The Big Bank of Words
There are literally hundreds of terms used in media production for film, television and games. The following is a list of useful terms and definitions to help make sense of some of the technical information.
2D sound: Game term; sounds not attached to the 3d world or affected by it, basically like standard stereo.
3D sound: Game term; sounds that are attached to objects and that function in the game world’s 3D space, they are affected by and relative to positioning speed, occlusion etc.
3rd party developer: Game term; Company not owned by a publisher that is contracted to create a title on the publisher’s behalf, kind of like an individual contractor but an entire development team.
A440: A440 refers to concert A, the note above middle C on a musical stave. The 440 refers to 440 Hertz which is the frequency for concert A when tuned correctly.
AC3: Is one of the formats of Dolby Digital that most commonly comprises of 6 channels to produce 5.1 surround sound. AC3 is the encoding format for audio found on most DVDs.
ADPCM: Adaptive Differential Pulse Code Modulation 4:1 compressed wav file. See also PCM.
ADSR: Attack Decay Sustain Release. Parameters associated with sound production. Initially used as part of electronic synthesis to determine the amplitude shape of a sound. Most modern audio tools have an ADSR tool.
ADR: Automatic Dialogue Replacement (Automatic Dialogue Recording), also known as overdubbing. The process of replacing dialogue recorded at the time of filming with new dialogue. The actor must try and sync the new lines with the filmed mouth movement.
Aiff: Audio Interchange File Format is an audio file format found predominantly on Apple computer systems but also usable on PC systems with the correct codecs. Aiff is an uncompressed file format however there is a compressed version known as aiff-c. Being an uncompressed format aiff is one of the two most common formats used in audio applications (the other being PCM WAV format).
Aliasing: Aliasing is the distortion that can occur during digital sampling. When information is replicated digitally it needs to be at a high enough resolution to accurately replicate the information. If the sample rate is too low for the material being captured it can distort, which means the difference between one part and another becomes impossible to distinguish. With image files this distortion can result in a blurry image. With audio signals it can result in audio distortion in the form of artefacting, which can create unwanted noise or tones contaminating the original information.
Amplitude: Amplitude is essentially the magnitude of a signal. When referring to audio this is basically how loud a sound is. Technically it’s the magnitude of the oscillations of a sound wave. The higher the degree of oscillations, the greater the amplitude and the louder the wave sounds. When represented graphically in a wave file it is the magnitude of the vertical value of a sound file (the horizontal axis represents time).
Anechoic chamber no acoustic reflections no echoes
Alpha Milestone: Term used in video game production. Technically the game content should all be completed by this stage. No more content is created and from this point the aim is to ensure all content is functioning in the game. Basically creation ceases and the focus is placed on implementation.
Application (app) code: Code specific to an individual project, includes such things as narrative elements, environment, level design functionality input code and UI code. See Game Engine.
Art bible: Comprehensive style guide for all visual art assets within a project, this can define style, palette, font sets and all general information about how the project is presented visually.
Attenuation: As a general physics term attenuation refers to a loss in propagation of waves. When specifically applied to sound this would refer to the sound waves diminishing in power. The human ear would hear this as a reduction in amplitude. Simply put, to attenuate a signal is to reduce its power or volume.
AVI: Audio Video Interleave is a file format for audio visual media on computers. Microsoft added avi as a format to its windows operating system in 1992. An avi is a general file format that binds the audio and visual elements of a film together. This can be done in its most raw state creating an uncompressed avi. Such a file will be the sum of its audio and visual parts and as such can tend to result in a very large file. There are various codecs available that will compress the data on creation and create a much smaller movie file as a finished product. The size and quality of the end product will depend on which codecs are used and the setting chosen for compression and playback.
Balanced lines: Audio cables require two wires to transmit the signal. Balanced lines utilize three wires, two for the required audio signal and a third that acts as a grounding wire. Unbalanced lines double up the ground wire with one fo the signal wires. This makes unbalanced lines far more likely to pick up external noise from electrical devices.
Bass: When referring to a sound signal, bass refers to the lower end of the frequency spectrum. Usually frequencies below 500 Hz are considered part of the bass range. Instruments or vocal ranges referred to as Basses are called this because they share this same range of frequencies.
Beta Milestone: At this stage the entire game should be functioning and fully implemented. From Beta to Gold the game should be rigorously tested for bugs and errors to ensure correct function of all elements.
Bik: File extension for the Bink codec pre rendered movie files.
Bit Rate: When digitally sampling a sound there are two main values used to measure the quality of the sampling process. Bit rate refers to the resolution of the amplitude information. As with any digital process the higher the resolution the more information that can be captured and this generally results in a higher quality recording. Essentially bit rate refers to how much amplitude information is being captured per unit of time. See Sample rate and Aliasing.
