logo

The Artful Escape

06.18.17

We have been working on and off over several years with Johnny Galvatron, owner and head creative/writer/designer at burgeoning game-developer Beethoven and Dinosaur, helping him to bring his vision for the game The Artful Escape to life.

The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti is a video game about great expectations, famous folk singers, lingering shadows, space Gods, hallucinogens, individuality, reptile shops, and wild imaginations.

It’s an action, adventure, exploration, narrative driven, musical-laser-light-battle kind of game.

We first worked with Johnny almost ten years ago, producing the demo tracks that eventually got him signed to a major worldwide record deal for his retro-rock album Laser Graffiti. It all went gangbusters, but he eventually tired of life on the road, returning to Melbourne and his first passion, video games. He conceived of a music-based game and set to work developing it. It took years, failed kickstarter campaigns, and hundreds of late nights, not to mention the faith that we put into him and the game by helping out whenever he needed music for the next stage of demos or gameplay, but Galvatron eventually got the attention of film production company Annapurna Pictures when he showcased the game at the 2016 PAX Australia. Annapurna, as luck would have it, were moving into the world of gaming in a big way, with their sights set on exactly the kind of indi game Johnny showed them.

PAX Australia 2016 – Preview: The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti

Annapurna Interactive have now signed on to produce the game, meaning we can all go and make the game as rich and wild on screen as it is in Galvatron’s mind.

Last week it was showcased as part of the Microsoft X Box One X launch at E3 2017, the world’s biggest annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, and won best in show from a handful of blogs and judges. Here is a preview from E3:

You can also check out eight minutes of in-game footage here:

http://au.ign.com/videos/2017/06/15/8-minutes-of-the-artful-escape-of-francis-vendetti-gameplay-e3-2017

And some more buzz:

https://twitter.com/A_i/status/875085149381156865/photo/1

https://www.polygon.com/platform/amp/e3/2017/6/15/15804032/e3-2017-artful-escape-video-gameplay-preview-music

We are hugely looking forward to getting elbows deep into the composition and sound design for such a fun, innovative game!

Vivid – Ford interactive show

06.16.17

Recently we worked in partnership with Imagination on a collaborative project to create an innovative activation piece for Ford at Vivid Sydney.Vivid Sydney is a unique 23-day annual outdoor lighting festival that is vibrant, innovative and engaging. Although the festival is centered on the idea of immersive lighting, an integral part of creating such immersive environments is the sound.

The idea was to increase brand awareness for Ford through an interactive display incorporating a giant live swing set. These giant live swings were utilized for two standalone experiences. The first was an energetic and awe-inspiring demonstration or ‘show mode’, where the swings seeming come to life and move on their own, for which we composed a piece of music designed to enhance the movement and engage viewers emotionally. The second experience was a live ‘user mode’, whereby the audience could interact and swing on the swings accompanied by brilliant lights and enveloping sounds. The show mode was to attract, entertain and thrill the audience while the user mode was to be interactive, fun and engage the audience. In terms of the audio the main point of difference for us was linear vs non linear.

With the show mode, samplify composed a piece of music specifically linked to the visuals of the swings on a pre-determined timeline. The swings started moving at seemingly random intervals, each having their own tone, or ‘voice’, and being introduced one at a time. As the piece progressed they slowly fell into unison and rotated as one. This section created a poly-rhythmical wonderland that felt sporadic and improvised, but, with careful composition, had a sense of cohesion and unity at the same time.

The user mode posed a more challenging role for the audio and required us to created sounds as users reached new height milestones as they swung. We created different length swooshes, and chimes that rose in pitch to represent how the user was swinging; the higher the swing, the longer the swoosh and the higher the chime was in pitch. The problem was not having time-linear data on which to build the audio. The sounds had to be triggered via a middleware program that contained a real-time data feed from the swings themselves. As the data came through specifying the height of each swing motion end point, a corresponding sound was triggered. The end result was a fun, sonically stimulating experience.

