2017 Event Schedule

  • 9:30 a.m. - Coffee and Welcome
  • 10:00 a.m. - Becky Allen - Always Be Composing: The Flexible Music System of Plants vs. Zombies Heroes
  • 11:00 a.m. - Edgar Choueiri - The State of the Art of Binaural Audio for Loudspeakers and Headphones
  • 12:00 p.m. - Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m. - Howard Mostrom - Orchestral Scoring and Audio Production in Planetary Annihilation
  • 2:30 p.m. - James Johnston - Spatial Audio: What Can You Really Hear?


Presentation Abstracts

Becky Allen: Always Be Composing: The Flexible Music System of Plants vs. Zombies Heroes

The music systems of Plants vs. Zombies have evolved over time and are the result of several phases of iteration and reinvention through game development. This talk is an in-depth look at the experiments that shaped these music systems initially, the process of rebuilding the entire score using custom-recorded MIDI sample banks halfway through, and how the team continued to tighten the link between music and gameplay all the way up until the game's release.

The guiding principle for the music of PvZ: Heroes was that the tunes should, first and foremost, support the gameplay. The team wanted music to dynamically track gameplay more closely than previous PvZ games, and switching genres meant room for some fairly big stylistic departures. Extensive prototyping eventually led to a "Saturday morning cartoon" vibe with exciting music and systems, making the game feel punchier and more alive.

Edgar Choueiri: The State of the Art of Binaural Audio for Loudspeakers and Headphones

Humans have only two ears and therefore should need only two channels/transducers to hear recorded audio in full 3D. The binaural technique aims to deliver accurate 3D audio to a listener through a pair of headphones or a pair of loudspeakers. Professor Choueiri will describe the challenges of binaural audio through headphones (BAH) and loudspeakers (BAL), recent solutions to these challenges, and the state of the art of required tools for content production and delivery.

A main challenge for BAH is to externalize a 3D image outside the head of the listener, while a main challenge for BAL is to accurately image sound sources near the head (proximity imaging) and to do so without tonal distortion. In particular, Professor Choueiri will describe the BACCH 3D Sound technology, which relies on optimal crosstalk cancellation filters, called BACCH filters, to deliver tonally uncolored binaural audio in 3D through a pair of regular loudspeakers. Further refinement of this technology, such as reproduction hardware and the use of head tracking and automatic individualization for a particular listener, will be discussed and demonstrated. Professor Choueiri will then describe the recently developed BACCH-HP headphones technology, which allows 100% of listeners to perceive binaural audio as a well-externalized 3D image outside, and far from, their heads, compared to the roughly 30% success rate of externalizing regular binaural audio through headphones.

Professor Choueiri will use the powerful BACCH-dSP software — which allows designing various BACCH filters for BAL and BAH, processing binaural audio, translational and rotational head tracking, and 3D mixing — to illustrate the talk and demonstrate the technologies.

Howard Mostrom: Orchestral Scoring and Audio Production in Planetary Annihilation

A properly executed orchestral score can bring a project to life and elicit an emotional response to a game playing experience like nothing else.

However, the endless details and complexities of the production process can often be scary and overwhelming. If not adequately prepared, it is easy to encounter many unforeseen problems. This talk will focus on the process of composing, recording, and directing the audio development in Planetary Annihilation as well as cover ways to optimize your production and workflow.

James D. (JJ) Johnston: Spatial Audio: What Can You Really Hear?

There are many varieties and takes on how to do spatial audio, either in loudspeakers or in headphones. This talk will not address those mechanisms, but will rather briefly describe the human auditory system and explain which sound cues are actually perceptible. The talk will include approximately 20 minutes on the human hearing system and 20 minutes on spatial issues resulting from binaural hearing and the structure of the human skull, pinna, ear canal, and other anatomy.

Speaker Bios

Becky Allen

Becky Allen has been in the gaming audio industry for over 20 years. She is currently an audio director and composer at PopCap Games/EA in Seattle. Her most recent title is Plants Vs. Zombies Heroes, for which she is both composer and audio director. Ms. Allen started in multimedia after she received her MFA at CalArts, where she studied with luminary composer Morton Subotnick. After school, Ms. Allen worked at Microsoft on numerous multimedia projects as audio lead, sound designer, and composer. She then moved back to Los Angeles and worked in business and production for Soundelux Design Music Group for 13 years. Since then, she has been at PopCap Games as audio producer, audio lead, designer, director, and composer on multiple projects.

Edgar Choueiri

Edgar Choueiri is a professor of applied physics at the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department of Princeton University and associated faculty for the Program in Plasma Physics at the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. He is also Director of Princeton University's Engineering Physics Program, Chief Scientist at the university's Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Lab, and the director of Princeton's 3D Audio and Applied Acoustics (3D3A) Lab.

Professor Choueiri is a world-renowned leader in the field of plasma physics and plasma propulsion for spacecraft. He is the author of more than 200 scientific publications and encyclopedia articles on plasma rockets, plasma physics, instabilities, and turbulence in collisional plasmas, plasma accelerator modeling, space physics, and applied mathematics. He has been the principal investigator on more than 30 competitively selected research projects (including two space experiments) funded by NASA, the U.S. Air Force, the National Science Foundation, and other governmental and private institutions. He is Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the recipient of many awards and honors, including a knighthood.

Professor Choueiri is an avid audiophile, acoustician, and classical music recordist. His decades-long passion for perfecting realistic music reproduction led him to design advanced digital filters that extract the natural 3D audio from stereo sound played through two loudspeakers without adding any spectral coloration to the sound (i.e., without changing its tonal character). He was able to solve this problem mathematically by applying analytical and mathematical tools he uses in his plasma physics research.

Howard Mostrom

Mr. Mostrom is an award-winning composer and sound designer. He specializes in creating dynamic music for video games and other media. Mr. Mostrom has worked on dozens of games and hundreds of album projects, film scores, and commercials. He is well known for his work on games including Planetary Annihilation, Monday Night Combat, Supreme Commander 2, and Demigod.

Mr. Mostrom is currently the Audio Director at Uber Entertainment. He is a member of ASCAP, the Society of Composers & Lyricists, the GRAMMY Foundation, the Seattle Composers Alliance, and the Game Audio Network Guild.

James D. (JJ) Johnston

Mr. Johnston was one of the first investigators in the field of perceptual audio coding. He is one of the inventors and standardizers of MPEG-1/-2 Layer 3 Audio, MPEG-2 AAC, the AT&T Bell Labs PXFM (Perceptual Transform Coding) and PAC (Perceptual Audio Coding) codecs, and the ASPEC algorithm that would lead to the development of the MP3 audio format.

Most recently, Mr. Johnston has been working in the area of auditory perception of soundfields, electronic soundfield correction, ways to capture soundfield cues and represent them, and ways to expand the limited sense of realism available in standard audio playback for both captured and synthetic performances.

Mr. Johnston is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow, an Audio Engineering Society (AES) Fellow, a NJ Inventor of the Year, an AT&T Technical Medalist and Standards Awardee, and a co-recipient of the IEEE Donald Fink Paper Award. Mr. Johnston has presented many times for the PNW Section of AES, most recently on the issues surrounding "Dynamic Range." In 2006, he received the James L. Flanagan Signal Processing Award from the IEEE Signal Processing Society, and in 2012, he presented the year’s Heyser Lecture, “Audio, Radio, Acoustics and Signal Processing: The Way Forward,” at the AES 133rd Convention.

Event Details

Date: May 6, 2017

Location: DigiPen Institute of Technology

Cost: Free

Event Info