Blimp/Zeppelin: Blimp or Zeppelin are nicknames for the oval shaped wind screens incorporating shock mounts for microphones. The cylindrical cover is designed to fit over the microphone mounted within a suspension system that reduces vibration noise. The cover works as a screen against general wind noise for the mic. An extra fluffy cover can also be added to protect against very strong winds.
Boom: Long pole (usually telescopic) that has a microphone attached to one end allowing the microphone to be positioned into awkward locations (Boom Mic). Traditionally used in film and TV to position the microphone above the head of actors just out of view of the camera. This allows for clear recordings without a visible microphone.
Bump Lines: Voice over in-game that is less narrative and more feedback of character actions (character saying “ouch” or making an exertion sound when jumping etc).
Chord: Two or more musical notes player simultaneously
Clipping: peaking or maxing, all refer to a signal that has exceeded its maximum possible level. This will result in the signal literally being clipped off as there is no capacity for more signal. With a wave form this will result in the upper amplitude ranges being flattened or rounded off as they are confined to the maximum possible level. This will generally result in the sound being distorted as the signal is often corrupted.
Coaxial: A standard of cable connectors that contains two wires. One in an outer ring and the second in an inner pin configuration. The two are separated by an insulating material. Used for both audio and video equipment.
Codec: Codecs are used to decrypt the various forms of compression used to create audio and video files. There are a great many codecs available worldwide. Some of the more common codecs include mp3, mpeg and DivX. The companies that create forms of data compression will generally release the necessary codecs to the public to allow material compressed with their codec to be viewed. Some codecs require license fees to create a compressed file. The codecs for users are generally free to use.
Compression: With an object or element, compression usually refers to a reduction in the space something occupies. Compressed air is forcing an amount of air into a space smaller than it would naturally occupy. The consequence of this is that the pressure of the compressed air is much greater than normal. With data compression software attempts to do a similar process. The original information is compressed to create a smaller file size. The consequence however is often that the compressed data is subject to a loss of quality. Codecs are used to encrypt and compress audio and video data. Zip files and rar files are packages of compressed data created by a compression software program. The quality of a codec or compression program is usually determined by how high a compression ratio it can achieve while minimizing any noticeable loss of quality of the original material.
Convolution: As a basic description convolution is simply multiplying one audio signal by another through frequency information. The original audio signal is usually paired with an impulse audio signal recorded in a reverberant space. The impulse sound will contain the characteristics of a sound with reverb. When the original signal is combined with the reverberant impulse through convolution it will adopt the reverb qualities of the impulse sound. This is one method of adding reverb effects to a sound.
DAT: DigitalAudioTape is a medium for audio recording and playback developed by Sony in the mid 1980’s. DAT recorders would transfer information onto magnetic tape in the same manner as cassette tapes but the information was stored as digital information. The inclusion of error correction functions could often compensate for minor degradation in the magnetic information where a similar degradation would greatly affect an analogue signal. DAT was also capable of recording information at various sample rates. 48KHz, 44KHz and 32KHz were all possible. DAT tapes became very popular amongst audio professionals and had some exposure amongst consumers. The tapes themselves were about half the size of standard audio cassettes and portable recording units became available that were much smaller than reel to reel units (and lighter).
DAW: Digital Audio Workstation refers to any piece of hardware electronic hardware capable of creating digital audio. Most of the main electronic audio companies have produced DAWs of one type or another. With the increase in power of computers and more specifically laptops combined with the availability of cheap and powerful audio and music software, most digital audio workstations are centred on a computer of some description. In the early days DAWs were often a stand alone piece of hardware that would function as a mixing and mastering tool and often incorporated CD or minidisk burners.
dB: The decibel (dB) is a logarithmic unit of measurement that expresses the magnitude of a physical quantity (usually power or intensity) relative to a specified or implied reference level. Since it expresses a ratio of two quantities with the same unit, it is a dimensionless unit. A decibel is one tenth of a bel (B). (This is straight from wikipedia as it’s rather a complex description and I wanted to get it right, check the link for more detailed information)
Distortion: Basically this means something changing from its original form. This can apply to anything; images, sounds or solid objects. It is usually considered undesirable and is avoided or attempts are made to rectify distortion. In audio the main cause for distortion is a signal is too high to be reproduced cleanly. Turning the volume up higher than a pair of speakers can cope with will create distortion. Increasing the amplitude of a sound file above the level it peaks at will also cause distortion. This is the main reason for the little red LEDs on anything that records audio. The red light means the signal will probably be distorted. Distortion is the corruption of a signal and should be considered different to noise. Noise is usually something in addition to the desired signal. In the case of electric guitars distortion can often be a desirable outcome when used correctly.
Development Tools: The various software programs used to aid in the creation and implementation of project assets. Often developed and created in house to suit the exact needs of the development team, but can be purchased elsewhere like sub engines. Good tools increase productivity greatly.
