Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound is one monster of a project if we’ve ever seen one. A festival cut has been screening on games events, and the video-on-demand version as well as the book launched last month. The DVD version, however, has only been available for pre-order until a few days ago. We talked to creator Karen Collins and learned all about her and her team’s journey – as well as the various products they have created since they started in 2014.
First and foremost, Beep is a documentary movie on the history of game sound whose final cut is about one hour and 45 minutes long. However, a ton of extra content has been created along the way, some of which is included in the DVD version the team has been busy getting ready since the film’s premiere at GDC in March. This includes countless interviews with iconic composers of video game music – which are also being gradually published for free on Vimeo.
The movie is aimed at anyone interested in audio, video games, or both, but can be equally interesting to those who don’t know much about either topic yet. Collins also hopes it can help the craft of game audio gain more renown within the games industry itself: “I think that if you just check out the film, it’s an hour and 45 minutes of your time, just learn a little bit about it, I think you’ll find that it’s much more interesting than what you thought.”
The long journey to release day
“Beep has been more than a full-time job”, Collins told us, “It’s been 100-hour-weeks for more than two years now pretty much just trying to get all this stuff done.” And indeed, the journey of Collins and her team has been fairly remarkable so far. They pulled off a successful Kickstarter campaign, and then another one – after losing a considerable amount of money to a huge drop of the Canadian dollar’s value –, for which they have been sending out rewards up until now. They struggled with licensing difficulties trying to negotiate with (or sometimes just trying to find) the respective holder of rights. And then, of course, they went on a five-day trip to Japan to interview some of the most iconic Japanese game composers in history. To save themselves and the composers as much time as possible, they didn’t even bring an interpreter, although none of them spoke Japanese: “So at the end of the interview I wasn’t sure if I got what I needed and it had to all be translated later. A few months later, it was like “Oh, that’s what they said”, it’s just a completely different situation than in North America. But the Japanese were so nice, very humble, very kind people.” The short “Beep: Big in Japan”, which comes with the video-on-demand version of Beep, gives more insight into this chapter of the team’s journey.
Interactive game audio library ahead?
People who want to get deeper into the topic of game audio can also buy the Beep book comprising countless transcripts of interviews, some of which aren’t available on the DVD or Vimeo because they were conducted via Internet rather than filmed on-site. Unlike the film and the webisodes, the books can be searched for keywords in case the reader is interested in something specific. In the future, there might even be an interactive version of Beep that lets readers actively navigate the contents in a more sophisticated way. The Beep team is currently looking to attain government funds to finance this next giant step, but time will tell whether and when it is to become a reality: “We have basically 200 hours of content and let’s say I just want to know about MIDI. Well, you can’t sit down and watch 200 hours of content. So we will be looking at creating a sort of online interactive documentary, where you could follow a non-linear path through the content based on what your interests are. My main job in life is a researcher and I put this together because it’s something that I would have wanted as a researcher to have access to. You know, interviews with all of these people, and to have that information out there.”
If you’re unsure about buying the movie, have a look at the webisodes to help you decide. To read more about the project’s past and present, check out this article Karen Collins wrote for ASoundEffect.com.