by Janice Brown
Fairfax, CA (November 18, 2005)–Just about a year ago this month, recording engineer Jory Prum opened his new facility, studio.jory.org, equipped to handle all kinds of audio projects, but conceived of and designed specifically for the gaming market. Physically, the studio is well positioned, located in game developer country, about 20 miles north of San Francisco. Conceptually, the facility and its owner are equally as qualified for the job.
Jory Prum in studio.jory.orgI’ve been doing video games full time for six years,” said Prum, a former LucasArts employee. “And, while there are many recording studios in the Bay Area, there really wasn’t a studio that was aimed at doing video games. It’s pretty common for people to leave the mothership game companies and go freelance and in doing so end up working in a shack in the back of their house, or in a spare bedroom, and they don’t have a facility that’s properly tuned and designed for acoustics.”
One of the facility’s biggest clients, Bay Area Sound (BAS), was started by one of Prum’s former co-workers from LucasArts. Julian Kwasneski is founder of BAS, a company that provides original music, sound effects, and production audio to leading game developers. Instead of competing with successful game designers and composers like Bay Area Sound, Prum and studio.jory.org serve them. “My facility is a one stop shop for all of the production sound aspects of the games,” described Prum. “We’ll do dialog recording and creative processing, Foley, sound design, and live instrument recording for the sound tracks.”
In the case of one recent project, the game America’s Army, BAS scored the game and did all the sound effects, but all the dialog recording was done at studio.jory.org. “For America’s Army the voice set was 15,000 files,” said Prum, who has also been the Foley recordist for some high-profile films including Lost In Translation and Adaptation. “We have to be very organized about dialog recording for games because there are so many lines. We typically try to do about 500 lines of dialog a day. Once you record the voice, it gets edited, and then you have to balance the whole voice set and do creative processing on the voice.”
Studio.jory.org does get to see some live recording for the games’ scores as well. “Often times, the composer will use MIDI orchestration with plans to replace certain parts,” explained Prum. “So, they’ll bring in a group of string players or a drummer to replace those MIDI sounds with real recordings to make the music sound bigger and beefier.”
Prum installed reversible acoustics in the live room so that its dynamics can be changed according to the type of session booked. He worked with Performance Media Industries (PMI) to design the studio, and points out its most immediately unique feature. “It has parallel walls,” noted Prum. “From working with Tony Grimani [PMI founder], I learned that it’s very easy to predict what a rectangular room will do acoustically. PMI worked out, in six pages of calculations, how exactly to build the room, and when they came back after we finished building, we determined that the rooms were within 3 Hz of the predicted nodes and modes.”
For the reversible acoustics, Prum mounted the absorbers and diffusers back to back on plywood sheets, and then used storm window clips to hang them from the wall off of handrail supports for staircases. “It took awhile to find things that were going to be sturdy enough and easy enough to remove and flip over,” he shared. “But now it takes me ten minutes, and I can change the whole room’s dynamics. So, in the morning, I might be doing a voice session, and then I can flip everything to absorption, roll out the carpets and it sounds incredibly dead. For, Army, we had to do a lot of yelling, and we brought in the mic–a Blue Kiwi–and Julian went in the room and just screamed at the top of his lungs and I couldn’t hear the room and I couldn’t make the mic distort.”
Prum standing at his workstationThe control room features a Pro Tools Mix system, Genelec 1030s and an M&K sub in a 5.1 array, and some key pieces of outboard gear such as the TC Helicon Voice Pro. Prum used a Studio Panel 552 kit for acoustics, making just a few modifications on the kit’s set-up directions. “I stand at my workstation, I just find that more comfortable, so I had to make adjustments to the placement of the treatments,” Prum informed. He also points out, “I don’t have a mixer because for games, we can do most things in the box and not suffer with quality loss. I’ve got fantastic mic pres and mics and that more than makes up for the difference.”
Prum worked on the recently released game Bone: Out From Boneville, which has been widely acclaimed for its sound, and also produces and engineers album projects at studio.jory.org, such as two recent albums for singer/songwriter Roy Zimmerman, one of which–Peacenick–is a Christmas album due out today. He also recently recorded local jazz fusion band, The Tom Finch Group. Prum also worked on a DVD board game of a “well-known” TV show, mixed the music and recorded dialog for a set of children’s DVDs from “Juno Baby,” and authored and mastered a three-DVD set of QiGong exercises for Master Teja Bell, who has taught along side the Dalai Lama.