Paddock Pass: The Audio

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October 3, 2013

Welcome to our third F1 2013 Paddock Pass! This week we’re looking into the game’s audio and how our team record that authentic Formula 1 sound. We sat down with our Group Lead Audio Designer Mark Knight after a day spent recording classic F1 audio to ask some of your questions and some of our own about how the team goes about capturing the audio from F1 cars.

As we all know, there’s a huge difference between classic and modern F1 cars. Is there a similar difference in how you go about recording the two?

There’s even a huge amount of difference between cars in the same year to be honest, and this is an issue we find when trying to work out where exactly we can place our equipment. With the ever evolving shape of the vehicle, we have to experiment with where we can and can’t put our microphones. There’s always a plan, but we always have to improvise too. We might be able to place equipment above the radiator in one car, nose cone for another and so on. However, there’s always an induction, engine, gearbox and exhaust so we do have some constants.

Some of these classic F1 cars are very rare. How do you go about getting your hands on one to record?

Most historic cars are sadly no more, and what are left are either not running, featured as museum pieces, owned by private collectors or kept by the original team

This has been the most difficult aspect for recording the classic cars F1 2013 – finding them! Most historic cars are sadly no more, and what are left are either not running, featured as museum pieces, owned by private collectors or kept (and sometimes maintained) by the original team. For the majority of the classic audio we have been working with enthusiast privateers and privateer teams to access these cars. It has taken blood, sweat, tears and an enormous amount of time for us to research the locations and owners of specific vehicles, and we have had to be extremely flexible with our requirements. In certain cases we’ve had to concentrate on the specific engine configuration instead of hitting our full hit list of what we’d love to do in an ideal world.

Once we have a vehicle sourced, we need to find a venue to record at. This is quite easy in the UK as we have standard sites we use, as long as the owners are willing to travel. Abroad it gets more complicated to find a venue with little or no noise restrictions that we can travel too. We’ve also had a number of occasions for F1 2013 where we have a had recording session booked and then just before the day something has gone wrong with the car, especially it seems with the fuel bag tanks! That’s the trouble with historic cars, they have a much higher tendency to go wrong.

When you’re setting up; are the mics specifically placed to pick up audio for different in-game camera angles?

Yes they are. This isn’t necessarily by choice however. Since the reduction on F1 testing for the teams, we are reliant on capturing audio at officially sanctioned FIA events, be that a Young Driver test or pre-season testing. At these events, for obvious health and safety reasons, we are not allowed to attach anything externally on the car. Everything must be secured within the bodywork. We also try to capture as much 3rd person (spectator) audio as we can, which proves difficult with the constant noise from PA systems and the crowds that you experience at these events.

At these sessions we need to be quick and keep out of the way of the team, so we use a 2 channel handheld recorder mounted internally with a couple of suitable microphones, again mounted internally, around the engine bay. It means we get a recording not dissimilar to what you experience on TV. For 2012 we were able to rig one car up with an 8 channel recorder and prepared the microphone placement whilst the car was being built. This meant we were able to run to the cabin, induction, gearbox and right down to the end of the car – all still internally. That’s why you can hear a dramatic improvement to the overall engine sound in the 2012 game and we’ve been able to build on that for F1 2013.

It’s always been my desire to have externally mounted microphones attached to F1 cars and since we have recorded the classic content at our own private sessions, with the permission of the owner we have been placing externally located microphones on the bodywork, again using the 8 channel recorder. We also run microphones down the airstrip to capture a constant passing tone to help us create a more external 3rd person sound.

Once the car is all rigged up do you let the driver do their thing, or do you give him/her specific instructions?

Again, this is purely dependant on the session. If it is a team event where we simply have permission to install a 2 channel recorder, whilst the team have an understanding of our requirements and do everything they can to accommodate us, they do have a specific test schedule that they must also meet. So with these sessions, we piece together what we need from little snippets of audio capture. At the end of 2011, we were lucky enough to have our 8 channel recording requirements included in to the test schedule, as the results were also to be used to update the audio on that team’s simulator.

F1-2013-audio

With the private sessions, we have an extensive plan which we are able to communicate to the driver using their comms system.

We’ve heard how you capture the audio, but what happens next when you return to the studio?

So we come back to the studio with gigabytes of source recording. After backing it up(always back up!), we then get it all up and running in our multitrack editing software. Decisions will be made regarding which channels to use and which to ignore, if any. We then go about making the ‘sweep’ which is a single pull from idle to red line under load, and then one from red line to idle off load. After that, we then go through a stage of multiple processing to bring out the various interesting tones. We’ll also create what we call our ‘chase tone’ which is the more external spectator sound you hear in the chase camera and in replays. We can also analyse samples of the engine wobbling after a gear change, and emulate these on a gear by gear basis. This then gets munged into our engine system and out pops a packet with the sample data, playback information and wobble data which then gets uploaded to the console for testing. Other elements, such as backfires are dealt with as a separate entity from the multi-track, and further processed to make them more “game-ready”.

You’ve been capturing F1 audio since 2000, which car has produced your favourite sound so far?

We had the V10s back then and I do feel like part of the tonal character of F1 was lost going from V12 to V10 and then to V8. Those V10s used to scream at you, something that’s of course been lost now. Out of the crop of V8s, I ended up enjoying the differences in the exhaust detonations (backfires) as opposed to the more subtle differences in the engine tone. The HRTs in 2011 were absolutely mad on the deceleration. I was a bit of a fan of the Renault Lotus in 2011 too, just because it was so very different to everything else on track.

We hope this week’s Paddock Pass has given you a good insight into our game’s audio as well as our audio team, thanks to all of you who submitted questions and to our Group Lead Audio Designer Mark Knight for answering them! But before we finish up we thought we’d give you a sneak peek into what we recorded on the day, check out the audio clip here and let us know what you think!

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About Luke Spring

Community Manager at Codemasters, lover of all things Formula 1. Does not play acoustic guitar.

View all posts by Luke Spring

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