Aaron Gallant - Sound Designer/Engineer/Editor

Saints Row IV Sound Design Demo - Aaron Gallant

Saints Row IV Sound Design Demo Description


Rotating Pod Hallway


The rotating pod hallway is used in several moments in the game and I wanted to emphasize how dire the situation is for the characters trapped in the pods as well as cater to the size and movement of the pods. The sounds of the pods themselves consist of layered metal, the main part being a ratchet wrench that I pitched down. Other metal sounds include metal hits and generator hums. Some of these sounds were duplicated, pitched and processed with some flange and EQ. I will go into more detail about the ambient sound of the room later in the video but in this scene you can hear some processed metal scrapes that periodically go off to give even more of a menacing vibe. I time stretched the scrapes to make them feel almost tonal and surreal.


The hallway utilizes several audio emitters to implement the sounds. There is a large emitter that encompasses the entire hallway that plays general ambient sounds and includes 2 main play actions. The first action is a looping background sound. This sound was chopped into multiple files about 10 seconds in length and they crossfade with each other in an infinite loop. I did this to create more movement and give an unsettling mood as well as making the loop feel more organic. The second play action is a random container that triggers creepy one shot sounds such as the processed metal scrapes.  For the pods, I created 3 looping files that all sound similar but just different enough to not phase and to sound like separate objects much like how footsteps have variations. I placed an audio emitter around every two pod group so there wasn’t too much audio playing at once. I also set up the sounds in a sequence container with an audio object limit of 3. This ensured that as you encounter each grouping of pods that a different sound would trigger giving more realistic variation and preventing phasing from the same file playing on top of each other on two objects simultaneously. All of this was done with a single audio event and was used throughout the various locations where the pods were located.


Freeze Blast Super Power


The freeze blast super power was something I wanted to sound sharp and crippling. The sounds are made of gunfire, styrofoam, dry ice cracks, celery crunches, screen door slams, birds, whooshes made from a synthesizer, metal screeches, metal chain rattles, glass tinks with a fork, and glass shatters. Some sounds processed with pitch shift/time crunch, flange, delay, and reverb to give a little more supernatural feel. To get the final product to sound sharp I utilized compression and EQ. I knew the sounds would be playing during battle sequences so I focused on shaping them in a higher frequency range to give them energy and the ability to cut through all the gunfire and explosions without drowning those elements out.


The freeze blast was split into 2 categories: Projectile and Impact. The projectiles were set up much like a gun fire and consisted of 6 one shot variations in a random container with a slight pitch variation applied and a do not play last 4 sounds setting. The audio event was attached to the VFX and would play when that effect triggered. The impacts had a similar setup with multiple variations in a random container and triggered on the VFX impact. This audio event also had a stop event for the projectile fire that way if the projectile launched far, the sound would trail away naturally and if the impact happened quickly, the trail sound of the projectile would not keep playing as if it’s journey had been actually cut short.


Golden CID Robot Smash


This sequence was set up as one sound file and trigger so I put in all the elements needed for the sequence instead of triggering elements like the player slide foley in a separate system. The player slide was a broom sweep sound that I added reverb to. I also added some whooshes that I processed a little with some Waves plug-ins. I used heavier whooshes with the same processing on the slam swing. The impact of the robot utilized sharp metal impacts with a small amount of reverb, and some subtle impact sounding synths to emphasize that the robot is high tech and that some delicate parts are crunching inside of it. The punch used coat hanger whooshes. The robot explosion contains small explosions that were flanged and delayed, a processed firework pop, synthesizer impact sounds, and a laser sound I created by putting a contact mic on a stretched out metal slinky and tapping it with a pen.


This sequence used on audio file and event. I triggered the event using an animation trigger in the animation editor at the start of the animation.


Sphere Rift Teleporter


I wanted to capture the movement and magic of this visual. The sound consists mostly of processed water sounds. I added reverb and delay to a washing machine recording, chopped up the sound, rearranged the pieces and crossfaded them. The result was a granular synthesis effect that was different and not as intense as using a plug-in with granular synthesis. I reversed some bubble pop sounds to make the sphere seem like it some energy was squeezing out of it from all the movement. Reversed and reverbed chimes were also added or some high end magical shimmer.


The sound is a single looping file that is attached to the VFX. An attenuation distance is set in Wwise for volume fading as the player moves towards and away from the sphere. A stop event plays when the VFX is destroyed.


Health Pickups


I wanted the health pickups to be subtle but still satisfying and positive. A balance of reverb and reversed sounds was key to achieve this. I used metal knife scrapes, sucking in air with my mouth, bird tweets, wood pieces sliding together, and a synthesizer.


