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Q&A with Jared Emerson-Johnson, Friday!

posted by nikasaur on - last edited - Viewed by 3.5K users

Hear ye hear ye, Jared is coming to the forums to answer some of your music and sound related questions! Pop in to hear the answers on Friday the 2nd from 10am to 11am PST (he chose this specifically so Europeans can be awake for it, what a guy!)

Let me tell you- Jared is a superhero. He sets the tone of the world with ease, he knocks out sound effects with a single blow, he makes what we do sound AMAZING. It's a fact that Telltale sometimes hires super-human automatons, and investigations as to Jared's actual humanity are pending. Some people are just too talented.

(Fun fact: he's also super-skilled at Beatles Rock Band.)

We're open for questioning, so load 'em up and keep him busy.

182 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Jared, I was just wondering if you have played any of the games you were involved with making? Do you play video games at all for that matter? If so which ones?

  • Hey Jared, love your work (music, voice acting, everything)! In fact I'm listening to the Bone soundtracks as I type!!

    Here's something I'm always curious about with musicians. What is your favourite genre of music to listen to? And what is your favourite genre to compose?

    A lot of your music reminds me of certain classic adventure games. Are there any adventure classics that you are particularly inspired by?

    Your voice acting as DeSinge was awesome! Will you be voicing anyone in The Devil's Playhouse?

    And of course, what is your all-time favourite Beatles song? :D

  • Out of curiosity, how did you come up with the war song? If that wasn't you, sorry for taking your time.

  • Hi everybody, and thanks to those of you who are staying up super late for this (if any). We tried to find a time that would work reasonably well for as many of you as possible, but as always some folks get the short end of the stick.

    Before digging into all of these excellent questions, I wanted to quickly let you all know how much I appreciate all of your interest in, and support for me and my work. I got into this business because the work itself brings me a lot of personal pleasure, so the fact that the finished products are being enjoyed by so many folks all around the world is more than I ever hoped for when I started.

    Now, some responses (and if you want more details, definitely feel free to pester me during the rest of the q/a)—I'll start by answering the first questions that came in on Wednesday, in order (apologies in advance for my lack of forum posting...I expect many double posts, and other noob errors).

  • @LogicDeLuxe said: I wonder, what synthesizers did you use for "New Location Unlocked"? It's not mentioned in the CD's credits.

    What software do you use for mixing in general?

    Can we see some "Making-Of"-videos from the music production?

    It's too bad that so many music is overcompressed nowadays. I'd like to thank you and the entire producer team that you kept sufficient dynamics in your music intact. Keep it that way! Thank you very much.

    If I recall, for "New Location Unlocked" I used a combination of several different software-synths: Arturia Minimoog, Korg LegacyCell, Arp Oddity, and Arp2600. I generally do all of my MIDI sequencing in Digital Performer (old habits die hard), and all of my live tracking and mixing in Pro Tools. I also use Sibelius for my sheet music prep.

    I would love to have a full "making-of" video put together at some point (there was a small one a couple years back that Jake and Nick make, and it is probably still available somewhere in the TT web archives); but generally we're so crunched for time during production—particularly during the recording sessions—that all I can really manage is to have a few snapshots taken. We have many of those pictures posted up on our Facebook page for Bay Area Sound, which you may access here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Bay-Area-Sound/60739756013?ref=ts To those of you who do not have Facebook accounts, I'm sorry!

    Yes, overcompression is a real scourge, and it's been getting worse and worse every year, particularly in game audio. We work diligently, especially on the soundtrack CDs, to create masters that preserve the dynamic range of all the performances.

  • @PISLIX said: How did you start working with Telltale? How'd they reach you?

    Can you shortly narrate one of your experiences about composing game musics? (It must be a special one.) (:

    I totally loved both S&M seasons' OSTs. Will Devil's Playhouse's soundtrack be entertaining as others'?

    Thanks for your time...

    We knew several of the founders of Telltale from back in the LEC days (Julian worked with most of them and we were all acquaintances. We met with them early on, as they were just starting production on the first Bone game, and it's been a pretty close working relationship ever since.

