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Audio Engineer

Industries:
Games
Personality type:
Engineer
Departments:
Production

The lowdown

  • Creating the soundtrack for a game, including music, sound effects, character voices, spoken instructions and ambient effects

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • be able to compose and perform music
  • have sound engineering skills and knowledge of the relevant tools and technology
  • possess ‘aural skills’ and a sense of timing
  • have a sense of fun and be able to think laterally - creating sounds, especially for fantasy games, requires creativity and imagination
  • have excellent communication skills to be able to understand what designers and producers want from you and to keep up with any changes
  • be able to communicate effectively with the programming and art department teams
  • be able to work independently and manage your schedule
  • have good organisational skills to deal with the amount of sound effects and music required for games and to co-ordinate recording sessions
  • pay close attention to detail
  • be able to work to deadlines
  • have a feel for the atmosphere of games
  • have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

What does an Audio Engineer do?

The Audio Engineer creates the soundtrack for a game. This might include music, sound effects to support the game action (such as gunshots or explosions), character voices and other expressions, spoken instructions, and ambient effects, such as crowd noise, vehicles or rain.

Audio Engineers work for development studios. The size of the audio department depends on the company, but can consist of just one or two people who are sometimes required to work very long hours. Audio Engineers also work for specialist outsourcing companies and localisation services that re-version games for different territories.

Working to a creative brief, the Audio Engineer produces a sound design for the game and, when this has been agreed, realises it. This might involve the composing, scoring and recording of music.

The Audio Engineer will sometimes also audition and record any actors that are needed - in other languages if the game is being re-versioned - and this might involve lip syncing to animation.

They are responsible for sourcing any sound effects that are needed, improving or creating them where necessary. These might be real or imaginary sounds, depending on the type of game. The Audio Engineer then edits, mixes and masters the music and sounds to produce the soundtrack for the finished game.

Creating a soundtrack for a game is a complex process. Games are non-linear, interactive experiences and the Audio Engineer needs to keep that in mind, particularly when scoring music. There are various technical constraints to be taken into account as well.

Will I need a qualification?

You don’t need a specific qualification to be an Audio Engineer, but a degree or other higher education qualification in sound engineering is useful.

Courses are available throughout the UK, from HND to degree level, in sound technology, audio engineering, acoustics, and music recording. There are also short courses available.

A musical education would help you, particularly the ability to compose music and play some instruments. Knowledge of relevant software packages, such as Logic Audio, Sound Forge and Cool Edit Pro, would also benefit you.

You will need a portfolio or demo of your work. This should show originality, competence in various types of music, and indicate an awareness of how sound relates to games of different types.

What’s the best route in?

There is no set route you can take to become an Audio Engineer in the games industry. A musical background is essential as the role usually involves composing and performing music. You will also need experience of sound recording, editing and mixing.

You will need to show creativity, resourcefulness, a range of styles and a love of games, rather than skills in specific technology and tools.

You could apply to be a Games Trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Interested? Find out more...

Websites

  • 3DWorld - the magazine for SFX, TV production and game development artists 
  • BECTU - the UK's media and entertainment trade union, covering broadcasting, film, independent production, theatre and the arts, leisure and digital media
  • Develop - the monthly magazine for European developers 
  • e-Skills UK - the Sector Skills Council for IT, Telecoms and Contact Centres
  • Edge - the UK's self-styled bible for UK gamers
  • Eurogamer - European-focused consumer website
  • Gamasutra - website founded in 1997 that focuses on all aspects of video game development
  • GameDev.net - online community for game developers of all levels
  • GamesIndustry.biz - covering breaking news from the game's business
  • IGDA - the International Game Developers Association, a global network of collaborative projects and communities comprising individuals from all fields of game development
  • IGN - internet media and services provider focused on the video game, entertainment men’s lifestyle markets
  • MCV - the weekly trade magazine of the UK games industry, 
  • TIGA - the Independent Games Developers Trade Association - non-profit trade association representing the UK's games industry
  • Ukie - the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment - champions the interests, needs and positive image of the video games and interactive entertainment industry whose companies make up its membership

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