SimBin’s Race Room Racing Experience, or R3E for short, has recently gone public-beta and already the footage is showing up on Youtube, sounding great. SimBin has been a leader on the sonic front in the past, and I’m glad to say that’s no different moving forward.
TTA: First things first, I find the placeholder webpage for GTR3 interesting, as it is strictly sound. Between this and a few other statements from SimBin, it is very clear that sound is a major focus of their product, moreso than perhaps any other game or genre. Do you find this added focus stressful, or inspiring?
AM: It’s inspiring for sure. Even before joining the SimBin Team, I had a precise idea about how the sounds should be in a racing game. I always kept this idea as a goal but for multiple reasons, we couldn’t include it in the previous releases. So, R3E is the first preview of all we have been developing in the sound area during these last years. It’s also great to find the support I need in a studio like SimBin.
TTA: The car list in R3E contains some rather unique-sounding cars, like the one-off Judd-powered 1 Series hill climb car and the Aquila CR1. Out of all the cars, which one was the most exciting to get to record?
AM: Without naming some “to be announced” content, I would say without hesitation the classic race cars and especially the Group 5 and Group C racers. These things are real monsters on wheels. You really feel the overwhelming power of the machine over the human here, except for the very talented drivers who are able to master them.
TTA: Were any of them particularly challenging?
AM: As you can guess, it was not possible to record the BMW 134 Judd after the horror of driver and owner Georg Plasa‘s accident. As a huge hillclimb fan, Georg was a hero for me, but sadly I never had the opportunity to meet him and listen to his amazing car in real life. So, I had to use some previous recordings to make the sound of the car in R3E.
TTA note: there is footage of the crash here, please watch respectfully.
Also, R3E features some “class silhouette” cars which give me creative freedom to make them sound like whatever I want. Here’s what I used for the prototype-style cars:
DMD P20 : Courage Peugeot C60 3.2 lit. V6 Turbo
DMD P21 : Formula Le Mans Oreca 6.2 lit. V8
Mistral M530 : Bentley Speed 8 3.6 lit. V8 Turbo
Mistral M531 : AER 2.0 lit. 4L Turbo
And the real sounds used for the 4 GT-class cars:
Cougar C14-1 : Ford RS200 1.8 lit. 4L Turbo
Cougar C14-2 : Honda NSX GT2 3.0 lit. V6 Turbo
Canhard r51 : Audi V8 Quattro DTM (1990) 3.6 lit. V8
Canhard r52 : Audi 90 Quattro IMSA GTO 2.2 lit. 5L Turbo
TTA: In your interview from December on SimBin Insider, you mention doing a lot of work with the environmental model. I think we can both agree that this is an area where all racing game audio can improve! I know you can’t go into specifics, but what sort of tools are you using to improve the environment system?
AM: The internal developer version of R3E’s engine features an ingame editor that allows me to implement all kinds of reverb and echo/delay effects anywhere on the tracks. The same goes for the ambient sounds. Both reverbs and ambient sounds are generated and positioned in real time by the new multichannel sound engine.
This sound engine is also generating some real time frequency and volume filters for both internal and external sounds, allowing me to create some very realistic cockpit and distant sounds.
Finally, we have some individual effects (distortion, chorus, resonator, etc) that we can use on different camera groups.
Achieving some convincing and natural effects took some time but I think it definitely worth it.
TTA: Also in that interview, you mention that you record cars “both inside and out” – can you tell us a little about what your recording setup consists of?
AM: The recording setup is quite simple. Basically, I’m using two portable recorders and a pair of directional microphones mounted on a sound boom. I usually complete this combo with two Canon DSLR cameras using an external RODE stereo microphone to record some videos. This is very useful during the race weekends where many cars are running at the same time on the track. Just add a big gaffa tape roll and some foam pads and we’re ready to go.
TTA: To that end, what sort of software do you use for editing? Any favorite tools of the trade?
AM: I’m mostly working with Steinberg Wavelab; not the best editor but I’m used to it. It’s not complicated and it features all the essential tools I need.
TTA: Has SimBin been the only game team you’ve worked with? What did you do before then?
AM: Yes, SimBin is the only game development team I worked with and it’s still a very exciting experience. I used to be a sound engineer, mostly for concerts and a bit in studios. I was also part time musician. But of course, I’ve always been passionate about race cars, or since I was 5 years old. I’m basically fond of all that is loud, including airplanes!
TTA: How big is the audio team there?
AM: I’m the only one working as sound designer. Then we have Robert Holm, who is the programmer working with me but he’s not full time dedicated to audio. He developed the new sound engine and the in-game editor so a big part of what you hear in R3E is the result of his amazing job. Of course, we collaborate closely, so basically I explain to him what I’d like to implement and he’s managing all of the programming. He does often comes up with some relevant suggestions. Then, I’m testing and adjusting until we find the sweet spot. Besides that, I’m focusing on the recordings, the creation of the sound samples and most importantly, the integration in the game.
