Ask DICE: Bence Pajor on Sound Design

Bence-PajorIn DICE’s “Ask DICE” seriesaudio director Bence Pajor answered questions on sound design, sent in by the Battlefield 4 community.

Q: Thank you for a fun game and an awesome “sound image”. Is the sound team split up in smaller groups, one team focusing on vehicles and another on guns/ambient etc.?

A: You’re welcome! The sound team is usually split up in small groups that handle specific parts of the soundscape, but we all touch pretty much everything during the full course of a project.

Q: What is the most challenging thing to do from a sound perspective?
A: The most challenging thing is to make all the parts fit together as one coherent experience.

Q: How does DICE create weapon, vehicle and environment sound effects in the game? Do you use actual weapons and vehicles or create the FX via software?
A: We make our own recordings of the real stuff. If you want to learn more about the work process behind the Battlefield 4 sound, check out this “The Road to Battlefield 4” post.

Making sure the “hierarchy of sounds” is correct in the heat of battle is a crucial task for the DICE audio team.

Q: Why do the DMR’s have such a drastic increase in their sound as compared to Battlefield 3? And would it be possible to turn down their sound? As is, they sound pretty annoying. By all means, do not make them sound like an assault rifle, but intermediate between the bolt action sniper rifles and an assault rifle.
A: This has already been addressed, the bullet fly-by sound is now somewhere in between an assault rifle and a sniper rifle. This will be out in a patch soon.

Q: What kind of equipment do you use for recording all the different sounds and what software is used for the finalizing?
A: We use a wide array of recording devices, everything from handheld integrated recorders to professional recording gear and microphones.

siege of shanghai4Q: Is there a chance that Battlefield will ever incorporate a HRTF-enhanced sound system? I have always enjoyed the sound in the Battlefield series, but a more powerful sense of spatial orientation through sound would be incredible, “wrapping up the package”, so to speak.
A: We currently have a really rough version of HRTF in the headphones setting. There are currently no plans for a proper HRTF setting, but we are investigating better spatial awareness.

Q: First, I LOVE the audio in Battlefield 4. The question I have is this: since Bad Company 2 there have been many complaints about your soldier saying something to interact with the game, and the players themselves not hearing it. An example is throwing a grenade and they yell “grenade”, or when someone is killed and someone across the map yells “friendly down”. Has it ever been considered to remove that option in the game, or allow the player to hear it so that they are aware of actually making noise?
A: Glad that you love our work. We are looking into refining the design you mention for future games.

The Battlefield 4 audio is not just there for your listening pleasure, it also gives information of the surroundings in-game. Listen carefully to up your game!

Q: Have you ever talked about an idea of going deaf (or a “weeeeee” noise in your ears) for a few seconds when standing next to a tank that just fired a round? I understand this could be annoying for some people but it’s can also be a trade off from using a tank as a cover.
A: Yes, we’ve discussed that and it actually works like that in Battlefield 3. In Battlefield 4 we just have different way of portraying going temporarily deaf.

Q: Great work with the sound in-game, really atmospheric! But I have to ask, why were multi-character voice-overs dropped from the Battlefield series? Bad Company 2 had them as every class character had its own unique voice, and it worked wonderfully and sounded diverse. Also, why don’t you offer original localized voice-over in the options menu anymore? Battlefield 2 and Bad Company 2 allowed us to switch between English and original (Chinese/Arab/Russian) voice-overs.
operation-locker5A: The player’s own voice is always the same (and has been for all Battlefield titles) but other characters voices are recorded with up to 15 different actors. They are not class/kit or rank specific as in Battlefield 2, Bad Company 1 and 2 as you point out. We made this decision because we wanted a wide variety of different voices.

As for original languages, we chose to use English with an accent for game important messages as opposed to Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2, and Battlefield: Bad Company that only had original languages. This way both sides are equal as far as understandability goes.

Q: Can we have an increase in the sound of enemy players footsteps? Why should they be quieter than my team mates’ footsteps?
A: All other players except yourself, friend or foe, have the same volume attenuation for their footsteps. We must maintain a hierarchy of loudness for different sounds, and since we depict such a vast range of loudness it’s quite natural that footsteps are a lot quieter than vehicles, guns and explosions.

Q: I have to say, I’m a huge fan of how the LMGs sound in the game, they’re fantastic with the War Tapes audio setting enabled and a set of good monitor headphones. Is there a real difference in the approach to sound design for the War Tapes option, or is it just a different sort of equalisation between the different sounds?
A: War Tapes is just a different master setting of the game, very compressed and distorted. From the start, it was made out of pure curiosity. The game sounded like something recorded with a handy-cam. We just thought it was cool. It’s a very extreme setting.

Tons of various field recordings have been done to secure the sounds of the many vehicles and weapons in Battlefield 4.

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Q: Will you change it so that when someone pulls their knife out you can hear it come out of the holster, to give you a warning that someone is behind you?
A: There’s always a sound when someone pulls a knife out. There’s just little time for you to react to it.

Q: How does the game know that when you’re in a tunnel, the audio should echo, and that when you’re outside it should travel through the city?
A: We manually tag every area of a map to tell the game what sounds to play there. So the sounds are not processed, we just use other sounds.

Q: Are there any sounds in Battlefield 4 that the Battlefield community has yet to hear, i.e. easter egg audio?
A: Well, maybe there is… We advice you to keep your ears open.

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