Dolby Digital: This isa series of technology formats for digital audio created by Dolby laboratories. In home use Dolby Digital usually refers to the surround sound format encoded as AC3 and decoded into 5.1 and 7.1 signals for home theatres.
Dolby Pro Logic: is one of Dolby Laboratories signal formats. Pro Logic was unusual in that it contained the information for both front and rear speaker signals in a standard stereo signal by means of matrix encoding. The signal was analogue not digital. It was popular as an early form of surround sound for home theatres.
DSP: Digital Sound Processor in general refers to anything capable of editing or altering sounds in a digital domain. It is most commonly used to refer to digital effects used to alter sounds as part of a software application. Many sound plug-ins are referred to as DSP effects.
Dub: See Overdub.
EQ: Equalization is the process of manipulating the levels of frequency ranges in an audio signal to alter the sound output. This is represented in its most basic form by the bass and treble controls on any home sound system. A method of attenuating signal frequencies through filters allows for the quality of a sound to be altered in real time. The low frequencies of a signal can be raised to make a sound bassier. In more complex systems there can be a grater range of controls allowing for finer control over frequencies. Even with powerful computers it is still not possible to isolate a single frequency and remove it from a sound without affecting the remaining frequencies. This is generally because of harmonics and the way in which sound frequencies will affect each other.
File Format: When discussing computer based data this term generally refers to what type of file is being used. wav, aiff, mp3 are all different file formats for sound files. avi, quicktime and mpeg are all different file formats for video. Sometimes different formats of the same sound are created because different file formats are suitable for different applications. In the past PCs generally used wav files and Macs used aiff. Currently most machines are capable of working with either format (and a great many others as well). Reformatting can often be a major part of delivering assets as the material is made suitable for its end use. Because of the great many mobile phone manufacturers there are little or no standards for file formats on mobile phones. As such creating a project for a mobile phone like a game may require the sound to be created in various different formats to allow it to be implemented on the various available handsets.
Fluffy: (wind shield) A cover for microphones created out of furry material much like animal fur (but usually synthetic). The long fur considerably lowers the effect of wind noise when recording.
FMV: Full Motion Video (see pre rendered).
FMOD: A third party sound engine used to create and control audio for game production.
Foley: The process of creating sound effects by directly recording sounds created to match the actions as they occur on film. The process was first thought of by Jack Donovan Foley (1891-1967) Foley was a sound editor at Universal Studios. Foley is one of several methods of creating sound effects
FPS: Frames per second is a term used in the production of film, TV and video. It refers to the number of frames allocated to a second of viewing time. NTSC is set at 29.97 frames per second, PAL is 25 frames per second and film is 24 frames per second.
FPS: First person shooter refers to a computer game where the game appears from the main characters point of view, as seen through their eyes.
Frequency: In general, frequency refers to how often something happens over any given time. In relation to sound, it is used to measure how many times a particular sound wave oscillates in a second. A440 is the tone that is produced when a wave oscillates 440 times in a second. This produces the note A above middle C and we refer to the note as being 440 Hertz. Many things are measured by frequency, sound, light, even microwave energy and radiation. With sound, the faster something oscillates, the higher its frequency, which we can refer to as higher in pitch. (Pitch is a psychoacoustic term and is not absolute whereas frequency is an acoustic term)
Game engine: The core code that binds together the elements of graphics, sound and input and puts them into a form that can be installed on a computer. The engine is the foundation upon which any game is created, and like all foundations the better the engine the better potential the game has. It is like a computer operating system that allows other application software to be installed and allows the user to access it via a mouse and keyboard and receive feedback via the screen and sound. A game engine receives input from a user and provides feedback dependant on its programming.
Gold Milestone: This usually refers to publishing date. This is the day the project walks out the door and is out of the hands of the development team. It will then be printed published and distributed.
Harmonics: Any tone created can be identified by its frequency (humans hear this as pitch). But the frequency assigned to a tone is only the fundamental or base frequency of the tone generated. Above the fundamental frequency are a series of further frequencies referred to as the harmonics. These frequencies integer multiples of the original frequency and are referred to as overtones.
For example if the fundamental frequency is 100Hz the first overtone would be 200Hz, the second 300Hz and so on. This is very relevant in music as an interval of an octave is a doubling of frequency so the first overtone is an interval of a perfect octave; the third overtone is a further octave interval.
HDMI: High Definition Multimedia Interface. An interface for transmitting audio and video digital data uncompressed. Used for High Definition video and digital audio. Used with digital TV, Blueray DVD and some game consoles like PS3 and Xbox360.