    My process for writing any given cue for a game generally goes like this (you'll notice that the actual composition is a relatively small part of the overall production):

    1. Meet with the designers to discuss the tone, story, characterization, etc. of a given space or sequence
    2. Write up a "scratch" version of the music in Digital Performer using sampled instruments
    3. Dub those parts to Pro Tools and make a rough mix
    4. Master the scratch track and get it to the programming staff to drop into the game as temp during development
    5. Go back into DP and export a MIDI file of the note data for all of the instruments
    6. Import that MIDI into Sibelius and clean up/arrange/proof read the parts, adding all articulation and expression markings
    7. Record the live instruments to replace the scratch parts in the initial PT session
    8. Make a final mix, substituting the new live parts (and any improvised solo material) for the scratch
    9. Master that file and get it into the game.
    10. Play the game about a billion times, to make sure it's all working as it should, and make any mix adjustments if necessary
    11. Sleep

    Since it's all subjective I can't make any promises, of course, but I think you will really like the soundtrack to season 3. There is a LOT of new music this time around (much more than there was in the first two seasons), and I'm quite happy with how it's all turning out.

  • @Tjibbbe said: Great, I love Jared!

    On voice acting:
    Do you have a hand in directing(/casting) the voice actors as well? You did the voice for DeSinge in Monkey, what was that experience like for you? Will you be doing any more voices in the future?

    On music:
    Where do you get your inspiration? Was it a case of Chuck Jordan telling you about the 70s sci-fi theme and giving you a couple of movies for inspiration? Are there any movies/games/musicians in particular that serve as an influence this season?

    Also, the same question I asked Ryan in his Q&A: If you could decide what game Telltale will make next, what would it be? It doesn't matter if it would result in a fun game or if it would even be possible to create a game out of that subject, just base your choice on the music you like to create.

    I'm not really musically gifted, so I'm afraid I can't really ask any in-depth questions. All I can say is that I love your work, and I own both Sam & Max soundtracks (and I hope more will be released!). Oh, and I would love an MP3 of the music from the trailer.:D

    I definitely do have a hand in the voice directing (I split that work with my business partner, Julian Kwasneski). We also prepare all of the casting documents and auditions; however, we leave all of the actual casting decisions up to the designers (although we sometimes make gentle suggestions, if there is a particular actor we think they should (or should not) consider, based on our experiences working with them).

    I loved playing DeSinge. What a guy, eh? I love acting, and I'd love to do more, but it's all up to whether or not a role comes along that I'm interested in trying—and, of course, on whether or not I get cast by the team. By the way, I always submit my auditions under a pseudonym, so as to keep the audition field level.

    Generally speaking, I listen to a lot of music. I try to keep my ears open as much as possible, and that really helps me with any questions of inspiration. I also love collaborating with creative storytellers like Chuck and the rest of the team, so that is a huge factor, too. In the case of the upcoming season, they knew from the get-go that they wanted that 70s sci-fi vibe, so that was always a given for the season 3 music. As far as film and television go, we're all dorks of a similar ilk, so for the most part we all had the same frames of reference: the twilight zone, dr. who, the outer limits, etc.

    As far as letting me decide what the next game is, heh, I'm not sure. More than anything I really enjoy variety in my work, so I guess I'd love to do something that'd feel very different from both Sam and Max and Wallace and Gromit, since those are the musical worlds I've been steeped in the most over the past years. I'd love to do something really dark, like a game of Transmetropolitan, or something in a David Lynch-ian vein. But it'd also be fun to do something with more of a foundation in rock or electronica. That is a great question, sorry I don't have a more coherent response for you!

    We'll get you folks some mp3s from season 3 before too long, I promise!

  • @Laserschwert said: Regarding the soundtrack releases for S&M:
    How much additional work do you have to put into the music to turn it into a "listenable" format for the soundtrack CDs? Do you already do preparations for a CD-release during the music production?

