I am currently evaluating the differences between the sound produced from PC, PS3 and Xbox360 based on the same material.
We are currently developing using FMOD cross platform API, but I am still experiencing considerable differences between the three platforms.
Based on running a 7.1 test scene with a 7.1 2d loop, a couple of 3d sounds and a 3d gun shot sound, I experience following results:
PC (SB X-FI analogue out direct into surround receiver): Plays at lower volume than the platforms (especially 360), even though all volume controls are set maximum. Plays with considerable less subwoofer output. I have set my SB X-FI settings to utilize Bass Management.
PS3 (HDMI): Plays with a lot of subwoofer level. Heavy bass management (automatically routes sub content from surround channels to subwoofer)
Xbox360 (HDMI): Plays with a lot of subwoofer. Some bass management. Plays with louder volume than the other platforms, but that might be related to the "DIAG NORM +4" message I get when switching to that input on my receiver.
My conclusion is to set my SB X-FI setting to use bass management but at +15dB!. That gets my PC sound closest to the consoles (which are factory reset), but makes it play with louder subwoofer than I would normally do. Therefore I am not sure if this is the right solution. And then I would have to live with the volume difference to the 360.
I know this might relate to some issue in our code or FMOD initializing, but as for as my coders inform me, we do nothing the specify different play behavior on the different platforms.
I am really interested in hearing about you guys experiences on this issue and how you handle cross platform development and monitoring?
(I have posted the Q on audiogang forum as well)
- Frans asked 9 years ago
In my experience the only way to maintain consistency is to apply offsets per platform regardless of which audio solution you’re using for your game. It sucks, but all platforms handle audio differently, there is no industry standard for game audio, as there are for film and TV.
The consoles are a bit easier to deal with, usually you can apply a master channel offset and you can get them all roughly in the same range. In my experience the Wii/Gamcube has always been the quietest, PS3 and 360 in a similar range (i’ve only tested this using optical, not HDMI on those platforms) but the PC is a different beast since it often depends on the sound card the user has.
Since each platform usually ends up using different encoding methods it’s often necessary to make mix offsets per platform on a per SFX basis as well because each sound will have slightly, sometimes significantly, different frequency content.
On the positive side, using a fully software solution like FMod, rather than leveraging per platform hardware helps maintain some consistency between platforms, but you’ll never get an identical mix across all systems unless you spend a lot of time doing per platform mixes. I’d suggest just identifying the biggest offenders and make adjustments where you can. As far as I know there is no way to do per platform offsets within FMod designer, so you’d either have to apply offsets per channel within code, or manage multiple FMod projects. I’d suggest the code route if you have a way to live tweak those values.
What if we just made the master category ‘volume’ setting tweakable per platform – and allowed it to go over 0db? (though amping is risky, it would be better to quieten down the loudest platform, otherwise you risk distortion on the digital signal).
I think that could be very helpful for multiplatform mixing. To do a fully balanced mix though, you’d need to have per platform available on all categories and even on a per event basis. I doubt most people usually have that much time to spend on balancing per platform, but having the master offset with a boost above 0 would be enough to get all the platforms at least in roughly the same range as one another.
Great – lookig forward to the the mixing offset feature. Will that cover the boosting tips you (Brett) mentioned in your earlier post? If not, then yes please supply me with the tips. Thanks.
Regarding the uneven bass (sub channel) levels on the PC vs. consoles, it might be related to the THX bass management +10dB mentioned as well, which is present caused by the consoles running digitally into my reciever.
So just to clarify, does that mean that whenever any audio material is played on a THX enabled system it will be mixed like that? And I will just have to live with it like that?
I worked for many years in a studio that did 5.1 mixes for film and television. We had the discreet 5.1 outs of the console go through a THX crossover into the analog inputs of the amp. The speakers were calibrated according to reference signals (band limited pink noise) coming out of the console(ProTools).
The amp also had a digital coax input from a DVD player. Using this mixing setup we found we got really good compatibility when going through the AC3 decoder coming off a DVD and the source mix before compression.
I’d assume that any 5.1 amp these days with a digital input is going to apply a +10dB boost to the LFE signal.
Failing that – sparse use of the LFE channel is a safe strategy. Don’t forget, most systems crossover the bass from the Left and Rights into the Sub speaker, so the only time you really need the LFE is when you run out of headroom in the other channels.
Thanks to Matt for the explanation.
Regarding the levels from the different platforms, I guess I just have to live with it /(since it is caused by the hardware as written by Brett in earlier post) and possibly give them different volume offsets on the masterbus, when this feature is released by fmod guys.
Regarding LFE inconsistency:
My current challenge then is not really the THX system boosting the .1 channel discrete content, but the (in my ears) heavy boost of L/R channel bass content caused by the THX bass management and +10dB LFE boost, when running digitally from the consoles into my amp. At least when compared to analogue outs from my PC.
A simple unprocessed 3d gunshot sounds neutral played from my PC, but has heavily emphasized low end (playing through LFE) on the consoles.
I am really curious how you guys handle the LFE channel inconsistency across the different platforms?
I know PC is most vulnurable to different more or less bizarre user setups, so maybe I should trust my consoles and try to get my PC sounding as close to that as possible? Or maybe I am totally off track, and should just accept, that they just sound totally different and mix somewhere in between?
What do you guys do?
Most people I’ve seen get confused (not saying that you are :)) between the LFE channel (being the .1 channel = Low Frequency Enhancement) and the Subwoofer speaker.
The subwoofer speaker plays crossed-over content from the satellite channel as well as the LFE channel from the decoder (or discreet output from sound-card/console/etc). Only the LFE component is meant to get the +10dB boost, not the crossed over content.
So to prove that your monitoring is working and that playback is consistent, perhaps disable the LFE channel completely.
When Fmod pans a 3d sound, does it send any signal the LFE channel??
If so, can you turn that off??
If your sound card is hooked up by analog, simply unplug the LFE channel and check for differences.
I think the difference is in the hardware really. The way fmod mixes is identical on all platforms, if you actually captured the digital -PCM- output it would be the same each time.
360 would compress to Dolby Digital, ps3 might be hdmi, and xfi would be 3 stereo analogue outputs.
360 attenuates the signal by 3db for headroom reasons. All consoles do different things.
If you want, we can give some tips for some boosting that you can do to the final mix but it requires programmer intervention. It just requires a few commands to boost or attenuate the mix (note in fmod designer you can attenuate the master category volume which would do the same thing)
I wouldn’t worry about getting all 3 to be the same volume levels though, that is definitely hardware dependent and just requires the user setting their amp setting to the level they like.
Bass could depend on the amp you use as well.
[quote:rde0t7om]I wouldn’t worry about getting all 3 to be the same volume levels though, that is definitely hardware dependent and just requires the user setting their amp setting to the level they like.[/quote:rde0t7om]
I’ve spent years working in broadcast where the loudness of the content is of critical importance.
It’s very important to me as a designer that my game is not only balanced within itself, but sounds at a reasonable volume compared to a DVD video disc or regular television programming.
[quote:rde0t7om]Bass could depend on the amp you use as well.[/quote:rde0t7om]
Bass management is meant to be a part of the amplifier/cross-over/speaker system.
The THX spec which is designed for cinema compatibility says that all 5 channels go through a crossover (typically 80Hz), and get added to the LFE channel with a 10dB gain (only on LFE) and to the subwoofer.
Possibly routing the 5.1 sound card vs the decoding the dolby digitial from the consoles does very different things in your amp.
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