CHAPTER 16 A – Balancing: Final Mix

Created By: Game Audio Resource Ltd     Date: 27/08/2019      Version: 2.00

In this chapter we outline a few processes and procedures ideas for the final mix of the game. As we have now completed all implementation needed for the project (minus music), we need to consistently balance all content areas together.

  • TIP: In a professional environment, as you add new SFX, Music and dialogue content to the game you should be actively balancing the content with implementation occurs. This avoids un-necessary bugs being added and easier management for the final mix.

Guide Steps:

  • STEP 01: Tracking Progression
  • STEP 02: Global Balancing
  • STEP 03: Maximising Asset Variation
  • STEP 04: Wwise Mixing Sessions
  • STEP 05: Loudness Metering

Task Time Needed: 1 – 2 days (depending on amount of content in project)


Video Guide


Written Guide

Chapter 16 A – Step 01
Tracking progression

The larger the project content the easier it is to lose track of what has and what has not been balanced. Even more so with a project like this where code is not available and we are hacking new content into the game.
Here are a few ideas of how to track the final mix process

  1. Add a new column to the Project tracker, called “Final Mix Status”
  2. You could use the QA test plan (depending on details listed)
  3. Create a unique spreadsheet as you process through each work unit and audio tech available.

Whichever process you use, ensure every item in the Wwise project (and any external audio pipelines / processes) are listed for final balancing.

Chapter 16 A – Step 02
Global Balancing

Now we can track our final balancing we can start to delve through the project content
Here are a few examples of how you could perform this mixing and balancing task

  1. Priority order content areas, and work in order through all game content
    Example:
    > UI (and Music) = 1 – Highest Priority
    > Environments = 2
    > Weapons = 6
    > Armour = 10 – Lowest Priority
  2. You could work through the Actor-Mixer hierarchy in alphabetical order
  3. Set up mixing sessions for each content type.
    Example 1: All content associated to the entity type Slith: Footsteps, Armour, Body fall, Vocalisations, Weapons.
    Example 2: All content associated to an environment type, Desert: Wind Loop, Wind Gusts, Insects, Mammals, etc…
  4. Loudness Normalisation: If all global content has been assigned to use this setting under the Source Settings tab. You will need to focus balancing in a different way using settings like Make-Up Gain and HDR.
    This is a more detailed and advanced form of balancing, that we will not cover in this base guide series.

It is advisable to start with key components, e.g. a reference volume level asset like dialogue.
Then set the base soundscape with the main ambiences of the game areas.
This sets your bed, to sow all audio content areas into the world soundscape.

Chapter 16 A – Step 03
Maximising Asset Variations

This process is normally implemented with each content task as they are completed. As we have be finalising each chapter, we have been applying these setting to most global audio content. For ease of guide explaining we are leaving this info till this step.
To maximise the asset variations so that assets don’t sound overly repetitive we will add a few simple settings that should be applied across all content in the project.
In this example we will use the Weapon_Punch actor Mixer

  1. Select the Weapon_Punch Actor Mixer. Then in the Property Editor, General Settings tab add the following:

VOLUME RANDOMIZER

  1. Click on the Volume Randomizer icon
    In the Randomizer window:
    Tick enabled
    Leave the Min offset value at 0
    Change the Max offset value to 1
  • TIP: What these settings do: When the punch hierarchy is called any child content under the Actor Mixer will then play back the content with a volume offset range of -1dB > +1 dB of the main master slider volume.
    NOTE: be careful not to set too much of a wide value with volume randomisation. When you final balance, each time the associated event is called, the playback volume of the event could interfere with balancing the content correctly due to the randomiser volume playback range set. This is why we suggest keep it 1db different in range, ideally turn it off while balancing.

PITCH RANDOMIZER

  1. Click on the Pitch Randomizer icon.
    In the Randomizer window:
    Tick enabled
    Change the Min offset value to -120
    Change the Max offset value to 120
  • TIP: What these settings do: When the punch hierarchy is called any child content under the Actor Mixer will then play back the content with a pitch offset of -1 semi-tone down > +1 semi tone up of the main pitch value listed (in this case 0)
    (Note: The value of 120 may be closer to an actual full semi-tone)

LOW PASS RANDOMIZER

  1. Click on the Low-pass filter Randomizer icon
    In the Randomizer window:
    Tick enabled
    Leave the Min offset value at 0
    Change the Max offset value to 20
  • TIP: What these settings do: When the punch hierarchy is called any child content under the Actor Mixer will then play back the content with a low pass offset range of -20 > 0 of the main low-pass values listed (in this case 0).
    Naturally you will lose high EQ asset detail the higher your value goes.
    This is a good setting for randomly triggered one shot assets, to give a slight sense of distance.