    Oh, and here's hoping for a Season 3 soundtrack release! (Actually I'm hoping for a W&G release as well, as I really LOVED the music you did for those, but that's probably out of reach)

    Quite a bit of re-mastering and some light remixing goes into preparing the music for the soundtracks. Obviously, the function of the music in the game, and what you'd want for casual listening are arguably pretty different, so we try to tailor the masters for both appropriately. I definitely think about the soundtracks while we're in production, but most of the work has to happen after the score is complete, mostly just because of schedule and time. Also, obviously, in many cases there are cues which are separate files in the games, but which we stitch together into single cues for the soundtrack (like the Jürgen's Lair Suite, the cutscene suites, and all instances where there are multiple versions of a tune in the game (like the two tracks in the oval office in Abe Lincoln Must Die (President version and Max version).

    I would love a W&G soundtrack as well! I'm not sure if it's ever going to be possible, but I'd love to see it happen! I'm glad you liked the music.

  • @Jake said: Hello Jared. What is the story behind that happy tune Chippy plays? Will Bluster Blaster be back this season??

    Heh, Jake. Um...weeeell. Okay, so the story behind Chippy's little tune requires this convoluted backstory: in college my close friend Nick James and I had an ongoing joke about an imaginary rock opera version of Beckett's "Waiting For Godot," in which Godot actually shows up and the end and saves Vladimir and Estragon with the power of rock and roll. Over the course of a couple years, we actually wrote up several songs from said imaginary rock opera, and then finally, in the last weeks of my senior year, we actually wrote up the book, and did 3 staged readings of the show in the little 50 seat theater we had in our performing arts dorm. The show starred Nick and I, plus our friends Brad Wilson, and Sam Knowlton. Anyway, the tune Chippy plays is a little excerpt from the big finale of the show "I am the one," in which Godot arrives on his starship of dreams, and promises to take Vladimir and Estragon away to fly across the galaxy with him, and to save the universe with rock. It's a highly goofy thing...and very dear to my heart. So that's the story behind that...heh.

    As for Bluster Blaster, let's just say I don't have any opera gigs lined up, so I'm all for thrashing my voice for comedy jokes. Let's do this.

  • @avistew said: My question is about sound effects.
    I was wondering, when you make the sound of, say, a door, do you actually record a door, or do you record something completely different? If so, what are some weird things that became completely different sound effects?

    Also, I'm curious about the order in which things are done. Music, voices, sound effects, I'm guessing they all come into the game at different times, don't they? Do you had sounds to the already animated cutscenes basing it off of what's going on (say, someone taps his forehead, so you had a sound for that) or is there some kind a specific storyboard that allows you to work with the sounds earlier than that?
    And applying effects to the voices (like the muffling you didn't get to put in the game for the bear heads in season one), when does that happen?

    Also, Chuck said we broke you. Sorry about that. Did you get better? More seriously, how insane are you to work that much?

    I think you're awesome and I love your music, although I don't know enough about music to ask questions about that...

    Good question. In the case of doors, we do generally record actual doors. For more esoteric things, or more character driven things, etc., we do often get a little bit more creative with the source material. The ui popup sounds in the homestar menu, for example, are me making sounds with my mouth.

    There is always quite a bit of overlap between the three parts of the audio, but generally speaking it goes like this: Voice usually comes before anything else, just because the rest of the team needs it from the start, in order to do all of the animation, choreography, and programmatic authoring/wiring. We generally try to get all of the voice processing in as early as possible, but we usually do it after the full set of voice has been delivered. Music rolls into production next, since it takes the longest of the three (starting with the environment loops). Sound comes at the end, since it's dependent on the visuals being locked in and finished. The music for the cutscenes also needs to come in at the end, since it needs to be timed to the finished scenes as well.

    Heh, it's a busy lifestyle, that is for sure. In the thick of production it's not unusual to be pulling 80-100 hour weeks, but I do my best to focus on the parts of it that I love, the composition, working with musicians and actors, etc. I've always been a bit of a workaholic, though, even back in high school...so I guess I found a career that suits my personality.

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