Dolby Atmos hits the racetrack in F1® 2020

Formula One has the most recognisable ‘soundtrack’ in sport. And for 2020 the team at Codemasters utilised Atmos to rethink the game’s 3D soundscape – created in association with Dolby.

F1® 2020 is the official videogame of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship and is developed and published by Codemasters. We are excited to have Lars Hammer, audio principal programmer at Codemasters with us to share insights about the sound design and audio mix for the game.

lars codemasters
Above: Lars Hammer is a game industry veteran with more than 25 years’ experience. Since 2010 he has been working on the F1 franchise at Codemasters.

This is the 13th game in the F1® series, how do you keep the audio fresh and exciting from year to year?
There are three things that will keep it fresh: first, the F1 sport itself changes every year. New regulations, new cars, new engines, new teams. Even the smallest change in a car exhaust can make the sound of the car different and we will reflect this in the game.

Then there are new circuits. In this year’s game we added the new Hanoi Circuit and Circuit Zandvoort. And last, but not least, it’s the power of the gaming hardware. We’re always trying to get the most out of the hardware platform, so with faster gaming hardware we can use better algorithms, new features like spatial audio, and simply play higher quality sounds than before.

You mentioned spatial audio, did you envision incorporating spatial audio from the very beginning, and if so, how did that change your design process from 2019?
Yes, it was planned to support Dolby Atmos in F1 2020 from the beginning. We were thinking about how we can make the most out of this added dimension and came up with a few things.

For instance, the grandstands are always above the actual track level, so it makes sense to heighten the position of the crowd sounds. And then we have helicopters, planes and fireworks which are all playing above and around the player.

“We had to rethink how a sound is placed in the 3D space… we can also define how far above the player a sound plays. This really is a game changer.”

 

Did your workflow and mix process differ?
We opened a new Dolby Atmos-capable audio recording/mixing studio at our headquarters in Southam, and we had to rethink how a sound is placed in the 3D space… we can also define how far above the player a sound plays. This really is a game changer.

Luckily our middleware, Wwise, is already Dolby Atmos-ready, so the transition was fairly easy. We added some detection code and if a Dolby Atmos-compatible system is found, the game would take advantage of it.

 

Is there a level/scene in the game that you feel really benefits from spatial audio?
Yes, of course… When you drive into the famous Monaco tunnel, the audio really opens in all directions, this really is a ‘Wow!’ moment.

Who doesn’t love a ‘Wow!’ moment?! Lars, thanks for talking F1 audio with us, we appreciate your time and getting a glimpse of your process. For more information on F1 2020, head over to: www.formula1game.com/2020

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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