DiRTy Dialogue – interview with Codemasters’ Dialogue Producer, Olly Johnson
Here at Codemasters, we work hard to capture the most authentic sound and dialogue for our games. One of the guys doing that work is Olly Johnson, who, as part of our Audio Visual Team, puts the Pro into Dialogue Producer! We were lucky enough to steal some of his time this week, and so took the opportunity to grill him about his time at Codemasters, and how he gets the best out of people like Jen Horsey and Nicky Grist when they’re in recording their co-driver calls. Enjoy!
How long have you worked for Codemasters?
I think I may be the Gandalf of the Audio Department now! I worked on Colin McRae Rally 4, so that should give you an idea of the years I’ve served.
Have you always been interested in audio/dialogue production?
I’ve always been into creative endeavours, whether that’s writing, photography, or sound design I always have to do something creative to keep my brain in shape!
The first time I knew I needed to work in audio was playing Silent Hill 2. The atmosphere was so dense and nightmarish that it gave me nightmares, the audio in that game was just as responsible for those sleepless nights as the grim visuals, it made such an impression that I quit my job, took myself to college, became a junior in a recording studio and when the opportunity came up to work for Codemasters I went for it, and it’s given me access to so much creativity over the years it’s been perfect. I never hate Mondays, so I know it’s good.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Trying something new, even if it works or it fails straight away. The great thing about Codemasters is that we always try to do something that pushes further than before. Even if it’s a tiny feature, like having the Engineer Radio distort in built up areas and under bridges, when you get feedback in a review or from the community it’s amazing, every audio designer has experienced the old “great audio often just goes unnoticed”, so when something gets noted, it really means a lot.
When it comes to DiRT 4, how do you go about getting the most authentic representation of each discipline?
First thing is the casting process. We knew we wanted Nicky Grist back, and Neil Cole as our RX Spotter is still great. We’ve taken on board over the years that the “dude-bro” voiceover grates and puts a lot of people off; we will never avoid having US voices, but the tone and the script is much more in tune with a more realistic interpretation of the more extreme sports. We have Jen Horsey back from Dirt 3, so you will be able to have her as you co-driver if you want, and for the most extreme mode, Landrush, our spotter sounds more like John Goodman than Bill & Ted. He’s the calm voice in the storm. Landrush is so much fun by the way.
A nice thing we do to add more realism, is strap the co-drivers into our D-box racing seat, turn the setting up to violent and record the notes with them driving a very bumpy stage. This really helps stress the voice, adding bumps and jolts that make it sound like they are sat in the car with you.
Is there something special we should listen out for in DiRT 4?
So, keep in mind that when you crash your car in the game, to get the realistic “OOF” from Nicky I was driving him into trees and off banks while he was sat in the D-box. The sudden jolts really helped, although I’m sure he was glad when we’d got all the varieties we needed (30 by the way).
And finally, what’s your favourite project you’ve worked on?
I have very fond memories of Operation Flashpoint Red River for the audio. We really did work hard to have some great stuff in there like indoor and outdoor gunfire, and real time delay on distant explosions, so you see the bang….then hear it. Though, my first day at Codemasters, I travelled off to a vehicle test centre and helped record Colin McRae’s WRC Focus, you don’t get better first days than that!
Want to know more? Keep up-to date with Olly’s audio happenings on Twitter!