Interview with Charles Deenen
TheStig talks with Need for Speed Most Wanted senior audio director Charles Deenen about behind the scenes of sound recording.
CD: We recorded approx 40 cars for Most Wanted, and also used a bunch which were recorded for NFSU1 or NfSU2 (for NFSU2, we recorded approx 40-45 cars). Often we start recording cars before the licenses are through, so we sometimes end up recording cars which won't get used. Also, sometimes a car might sound good in real life, but simply doesn't translate to the game, in which case it's a toss-out.
We cannot give you the list of cars which were used for each vehicle to avoid giving the competition an idea of what can work great as a replacement for some hard to record cars.
TheStig: Which parts of the cars did you record for sounds?
CD: Each car gets recorded on at least on 8 (3 in the front of the car, 3 in the rear, 1 on the side, 1 in the distance), but often 12 channels in total if you count the onboards. Then there's the 2x2 stereo channels for by's, approaches etc. for a total of around 16 channels.
Other game companies might tout that they 'record the car from all angles'... Well, we think that's normal, but only the beginning of the deal. As to exact locations, microphone choices etc, they change per car. Then we also record each car on the road to get the perfect shift mechanism (compare for example Most Wanted with PGR3, and you'll hear the difference during shifting). One sounds 'gamey', the other sounds 'full' like the real thing. Car grunt, sputter and make sometimes odd noises during shifting, something which other game companies are not capturing in their game.
TheStig: How did you record the sounds, what equipment did you use?
CD: We use a whole range of microphones and hire the best recordists out there (i.e. John Fasal, Eric potter etc. (see: link). Most of our recorders are Sound Devices 744's which we link together (link). Some of the field recorders are Fostex FR2's or Nagra D's.
TheStig: How do you make a real sound of a car into a ingame sound that is playable like revving etc?
CD: This is where we have a head-start on other game companies, so without going into details (which would give away our 'secrets') all I can say is that the main difference is that other game companies play 'loops' created out of cars driving a steady RPM, where we playback a recording of the car from standstill to full RPM. The difference is that you'll hear a lot more detail, and it sounds a lot more 'true'.
TheStig: Are there any funny things to explore in MW soundwise?
CD: Not really this year. In NFSU2 there were some funny things in FE ambiences. However, in the 12000+ lines of cop dialog, sometimes you'll hit on a funny combo, some which we caught and removed already (i.e. 'take'em take'em.... 'from the rear' etc.). Naturally, that had to go to maintain a PG rating :)
TheStig: Has anything funny happened while you where recording the sounds for MW?
CD: There always is something happening... Cars hitting the ditch, Hoods breaking off, bouncing off the curb, completely frying etc. This often happens with the more in-experienced drivers. Not really funny, but often heart-pounding. There's always some funny stuff being recorded from the recordist trying to pronounce car names, cursing at birds etc.
TheStig: Alot of people wonder why things like the Horn are removed from the later NFS games can you tell us why it was done?
CD: Yeah, imagine having 1.9mb of ram to squeeze all sound in. And now we're faced with trying to cram everything in. Something had to go. But the main reason is that we don't have a button left on the PS2 controller. All of them are used.
TheStig: I noticed that there is a Lamborgini Diablo on the pictures from the recordings, did you use it for the recordings?
CD: We used 2 Lamborginis (the 3rd in the pic was owned by one of the drivers). We record the cars without turbos and add those in later-on to be able to accommodate 'upgrades'.
TheStig: What is your favorite car in MW?
CD: I like the Gallardo, Porsche Carrera GT, an a lot of the smaller v4's. There's a few that were harder to pull off since the cars weren't agresssive sounding, so those would be my least favorite.
TheStig: What was the favorite moment in the recording for you?
CD: Every recording has it's fun moments. Adam Boyd went to all of the recordings on behalf of EA. I'll forward this email to him to add/touch-up where he wants.
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