Frederic Devanlay interview

Frederic-DevanlayFind Frederic Devanlay @
Official website

Brief list of credits:

Cyberstom-Zero G, Deep impact-Zero G, Perception Cinemascapes-Zero G, Future weapons-Soundmorph, Solar sky-Soundmorph, Sinematic-Soundmorph, Rise&Hit-Native instruments, Wood impacts-Sonic Salute, Altered reality-Bigfish Audio, Cinematics-ISR

Tell us a little about yourself and how did you get into sound design for games?

I was born in Paris (France) and I started my career in a band with friends during the 80’s. I’m a musician (keyboard and percussions). The band had a new wave influence so I used a lot drum machines and synths. After that, I decided to build my own company and I founded Big wheels studio.

One day, one of my clients asked me if I wanted to make some sound effects for a game and I said “oh yes! Could be fun” but I had no experience. They gave me a chance and it worked. This was my first game and the beginning of a new life.

What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?

Firstly, I’m a gamer and I love cinema. I played a lot with board games like Risk, Diplomacy, Wargames etc. So when video games arrived I fell in love with it right away.

I must understand the spirit and the meaning of the story. After I find that, I have to find which textures, materials or sounds could be great for the atmosphere and the characters of the game. This will become the basis for making sounds for the rest of the game.

First I usually start with the main character sounds (footsteps, clothes, etc…) or with the ambiance of the game. During the production I stay close with the game developers, to make the necessary changes, to adapt and do some retakes if needed. Usually I follow the development from beginning to the end.

Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?

My main DAW is Nuendo and Wavelab. I use a lot of plugins like Razor, Massive, Reaktor from Native instruments. I love the Twisted tools and SoundMorph plugins and their sound collections (S-Layer, TimesFlux…)

I use Sound devices 744T with EAA Pre amps mixer, microphones Barcus Berry (contact mics), Neuman KM 82, Rode NT 55, DPA, U87, MS Schoeps…

But the best help are my friends! Cedric Denooz (from films industry) with whom I make our sound libraries, Jason Cushing who gave me a chance to make some awesome libraries with SoundMorph, Timothy Mc Hugh (Visionary sound) and Mikkel Nielsen (Sonic Salute) and so many others.

It was a great opportunity for me to meet guys all around the world and to share tips and experiences.

What would be your favourite sound process?

To drop sounds in a plugins, turn knobs, move faders and listen to what will happen. I love the surprises and I have no favourite process. It all depends on the given situation and I don’t want to do Macro and batch processing.

I’m not a preset guy, I want to keep my own touch… I hope! Each game is a new experience and a new challenge!

When do you find you are most creative and are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

I think that, first a sound designer must be musician or must have huge knowledge in music and films.
I like to work in the morning, alone when it’s very quite. When I’m lost somewhere in the field with my recorder.

You worked on some pretty amazing games (Ghost recon, Splinter Cell, Far Cry 2, etc.). Could you tell us more about the process of sound design in these games and how long did it usually to finish one project?

How long? It depend of many things, it can be 15 days… 6 months or 2 years.

For “Remember me”, It was a game with Hi tech buildings and dark, dirty ambiances in the suburbs. Sort of like “Blade Runner”. It was a great challenge to make two worlds inside the same town… Neo Paris

For Ghost Recon I wanted to make sharp ambiances and weapons sounds to immerse the player into the chaos of the battlefield.

Audio is a very important part of video games and you have been teaching this at various conferences and panel talks during the years. What would you say to a developer that does not yet agree with this statement?

I would like to say that sound designers in house can’t do all of the sound design stuff, I mean creation and implementation in the audio engine. It’s good sometimes to have a guy for the outside of the company with a fresh vision of the game.

“Sound is a very important part of the game”, absolutely!!! but sometimes we have less considerations. We are at the end of the process, so please give us time… Imagine cars games with awful engines, war games with cheap weapons…..

What projects have you been working on recently?

“Remember Me” and “Watch dogs” were my latest games as a sound designer. I also work on two new projects which unfortunately I cannot talk about right now (NDA signed).

Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?

When you start a new game, try to take your time but not too much. Optimize your DAW to get the best workflow. In AAA games you have to make up to 6000 sound files. You must be organized. Make foley sessions, atmosphere sessions etc… Having a template is useful.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

Think like a game player. Create the sounds that you would want to hear in a game.