con·sume verb \kən-ˈsüm\: to utilize as a customer
cre·ate verb \krē-ˈāt\: to produce through imaginative skill
Technology is weaving it’s way into our educational environments little by little. As a whole, I see this as a positive thing. Today’s society is connected to technology in a way that no one could have imagined. It only makes sense to bring these technologies into the classroom, engaging students in (what is hopefully) a meaningful conversation. But, what are our students doing with these new technologies?
Are they simply consuming? Are they only reading blogs, tweets and status updates, watching videos and playing games? Or, are we connecting them in a way that we tap into the creative potential in each of them? Are we making sure they are creating as much as they consume?
I’m calling this “the new 1:1 ratio.” No longer can we be satisfied that our students each have a laptop or iPad all their own (we can’t allow these new technologies to turn into simple “digital textbooks”). Our students need to utilize these tools to create! Building their own blogs, interacting on Twitter and updating a class Facebook page are a start…
Now let’s take that a step further… What if we let them create a new video for every one they watch (i.e. creating video responses to those posted by students at other schools), or produce new levels to video games they love?
Will we challenge our students to create the video games of the future, write and record the next great symphony, produce the next hit film?
The potential to learn while in the process of creating is endless. Not only will we teach them to think creatively, but we will teach them to dig deeper and engage in the larger conversation.
In my opinion, this the only way to approach education for this new generation of students. We can help shape the future by equipping our students with the skills to innovate in this new digital culture… It’s time for a creative revolution!
This is the first in a series of posts I’m planning on this topic. Please comment here or on Twitter (@mfa_josh).
As you well know, high-end technology and limited budgets don’t usually go hand-in-hand. But, for those of us that are advocates for integrating technology into educational environments, we run into tight (non-existent) budgets. Couple that with high expectations from students and we’re stuck trying to figure out how to deliver the software needed for meaningful content creation, without a pile of cash on hand.
As an Avid Certified Instructor, and advocate for Pro Tools software in general, I want to at least be fair and say that their pricing structure is one of the best I’ve seen. For $295 a student can purchase Pro Tools 9, with no software limitations, and has access to free updates for four years!
On the other hand, for schools that want a 1 to 1 ratio for their students, $295 per seat can get expensive fast!
The wonderful thing about this current technological age, is the sheer volume of open source software. This software is free to use and many times offers the same quality experience as the products we pay so much for! I’ve come up with a list of four pieces of software that I have used (and enjoy using). These have not replaced Pro Tools for me, but they do a great job in teaching the concepts and allowing students to have the same software at home without them illegally downloading a cracked version.
Ardour – ardour.org (OSX, Linux)
Audacity – audacity.sourceforge.net (OSX, Linux, Windows)
Linux Multimedia Studio – lmms.sourceforge.net (OSX, Linux, Windows)
MuseScore – musescore.org (OSX, Linux, Windows)
What other open source music software are you using?
Where else are you using open source software?
Yesterday, Mark, Colby and I took a quick one day trip to visit Turning Point Learning Center in Emporia, KS. TPLC is a K – 8 charter school with a 5th – 8th grade Face to Face program along with an online virtual school. The school also has 1:1 MacBooks for their students (which automatically makes it cooler than 99% of the schools I’ve been too)! The mission of TPLC is as follows:
The mission of Turning Point Learning Center is to create a community environment that recognizes all learners as individuals and as members of the greater community. Staff and students are viewed as continuous learners; each is challenged to grow within not only the academic, but also the social spheres of our expanding, 21st century global society.
The school was wonderful to visit, and the staff and kids were very welcoming and nice enough to let us sit in on classes and even snap a few pictures.
One thing that stuck out at me during the visit was the way these students interacted with one another. The kids were working in groups in the classes that I visited and each sat at tables with a MacBook and took the time to write up a contract when starting a new project. I overheard students divvying up the roles in the project, setting up their expectations and generally working better together than many adults I know!
After observing in the morning we were able to chat with the kids about what we’re doing at Mindfire and doing a Q&A session about our industries. These kids had tons of questions, and were digging deeper into the processes of 3D Animation and Recording Arts than many high schoolers I talk to!
Okay, so enough about how great this school is (though it is really, really great), if you’re interested in what TPLC is doing check out their website!
Until next time,
The Mindfire Crew
Well, it’s all over. Colby and I are heading home tomorrow with enough swag and crap printed on paper to fill another two pieces of luggage… but we’ve managed to make it all fit. Colby spent more time on the expo floor today checking out any of the tools we might have missed and picking up as many pens as possible (they disappear in the office). I split my time between the expo and a few talks.
