Frank Klepacki has a very long and distinguished resume: audio director, composer, sound designer, studio/live engineer, performer, and voice actor.
Klepacki has also worked on titles for most top publishers in the video game industry, including Westwood Studios, LucasArts, Electronic Arts, Sega, Ubisoft, Disney, SSI, Hasbro and Virgin Interactive. Currently, as the audio director at Petroglyph, he handles multiple music composition styles for a variety of game genres and major TV network shows, as well as full audio direction, sound design, and voice talent.
As part of our “Ask Me Anything” series from AES 2014, Frank sat down with us to answer some questions from the audience and from Twitter. Here are some highlights from Frank Klepacki’s AMA session with Audio-Technica.
Question: As far as being an audio director, can you describe a little more in depth of what that is?
Frank Klepacki: As an audio director for a video game company, I oversee all aspects of the sound that is put into the games. So everything from music composition, how it is integrated, sound design, how that is attached to the rest of the game, voice acting, and the overall mix of that. Everything is equally important. In general, I oversee and provide content for all of those things.
Q: Is the majority of the voice work you’re casting being done in commercial studios or more by people that can work from home?
FK: It’s a little bit of both, depending on the project. For example, if we have a large enough budget for a union-based project, we will pick a studio, possibly here in L.A., and have the actors booked one after the other to come in and do their respective roles. If I need to seek out specific characteristics of an actor that I can’t find locally, I’ll look online, look for actors who have their own studios. I did that recently, as a matter of fact. There is a video game I am working on right now where a South African accent was requested. A lot of people who imitate the accent don’t sound too convincing. So I actually had to seek out South African voice actors that had their own recording studio and direct them over the Internet via Skype. Then they would provide me the audio files.
Q: What workflow do you prefer the most when working remotely with voice actors?
FK: When it comes to the remote thing, Skype works wells to give them the general direction. Then I trust them to send me the quality that I am looking for. I will usually have them send me an example to see what their studio sounds like. I will have them give me a quick read and determine based on that. They will send me the files through a service like Dropbox or through another delivery system they are familiar with. It works out well, actually. You just have to cast it correctly, which is up to me.
Q: How did you get started in the video game industry?
FK: I had the fortunate opportunity to get started in this industry when it was in its infancy. The first video game I ever worked on was for the original Nintendo entertainment system. So that goes back quite a bit, back in 1990 or ’91. Back then the technology was a lot more primitive than it is now. We were having to use FM synthesis to generate the real-time MIDI music that was being played back. There wasn’t a lot of sample-based playback at the time. If there was it was very compressed. We had to make the best of what we were working with based on the technological limitations.
I was introduced to the idea of working in video games starting out as a game tester. I already had a music background at a young age, and I had the opportunity as a summer job to go and play video games to try to break them, which is what we do as testers. We play them over and over again, and in as many different ways possible. This helps us provide bugs, which is a way to write up what’s wrong. You would write up what you found, how you made it happen, essentially do a full report. That was my first exposure to a video game company. As I walked around I was very inspired by how these games were being put together… by a team of people. It was very similar to being in a band, which is how I related to it. Everybody has something they do specifically, but they make one thing together. That was kind of the idea that I picked out from being in a game studio. So that got me interested in wanting to do something creative. I pursued the audio aspect, starting primarily with music composition. Then I moved into sound design and voice acting, later, as the needs arose, and as I was able to prove that I could do it.
Q: Are you strictly in the game world or do you bounce around in the audio industry?
FK: My primary job is an audio director for video games, but in my free time I am involved in other projects, such as television, bands, and voice acting. I dabble in a little bit of everything. It’s always keeping me engaged in the multiple ways that we can use audio technology for our advantage.
Technology moves so rapidly that, even for as long as I have been doing this now, I find that we are always learning about the next thing. It’s never-ending and that excites me, actually. Because why would you stick to doing things in a regimented way when there is a newer, maybe easier, maybe more efficient way of doing it?
For the complete AMA interview with Frank Klepacki, please check out the video below!
We would like to thank Frank for taking the time to participate in our AES Ask Me Anything Livestream event!