Hertz: (Kilohertz megahertz) is the unit of measurement of frequency over time. As frequency increases we perceive the pitch to increase. A musical octave is the result of a doubling in frequency. So A440 is the A above middle C, 880 hertz would be the roughly an octave and a half above middle C (an octave and a 6th to be exact)
Impulse: An impulse, which is also referred to as a spike sometimes, is an audio signal with considerable amplitude and almost no duration. Think of a hand clap, a balloon popping or a gunshot. All these sounds have almost extreme levels and are very short. Impulses are used in creating reverb through convolution. An impulse sound is generated in a space, the extreme level of the sound will “excite” the space it is played in. This means the signal is strong enough to be transmitted throughout the space and reflect off most surfaces and fill most areas. These resulting reflections (as well as the original impulse) are recorded and the resulting recording can be used to generate information that can create reverb in sounds via convolution. See convolution
Interlacing: Because a TV signal is limited in the number of frames per second that are displayed this can sometimes result in jerky movement when used to display rapid movement. Interlacing is used to compensate for the limited frame rate by blurring two frames together. The signal from two frames are mixed together and rendered with alternating lines. So the top line of pixels of the first frame would be rendered then the second line of pixels of the second line would be rendered and so on. Viewed as an individual still frame the end result would look blurry and strange, but when sequenced together as a video signal the end result displays smoother movement of rapid moving objects in the video.
Linear/Non Linear: (In reference to editing) these two terms have come into use with the development of computer based editing for audio and video material. Traditionally music and video were edited in a linear fashion. This meant that you could scroll through a video as it was shot moving backwards and forwards in time in a linear method and make edits as required. Computers have made non linear editing possible because a computer can contain all the information within its memory and allows easy access right down to a per frame level, (with audio this can even be down to a per sample level if desired). It is possible to cut and paste any element of a project and from one location to another without it being a destructive process. When cutting film there is a physical change to the film as the pieces are removed and replaced, digital editing does not require a piece of data to be destroyed to allow it to be added elsewhere as it can be copied. This allows for more radical changes to be considered with less risk as they can easily be undone.
Localization: The process of adding translated assets to a product for each of the major regions of distribution planned, (Europe may include German, French and Spanish for instance). This process is common for games, DVD as well as film and TV.
Magnetic tape: Cassette tapes, reel to reel of all types DAT, video tapes and floppy disks are all examples of magnetic tape. A quantity of metal oxides is suspended within the plastic of the tape and as it is passed over the recording head of the device the metal is magnetized. This method was invented in Germany and was the main technique for storing information of a huge variety of formats. Magnetic tape is quickly being replaced by digital storage methods, but is still used all around the world in different ways.
MIDI: Musical Instrument Digital Interface A worldwide standard for connecting and transferring information between electronic musical instruments and more recently computers and instruments.
Milestone: Most projects are broken up into smaller scheduling periods often called milestones. These assist management to asses the progress of the project. Most milestones will simply be numbered. Alpha, Beta and Gold are the most significant.
Mini Jack: See TRS connector
Mod Tracker: A software application used to create music referred to as mod tracks. There are many types of mod creation applications. The software works by making use of very small samples that are loaded into the application and function as voices for the instruments. The music is written by inputting note values into the specific time value tables. Each time table consists of a set number of slots and as such a specific amount of time depending on the tempo. Additional tables allow for longer music to be composed by grouping them together. The main advantage of mod format is that the finished pieces of music are far smaller in size than an equivalent sound file such as a wav file. This made mod very popular in early days of computer game development as they were very efficient on memory usage and were capable of producing better sounds than general midi.
Monophonic: When referring to recorded music monophonic means only using a single track. This does not mean that it would only be heard through one speaker or one headphone it simply means that the same signal would be sent to both speakers. When referring to electronic musical instruments monophonic means one voice. This means that only a single key on a keyboard would sound at any one time. Should subsequent keys be pressed most monophonic keyboards would sacrifice the old sound to allow it to generate the newest sound. Should a chord be played the keyboard will select only one voice to actually play.
MP3: MPEGLayer 3. This is technically the audio part of the Mpeg 1 codec used isolated to encode just audio. It has been adopted almost the world over as the method of choice for many industries and individuals for compressing music files for playback. It is referred to as a form of Lossy data compression because the process of compressing the audio file can result in various levels of degradation in the data depending on the bit rate of compression used when converting the original source to an mp3. Even with the possible loss of quality mp3 has become extremely popular as it allows for music to be compressed to a much smaller size allowing several CD’s to be stored as data in a much smaller amount of space than a single uncompressed CD. The level of compression (and as a result sound quality) can be set at the time of creating the file to suit an individual’s need.
Mpg/Mpeg: Moving Picture Experts Groupisa group form various industries come together to develop standards for video and audio encoding. The results of this group are the various forms of codecs available today to create audio and video files. The oldest of these mpeg1 is the original version that will run on almost all computers of all ages. It is also the codec used to create VCD. Mpeg 2
is the codec used to create DVD. Mp3 refers to mpeg layer 3 which has become one of the main standards of audio encoding worldwide.
