MIX TAPES

EDGE - - TOUGH GIG -

You’d think au­dio would be the most straight­for­ward el­e­ment to a mu­sic game. The li­cens­ing team se­cures a song, the record la­bel sup­plies the stems for each in­stru­ment, and the markup team makes it playable. That’s not been the case in Gui­tar Hero Live, where the de­ci­sion to turn the cam­era around and put the player on a real stage in front of a live au­di­ence has meant that lead au­dio designer Andy Grier has had an aw­ful lot to do. “Ev­ery other rhythm-ac­tion mu­sic game has al­ways been pre­sented from a pas­sive, au­di­ence per­spec­tive,” he tells us. “The mu­sic you hear is dry, it’s very clean. It might have a bit of re­verb on it to fit the bas­ket­ball court you’re play­ing in or some­thing, but that’s it. My [idea] was, ‘You’re on­stage; let’s make it sound like you’re on­stage.’”

So, yes, there’s re­verb, but that’s just the start of it. A de­tailed sur­round mix means that, if the drum­mer’s cur­rently over your left shoul­der, then that’s where the drum sounds come from. If a tam­bourine player dances across the stage, then the sound will pan across ac­cord­ingly. El­e­ments get louder as you get closer to them, and qui­eter as you move away, the tre­ble fad­ing as you go, since high fre­quen­cies are di­rec­tional and lose im­pact at a dis­tance. And since the mu­sic’s be­ing pumped out to the crowd and the world around them, you’ll hear re­flec­tions bounc­ing back off trees, build­ings and other scenery. Grier calls the process ‘Liv­ify’. “There’s no proper term for it, and I started call­ing it that and I cringed a bit. It’s just one of those wanky terms, but it’s stuck.” The ef­fect – which wasn’t in place at the game’s Lon­don un­veil­ing, but is playable when we visit the devel­op­ment stu­dio – is re­mark­able.

Grier has been equally thor­ough with crowd sin­ga­longs, as­sem­bling a group of trained vo­cal­ists at Pinewood Stu­dios and spend­ing a week mak­ing them sound, well, rather less well-trained than they are. “They were putting on vi­brato and har­mon­is­ing and stuff,” he says. “I went, ‘Look, this is lovely, but it’s way too good.’ I had to men­tally get them drunk.” Grier had them jump up and down while they sang; back in the stu­dio, he’s time-shift­ing in­di­vid­ual takes – some a lit­tle early, oth­ers slightly late – to more ac­cu­rately repli­cate the sound of a boozy, bois­ter­ous crowd.

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01 Other in­stru­ments will grow louder as you draw near to them.

02 The stu­dio where Grier does the live sound mix. 03 The au­dio team had to prac­ti­cally be­come tour man­agers, sourc­ing in­stru­ments from man­u­fac­tur­ers like Fen­der. 04 Andy Grier, lead au­dio designer

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