Up first was Damian Kastbauer’s (Freelance) talk “Footsteps: An Informal Sound Study.” This talk was only tweny-five minutes, but Damian was able to pack a lot into his presentation. He first went over a few examples of classic footsteps in games such as Dig Dug, Double Dragon and other Atari and NES titles, the video then proceeded through the introduction of the Playstation through today’s high-end consoles with games like Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed and the Wii Fit running simulator. During the talk Damian reminded us to remember the aural expectation of classic sounds and to remember what choices we have when implementing footsteps into our games. He also took time to remind us to blaze new paths, something we should all be doing regardless of our job’s in the media/entertainment industry!
Next up was Brian Min (DoubleFine Productions) and his talk “Auto-Tuning Chopin in Stacking Audio Design.” Now, the title may be funny, but he wasn’t really kidding. Brian had his work cut out for him when he was faced with two hours of cut scenes along with the in-game audio for DoubleFine’s new PSN/XBLA title Stacking1. The music budget for stacking was limited so Brain proposed licensing pre-recorded classical music. When fitting the music into the game he used our typical studio tools in innovative ways to make it seem as if the pieces were written exclusively for the title. He did a great job and his talk was not only funny, but inspiring!
The final talk I attended at GDC 2011 was Francois Thibault’s (AudioKinetic) “Adding Realism to Environmental Reverberation Using Convolution: Are We There Yet?” The talk was great, although all of the mathematics behind the convolution engine used is way above my pay-grade, the real world examples of how new ways of thinking about convolution and the power of new systems is allowing audio designers to implement wonderful real sounding spaces in games were not only interesting, but invaluable!
All in all, the future of game audio is bright. I learned so much this year and I have a lot to put down on paper as I work on some brand new curriculum. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to ask here or hit us up at facebook.com/mindfireacademy.
Until next time,
The Mindfire Crew
1Go buy this title, it is insanely awesome. That is all.
I (Josh) was so tired last night that I couldn’t find the energy to blog, or maybe I was still scared from my near death experience from a Helghast (see pic below). So, I’m making up for lost time and getting yesterday and today in one big post (I know you’re excited)!
We spent most of the day on the Expo floor yesterday checking out the newest technologies from companies like Havok, Nvidia, Crytek, Fmod, iZoptope, Sony, Intel and more. We talked to a ton of companies about the newest tools hitting the market that will make game designers lives easier. I’ll list a few highlights for myself.
1. Fmod Studio
The game audio world is different for those of us used to multi-track DAWs and our ability to manipulate audio in those programs. Due to the interactive nature of video games, the audio is unable to be permanently rendered out and just stuck into a scene. Imagine if there were only a single left and right footstep sound in a game, it would drive you crazy! Most game engines do fantastic work with lighting and physics, but audio control is limited. This is where audio middleware comes in. And, in my opinion, the top of the class is Fmod. The newest Fmod update is fantastic for non-game audio guys. It’s simple GUI, with it’s faders and meters is similar to our DAWs and the amount of control they’re building in for mixing is fantastic. If you’re interested in game audio, check out Fmod at fmod.org.
2. Audio Gaming
If you were to ask Google to define procedural audio, it couldn’t. But, know this, procedural audio is cool. Very, very cool. It makes the lives of sound designers easier, frees up space for bigger and badder sfx while introducing a level of realism to certain sounds that samples could never accomplish. The guys over at Audio Gaming are doing some very cool things and the models they’ve come up with not only sound beautiful, but interact with one another (i.e. rain and wind) on a level that samples never could. After watching the demo of their new audio middleware at the Fmod booth I was hooked. I can’t wait until this stuff is available to our students to play with! Check out audiogaming.net for more info.
It may not be as cool as the previous two (hey, sound is my passion!) but CryEngine 3 (actually released almost a year and a half ago in October 2009) and the new title Crysis 2 both look fantastic. Of course, Fmod ships with the CryEngine, so it’s going to sound beautiful as well. If you’re into the FPS genre, Crysis 2 looks like it will be a serious contender for that genre’s game of the year (along with Killzone 3 and BulletStorm). Check them out at crytek.com.
