“Alexa, play Starfinder”

Audible contacted Clean Cuts Interactive about a new project kicking off with Amazon’s Alexa Games team

A first-of-its-kind, single player voice role-playing game for the Alexa family of devices called Starfinder.

Starfinder Alexa ad

Adapted from Paizo’s massively popular tabletop RPG of the same name, the Starfinder Alexa skill transports you to the futuristic science-fantasy streets of Absalom Station. Choose from one of five unique characters, begin your 25-minute adventure, and expose a conspiracy only YOU can unravel. With Alexa as your game master, navigate your way through this world of “rogue human misfits” and “menacing alien creatures” – with your decisions determining your own unique outcome. 

So with an exciting storyline written and top tier voice acting secured, Clean Cuts Interactive was tasked with bringing the Starfinder universe and all its inhabitants to life with sound design. So off we went.

hand playing piano with sound design equipment

In order to create a world that would resonate with Starfinder fans we first had to understand the game and characters. So we ordered our Starfinder Beginner’s Box and spent hours reading rulebooks, browsing gameplay catalogues, searching fan-art and of course, playing the game (R&D, obviously). 

Once we felt properly initiated into the Starfinder Society, we got to work on the sound. 

For the pilot episode, our workload fell into two main categories:

1 | SFX Assets: Standalone sound effects that are called dynamically by code during gameplay. These include weapons, UI sounds, background loops, and anything else that is played outside of the narrated scenes. 

2 | Linear Scenes: Segments of narration and dialog that make up the storyline. The scenes are recorded and edited by Audible, then the narration files are sent to Clean Cuts Interactive for sound design and mixing. 

Starting with the weapons assets, we shot straight for the stars…heavily layered plasma rifles, floor shaking sonic boom grenades, ripping flamethrowers! We couldn’t wait to hear them in the game! So off went the first batch of sounds to the Alexa Games team to implement and we pulled up the skill on our Echo and…the sounds fell flat. We were encountering the first of several creative and technical challenges: creating detailed sound design that holds up under the compression and speaker quality of the Alexa devices.

We quickly found that the compression algorithm required by these types of devices has a stronger-than-expected impact on the sound quality. What sounds rich and textured on studio monitors can quickly turn blurry and unimpactful when played through the device. However with this being an audio-only interaction, texture and nuance in the sound are the only tools we have to create an experience for the user. 

Our new challenge: build a soundtrack with energy and subtlety that conveys under heavy compression, but still sounds huge and impactful in full resolution in the event that higher audio quality is supported in the future.. 

Challenge accepted and on we went, back and forth with the Alexa Games team, refining our sounds with creative mixing techniques to achieve the energy and detail we wanted to hear. Eventually we struck just the right balance and the weapons felt right.  

creation of sound design Clean Cuts Interactive studio

Meanwhile, the narration files were arriving from the Audible team. There were over 250 total scenes in the pilot episode, driven by descriptive narration and unique voice over characters. Groups of scenes make up sequences, with each sequence taking place in a unique environment with its own obstacles and alien creatures.  

The storytelling and voice acting is incredible, We created rich ambient layers to bring each location to life, and used Foley to mimic the actions described by the narrator. We developed unique sound profiles for each character that helped strengthen the connection to the player. If you listen closely, you’ll even hear some of our engineers lending their voices as goblins or aliens in a few scenes.

audio design studio CCI

Throughout the entire pilot, the Clean Cuts Interactive team was in constant contact with the Alexa Games and Audible teams. The Starfinder skill is a new concept, and this close collaboration was instrumental in creating such a great product. Whether it was managing the recording, editing and delivery of huge amounts of files, keeping three teams (in two time zones) on schedule with multiple progress tracking spreadsheets, or even programming the skill on the fly to create a more ideal functionality, everyone played an important role in making this such a successful launch.

Starfinder Alexa

And a successful launch it was! The pilot episode was released in November of 2019, with the next batch of episodes already in production. Dubbed “the future of voice gaming”, Starfinder has been met with rave reviews and a 4.7 star rating on Amazon.com. Clean Cuts Interactive is proud to be a part of this new gaming experience, and look forward to a long run in the Starfinder Society! 

