Students in a music recording technology class taught by Mark Benincosa at the West Virginia University School of Music are designing sound effects for a video game called “Stunt Runner,” to be released in 2014 by Kermdinger Studios, Inc., a Silicon Valley company.
As Benincosa began freelance work composing the music for the game, he thought the sound effects design would be a nice project for the students in his Music 437 class.
“The company was a little bit hesitant to let students work on the project at first,” he said. “But I assured them that I would assist with the sound effects if they would allow the students to work on it and get the experience. So far, things have been great! It is a win-win situation with real world experience for the students and free sound effects work for Kermdinger.”
It didn’t hurt that the founder, CEO, and lead programmer of Kermdinger Studios is WVU alumnus Anthony Palma, who graduated in 2010 with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and computer engineering.
Palma previously worked as an Imagineer in Walt Disney Imagineering’s Creative Technology group and also developed iOS games for two years, including “Aww, Eggplant!?” before forming an independent video game development studio with three classmates from Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Program, where he received a master’s degree.
Benincosa said “Stunt Runner” is different than most video games because players control the environment of the game, and not the character.
“The game itself is actually a really cool and unique idea,” he said. “It is also fun and family friendly.”
The game follows a once-wildly-popular, but now past-his-prime stunt man named Smash Johnson through several phases of filming stunts in a movie, from tryouts at the sound stage warehouse, to full-blown movie sets in locations such as a jungle, outer space and many others. The player of the game serves as the director of the movie and manipulates the environment to help Smash do some epic stunts so that he can make a comeback and become the master stunt runner he once was.
Benincosa’s students are currently creating the sound effects for things such as jet packs, balloons popping, a trampoline, an umbrella, the sound of the stunt runner hitting a wall, or the sound of paper being thrown in the trash.
Click below to hear the trampoline sound students created in the studio.
[ Play as MP3 File ]
All are music technology minors in the WVU School of Music and include Matthew Beeson and Travis Hunt, both from the Parkersburg, W.Va. area; Kelly Kramarik from Elmira, N.Y.; and Anthony Nettles of Germantown, Md. In addition, theater technology student Savannah Yost of Fairview, W.Va., is doing some of the sound effects, although she is not actually a member of the class.
“The company sent some guidelines, as far as what they were looking for with the sound effects, and I also help the students and make suggestions,” Benincosa said.
“For example, a paper being thrown in the trash doesn’t sound like paper when it is recorded, so I suggested that Kelly use plastic along with the paper to give the sound the right character.
“Kelly also had to do a sound effect for balloons popping, so she went to the store, bought balloons, blew them up and recorded some really great sounds of balloons popping, but they turned out to be too realistic for the game. Since the game is kind of cartoony, we had to make something that was more appropriate for that environment.”
Click below to hear the end result of a cartoonish balloon-popping noise.
[ Play as MP3 File ]
For the jet pack sound, Travis Hunt used a vacuum cleaner, plus a synthesizer, to create a running, bubbly sound. Benincosa said the students often create their own sounds with synthesizers, in addition to recording different sounds.
Click below to hear the jet pack sound student Travis Hunt made with a vacuum cleaner and a synthesizer.
[ Play as MP3 File ]
The students must take two prerequisites in recording technology before they can take Music 437, so all of them already have a good background in recording.
The equipment they use includes Apple computers, high-end condenser microphones for recording, Avid and Mark of the Unicorn interfaces, Yamaha digital mixers, and a variety of other software plugins.
The recording software is Avid’s Pro Tools, which is the closest thing that exists to an industry standard. Benincosa is also using this software to write the music for the game.
Click below to hear the music faculty member Mark Benincosa created for the "Stunt Runner" video game.
[ Play as MP3 File ]
“The students may also assist with mixing and mastering the soundtrack I write when I’m done with it,” he said. “It all depends on how the music gets triggered in the game engine. I’m not sure yet.”
Benincosa would also like to establish a partnership with Kermdinger Studios if this project is successful.
Originally from Lost Creek, W.Va., Benincosa is an Avid-certified Pro Tools operator and instructor in Music Production and Game Audio. He has been with the School of Music since 2006, where he recently created the School’s minor in music technology. He also manages the School of Music Recording Studio.
He has production and engineering credits on a number of independent musical releases and has engineered and produced releases on major classical record labels, including Delos Music, which is known as “the Great American label.”
Benincosa currently works with WVU alumnus Logan Venderlic, who is making a name for himself in the region as a contemporary Appalachian “folk wave” musician. Venderlic studied music technology with Benincosa at the Creative Arts Center, as part of an independent study, while he was a student in the WVU School of Journalism. Benincosa is the executive producer for Venderlic’s new CD “Heart Heavy.”
Benincosa also performs and records as a guitarist, electric bassist, vocalist and electronic musician for a few musical groups. One group, southern metal band, SnakeBite Sermon, just released its first CD, “Revival,” this month. It can be found on iTunes, Amazon, and several other online retailers or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/snakebitesermon.
For more information about the “Stunt Runner” video game, including a playable demo online that does not yet include any of the music or sound effects, go to: www.Kermdinger.com.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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