I created a number of variations of this sound and put them in a random container with a larger pitch variation than the freeze blast had. The audio event is triggered in script on object pick up. A table file connected to the script was created and this is where I set up the audio event trigger.


Virtual Tank World Ambience


This was an exceptionally fun level to create ambience for and I decided to go extreme with the digital feel.  Most of the sounds were created using synthesizers and then processing them additionally. EQ was a great tool to get the layers to play nicely together and avoid getting a sound that was just white noise. In addition, I time stretched/crunched the synths and recordings of city streets and room tone to get even more activating creating a cool digital aura.


The level has on large audio emitter was a base ambient loop playing. I created 4 categories of additional ambience based on the visuals in the level. One category was more electric, one had a hum theme, one was gyrating, and the last was shimmery and more magical. Each category had 2-3 variations and I placed audio emitters all along the edges of the ground so it felt like these sounds were washing over the player as the tank (and motorcycle later) moved through the environment.


Virtual Tank Cannon


The tank cannon need to have a similar feel of the environment and emphasize that this is a world inside a computer. I used synth sounds, electrical recordings, and processed water splashes for the tank cannon fire and impact. The synths on the impact sounds pitch down and have a bit of flange like flutter. I wanted the impacts to seem like they were causing distortions in the world like a rock hitting a calm pond.


These sounds were set up much like the freeze blast with random containers of variations triggering a projectile and impact event attached to the VFX’s.


Alien Ship Ambiences


I created several room tone ambiences for different rooms in the alien ship. These sounds would crossfade when transitioning into different rooms. I created a couple room tones that were for large rooms, a couple for smaller rooms, a couple for high tech rooms, and one for an organic room with lots of pipes and organic machines. Size and contends of the room was the main component in creating room tone. Room tone was created with various time stretched/pitched ambient and room tone recordings from offices, caves, sewers, and subways. Other layers of ominous drones were added to make the space feel more threatening and dangerous. Each category also had single shot periodicals such as a ship flying by, an alien walking in the rafter, reverbed heavy metal slams, technical beeps, processed toilet flushes to emphasize the organic nature of the room, and processed metal screeches like the ones mentioned before in the pod room. There were additional sounds added to each room based on the contents of the specific area. Machines and computers received sci-fi sounding loops, certain pipes emanated fluid sounds, faulty electrical wires sparked, and mysterious energy sources received alien hums and throbbing.


All sounds were triggered using various sized audio emitters. The room tone triggers were larger and overlapped from one room to another to ensure a realistic transition. Room tone audio events also contained one shots that randomized the sounds and were set on a time range in Wwise that randomized the triggering rate. These sounds were put in a few random different containers so they would overlap occasional, creating a dynamic and living environment. Others sounds were triggered from smaller emitters around objects in a room or attached to a VFX or animation.


Save Johnny Gat Horror Anticipation


This room in the mission is right before a horrific scene occurs and the visuals get more horrific as the player moves down the rooms of the plane towards he cockpit. I wanted to give a subconscious cue that complements the visuals and creates extra tension. I created a sound of airplanes nose diving, glitched out door and metal sounds, and processed wind to sound almost like ghost screams. The sound triggers at the entrance of the last room and the ambience switches to a strange medley of whispers and warped airplane room tone. This section not only gears up the vibe for the horrific cut scene that plays in the next room but also sets up the tone for the next section of gameplay that is a warped nightmare version of the plane filled with guilt and dark emotions.


The one shot sound triggers with a trigger placed at the entrance of the room. The room ambience is a series of emitters that overlap and transition into each room with the last room playing the more horrific room tone.


Nightmare Airplane


The player character is feeling guilty about not being able to save his/her friend and enters a nightmare version of the airplane where everything is crazy and dark emotions run rampant. There are a lot of audio elements happening here and my main goal was emphasizing that dark emotional state, increasing the sense of madness as the player moves to the end of the airplane. I put sound on anything that he player must interact with which includes opening doors and jumping over gaps. The first door has pitched down maniacal laughs to let the play know he/she has left the normal world. There is still the normal door sound but with some added bear growl. I wanted to have room to grow in craziness so I felt the normal door sound needed to remain in the beginning. The second door is less sane and follows suite with the camera motions. The sounds were created with layered spring vibrations and wood creaks which I added reverb and pitch shifted. All gaps have warped screams to make the player ore nervous about missing the jump. The video had to skip parts of the airplane for time reasons but the airplane has an ambience that gradually adds more screams, characters insulting the player, equalized heart beats, synth pulsing, and a heavily warped recording of a farm auctioneer and patrons. I chose the auction recording because it almost sounds like a preacher condemning a sinner but sounds more hectic being spoken so quickly and with all the processing. There are also sounds of a waterphone which is a harsh high pitched bow on metal instrument often used in horror movies. If the player goes off the path, a goat sound that I duplicated and pitched to create an out of tune chord will play.