TTA: Over the course of a project, how would you say your time gets divided up between recording, editing, testing, or other tasks?
AM: The interesting part of this job is that each day is different and bring some new, enjoyable challenges. The creation process for my sounds is constantly evolving as I’m quite perfectionist. The basic work remains the same but I’m always adding more details in the samples to obtain the perfect sound texture. The way my work is organized, I wouldn’t say that there is a typical day but rather some typical weeks including most of the tasks above.
TTA: I know you can’t talk too much about it, but may I ask if you are using a major middleware solution (ie Wwise or Fmod) for your audio, or is your audio engine custom? (Sound modders of the future want to know!)
AM: Yes, we are using a third party component but only to generate the real-time effects and the multichannel support, so it’s more like a plug-in for us. The rest of the engine and the in-game editor are custom developments. (kudos to Robert for that!).
TTA: With R3E now in full public beta swing, the feedback (and youtube videos!) have been flooding in. How much feedback have you gotten on sound? Any surprises?
AM: Well, R3E is getting nice feedback, and not only about the sounds. But it was great to read some forum posts that I would never imagine to see. In the end, I’m only doing my job, combining my passion for car sounds with a few engineering skills. But leaving such strong impressions to the players is something I will never forget and it reinforces my motivation to improve our work further. Of course, some people didn’t like the sounds in R3E and some of them pointed some issues that I know about. So, we’ll try to fix the areas we can but people are sometimes asking for some features we cannot achieve yet so they’ll need to be patient!
TTA: What’s your favorite car and track combo to drive in the game?
AM: I like the Mistral M530, partly because I used the Bentley Speed 8 as a base for the sounds. It’s also a badass prototype with all the brutality you can expect from these modern racers. Driving it on Portimao or Monza is absolutely thrilling! Otherwise, any of the cars with “Group 5” in its name puts a wide smile on my face and you will enjoy it very soon as well!
I’ve made a little MP3 track for you called “Allegro Prototipo.” It’s featuring the 4 cars in the Prototypes class, recorded in-game on the Monza track. From 1:40, it’s focusing for 1 minute on the Mistral M530.
TTA: What’s your favorite sounding car of all time?
AM: Tough one, LOL! I have an immoderate love for the V8 Cosworth DFV and the BMW M12/7 engines. Both engines powered most of the successful racing cars in the 70′s and 80′s and they are still running like a clock! I like their sharpness and powerful feeling. But if I have to choose only one car, I would say the Ferrari 412 T. It has the most extreme and loud engine I ever heard in my life. And damn, this car is so fast! Ferrari made a lot of great V12 engines with awesome sounds, we all know that. But that V12 is full of harmonics and so close to the music. It’s not a melody, it’s a symphony, a pure emotion! I remember the 1994 F1 season with Jean Alesi driving this beast and I was already stunned by the sound his car was producing in the TV. So, when I had the opportunity to hear and see it running in real life in Monaco, I think my heart stopped beating until the car went back to the pits
For those who don’t remember this sound, this is the first link when you look for “Ferrari sound” in YouTube
TTA: What was the funniest moment that’s ever happened during a recording or editing session?
AM: I have no real funny story that happened during a recording session but there was plenty of funny moments outside of the recordings. It’s quite hard to point one of them in particular though. That would require several interviews to tell you all these stories!
TTA: The scariest?
AM: Without hesitation, the WTCC qualifying session in Pau in 2007. I was standing at the exit of the hairpin before the Casino (High School’s corner), right behind the guardrail. The cars were oversteering and hitting the guardrail, just a few centimeters from me, making a frightening noise!
Later, I headed to the Foch chicane, and just before getting there, I heard a terrifying noise and saw some smoke and pieces flying in the air. I ran there and I saw Augusto Farfus’s BMW almost totally wrecked, and fortunately he got out of the car without any injuries.
Actually, I love city races, they are always very animated and you’re as close as possible to the action, like in hillclimbs. And the sound of the cars gets so loud with the resonance of the buildings. Just try to talk to someone in the street during the Monaco Historic Grand Prix and you will understand what I mean haha!
Monaco and Pau are probably my favorite city circuits, but that day in Pau was pretty hot!
TTA: And lastly, where can I direct readers who’d like to get in touch with you in the future?
AM: I don’t currently have a personal blog or social network profile (I’m not a big fan of it), but I do have a LinkedIn profile.
You also can check the SimBin Insider website for more sound previews and goodies http://insider.simbin.com/
Also, I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about my job and the passion that we’re sharing. I hope to read more interviews from other sound designers soon, so I wish a long life to TTA!