Hennessy Classivm TVC

06.15.17

The brief we were given for the Hennessy TVC was an interesting challenge. The TVC was for Mainland China, the musical references were K-pop boy-bands, and the dance sequences had been rehearsed to a Dubstep tune by Skrillex. We were also on a tight deadline; by the time we were approved for the job there was only a few days left until the shoot, they needed the music asap to rehearse and then film the dance sequences.

We started by creating a beat and bassline very much in the style of the music they had been rehearsing to. It was well liked, but the message was “where is the singing? We can’t just show a beat to the client.” We discussed this with the director, Michael Gracey (currently in production of the upcoming musical feature film The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman) and his suggestion was to record ourselves singing in faux Chinese/Korean, so as to give the client and agency an idea of how the vocal parts would eventually sound. It felt a bit silly singing made up words, but it worked, the demo was given the green light, and there was a recording for the team to shoot to.

The next stage was to hand the piece to lyricists and singers in China to replace our babble with real words. Through a bit of trial and error, and a lot of emailing, a vocal part was written with Chinese lyrics, recorded in China, and then sent back to us to embed within the mix of the rest of the track.

Various edits were made to the pictures over several months, posing new challenges each time. We had to find a way to make the music work with each new edit structure, remembering that most of the images were of people dancing, so we had to ensure they were dancing in time to the music, and to the correct section of the song. Again, this took a lot of to and fro and push and pull between music edit and picture edit, but eventually, with discussions including an expanding team of people around the globe, we settled on a 74 second cinema version, with several shorter versions for television.

BMW i3 Augmented Reality

06.06.17


We recently enjoyed working on a collaborative project between FGMNT studios, Imagination and ourselves, for the release of the all-new BMW i3. The i3 is a sleek, sophisticated, all electric car being shown off throughout 50 shopping centres Australia-wide. The project was an augmented reality experience conveyed via iPads set up around a vehicle on a podium. The user would hold up the iPad, view the car through the camera, then the app locks on to the car, and the world is transformed into a futuristic sci-fi environment, then the user is free to explore the new car in depth via digital animation on the iPad. FGMNT studios in Prahran animated the immersive experience, creating a visual palette for us to populate with music, ambience, and sound design.

The requirement was that this be an immersive experience, and this informed the decisions we made when creating. We first set about creating a sparse and inviting musical ambience bed, keeping it as melodically simple as possible, to avoid clashes bewtween iPads in close proximity or any other music that may be played within stores near-by. With all the custom interactive sounds to be played over the top of this ambience bed, all sounds had to work together to strengthen the immersion. We used techniques such as filtering out the higher frequencies of the ambience when you entered the car, to suggest the user had actually moved into a different, enclosed space.

All of the futuristic sounds were of bespoke design, and were layered with swooshes and transition effects, for that touch of class. We worked closely with FGMNT during the implementation stage to ensure the sounds came across effectively and as envisioned on the medium.

The centerpiece of this experience was the larger than life transition when the car appeared on screen at the beginning, and the augmented reality world was constructed. The brief was to be electric, and a real ‘wow’ moment for the user. We constructed a big electric rise sound, and triggered some epic futuristic sfx as the world was building around the car, transitioning into the beautiful sci-fi adventure. Follow the link to see the end result and how it all turned out.

Ticket to Earth

04.24.17

Ticket to Earth (TTE), developed by Robot Circus, was a wonderful opportunity for us to express our creative ability as not only a compositional studio, but also as a sound design house.

Robot circus first approached us back in July 2016 to see if we could create some original pieces of music for their futuristic turn-based game. That initial collaboration was so successful that we all agreed samplify should provide all the music, audio and sound effects for the game.

The project ended up being quite a large showcase for us, with the scope eventually reaching around 10 original battle music cues, 7 map ambience music cues, 15 in-level background sound ambiences, and thousands of action-specific sound effects.

We worked very closely with Robot Circus and their middleware implementation at each stage of production, to help them realise their vision for TTE.

Our biggest challenge was creating a cohesive audio profile for the game as a whole. TTE is set in a futuristic, yet realistic, environment, and creating a mix of both these elements within the sound profile was paramount to the feel of the game, both musically and in the sound design.

