Audiokineticâ??s march on the future of game sound continues apaceâ?¦

TOOL FOCUS: SoundSeed Impact 2008.1

Price: From $5,000 for the initial platform
Company: Audiokinetic
Contact: +1 514 499 9100

Canadian middleware provider Audiokinetic may have launched its new SoundSeed product as a family of plug-ins for its established WaveWorks Interactive Sound Engine (Wwise), but it seems that the potential is much wider.

“At the moment, we’re releasing SoundSeed through Wwise because we’re looking to extend Wwise as a platform – but don’t be surprised if you see SoundSeed appearing in others areas as well, maybe some game-related, maybe some not,” says Jacques Deveau, Audiokinetic’s program manager. “We have other options. The technology is easily adaptable for any host.”

It’s a significant move for the company, which has seen developers such as Rare, Ensemble, BioWare, Treyarch and Pandemic adopt its audio platform in recent years.

“The biggest challenge we have is internal technology,” Deveau says. “Studios have generally invested a lot in their in-house tech so it can be an issue to get them to evaluate Wwise in the light of that. We spend a lot of time dealing with the programming team, convincing them the API is flexible enough.”

As for SoundSeed, the first product to be released under the name is SoundSeed Impact, which is out in its 2008.1 incarnation together with Wwise version 2008.4. And it’s already been used by Realtime Worlds.

In terms of how the technology work, it uses modal synthesis to deconstruct certain types of sounds, notably bangs, clangs and punches, in order to enable a lot of runtime variation while requiring minimal processor overhead, compared to streaming in individual sound files.

“If you consider the traditional process, people have to record a lot of different sounds. Take the example of footsteps: you’ll record various types of shoes and strides on various floor materials and then spend a lot of time recording, editing and integrating the raw sounds,” explains Deveau.

“SoundSeed works by splitting a sound – say a footstep on tiles – into a residual, or noise-only, sound, and a data model of the resonance contained in the original sound. Using the SoundSeed Modeller, you save a file containing the data model, which is effectively the recipe to rebuild the resonance in different ways by doing real-time transformations on the frequency, bandwidth and magnitude of those resonances – thus creating the variation.”

Of course, this does require care to be taken with respect to the original sound source, and modal synthesis is more effective when applied to some types of sound than others: after all, that’s the reason the first SoundSeed release is called Impact.

Deveau says future plug-ins will likely use different techniques. “We’re considering other modules now but we probably won’t be looking to use modal synthesis for the next product,” he says. “We’re researching other technologies, perhaps even true synthesis where we wouldn’t use wave files at all, which requires even less memory overhead.”

And in future, he points out that as with graphics, the trend for game audio will be the increasing use of procedural generation. “We now have the CPU power available to do things like physical modelling,” he enthuses. “I think five years down the line, we’ll start to see these sort of things appear in games, especially in terms of techniques such as physics-driven audio.” Sounds like low overhead, big impact audio is here to stay.

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