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Old May 19, 2022, 05:35 PM
Rew's Avatar
Rew Rew is offline
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Default How are VG soundtracks made?

Something I've recently become curious about--what is the exact process of producing CD soundtrack of a video game (not arranged, but original music from the game)? How does it work?

Does a company like Nintendo or Capcom send all the audio files from a game to a record company, and they manipulate it (with loop count, fadeout, etc.)? How do they make something like MIDIs into CD-quality sound? What about track titles and track list order? I assume those are provided by the game company (and not up to the discretion of the record label). And for the sometimes rare Western release of a Japanese game OST, I assume there has to be separate work done by a localization team on those track titles.

Another thing I've been curious about is how dynamic tracks are handled. Take the Bazaar theme from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword OST. The track is a 9-minute whopper because there's the default variation when Link first walks in, then a variation for the Scrap Shop, one for the Potion Shop, the Fortune Teller, etc. Are those variations different audio files in the game's code? Do they painstakingly splice them together so they flow seamlessly one into the other?

I know game OSTs vary wildly in quality, from the awful Super Metroid Sound in Action album (such a letdown given how awesome the music from the game itself is) to the sublime Xenoblade soundtracks. So I've long wondered about the process of how they're actually made.
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Old May 19, 2022, 11:21 PM
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It depends. Sometimes the game company wants to publish a soundtrack and reaches out to a publisher, other times a publisher known for VGM reaches out to the rights holder.

For older stuff it usually has to be recorded directly from hardware, and some companies like Scitron, Clarice Disc, Wave Master, or EGG specialize in this and do it themselves even if an older recording already exists. Others are content with compiling or reprinting the work that's already been done by others.

For something with streamed audio (which is most games from PS1 onwards) the only way they could get better quality is if the game company has the original uncompressed audio tucked away somewhere (sadly they don't always do).

In either case the label's recording and mastering engineers are usually the ones to do the mixing, looping, and all that with maybe some direction from some people who worked on the game (though this isn't always the case and some composers prefer to mix and master everything themselves if they can).

As for dynamic tracks, again it just depends. Some albums try to give you a taste of every version in one track by transitioning seamlessly between them, others split them into their different versions. Klonoa 1 has actually done both, with the original CD release taking the former approach and the digital release taking the latter.
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