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I just recently posted about starting to learn fmod, wwise, udk... and I was thinking a bit into the future.

"What happens if I am hired freelance to work on Audio for an independent developer's game, or to design audio for an app, pc software..."

I looked a little into the licensing for fmod, and my brain started to hurt! I know I'm not making and selling stuff yet, but it would be good to learn...

When hired as a Audio Designer for a project, how do you go about choosing the right API, and how do you go about making sure the proper licenses are acquired? How often are you hire on something you only need to provide mp3s for? Do those projects require an mp3 license?

Do I only need to be concerned about these APIs when designing audio for games? If so, what do I need to know if I am interested in audio for interactive media?

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5 Answers

I wouldn't worry about it for now. But in my experience there's a few likely situations:

  • Especially when starting out as a freelancer, you may get to do a lot of smaller iphone/browser games, from small dev studios. It's unlikely they will work with middleware, and for better or worse, you'll be the guy they ask to throw some sounds over the wall at the very last minute, and you'll have to fight for any kind of code/implementation support from their coding team (often just one guy/gal). In my experience these projects are often too small in scale to make it feasible to propose a full blown middleware solution to the client.

  • You get to work on a big(ish) production and you're part of the team from the start. You're in luck! :) It will be down to you to investigate which middleware solution fits the project and the client's budget. Budget, time and code resource is key here. If they can offer all of it, then you have a simple luxury.

  • You get asked by a client if you can work on their project which is already under way, and they are using FMOD/Wwise/UDK/etc. They ask you if you own a license. If you don't, then you factor it into your quote. You might want to adjust your quote a bit southwards if you fear of losing the gig.

All in all, I would say: don't worry about it yet, learn the tools, get work, and play it by ear!

  • Edit: in terms of your MP3 question. Always, always suggest to your clients to NOT use MP3s, because of the dreaded MP3 gap loop problem. Go with Ogg Vorbis instead. However, if they are using Flash, then MP3 is fine, because Flash fixes the gap loop problem itself (well, often, but it's not fully consistent). In any case, when using MP3 with Flash, the MP3 license is covered through the Flash license.
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ROCK. Thanks for the detailed answer. You're right I am getting ahead of myself! So many questions when you start learning something new, but one step at a time I guess. Thanks! –  Audioandy Sep 14 '11 at 21:10
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Unfortunately for Flash, fixing the loop-gap is probably the only decent thing it can do for audio. –  Dave Matney Sep 15 '11 at 3:33
    
@Daan Hendriks - I think it is very unusual for a developer to ask a freelancer to foot their middleware bill. If you ever come across this regard it as highly irregular. On the other hand I do know some freelancers that buy their own testkit hardware, e.g. test Xbox's and PS3's –  RedSonic01 Sep 15 '11 at 14:28
    
@RedSonic, Yes you're right about that and I didn't word that part of my answer properly. However it can happen that you are asked if you own specific tools (software and/or hardware), which is more to the point I was trying to make. But yep, you are right. – Daan Hendriks 0 secs ago –  Daan Hendriks Sep 15 '11 at 18:59
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The audio middleware world is in constant flux - you can however, influence a teams descision if there is one you become particularly good at. Here's an audio jobs board that will show the demand is quite high!

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Thanks Tim, this helps a lot considering the thought of moving to Austin came up last night. As an experienced sound designer do you need to know much more than fmod, wwise and UDK? I see a lot of people also mentioning MAX MSP. –  Audioandy Sep 19 '11 at 18:03
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Daan's got it right here. You don't ned to worry about API's at all. Middleware is a solution for established (budgeted) projects that have either written their own engine or are using an engine that doesn't have decent audio features. So by using middleware a smaller developer is able to dramatically improve their audio system. Its up to the programmers to get an API up and running this isn't something you need to know how to do. The API is the low level guts of the engine. The Wwise and FMOD designer interface is what you need to know how to operate as a sound designer not the API.

In my experience working as a freelance sound designer, smaller projects build their own engine and don't have the budget to licence FMOD or WWise. 99% of the time beyond using middleware for audio is beyond the scope of small projects. They usually have their own simple audio playback system written and implementing middleware or writing decent audio features is way beyond their ability to manage. FMOD and WWise aren't really for small indie developers .. I mean really small .. like gig you will get when you first start working.

It's good to learn something like UDK because its accessible to you on your own without any extra support from a programmer. FMOD and Wise also have test environments you can run but at least with UDK it has game graphics .. and you get hands on really fast. I put a lot of time into researching a good learning tool and I decided on learning UDK. I also bought the "Game Audio Tutorial" book and its working out great.

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I don't know much about most middleware, but I've worked with FMOD before, so here's the cut-down non-legalese version of how their licencing works:

You can use FMOD for free so long as you're not planning to make any money out of it - which is to say, if you're using it purely for education or for not-for-sale projects.

For commercial projects, only one licence is needed per project - no matter how many hundreds of people they hire, as long as they're all working on the same project they'll only need the one licence. Of course, this means that when one project ends and the next begins, the company needs to purchase a new licence.

If you have a licence for the FMOD Ex Programmer's API, then you also have a licence to use FMOD Designer. They're two halves of the same whole for licence-purchasing purposes. Oh, and you need a seperate licence for each platform the project is going to be released on.

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Got it. Thanks! –  Audioandy Sep 19 '11 at 18:03
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FMod has a "Casual license" for mid-sized developers. When you consider the time you saved with using FMOD, it's quite handy.

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