Behind the painstaking work of creating video game sound effects

A visit to the recording studios at Sony reveals the labor-intensive efforts behind a crucial aspect of the newest PlayStation title, Infamous: Second Son.

Sumi Das Producer / Reporter
Sumi Das has been covering technology since the original dot-com boom. She was hired by cable network TechTV in 1998 to produce and host a half-hour program devoted to new and future technologies. Prior to CNET, Sumi served as a Washington DC-based correspondent, covering breaking news for CNN. She reported live from New Orleans and contributed to CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which earned the network a Peabody Award. She also files in-depth tech stories for BBC News which are seen by a primarily international audience.
Sumi Das
2 min read

In the world of video games, graphics usually steal the show. But imagine playing your favorite game in silence. There's a reason no one ever hits mute during game play. Before the release of a major game title, sound designers and music producers spend two years crafting the score and creating the thousands of sound effects that go into the game's sound engine.

Sony recently gave CNET a behind-the-scenes tour of its studios at its new campus in San Mateo, Calif., which includes a 7.1 mix room and a 5.1 control room. This is where much of the music for the recently released Infamous: Second Son was recorded.

Speaking to us in one of Sony's recording studios, Senior Music Manager Jonathan Mayer pointed out the room's unique and flexible features. "We have curtains over windows, and those windows make great reflective surfaces when we're recording," Mayer explained. "We can also close those curtains and kind of deaden the room a little bit. The room is also designed to be extremely even -- that means that the frequency response within the room isn't colored a whole lot when we're working in here. So we can do pretty small intimate things with the microphones really close and get a kind of big sound from smaller instruments and objects."

In recent years, video games have enjoyed celebrity status. Award-winning composers are following in the footsteps of A-list film actors and lending their talents to the genre. Gustavo Santaolalla, whose work on "Brokeback Mountain" and "Babel" won him Oscars, also composed the music for the popular PlayStation game The Last of Us .

Sony music director Chuck Doud says video games offer a "creative playground" that differs from film. "The fact that composers get involved early in the development process means that they'll work on it throughout the life of it," Doud said. "They can customize the experience as opposed to a film where they may be on the project for a couple weeks or a month."

To learn more about the art of sound and music design, including a look at the process of creating superpower sound effects, watch our CNET video.

Watch this: Behind the sounds of Infamous: Second Son