Andrew J. Hulshult on Studio One for Game Audio
[This just in from Andrew Hulshult, who is using PreSonus Studio One on an upcoming remake of the PC FPS Classic, "Rise of the Triad." I asked him to do a little piece on using Studio One in Audio for games, and instead of a blog post he wrote a book! It follows.]
Studio One has been more than a blessing for my workflow, time, and creativity while working with Interceptor and Apogee on Rise of The Triad. I can create, edit, mix, master and deliver a product to my team that they love within a very small window of time. I absolutely would not have been motivated enough from the constant crashes and saving issues of other previous DAWs to have the ability to work on this project if a good friend of mine had not introduced me to it. It is very refreshing to see a company that is obviously made up of hardcore musicians, wanting to make the technological struggles of a recording session a thing of the past.
In 2010, I was truly sick and tired of the problems I was having with sessions while trying multiple DAWs. I found things that I really enjoyed about each of them but unfortunately the bad outweighed the good for the most part. At this point in time I had seen that there was a remake of an old game I used to play called “Duke Nukem 3D.” The person making it at the time (Frederick Schriber) was working solo. Immediately, I decided to remake a couple of the songs from it and send them his way. They follow.
Duke Nukem 3D Reloaded theme remakes: “Grabbag” and “Stalker.”
Guitar: Les Paul standard, Mesa Boogie studio preamp, ProEQ, and Channel Strip.
Drums: BFD2 assigned to a bus with multiband compression.
Bass: Ibanez sr300 direct using Guitar Rig 4 with the Channel Strip on post.
Master Chain: Multiband Compression usually starting with the “slightly loud” preset and working from there, ProEQ, and a limiter.
I had recently seen my friend and engineer Kevin Deal (Bexarametric) use Studio One and I was very impressed with it, so I decided I would give it a shot. I bought a copy of it and was amazed at how easy it was to just drag and drop instruments into the DAW and how fast it was. I remade the entire theme song within a few hours and Studio One blew me away! I had never had a DAW this easy to use before. No crashes, no problems loading plugins, no edit problems after reopening a session, just raw power that was easy to use.
Getting the job
Although the mixes were VERY amateur at the time, Fred was very pleased with how fast I was able to get him these tracks and asked me to join the team and work on the music for the game! I was extremely excited that I got a super cool job on the side doing what I love to do. So I continued through about 6-7 more tracks with Frederick and the boys that would later become Interceptor Entertainment. I was able to create, mix, and give a shot at mastering (heh) with all these tracks very easily. Unfortunately the project was put on hold for reasons I cannot disclose… but before it was put on hold, we got lots of press on the game and we were receiving a lot of fan support.
Rise Of The Triad
Not too long after the project was put on hold, Fred got a call from Apogee’s Terry Nagy. They wanted to do a remake of Rise of The Triad. I was told that I would have to send Terry a demo of a remake of one of the game’s most memorable songs, “Going Down the Fast Way,” by Lee Jackson, and I only had three days to do it. I was very excited at the time, but I was also extremely nervous. Here I was, some guy in his bedroom writing songs through a small interface into some cool software, and now I had to really prove myself to someone who had worked in the game industry for a good portion of his life with Apogee, 3D Realms, and Gathering Of Developers. They had quite a few auditions, and some pretty good ones at that, but after spending three days to re-create this monster of a song I presented it to them and they loved it! By the time I was finished, I couldn’t believe how much automation Studio One allowed me to do. It looked like I opened up a session of MS Paint and just started scribbling random lines all over the place. Right after they heard it, I got the job on Rise Of the Triad for music and some small voice-over work. I also created the trailer we used for the unveiling at QuakeCon 2012.
Rise of The Triad reveal Trailer: “Going Down the Fast Way”
Guitar: Schecter baritone black jack custom, a 60/40 blend of a Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp and the “Ultra Sonic” head and cab in Guitar Rig 5, ADA MP-1 V1.38 and Ampire with overdrive on some leads, Whammy pedal, 535Q Wah pedal, and the Studio One Channel Strip effect.
Drums: Studio Drummer and SSD Platinum (on one stereo channel), Multiband Compression, Channel Strip, Limiter, and Transient master.
Bass: Musicman Stingray through a Tech 21 bass driver set to a light overdrive, through the Guitar Rig 5 bass cab. Compression is set to very fast, and in some cases is blended with the Mojito synth playing the same notes very lightly to add a cool low-end effect.
Using Studio One with Game development
This software really shined when I found I was able to sync all my audio to video. So when the team needed to create another trailer that required some big percussive sounds, I could do it VERY quickly with the Presence library’s machine sounds! It was seamless creating oddball stuff with Studio One. An example that comes to mind was this last trailer we did. I took a recording of a big floor tom, then stretched the audio with incredible ease, with no processing or real significant taxing on my CPU while doing it. After, I would create a Buswith OpenAir and find a cavernous space. I would then enhance the low end just a bit with ProEQ and some multiband compression. I would then create something very close to a long bass drop with some automation, chorus, compression, and Mojito. Then I would blend the two sounds together and I had the biggest drum hits ever! I did all this without leaving my seat once in about a twenty minute period…VERY cool.
With these projects, the ability to create a song in a small time frame is critical. I have a day job (as most of us do) that limits me to about two days a week to punch these songs out. So it is CRUCIAL that nothing gets in the way of my creative freedom. On any given day off, I will sit down and open up Studio One, and drag Ampire into a session then bring up the song I am recreating on the top window with a click track and learn the song. After I have some solid takes, I will check out how close they are to perfect with the transient detection and audio bending, so I can store those guitar licks for when I start building drum tracks. Next, I will open a drum plugin and start creating 4-5 beats over each section. After I find some riffs that play nicely with each other, I drag them around and start seeing what arranges well with what, a sort of “trial and error” composition. I usually settle on a decision in an hour ot two. Mixing is what really takes the time, along with automation and mastering. I will say that being able to save my plugin presets on one channel has been a godsend though. I can recall these at any time on any session for drums and that rocks!
I would say that anyone in the game industry that is looking for something simple and much more powerful and CPU-friendly than the stock audio automation built into most engines should give Studio One a try for sure. It will do wonders for you. I would not be doing any of this today if this product was not released. Thank you PreSonus and thanks to the PreSonus community for giving feedback regularly to help them build the audio monster that 2.5 is today. You all ROCK!