audio Engineer must also be able to work independently and manage their schedule. They need good organisational skills to deal with the amount of sound effects and music required for games and to co-ordinate recording sessions.
They also need a sense of fun and the ability to think laterally – creating sounds, especially for fantasy games, requires creativity and imagination.
Key skills include
- ability to compose and perform music;
- sound engineering skills and knowledge of the relevant tools and technology;
- “aural skills”, a sense of timing, and attention to detail;
- strong communication and interpersonal skills;
- creativity and imagination;
- ability to work to deadlines;
- a feel for the atmosphere of games;
- knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
There are no specific qualifications required for this role, but a degree or other higher education qualification in sound engineering is useful.
Courses are available throughout the UK, from HND to degree level, in sound technology, audio engineering, acoustics, and music recording. There are also short courses available. Creative Skillset’s regional training partners can advise about local opportunities.
A musical education is beneficial, particularly the ability to compose music and play some instruments. Knowledge of relevant software packages, such as Logic Audio, Sound Forge, and Cool Edit Pro, is also useful.
Candidates for audio engineering jobs will need to supply a portfolio or demo of their work. Demos should show originality, competence in various types of music, and indicate an awareness of how sound relates to games of different types.
Where to go for more information
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