The main ambience that starts with warped airplane ambience and eventually blends into madness is set up with a real time parameter change graph (RTPC) in Wwise. There is one giant emitter that is shaped like a long tube that encases the entire airplane hall. I used trigger and stop volumes on the audio emitter to set the parameters of the RTPC in 3D space. There are four loops that crossfade as the player moves down the hall and the RTPC value increases. If the player back tracks, the RTPC will move down the graph and return to the original sounds.  The first door sound triggers in script when that specific door is interacted with and the second door sound triggers when the camera movement event occurs. Emitters were placed over the gaps to trigger the screams and emitters were placed in various places off the path to trigger a random container with a few variations of the warped goat sound.


Bling Blast Super Power


I wanted a more real sounding tone to this power and used much more mixing and layer spacing rather than plug-ins. This power spends the in-game currency to launch so I decided to use cash registers opening, coins dropping, slapping sheets of paper, paper fluttering, and small explosive blasts.


These sounds were set up just like the freeze blast using variations in a random container for projectile and impact and triggering from the VFX.


Powering Up


This sound was used for player power up and as well as Warden destruction but both instances had a feeling of gaining power and a triumphant positivity. Therefore, I wanted to make a sound that was both uplifting and energetic. Since this sound occurs in the virtual world and is digital in the fiction of the story, I used electronic elements but ones that were not as extreme as the hyper digital world of the neon tank level. I used synth sounds that I had pitch bend up as if it were taking off with the tail echoing with some delay and reverb. Whoosh recordings were pitched drastically without time change to create a digital artifact quality. A similar process was done with a whistle sound to give a sharp, high end energy. The tail end I inserted some electronic crackling to signify the end of the energy burst and to make it feel like the player was absorbing that last bit of that energy.


The audio event was attached to the VFX with some slight pitch shifting variation.


Small Generator


I took some generator recordings and put some flange and chorus on them to make the generator sound more sci-fi. I also time crunched a rain recording to create a high end, electrical chirping. The punch sounds were created with layered whoosh sounds with added reverb and layered sharp metal impact transients. The electrical sounds while trying to disable the machine were electric sounds that I duplicated, pitched, and offset slightly from each other. Ripping out the wires was created with more metal impacts, aggressively ripping open a metal cabinet that was stuck, sliding a metal trash can lid on asphalt, and an equalized dark bark. I processed generator and tractor shut offs in a similar way as the looping sound and used a linear pitched shift to bend the sounds down more aggressively. The sparking of the downed generator used a simple layering of electrical sounds.


The looping sound is integrated with an audio emitter on the generator. The wire tear sequence is triggered through the animation using triggers at 3 locations: punch, pulling, and rip out. A single shot event triggers when the animation of the punch occurs. The pulling section can be interrupted and therefore is a separate audio event with a loop attached to the animation state. If the animation state is interrupted, a stop event triggers to stop playing the looping sound. The rip out animation triggers an audio event that plays the rip out sound, stops the loop of the wire pull and the looping generator, and triggers the shutdown sound. The electrical sounds are triggered from the electricity VFX.


Large Generator


The ambient sound of the large generator was mostly made with pitched and equalized car engine sounds. I wanted this generator to have some commonality with the small generators since they are all connected in gameplay so I did the same process with rain water but using different recordings as well as pitched down generator sounds which I put a low pass filter on. I also warped water jug shakes using pitch shift, time shift, chorus, fast delay, reverb, and reversal. The punch sequence uses layered coat hanger whooshes like I did for the small generator whoosh, and thudding impacts with light metal sounds and electrical zaps. I wanted to accentuate the wind up punch at the end so I put a rough textured synth at that moment. I used small explosions, sparking and a solid metal impact for the final punch. The generator shut down uses linear pitched car engine and diesel truck shut offs. I purposely made the shut off sound not too big since an electronica type song I composed plays as the camera swings around the downed generator. I did not include the song in this video as it is meant to be a purely sound design demonstration.


The large generator was implemented in much of the same way that the small generator was. Originally, the multiple punch sequence triggered one audio file but there was timing issues due to streaming so I ended up putting a trigger in the animation on each punch that triggered an audio event with a random container full of a variation of punch sounds.

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