After my brain was turned to mush from all of the surrounding video displays and flowing swag on the expo floor I headed over to Moscone West to hear John Byrd of Gigantic Software give his talk, “Psychoacoustic Real-Time Mixing: Seven Secrets You Should Know.” John’s talk has been the highlight of my trip. His insight into the modern problems faced by game audio designers, mixers, programmers and composers was wonderful and his techniques for overcoming these issues are truly useful. On top of that, his talk was hilarious. The zombies have machine guns!
After this talk, Colby and I headed out to an eventful dinner with a couple of gentlemen who graciously listened as we talked their ears off about our program. Then it was back to the hotel to watch The ‘Burbs and go to sleep.
Today was more of the same on the expo floor. Chatting with the guys behind the coolest technology and getting our hands on some of this years hottest titles before they ship. But, today included some other cool stuff for me. Including…
Mitsuto Suzuki (Square Enix), the composer of the Final Fantasy series gave his talk “PS3 and NDS, the Two Extreme Final Fantasy Series.” Suzuki is a rockstar in the game audio world. His synth based soundtracks are breathtaking and it was wonderful to get some insight into how he works. Mitsuto showed off some of the tools he uses, including Cubase 5 and cyan/n. During his talk about creating the score for two very different platforms, Mitsuto created an improvised electronic song in cyan/n. The performance was amazing, he tweaked and hacked apart samples to create a very cool song on the fly. All in all, it was really freaking cool.
After the Mitsuto Suzuki talk I went to listen to Adam Kay (Paragon Studios) give his talk “Work Smarter, Not Harder: Automating the Process of Audio Content Creation.” I won’t go through the details of Adam’s talk, but he gave simple and effective techniques to help automate often used processes in audio content creation, including the use of batch files and regular expressions to simplify the life of game audio designers (which is awesome, trust me!).
Well, that concludes this blog, if you have any questions, leave a comment here or hit us up at facebook.com/mindfireacademy.
The Mindfire Crew
Hey everyone. Yesterday was yet another mind blowing day. We were able to finally enter the Expo Hall and see all the amazing new tech as well as speak to an insane number of hiring, yes, hiring studios. Many of which were Activision, Blizzard, THQ, Microsoft, Sony, and Telltale. First things first. My (Colby) day started with talking to Autodesk and seeing many demos on their new 2012 software. All I have to say is one click animation retargeting onto automatic rigs via HumanIK…..drool. After that I spoke with Crytek on using their engine within my classes. I did not, however, get play a Nintendo 3DS. I held one and messed around with the interface but the line was too long to stand and wait to play any titles. Maybe today! I then continued to Nvidia’s booth where they were displaying their booth with a crazy large wall of 3D titles. Other booths we stopped by were Cryteks booth featuring Crysis 2 in 3D, Sony with many titles to play including the new Mortal Kombat (Josh’s note, I destroyed Colby!). All in all their were a crazy amount of booths we visited but what was the most exciting was the end of the day.
Xsense a motion capture technology company invited us to an after party. There, we met up with the Lead Animator from 5th Cell as well one of the Technical Artists from 343. We had dinner with them and they were incredible. They answered any questions we had and were extremely excited to hear what we were doing. They even offered to come down and do guest lectures! At the end of the night both artists told us we needed to bring students next year. They said they would bring them out for dinner and answer any questions they might have. Oh and I picked an awesome piece of SWAG from Google. A Google Chrome rhombic triacontahedron.
Today was the official start to the audio portion of GDC11! I spent the day listening to audio directors, composers, and sound designers from studios as diverse as EA, Crytek, Microsoft, and PopCap. I’ll give a highlight sheet of the coolest bits!
Scott Selfon (Microsoft) started it off with an overview of the game audio industry. Scott covered some of the industry specific audio tools such as Wwise (pictured above), fmod and Miles. His talk was fantastic and had information perfect to those interested in entering into this exciting, yet extremely competitive industry. Next up was Lennie Moore (3l33t Music). Lennie is a video game composer who has written music for tons of titles. His talk covered adaptive music construction and his workflow for creating interactive music for video games.
We took a break for lunch and afterword I got a little time to chat with the next speaker, Kenny Young (Media Molecule). Kenny was responsible for every bit of sound we heard in the fantastic, Little Big Planet. Kenny was great and was a genuinely passionate guy. I could tell that he loved what he did.
