Guest Post: Gordon Durity, Atlas of Audio, Visits VFS

Gordon Durity, Executive Audio Director at Electronic Arts Canada, recently visited VFS to speak to the students in the Sound Design for Visual Media program. Sound Design student Stefan Seslija recapped the lecture for us.

Guest Post by Stefan Seslija

Those of us lucky enough to currently be enrolled in the Sound Design program have been spoiled lately with an onslaught of guest lectures. In the last few weeks, we’ve been graced with the presence of some of the Atlases of Audio in both the game and film industry. If it was possible to be stricken with too much inspiration, one would have definitely surpassed their threshold while attending the most recent lecture, offered by game industry heavyweight Gordon Durity. With over 25 years experience working in audio for both linear and interactive media, Gordon now serves as Executive Audio Director at Electronic Arts Canada. He was a key figure in the creation of a revolutionary new interactive music system, RUMR (Realtime User Music Remix) for EA’s new game, SSX. Last Wednesday, Gordon visited VFS to share his knowledge on interactive music with the Sound Design students.

Gordon first presented us with insight on the progression and evolution of interactive music in contrast to music in linear media. He spoke in-depth regarding considerations that needed to be made for interactive media. “The unique thing about interactivity – users are actually effecting a change in the world,” he said. When a user is playing a game, the choices they make throughout the process changes their environment. Gordon also explained that musical architecture in present day video games has not changed much compared to the past, and how he and his team at EA strive to push the boundaries of interactivity in game music.

Next, Gordon gave us some insight into how he and his team approach improving interactive music and some of the challenges they face along the way. He offered us a look at a proprietary music arrangement tool called Pathfinder and showed us how this tool was used on the Def Jam and NBA Street Homecourt games to generate musical arrangements in real time based on the users actions in the game. He shared the details of how each individual game uses a logic system to feed the Pathfinder. Working this way empowers the audio artists to effectively sculpt how the music will playback in the game.

Later in the lecture, Gordon delved into his groundbreaking work on EA’s SSX and the interactive music system, RUMR.  In this system, game users upload their own custom music to their console. The music is analyzed and processed on the fly and manipulated in real time which is driven by Gameplay. Gordon explained how the system effectively performs a DJ style remix on the user’s music content. He also went into the specifics of how the music is manipulated, which includes different considerations that have to be made based on the nature of the user’s music content. We also got to see the game in action as Gordon showed us specific examples of how the music is modulated and mixed with the other sound content.

In conclusion, Gordon offered some advice to students looking to pursue a career in game audio. He stressed the importance of fully understanding all of the aesthetics of linear media and having a solid grasp of the technologies used in the industry. In this short lecture, Sound Design students were given a wealth of knowledge and insight, and a glimpse into the kind of work it takes to produce at Gordon’s level in the audio industry.

Thanks to Gordon for your inspiring lecture and to Stefan for the recap! 

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