UK videogame developer, Codemasters, has extended its use of DPA Microphones to capture the sound of high performance cars for its latest title, DiRT Rally.
Chris Jojo, senior sound designer and the principal sound recording engineer for Codemasters Racing, says: “For me, DPA is synonymous with AAA quality and innovation. It is one of the few leading microphone manufacturers that produces microphones and supporting accessories capable of withstanding the stresses of onboard car recording while delivering consistently exceptional recording results.”
Since its formation by the Darling Brothers in 1986, Codemasters has carved a niche for developing motorsports titles such as the GRID series, the DiRT Series and official games for Formula One. Jojo, who is based at the company’s Southam Studios HQ in Warwickshire, is responsible for the sound design and technical audio integration for all Codemasters racing titles. He also looks after field, prop and foley recording and sourcing, and onboard sound recording of sports cars.
“Codemasters’ Central Audio Department has been using DPA products for 15 years,” he says. “Our stock includes the d:screet 4062 miniature omnidirectional lavalier microphone, the d:dicate 4011 cardioid microphone, the d:dicate 4007 omnidirectional microphone and the d:dicate 4018 supercardioid microphone capsules – all powered by DPA MMP-A microphone preamp bodies. More recently, DPA MMP-ER modular active cables have been employed for field, prop and foley recording and for capturing onboard engine, exhaust and mechanical audio. These could include forced induction, differential, suspension and transmission across a wide spectrum of vehicles for all our motorsports titles.”
For DiRT Rally, which is currently enjoying a Metacritic score of around 86 percent, d:dicate and d:screet microphones were a permanent fixture. The microphones were used across a whole slate of onboard recordings, ranging from classic Rally Era historics, Group B, A and 4 cars, as well as contemporary World Rally Championship and World Rallycross cars.
“The d:dicate 4007 was often the primary mic of choice and channel for both engine and exhaust recording,” Jojo explains. “It was positioned a few feet from the source for a more diffuse ambient effect, serving as the foundation binding the other chosen ancillary, close mic’d and discrete channels together at mixdown. It was generally mounted in the center of the firewall in an engine bay, with one or more mounted above, centered on an exhaust via pressure cups, Manfrotto arms or taped over blocks of memory foam for optimal off-axis positioning.”
DPA’s d:screet 4062s were used as workhorse mics, often applied where there was limited space inside the engine bay, while d:dicate 4011s were consistently used for both engine and exhaust as ancillary channels, for close mic’ing detail, targeting induction and flanking the engine block. In situations where a more focused approach was required, for example isolating the sound of a dog tooth gear box, waste gate chatter or gravel and stone kick-up in a cabin, Jojo used d:dicate 4018s. All mics were routed into a Sound Devices 788T Digital Audio Recorder with either a -10 or -20dB in line attenuator at input.
Most car recordings for Codemasters’ titles are conducted on track, with the team rarely using chassis dynometers and rolling roads due to their inability to run off-load decelerations, which are integral to the timed cues needed to build in-game audio engines.
“I generally set up a few heavy boom stands with shotgun mics or have an assisting recordist shoot along the run of a track to pick up any ‘wild takes’ of the car maneuvering, pass-bys, detonations/overruns or tire squeals,” Jojo says. “Safety is always a primary concern: for protection against exposure to engine and exhaust heat, mic enclosures and cabling are fire treated with fire retardant tape and shrouds, securely rigged with fireproof ties and chased into the audio logger. Onboard mics also have to be protected against wind and airflow.”
Another important consideration is SPL tolerance and transient response, especially as some exhaust levels, overrun pops and detonations can often exceed 135dB.
“The d:dicate 4007, 4018, 4011 and d:screet 4062 mics can deliver the SPL tolerance, resilience, exceptional clarity and response that I need,” Jojo says. “My personal favorite is the d:dicate 4007, which is indispensable for recording engine and exhausts. The off-axis response yields a full-bodied detailed recording with exceptional transient response and pin-sharp clarity. Equally impressive is the low noise level. What is truly unique about this particular omni condenser is its surprising resistance to mild wind buffeting and plosives.
“I often use the d:dicate 4007 in tandem with a d:dicate 4011 on exhaust recording: the d:dicate 4007 above an exhaust, with the d:dicate 4011 in close proximity to the pipe, side-on. The d:dicate 4007 provides a natural ambient bed for the ‘bite’ and CU detail captured by the d:dicate 4011. Also, it often supports the ancillary ‘character’ engine/exhaust mic channels, which can be blended into a mix to highlight a specific attribute.”
Much like the cars that the mics are being mounted on, the technology isn’t static and keeps evolving too. Jojo points to the introduction of DPA’s MMP-ER/ES active cables as a great time saver, allowing the team to accommodate larger DPA diaphragm capsules in tight spaces.
“The MMP-ER/ES and d:screet 4062 lavalier extender cables have far less bulk and weight, speeding up the rigging process,” he says, “and when you’re mounting up to 10 mics on nearly 50 cars and then trying to capture the sheer breadth of different audio scenarios required to power a game like DiRT Rally, speeding up any part of the process is a good thing.”