Next Gen: A term referring to the latest generation of game consoles available, currently Microsoft XBox360, Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii.
Nintendo DS: Is a handheld game console originally released in 2004 created by the Japanese company Nintendo. In 2006 the DS lite and then in 2008 DSi were released. The essential functions of all three units are the same. The DS consists of two screens hinged together in a clam shell pattern unit. The unit runs media loaded into small cartridges that plug directly into the machine. The DS is an advancement of the Nintendo Gameboy and supports Gameboy media. The lower of the two screens is a touch screen that is operated with either the supplied stylus or the user’s fingers. Although essentially designed as a game platform the DS in Japan has become very popular with a vast range of software being released for it. Educational, cooking, exercise, music, makeup and reference software are some of the non game applications that have been made available on the DS in Japan. Some of these types of applications are slowly becoming available in the rest of the world.
Nintendo Gamecube: Released in Japan in 2001 the Gamecube was Nintendo’s first disk based game consoleand was a peer to the Playstation2 and XBOX The Gamecube had 48 meg of total memory and utilized small 1.5 gig DVD’s as media. This made the Gamecube more difficult to pirate than the other consoles that used traditional sized readily available media. The Gamecube like the Playstation 2 utilised memory cards on which to store saved game data by the user.
Nintendo GBA: Game Boy Advanced was the last of a long line of handheld devices made by Nintendo to carry the GameBoy name. The first Gameboy was released in 1989 and was a much larger unit than the later models would become. It used a basic monochrome liquid crystal display and game cartridges as media. Over the years the unit was updated and became smaller and lighter. The Game Boy colour was a direct development and utilised a basic colour screen. The Game Boy advance continued the process of miniaturisation. It was released in 2001 and was followed by the GBA SP in 2003 which adopted a clam shell design and then the GBA mini in 2005.
Nintendo Wii: As of 2009 the Wii is the latest game console made by Nintendo. The Wii was released in 2007 and uses a revolutionary wireless controller interface that utilizes motion sensing hand controllers that allow users to input commands into the Wii through hand and arm movements. The Wii uses mini DVDs as media. The Wii is physically much smaller than its peers the Playstation3 and XBOX360 but it is also much less powerful than both the other units. At this time, it has sold more units than both the other consoles combined worldwide. The Wii has 88 meg of main memory and supports GameCube media and memory cards as well as supporting standard SD memory cards.
Noise: When referring to audio, noise is generally used to describe any unwanted sound or signal.The actual nature or quality of the signal is not relevant; if a sound is not desired at the time it is often labelled as noise.Most commonly noise is used to refer to sounds in the upper frequency range that consists of a hiss or buzz and in the lower frequency range that exist as a hum or rumble. Because of how sound works physically in the real world noise is often created by a mass of individual sounds of many differing frequencies mixed together. The individual sounds of a vehicle will become part of the overall noise effect of traffic when combined with many other vehicles and heard over distance. White noise (the burst of static from TV or radio) is a collection of random frequencies all mixed together with the same or similar power levels. That is, no single frequency or group of frequencies stands out within the mix, so what is heard is a combined jumble of tones.
Noise reduction: As the name suggests noise reduction is any process that attempts to reduce or remove unwanted material from a signal. In regards to audio this usually involves removing high frequency hiss or low frequency hums. There are many different methods both through software and hardware used to remove unwanted noise, but because of the nature of sound, the relationship between frequency and harmonics and the fact that in the real world sounds mix and blend constantly, it is almost impossible to cleanly and completely remove unwanted noise from an audio signal.
Normalization: Is the process of increasing or decreasing the amplitude of a sound file so that its maximum value matches a predetermined value. The most common process is to Normalize to 0dB or the maximum output before the signal peaks. Note this does not increase the entire signal to this point; the entire file is increased relatively so the ratio between the softest and loudest parts of the file will remain constant. Normalization is very useful when dealing with large numbers of files to be used in a project. By normalizing all the files to a set value you can guarantee that all maximum amplitudes are the same. It is not always necessary or desirable to normalize all files however.
Occlusion: When referring to computer game audio, occlusion is modeling how sound is altered when it must pass through or travel around an object or material. Because everything that exists in a game simulation must be defined by the programmers that create the simulation, this is another aspect of simulating how real world objects function. For example a sound source can still often be heard in another room when a door is closed, but the properties and characteristics of the sound will change. The material of the door will likely reflect or absorb many of the higher frequencies, as a result the sounds heard on the other side of the closed door will no consists of mainly low frequency audio.
Ogg: Ogg Vorbis compressed audio file format.
Outsourced: Elements of production that are produced by external contractors.