This in turn was also the greatest challenge from the sound design perspective. With such a wide variety of sounds to be crafted from scratch, it demanded a lot of forward thinking and planning.

The music we created for the game exemplifies samplify as a studio, fitting comfortably in our repertoire and showing a confluence of our musical abilities. With a heavy background in electronic music, a focus on orchestral composition in recent times, and our work composing for film, it all came together to enable us to create the ideal music score for TTE. The music cues include styles of techno, drum and bass, ambient, and funky breaks. While individually quite different, they all fit appropriately within the game. The distinct and original music cues help strengthen the immersive nature of the audio package we delivered as well as emphasising the game’s sonic identity.

Our considered aim was to create futuristic sounds with organic, real world influences. We used recordings of real world sounds and layered them in subtly with synthesised, created-from-scratch sounds, to give everything a touch of that real world feel. Each sound in the game, from dialog through to footsteps, was treated individually and as a whole, allowing us to make distinctions between different characters whilst retaining a connection to the overall feel of the game. One of the tools we relied on heavily for the treatment of the SFX was Logic’s Space Designer. Space Designer is a meticulous convolution reverb that offers a limitless amount of potential. From pure room treatment through to weird, evolving spaces, it was the go-to audio processor for our sounds.

The dialog was another challenge. Each of the characters has their own personal flair and attitude, and with each vocal response to game play we needed to support and illustrate that diversity. We enlisted the help of several talented voice artists to achieve the individual character personalities, and set about recording them yelling, grunting, wincing and grimacing into our microphones. After we had the dry recordings tracked into Logic we then went about editing and processing them.

Whilst the artists were critical in conveying the various personalities of the many characters, the way in which we processed the dry audio was also important. We gave each character his/her own sonic identity to help reinforce the specific persona, while keeping in mind the realistic nature of the game. The end result is a nice mix of strong vocal performances and subtle, albeit effective, sound design.

It is one thing to create brief-specific sounds in isolation but quite another to make sure it all works well in context.

To achieve cohesion, many developer builds were shared with us along the production process from Robot Circus, so we could hear our audio in context as the game evolved. We then made note of what was and wasn’t working.

 

With such a variety of sounds, ambiences and musical elements, often all happening at once, it was paramount they all worked together to create the immersion needed.

It needs to be noted that all of the work was done inside Logic Pro X with heavy use of the logic plug-ins. We find that Logic is set up in a very intuitive way for editing and writing for gaming. This allows us to focus more on the creative aspects of getting the audio right – Logic has some of the best native plug-ins for creative sound design.

Ticket to Earth is a beautifully made game that is addictive and fun to play. It was a pleasure to create the audio and then test it in-game as we progressed. The end result of our work is an audio profile that is descriptive and immersive, bringing a clear, specific flavor to the game.

With lush ambiences, futuristic weapons, cool drum and bass and a range of other audio goodies, we feel this was a job well done.

The game was very well received last year at PAX and GDC and was released in April of this year. Upon it’s release it spent a number of weeks featured on the Apple app store’s front page. Check out some of the footage and reviews below.

Quotes from reviews:

https://www.okgames.com.au/pax/pax-aus-2016-ticket-to-earth/

“fantastic music.”

https://appadvice.com/review/ticket-to-earth

“the music and sounds are amazing”

10/10

http://www.pockettactics.com/reviews/review-ticket-to-earth/

“The pounding music is also terrific and really drives the game forwards.”

5/5

http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/iPhone/Ticket+to+Earth/feature.asp?c=73338

“Combined with a good story, nice graphics, and an awesome soundtrack, this game feels special.”

http://www.imore.com/ticket-earth-review

“The soundtrack is certainly impressive in its own right. It does an excellent job of pacing the game. When Ticket to Earth wants you to pay extra attention to a line of dialogue or to something happening on the screen, the music will soften. When it wants you to enjoy the fast-paced combat the music will start pumping louder and louder given you a perfect soundscape to bash in some skulls.”

5/5

http://checkpointgaming.net/features/2016/11/pax-aus-indies-2016-ticket-earth/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLVapmYRpVc