Bigger then Big: The Game Audio Explosion Part 3 - Music and FMVs Feature - The Next Level

Bigger then Big: The Game Audio Explosion Part 3 - Music and FMVs

An examination of how a game score moves from wallpaper to story-teller, and the role of FMV sound.

Article by Steve Kutay (Email)
March 28th 2006, 04:15AM

Action/Arcade and Sports Music

The most basic function of game music is best exhibited in 'arcade' style games in which the overall gaming experience is enhanced by the addition of adrenaline-surging music. The music helps to drive the action, thereby heightening the intensity of the experience. For this reason, it's very common for these games to license tracks from well-known, marketable artists with a track record of producing music that translates to the listener. The interactive potential of this music, has thus far been very low. However, as many artists are also avid gamers, they are beginning to show interest in lending their talent toward interactive soundtrack design, if not producing tracks in their entirety.

Generally speaking, the interactivity of the music in arcade-style games rarely moves beyond loops and stings. In many cases, this is all that is required. However, as the complexity of arcade-style games grow, so must the level of musical interactivity. The music for these games should support any changes in game-play. Power-ups, signature moves and multiple damage are all examples commonly reserved for the sound design to immerse the player in the action, but are appropriately expressed through music as well. A deep understanding of the game-play will reveal to the composer, new areas to interactively enhance an otherwise monotonous arcade soundtrack.

Full Motion Video (FMV)

Since the FMV is a controlled environment, it is tempting for the sound designer to elaborate on the sound effects. While in some cases, it may be appropriate to heighten the dramatic impact of the story; great care should be maintained to be consistent with the in-game sound design. An incredible-sounding FMV is surely a joy to behold, however, if the in-game sounds do not hold up to the FMVs, the playing experience will be diminished. The purpose of the FMV is to dramatically move the storyline, and to provide a break in the action. Since Most FMVs occur after completing a level, there is an inherent sense of reward when viewing the FMV. The sound design should pay respect to this as long as it doesn't stray too far from the in-game sound. The FMV should act as a seamless transition into and out of the game play. In my opinion, it is best to use in-game sounds within the FMV wherever in-game movements or actions are present.

The second consideration for FMV sound is the mix of all the sound elements. All dialog, sound effects and music should be mixed at comparable levels to the in-game mix, unless there is a dramatic motivation for stressing one over the other.

Steve Kutay is the co-founder of Radius360, an award-winning audio post production company, specializing in sound for film and games, located in Los Angeles, California. For more information please visit or contact Steve at

©2006 Steve Kutay, Radius360. This article may be posted in partial or entirety as long as credit is given to Steve Kutay, Radius360 and

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