Skillset Industry Standards – Creating Music and Sound Effects for Interactive Media Products

If the recent Digital Worlds posts on the topic of audio in computer games interested you, and you would like to learn more about working in this area, there are two sets of Skillset Standards that you may find useful: Skillset Standards relating to “Create Sound Effects For Interactive Media Products (IM27)” and Skillset Standards relating to “Create music for interactive media products (IM28)”.

Please not that the Digital Worlds blog only covered audio in the most rudimentary sense, and a full treatment would require one or more dedicated uncourse blogs on the subject to do it justice!

Here’s a brief summary of the standards for sound effects creation:

IM27 CREATE SOUND EFFECTS FOR INTERACTIVE MEDIA PRODUCTS
Example job titles: Sound Effects Designer, Audio Engineer

Overview
This unit is about your ability to create sound effects that work in an interactive context.

Knowledge and Understanding
This is what you must know
a. How to interpret and follow specifications or other briefs;
b. How, and to whom, to ask questions to clarify requirements or raise issues in response to the specification or brief;
c. Principles of sound design,sound effects and acoustics;
d. How to locate sources of audio material suitable for meeting the creative brief;
e. The types of audio effects that are available and their suitability for different products and contexts;
f. Ways in which sound effects can be used to enhance the user’s experience and/or give feedback on user interactions;
g. Appropriate file formats for saving sound effects;
h. The effect of audio sampling-rates and bit-depth on file-size and data-transfer rates;
i. When and why a sound effect might be cut-off prematurely,and how to minimise the risk of this adversely affecting the product.
j. The various types of data compression and their relative merits and demerits.
k. How to layer sounds to achieve a combined audio effect or to produce a complex replay of elements with logical replay rules
l. The various techniques for synchronising sounds to moving images
m. How to use and work within bespoke 3D geometry rules
n. The recording,editing and post production of dialogue

Awareness
This is what you must be aware of
i. Project parameters and constraints including target platforms and their capabilities, especially relating to audio playback;
ii. Any other audio, such as background music, that the sound effects you create will need to fit with;
iii. The events or user interactions that will trigger sound effects in the product;
iv. How each sound effect will be used in the product (for example, whether it will play once, loop several times or indefinitely etc.);
v. Compatibility issues between mono, stereo, multi-channel and surround sound;
vi. When permission is needed to use material created by others;
vii. The limits of what you may legally do with material created by others before permission is needed;
viii. Any naming conventions, standards, guidelines or specifications that you need to follow;
ix. The requirements and expectations of other team members who will use the sound effects you create.

Performance Statements
This is what you must be able to do
1. Generate original sound effects to meet a brief or specification;
2. Systematically assess the implementation of your work in iterative versions and specify changes in effects, volume, pitch and panning
3. Edit existing audio material to create sound effects to meet a brief or specification;
4. Save sound effects in an appropriate format for different target platforms;
5. Organise sound effects using appropriate filing and naming conventions so that they can be located easily by others;
6. Provide clear documentation and audio demonstration clips as necessary for others to incorporate your sound effects into the product;
7. Liaise with colleagues, such as designers and developers, to ensure your sound effects are appropriate and meet requirements;
8. Liaise with the relevant authority to obtain approval for your work.

Here’s a brief summary of the standards for music composition:

IM28 CREATE MUSIC FOR INTERACTIVE MEDIA PRODUCTS
Example job titles: Composer, Musician, Music Writer

Overview
This unit is about your ability to compose and record music for use in interactive products. It assumes you already know how to compose music generally and now need to apply this skill in an interactive media context.

You might need to save your compositions as:
• MIDI files
• AIFF sound files
• WAV sound files
• AC3 files

Knowledge and Understanding
a. How to interpret and follow specifications or other briefs;
b. Leading the process of assessing and specifying music requirements as necessary
c. How, and to whom, to ask questions to clarify requirements or raise issues in response to the specification or brief;
d. The different technologies used in a computer-based music studio, including samplers, sequencers, MIDI devices, ‘outboard’ recording studio hardware and mixing desks;
e. How to sample audio from legitimate sources and use sound samples in your composition;
f. How to use appropriate software to record, sequence and mix audio;
g. Different formats in which music can be output, and when it would be appropriate to use them;
h. The effect of audio sampling-rates and bit-depth on file-size and data-transfer rates;
i. How to address the challenges of scoring music for non-linear medium with scenes of indeterminate length by employing techniques like branching segments and the use of music layers mixed dynamically at run-time.
j. How to articulate designs for bespoke development tools to enable auditioning of your work out of context

Awareness
This is what you must be aware of
i. Project parameters and constraints including target platforms and their capabilities, especially relating to audio playback and data-transfer rates;
ii. How the music will be used in the product (for example, whether it will play once, loop several times or indefinitely, whether it needs to sync with specific parts of the product, etc.);
iii. How the music content will work in conjunction with sound effects and dialogue
iv. Any requirement for the music to change in response to events or user interactions (for example by changing key or tempo, or by segueing into another piece);
v. When permission is needed to sample or use material created by others;
vi. The limits of what you may legally do with material created by others before permission is needed;
vii. The overall purpose and mood of the product and its intended user experience;
viii. How music has been used to enhance comparable products including competitor products.

Performance Statements
This is what you must be able to do
1. Compose music that is appropriate for the purpose and mood of the product;
2. Record music in an appropriate format that can be reproduced within the capabilities of the target platforms;
3. Mix and edit music in an appropriate format that can be reproduced within the capabilities of the target platforms;
4. Create music that can respond to events and user interactions as required;
5. Organise your work using appropriate filing and naming conventions so that it can be located easily by others;
6. Provide clear documentation as necessary for others to incorporate your work into the product;
7. Liaise with colleagues, such as designers and developers, to ensure your work is appropriate and meets requirements;
8. Liaise with the relevant authority to obtain approval for your work.

You might also find the following Open University course of interest: TA212 The technology of music. Here’s a summary: This joint technology/arts course starts with an introduction to music theory and notation and the technological techniques needed in a study of music technology. The principles of sound and acoustics are studied and the course relates musical terms and fundamentals to their physical equivalents. You will study the operation and characteristics of various musical instruments, how music can be represented and stored, the fundamentals of recording, manipulation and transmission of sound, MIDI, current developments and some associated legal/commercial issues.

You can find sample material from the course in the following OpenLearn Units:

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