Overdub: This is a process commonly used in recording studios to add material to previously recorded material. Essentially a project is recorded in stages, once the initial track is recorded each subsequent track is recorded while listening to all the previous tracks to ensure consistency and time syncing. With this method a single musician could perform multiple parts of a complex arrangement and record each one separately by mixing it in with the previous parts.
Pan: Controller values used to locate a mono signal within a stereo or surround sound environment are called Pan Controllers. By changing the strength of a signals output value to available channels its special position is changed. More signal to the left channel and less to the right channel will result in the signal being more present on the left side. This process applies to any number of channels. A signal can be moved around spatially in this manner. On hardware units the controls that process this function are usually referred to as Balance controllers.
PCM: Pulse Code Modulation, standard format uncompressed wav file.
Peak: As the term suggests, Peak refers to the uppermost level a signal can obtain before it is at risk of distortion. A signal is not physically limited to the peak level, but exceeding this level will usually result in the signal becoming corrupted and the resulting effect will be a distortion of the signal.
Phantom Power: Condenser microphones require a power source to provide a charge to the capacitor plates. While some condenser microphones are self powered by fitting a battery inside the housing, many are reliant on an external power source. Phantom power is a method of providing a DC power source through the microphone cable between the mic and the device it is plugged into. The device itself provides this power. Amplifiers, mixing desks and recoding devices are all examples of devices that may have the ability to provide phantom power.
Phase: The initial angle of a sinusoid function at its origin. This is where in a sine wave the pattern begins (ie, at the top of the curve, or the bottom or the middle). This is very important in relation to sound because two sine waves played with a 180 degree phase difference cancel each other out, and sine waves played simultaneously that are slightly out of phase can cause an unusual and often unwanted effect, not surprisingly called phasing. The effect of phasing can also be heard with two musical instruments played with minute variation in tuning. The note that both instruments (and as a result the sine wave) are trying to play is the same, but because of the difference in tuning the phase of the tones differs. This can cause an audible pulsing effect to be heard.
Phono Jack: See TRS connector
Physics Engine: Like a sound engine for a computer game, this is an add-on that adds physics calculation functionality without having to add extensive complex code to the main engine.
Pitch: is a Psychoacoustic term for how humans perceive Frequency information. 440 Hertz is referred to as the note A. This is a pitch reference. The reason for this is that calculating music exactly mathematically does not always sound correct to human ears. The current method of tuning for music uses frequency values that are not exactly mathematically correct to compensate for how humans hear pitch.
Platform: The video game console a project is being created for, many projects are created to run on multiple platforms, such as PS2, Xbox, PC etc.
Plug-in: A plug-in is an auxiliary software application that is designed to extend the functions of a larger software application. There are a great many plug-ins available for a large range of different types of software. See VST
Polyphonic: Polyphonic means more than one voice. When the first polyphonic electronic musical instruments became available they were limited in the number of voices they could simultaneously play. Six simultaneous voices was the most common for early instruments.Most modern electronic musical instruments are not limited in the number of voices they can produce at any one time.
Pre-rendered: Game term referring to cinematic or narrative event created outside the game and rendered separately. These are played through a movie player in game time. Can use separate assets to game and is not reliant on game resources or performance. Very high cost on storage media space.
PS1: The Sony Playstation was the first game console created by the Sony Company in 1994. It was a 32 bit console that utilized CD Rom media and used memory cards to store saved data. It sold over 100 million units worldwide and was the beginning of a very successful line of hardware for Sony.
PS2: Playstation 2 was the next generation of Playstation consoles and as of 2008 was the highest selling console of all time with over 140 million units sold.The PS2 was more powerful in all ways than the PS1, utilizing technology such as DVDs for media, Dolby Pro Logic capable sound and controllers capable of vibration feedback to the player.The PS2 is a 64 bit console with 32 meg of main memory.
PS3: In 2006 Sony released their latest console the Playstation 3. As of 2009 the PS3 is the most powerful game console available (and also the largest and most expensive). The PS3 supports online play functionality as well as high definition output of both audio and video. The PS3 has 256 meg of main memory and 256 meg of dedicated video memory. It also uses a Blu Ray DVD Rom reader for its media player.
PSP: Sony Playstation Portable
Psychoacoustic: Relates to how humans perceive sound. Frequency and pitch are essentially the same thing however frequency is an acoustic term as it deals with mathematical absolutes whereas pitch is how humans hear a sound and has a “fuzziness” about it that is not absolute. Acoustic sounds can be measure mathematically, however psychoacoustic sounds refer to how they are heard and perceived by humans and as people’s perceptions can often differ greatly these values are less suitable for scientific purposes. Other examples of acoustic versus psychoacoustic terms are amplitude versus volume or time versus tempo.