After Kenny spoke about his sound design workflow (he shuns multi-track DAWs in favor of Sound Forge), we moved on to the shorter 25 minute Tech Talks. These talks were as follows:
Nicolas Fournel (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe) spoke about procedural audio and the new innovations being made to speed up our sound design workflow, including some of the areas we need to continue to advance in order to take full advantage of the process. Alistair Hirst (OMNI Audio) then covered Digital Audio Hygiene. We covered the theories of digital audio and how those theories are put into practice. The third and final talk was from Simon Carlile (Personal Audio). Simon’s talk was titled “Space for Engagement: The Psychophysics of Immersion and Presence.” During the talk he went over immersive 3D audio and new tools being created to bring our players deeper into our worlds.
After the Tech Talks, Jeff Essex (audiosyncrasy) discussed creating audio for mobile platforms, specifically the iOS. After Jeff’s talk, Guy Whitmore (PopCap), talked about his transition from Microsoft Game Studio to casual game maker PopCap (creator of Bejeweled) and the world of being the “one-man” audio team. Both of these talks were fantastic as they covered the fairly limited audio resources that these new mobile platforms allow. The two also covered important topics for those involved in game audio who want to try their hand at mobile and social gaming.
The final talk was a Q&A session lead by Carles Deenen (EA) Julian Kwasneski (Bay Area Sound) Florian Fusslin (Crytek). This session covered the business side of game audio and the ever changing market.
All in all today was fantastic! I could not have asked for a better first day at GDC and can’t wait to get on the floor tomorrow and talk one on one with the companies behind my favorite games!
The Mindfire Crew
Another crazy day at the GDC. My (Colby) day started off with the typical perusing of the book store. I then proceeded to my second day summit. This session was titled “Technical Artist Boot Camp: Lessons in How to Create and Be an effective TA.” My world was rocked!!!
The first gentlemen to speak was Keith Self-Ballard. He is the Studio Art Director for Volition Inc. He spoke on the creative side of being a TA such as character rigging. After which, a number of other men spoke but the three after Keith that also impressed were Rob Galanakis from Bioware, Bryan Moss from THQ, and Bronwen Grimes from Valve. Rob’s talk focused heavily on coding while Bryan and Bronwen spoke on some of the technologies and practices they used on the current titles they are a part of.
Bronwen a technical artist, working on Portal 2, had an amazing speech on shader creation which implemented some interesting UV mapping techniques with new map types such as flow maps. One of the tools that Valve used to create the flow maps is Side Effects Houdini. Bryan spoke on animated normal maps for creating the illusion of wind blowing through clothing while a on a motorcycle. Might sound simple but incredibly intricate with a heavy attention to detail.
Tomorrow is when the convention blows up with the expo floor being opened to all GDC attendees. We will continue to bring you the latest news for the rest of the week. I am hoping to play the Nintendo’s 3DS as well as talk more big name companies to help me create one of the most bawlin’ game design programs in the country. Wish me luck.
Where on earth do I start? We have had an incredible first day. My (Colby) day started off with the “Level Design in a Day” summit. It was awe inspiring to sit amongst such talented individuals from all aspects of the industry. Whether it be scripters, creative directors, producers, level designers or just technophiles, everyone was having and awesome laugh out loud time learning about the best practices of level design. We heard speakers from Epic, Splash Damage, Bethesda Softworks, Irrational Games, and Arkadium.
I specifically had the pleasure of sitting down with Jim Brown, Principle Level Designer for Epic. I chatted with him abut curriculum for education and the possibility of us working in tandem with Epic (fingers crossed) to create such learning tools. We would be the premiere source for UDK education. Continue to follow the blog. We have an exciting week ahead of us. Whether it be some new facial recognition software, an announcement from Insomniac games, or some special footage from an up and coming title we will be the first to update you on all things GDC 2011.
We’re here at GDC11 in beautiful San Francisco! While Colby is finishing the Level Design in a Day tutorial, I figured I’d post a bit about the trip so far.
We flew in yesterday and got situated for an early start to the Moscone Center. We got registered and picked up our Swag as we found a map to guide us to our first days events. Colby is attending the Level Design in a Day tutorial while I (Josh) blog and check out the events I have coming up tomorrow through the rest of the week.
We are super excited about everything going down at GDC this year! We are making it our mission to team up with every tech company we can to bring the best possible learning experience to our students, and what better place to do that than the halls of the Game Developers Conference?
On top of all the GDC fun, I want to mention the Thirsty Bear Brewing Co.! We stopped in for lunch and have to say, if you’re ever in San Fran, you need to eat here. The chicken sandwich is great, but the beer is even better! They are a fully organic brewery, and I have to recommend the Kozlov Stout (if you’re at least 21 and enjoy a good beer of course). One of the smoothest and most flavorful I’ve ever had!
The Mindfire Crew