How much of an overlap is there between the two industries? Some games companies promote the fact that their sound designers worked in the film industry. If you work in both industries what are the main similarities and differences? Obviously there is no re-recording stage, as everything is mixed on the fly, and there is no production sound, but foley and sound design appear, to an outsider, to be similar.

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My experiences in game sound design have often been more challenging than film, primarily due to the absence of a visual reference when creating individual sound events. In film you are almost always creating sounds to a fixed picture, be it a car chase, gun battle, etc, with cuts that don't vary in length . With games those situations are often dealt with in isolation from the picture. This happens in film as well, usually with CGI-heavy movies where the final graphics don't come in until much later, but generally the film picture is locked down.

This "in isolation" approach seems to exercise a different part of the creative brain process. It forces you to think in film terms (meaning "big", full-fidelity sounds associated with movie soundtracks) but create in the near-abstract. It's quite a different thing to create sound design from a list of 140 or so "sound emitters" than to a full-motion film reel.


There is a huge part of game sound that is totally absent from traditional Audio Post: Implementation. It is huge and can take up more of the game sound designers time than the actual "asset creation" as it is called in games.

Example: Generic Gun

When the sound designer creates a gun sound, he doesn't know in advance at the time of firing, whether there are any bullets in the gun or how far the gun is from the 'listener' (usually but not always the camera), or if the player is in a cave or outside in a forest or if the player has added a silencer...

The game sends data to the Sound Engine (part of the game program responsible for playing back the sounds in-game) that affect the playback of the gun. That data includes, how far the gun is from the listener (fade up distant gun assets and fade down big boom and foley sounds), who is firing the gun (the Player's weapon is often beefier than enemy weapons to give the player a sense of power), is there any objects between the listener and the gun (obstruction and occlusion effects can be added), is the environment relevant (reverbs and echoes may be needed).

The sound designer creates Sound Cues (also called Sound Events and other things as well depending on the tools being used) that takes into consideration all possible combinations of situations and plays back something that (hopefully) fits the moment. Even simple Sound Cues can have a dozen or so WAV files associated. Complex Cues can have more than 50 WAVs.

That, for me is the biggest difference between game audio and traditional audio post.

Dave Rovin

  • That's not conceptually different from how sounds are created for any context. The tools may be different, and actually they are. Mar 19, 2013 at 22:18

My understanding is that the two fields share some of the same techniques, but the motives for why those techniques are applied are completely different.

When you consider film, story and point of view is created by the writer & director and reinforced by every aspect of the film making process, in the aid of helping the audience emotionally engage & empathise with the characters....

In games there is only one point of view, the players... and (of course I am generalising but) games tend to be action based....

As a film sound designer I personally think I have more in common with film picture editors and directors, than I do with game sound designers


Check out this blog entry by Designing Sound: Games Meet Films: What the Two Industries Can Learn From Each Other


One difference from what I have read from interviews or somewhere is the game sound designers who work on the big titles do programming. I'll work on finding a link, but I remember reading somewhere the guy was responsible for the implementation of the sounds in the game. Dsp was actually added after the fact according to the current surroundings in the game. He was also responsible for creating source sound files and fx for the game. With all of the layers of dsp added he commented that there could sometimes be over 100 iterations of an effect. In this way they were able to prevent the sounds from becoming stale while maintaining a small data footprint.

  • Today the title needs to employ very advanced sound technology for that to be the case. And of course you would have to employ code-literate designers. Most simply use off-the-shelf tools and designers aren't expected to take on software development, because it's generally not their job. For a glimpse to the breadth of audio-related programming (when it's really taken "seriously"), see this: gameaudio101.com/Game-Audio-Programming.php Mar 19, 2013 at 22:13

My partner and I have sound designed on a couple of XBOXLive/PSN titles, so I'm still fairly new to game sound design.

The largest difference in game sound as compared to film/TV that I've discovered is the limitations of dynamic range. The audio engine in our developer's game engine was extremely simple and fairly limited - generally one asset in, one sound out. In large titles I'm sure that audio engines are a lot more flexible in controlling the dynamic range and mixing of assets, but in my experience the developers wanted almost everything extremely loud and "in your face", which translated to compressing the audio to a point where there was almost no dynamic range at all.


At this point I've definitely had plenty of experience of game audio work. I work in house at a game developer as the audio designer. Iv also worked on about 4 films in my carrear tho I really prefer games. Just like mentioned before, games are interesting in the application of sound, and the non linear aspect as well. When creating a sound world, you have to expect sounds to come together many different ways. In game audio, you also have to consider making sounds rewarding for your players, Some sounds are heard often and cant be annoying, some sounds are heard seldom. Some sounds you might want the player to feel excited or joyous, and in others you want them to rip their hair out ;) (jk im not that evil)

The hardest part about game sounds, in my opinion is creating sounds that are tied to an action but dont really exist in the real world. whats the sound of a feather floating? or picking up an eraser and setting it down on a pillow? Those for me are the challenging aspects. especially if there is an emotions associated with those sounds. for example, the player is supposed to feel really excited when he places down the eraser.

Also there is the world the game is based in, the manifested sounds of previous examples change dramatically if the is game is based in a steam punk world, or an cartoon world, or in a 3d realistic world.

  • Just like in animation or any fictional media/art piece. What you describe is not particular to games, just saying. Mar 19, 2013 at 22:04

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