QA: Quality assurance, the process and the name of the department that ensures the process, although all development team members have a responsibility to contribute to quality assurance (debugging).
Render: In regards to computer graphics, rendering refers to the process of creating an image, or video, or sound file out of the individual components used to produce the end result. So a video is a series of images (usually one for each frame) that are rendered together to produce the final continuous video file. A complex sound file can be created by rendering smaller sound components, audio effects, balancing and panning together to create a new single complex sound file. The software used to render the individual components will compile these components depending on the parameters and information provided by the user.
Resolution: A term used in graphics to refer to the amount of information being displayed on a screen or monitor. 640x480 is an indication that there are 640 horizontal pixels and 480 vertical pixels. It is very important to note that resolution and screen size are not the same. A video clip produced at 640x480 can be displayed on a screen capable of displaying 1280x960 resolution. The video will either display taking up only one quarter of the screen space, or if stretched to fill the entire screen space it means that each pixel will stretch to take the space of 4. This can result in blurry or blocky looking video. The higher the resolution of an image or video the higher its quality, but consequently the larger the size of the file because it contains more information.
RTS: Real-time strategy is a video game format where the player controls multiple units in a strategic manner and issues orders for those units to follow. The units will then execute those orders as best as their AI allows. The main challenge in RTS games is to effectively control many units effectively in real time by planning well and responding quickly to threats or issues.
Sample Rate: When digitally sampling a sound there are two main values used to measure the quality of the sampling process. Sample refers to the resolution of the pitch information. As with any digital process the higher the resolution the more information that can be captured and this generally results in a higher quality recording. Essentially sample rate refers to how much pitch information is being captured per unit of time. See Bit rate and Aliasing
Scripted sequence: Acinematic or narrative event that occurs inside the game engine using game assets and run in real-time. These are reliant on game performance and available in-game assets and resources. They require little or no extra media storage.
Shock Mount: A microphone mount with built in suspension (usually small springs or elastic) designed to reduce vibrations being transferred to the microphone’s membrane.
Sine Wave: A sine wave or sinusoid is a radial shaped wave pattern where the peaks deviate evenly outward from the centre (referred to as amplitude) Sine waves are important to mathematics, physics and other sciences but because of certain aspects of how they behave are notably important for acoustics. The pattern of a sine wave occurs frequently in nature. Sound, light and the physical pattern of waves in the ocean all follow a sine wave. As a sound, a single sine wave creates a pure tone dependant on its frequency. As the frequency of the wave is increased the perceivable pitch of the sound increases.
SKU: Stock Keeping Unit. In the game industry this term is often used to describe the different platforms such as Playstation or Xbox.
SMPTE: The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers is an international associating founded in 1916. The association developed a series of production standards for film and television. One of the most common of these is SMPTE time code, which is often just referred to as SMPTE. The time code is used in film and TV production to synchronize the visual material and the recorded audio. By having a common set of guidelines it allowed for film production worldwide to be undertaken without having to deal with compatibility and formatting issues.
Sound Breakpoint: Computer code that triggers a sound to play at a particular frame of a models animation cycle. Thus a footstep sound scan be triggered exactly when the foot would touch the ground.
Sound emitter: A code object in the game world that is the point from which a sound is emitted. This is generally a 3D sound, but may be a 2D sound.
Streaming: Files that stream off the CD as they are needed. Music files are a perfect example, they are too long to fit in memory so they stream as the information is needed. Linear files such as music stream very well.
Sound engine: A sub engine that extends the capabilities of the audio code and allows for more direct access to complex sound features without rewriting the engine code. Sound engines can be changed between project without impacting on engine choice.
Surround Sound: Any system capable of generating sound from multiple independent channels that can encapsulate the listener in a sonic environment(a ring of speakers all producing the same channel is not generally considered surround sound. The existence of multiple channels is an important factor) Most commonly surround sound exists as cinema sound both professionally and for home theatre systems. The number of channels vary but usually there is a separate channel for low frequency sounds and often a separate channel for most vocal signals (for the sake of clarity) The remaining channels function to indicate the location of a sound as it would appear in the environment being represented. In the case of film, TV and games the sounds are positioned in such a way to immerse the audience in the represented world by simulating the geographical location of sounds in the real world. This can be particularly effective in interactive environments where the audience can be given cues to the nature of the environment they are interacting with.
THX: Tomlinson Homan’s eXperimentwas specifically designed in 1983 for George Lucas’ film Return of the Jedi. THX is unfortunately one of the most miss understood terms in audio as it does not refer to a format for audio or a particular piece of technology equipment. THX can be utilised on both analogue and digital systems as it is simply a series of standards that are applied to ensure the audio being produced as an end product at a venue is of a particular level of quality. This standard is designed to allow for movies to be presented so the full range of audio could be experienced at a high standard by the audience. Recently the THX standard has been appearing on both domestic equipment and as a standard for audio production in games. THX has been misunderstood by both the public and professionals for many years. Many people have incorrectly seen THX as a magic button that can be switched on to achieve audio excellence.
