Music for games and TV

Steve Ouimette was first bitten by the recording bug after picking up a Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder in his high school years. Not long after, he commenced recording work at Eric Valentine’s studio where he realized the huge difference between his own recorder, and a 2”, 24 track machine as used by an experienced sound engineer. Since those early days, Steve has been chasing ‘sound’, to become one of the industry’s most diverse and eclectic composers – on first call from AAA game companies such as Ubisoft (Just Dance series, Ghost Recon) and Activision (Guitar Hero series, Call Of Duty-Infinite Warfare). His original music can be heard in many TV commercials for brands such as Toyota, Nissan, Cadillac, and Wendy’s, while the virtual instruments created by him are among Sample Logic’s best sellers.

Steve Ouimette with Amphion studio monitorsMusic games such as Guitar Hero and Just Dance are among Steve’s most challenging projects. They were not just simple jobs, but a history lesson for Steve. Every song in these games had to be ‘re-recorded’ using the same instruments, type of mics, outboard gear, room acoustics, etc.

“For music games like Guitar Hero and Just Dance where I am working to forensically recreate a song master that people know and love, the approach is a mixture of science, history, production, and most importantly, respect,” says Steve.

His approach is to perform as much historical research as possible – including where it was recorded, who the players were, what instruments they played, etc. “It’s very much like reverse engineering,” says Steve. Then comes the creating of the tempo-map and then the recording of instruments and vocals.

According to Steve, the older songs are easier to recreate, with the reason being that there weren’t nearly as many options as there are today. “For reverb, they might have an echo chamber, EMT plate, or later it could be units like an AMS RMX-16 or Lexicon 480L.  A current track could be any number of plugins, virtual instruments, etc.,” says Steve and adds:

“It’s difficult to recreate amazing performances, spaces and the sound of tape and vintage analog gear but I do my best to either find the original equipment or use any number of the amazing plugins and VI’s we have available to us now.”

These projects brought him to work with names like Boo Mitchell at Royal Studios in Memphis, and recording facilities such as Hollywood’s  East/West and Henson Studios.

On the other hand, ‘shooter’ or non-music games allow for more artistic decisions. The music supervisors of games like Ghost Recon and Call Of Duty-Infinite Warfare have a very clear idea of what they are looking for, and together with Steve, they work on achieving it. In some cases, Steve has to submit the mixed projects in others as stems which are further mixed in the process of completing the game. Writing music for games has stretched Steve’s creativity, allowing him to step further into genres and styles such as retro-horror music, 80’s synth pop, southern country, blues, and even Bollywood Christmas songs.

No matter the nature of the project Steve is working on, either music for games or TV commercials, he says that “monitoring is everything”. This is why he pays serious attention to the acoustics and speakers.

“I’ve lived with a tough room for a long time until very recently when I met Alex Otto and Steve Greenberg from SRMS. The recent studio build-out has completely transformed my ability to hear. The Amphion One18’s combined with the SRMS system lets me hear from 14Hz-20Khz and it’s pretty much flat from 20Hz-20Khz within 1db,” shares Steve.

Being on the market for new monitors and an active member, Steve discovered Amphion Loudspeakers. “I had been trying NS-10s and just couldn’t get into it,” remembers Steve and continues: “… since I hadn’t grown up using them it made no sense to use antiquated technology in such a modern environment. So I made the leap-of-faith to give the One18’s a try, and they were just beautiful right out of the gate. It took no time to get used to enjoy listening to music again.”  Even in his already untreated room he “could immediately tell there was something special about them.”  “They just sounded gorgeous,” says Steve.

According to Steve, the most distinguishing merits of Amphion’s studio monitors are the soundstage, the lack of ear fatigue, and the translation.

“They make mixing so much faster. I went back to some older mixes and was shocked at things I had missed, even in headphones where I had believed I had accurately recreated a musical line,” Steve shares and concludes:  “Amphions are sort of like wearing magic glasses … you can see right through the mix.”

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