HIGH PASS RANDOMIZER

  1. Click on the High-pass filter Randomizer icon
    In the Randomizer window:
    Tick enabled
    Leave the Min offset value at 0
    Change the Max offset value to 20
  • TIP: What these settings do: When the punch hierarchy is called any child content under the Actor Mixer will then play back the content with a low pass offset range of -20 > 0 of the main high-pass values listed (in this case 0).
    Naturally you will lose low EQ asset detail the higher your value goes.

Game Defined Auxiliary Sends – In-game Reverb Zones.

  1. As a reminder from Chapter 06 B, ensure all content you wish to use the in-game reverb zones, has the Use game-defined auxiliary sends tick box enabled.

Adding most of the above simple Randomizer updates to different content areas will hugely reduce the repetitiveness of audio assets heard in game. Obviously, not all content will need all the randomizers assigned, so be careful with where you assign the data content.
For Example: A human voice with random pitching can make it sound like the character is changing voices with every exertion!

Chapter 16 A – Step 04
Mixing Sessions

If you choose to set up most of the game content via mixing sessions, this step will guide through how to set up a single mixing session for the entity type Ogre

  1. Navigate to the Project Explorer > Sessions tab > Mixing sessions Folder.
    Right click the Default Work Unit, then select: New Child > Wwise Work Unit.
    Name It: Entity Types
  • TIP: This folder allows us to set up an area for Mixing Sessions for each entity type in the cube game
  1. Right click the new Work Unit, then select New Child > Mixing Session
    Name it: Entity_Type_Ogre
  2. Double click the new Mixing Session to open the Mixing Desk Window
  3. Leave the window open. Then Navigate back to the Project Explorer > Audio tab > Actor-Mixer Hierarchy > Default Work Unit.
  4. We will now drag into the Mixing Desk all content related to the Ogre entity
    TIP: For speed and simple viewing we will use the parent content of associated content hierarchies. Depending on the level of detail you wish to have, you may wish to be more detailed and drag in more individual components from lower in hierarchy structures
  5. Drag in the following content to the Mixer Desk:
    > Armour_Leather_Monster – Actor Mixer
    > Footstep_Human_Monster – Switch Container
    > Body_Fall_Human_Leather_Monster – Switch Container
    > Vocal_Ogre – Actor Mixer
    > Magic_Fireball – Actor Mixer
  • TIP: NOTE: Some of the content hierarchy is shared between different entity types e.g. the footstep hierarchy is shared for Ogre, Ratamahatta and Slith. Be careful and aware of other entity related content you may be changing with balancing updates.
    If you find you need to balance shared hierarchy content completely differently, then create a new hierarchy for that content e.g. entity type only.
  1. Save your Wwise Project updates for the Mixer sessions to be stored.

With the above content we can balance the Ogres, Footstep, Vocals, Body fall, Weapon and Armour content against each other in game.
If you wish to balance the content in Wwise using mixer Sessions. You will need to drag in all associated individual content that is directly assigned to events.
For example Vocals, would be all individual types added to the Mixing session (as shown on screen)

If you chose to use the Mixing Sessions, add as many as you need.
Break up the mixer sessions content into what makes the most sense to you.

Chapter 16 A – Step 05
Loudness Metering

One subject we run out of time to cover is regarding Loudness metering (LUFS) 
This is critical to balancing your games overall volume output to commercial standard levels.
Thankfully Wwise offers a fantastic overview of how the process works and how to use the features for your Wwise Project.
Please jump over to the Wwise overview page HERE
Please note, Step 05 is not included in the video reference.

 

Get Started!
Whichever way makes the most sense for you to balance your global audio content, set up the needed prep work, then get started.
Spend the time needed to balance your games full audio content.
At times it will become tough, but staying to the process plan you put in place will help you see progression.

GOOD LUCK!

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