Time Code: see SMPTE
TRS Connector: Tip Ring Sleeve refers to one of the most common forms of plug for audio cables and devices. Also known as audio plug, mini jack, stereo plug, phono plug this connector exists in various sizes with both mono and stereo versions. The two main sizes are the original ¼ inch or 6.3mm and the mini jack which is most commonly used for headphones with mp3players. The TRS version is the stereo version of the connector with a TS version functioning as mono and now TRRS versions appearing which can contain extra information such as signal data for a remote control or video signals from portable devices.
UI / GUI: User interface or graphic user interface, this is the information on screen that informs the player of the game and character state, score, amount of ammunition left etc.
VOB: A Video Object isthe file format used on DVD’s that contains the mpeg2 files formatted to stream from the disk to the player. VOB files can contain video, audio, sub title and menu data. There are some software applications capable of playing back VOB format files, most notably media player and media player classic on PC and ******* on Mac.
Voice Over (VO): Recorded dialogue files used in TV, film or game for narrative and character dialogue, UI information as well as scripted or pre rendered sequences.
VST: Virtual Studio Technology is a system for allowing certain software applications to function as a part of a larger system. Also referred to as plug-ins VSTs were originally created by Steinberg and the technology is now widely leased by other companies to allow them to create their own VST applications. The most common form of VSTs are software synthesisers and other electronic musical instruments, but there are also VSTs for digital audio effects such as reverb. VSTs have become very popular in computer music production and a large number of proprietary and free VST plug-ins are available.
WAV or WAVE: is short for waveform audio format. It is the standard uncompressed audio file format for PC based systems. Wav like AIFF uses PCM for its encoding. Historically wav was limited to PC in the same way that AIFF was limited to Mac computers. These days both formats can be found on both platforms as modern audio applications will support a large range of audio (and sometimes video) codecs. Wav files are much larger than mp3 files for the same amount of musical material because they are an uncompressed file format. Mp3 has become far more popular as the format of choice for file sharing across the internet. However Wav is still an important format for the creation of original material in games, film and TV because of its quality. Wav and Aiff file formats tend to be used at the professional level while many consumers prefer the data size savings of compressed formats such as mp3 and ogg vorbis.
Wind Jammer: Foam cover designed to fit over a microphone to reduce wind noise when recording. Not as effective as a fluffy but will cut out most general wind noise.
Wwise: A third party sound engine used to create and control audio for game production.
XACT: Xbox Audio Creation Tool. XACT is now part of Microsoft’s XNA toolset and allows for audio creation across platforms. It was originally, however, a tool designed for creating audio on the original Xbox game console. XACT can be quite powerful when utilised properly. It allows for sounds to be generated in real-time in a game engine but prior stipulation of files and values to be used in the creation of the final sounds. XACT was the first widely available tool that allowed sound creators to easily avoid repetition in game audio environments by allowing randomization on pitch and volume levels of sounds as well as allowing the sound designer to designate a series of sound files from which to draw when generating the final sound.
XBOX: Microsoft’s first video game console. The Xbox was from the same generation as Sony’s PS2 and Nintendo’s Game cube. Although its specifications were greater than both its competitors Xbox struggled with the well established markets of both Sony and Nintendo. Xbox mostly failed to succeed in the Japanese market, but showed considerable success in the US and Europe. Halo2 which was an Xbox exclusive title broke all records for game sales at its time of release. The Xbox was the first video game console to include a hard drive and surround sound output, and also supported Xbox live for online play.
XBOX360: The Xbox360 is currently Microsoft’s latest game console. It is an evolution of the Xbox system and has far greater power than its predecessor. New features on the X360 include HDMI output, cordless controllers and inputs for external media devices. Currently the X360 enjoys middle place in the “War of the consoles” behind the successful Nintendo Wii, but in front of Sony’s latest Playstation 3.
XLR: A connector for electrical cables also referred to as cannon plugs after its original manufacturer Cannon Electric. The most common XLR cables consist of a three pin plug and socket formation and are usually used for microphone and audio applications. XLR cables provide a balanced signal and as such generally have less line noise than two part cables.
XNA: See xact
Zero crossing: This is the point where a wave form where the wave pattern crosses the zero value line. Remember that with wave forms the zero line is in the middle as the wave form cycles between a maximum positive and a maximum negative value. The zero point is important in audio production as it is the point where there is no signal and as such it is the perfect place to perform edits such as cutting and pasting. Joining two files together or creating a looping sound will be much cleaner if the files are cut at a zero point. Most sound editing software applications have a function that will snap the curser to the nearest zero point to aid in cleanly editing files.