Since the pilot episode launch, our team has continued refining the sounds for subsequent episodes. Not to mention pivoting from in-studio to a completely remote workflow as stay at home orders went into effect in March and April. We went from owning 50% of the audio production process to 80%, expanding to include session scheduling, pre-session tech checks, in-session engineering, and post-session naming, clean-up, and transfer to Audible. In total the production will span 600 pages, 120k words and over 2,500 individual audio files, allowing players to experience over 8 hours of gameplay depending on their choices.

Clean Cuts Interactive is proud to be a part of this new gaming experience, and look forward to a long run in the Starfinder Society!

In the meantime, you can play the Pilot episode for free right now! 

Just say “Alexa, play Starfinder.”



Sound Like You Mean It

Clean Cuts is an award-winning creative boutique producing inspired, emotional audio and sound design for all media.

Have a project in mind? Contact Paul Perret.
paul@cleancuts.com

Hero Elementary

Hero Elementary Is Here to Save the Day!

still from cartoon hero elementary


We are big believers in teamwork. It is a value that we at Cerebral Lounge strive to put at the core of everything we do. So, we were incredibly excited when our good friend, Marisa Nalevanko of PBS KIDS asked us to collaborate with her on the launch of their new multi-platform animated series, Hero Elementary!

Hero Elementary is an incredible school where superhero kids learn how to master their super powers in a supportive environment. They are taught to work together to help those in need and to also use the “SUPER POWERS OF SCIENCE” to solve problems.

Editor JP Hertel cut together a series of character teasers, series sells and additional video assets to introduce the audience to these amazing superheroes in training. Producer, Olya Dougherty and Assistant Editor, Caitlyn Green provided support along the way. Archie Moore, from our sister company Clean Cuts, handled the sound design and mix.

We are incredibly proud to help launch a series that celebrates teamwork, diversity, empathy and scientific observation and we hope it encourages kids to want to help the world around them.

Check out the Case Study!


Bringing your stories to life

No matter the scope of the project or size of the budget, Cerebral Lounge works with producers, directors, networks, agencies, and other creatives to bring your stories to life.

Have a project in mind? Contact Mia Regalado.

Phone: 301-495-9000
Email: mia@cerebral.tv

Gigawatt Group Launches Howard Bank Campaign Featuring Remote Recording

Campaign Features Contributions from Every Three Seas Boutique


Gigawatt Group is proud to partner once again with our long-time client, Howard Bank, on their latest broadcast and digital marketing campaign. The campaign features Zoom interviews of current Howard Bank business banking clients, conducted by our creative director, Jim McNulty.

“This project really highlights our ability to continue providing creative solutions for our clients, even with pandemic restrictions still in place,” McNulty said.

Gigawatt was able to leverage the entire Three Seas portfolio on this campaign, with Lauren Schild and Ellie Kunzig from the Three Seas team establishing the work flow for testing and recording the virtual interviews, Cerebral Lounge’s Giles D’Souza designing the animation, and Jonathan Hodges handling the editing and color correction.  Harry Evans from Clean Cuts provided the sound design and mix that featured a custom Xplodr music pack created by Noise Distillery.

Gigawatt Group’s digital strategist, Orlando Trott, implemented a social media campaign that combines both organic and paid media, and features a combination of :15 and :30 commercials combined with extended-length digital content.  Each creative element drives to HowardBankCares.com, a custom microsite developed by Gigawatt Group’s senior web developer, Amir Mishani.

Ready to energize your brand?

Contact Jim McNulty
Email: jim@gigawattgroup.com
Phone: 202-888-0504

Cerebral Lounge joins the fight against Covid-19

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” – Fred Rogers

still image from a Covid 19 animation created by Cerebral Lounge

 

These are strange times. At Cerebral Lounge it means we’re looking at each other through a camera instead of over a cup of coffee. We’re emailing, and texting and chatting with folks, but we’re not wearing pants.

Regardless, we’re still hard at work, trying to do our part to make this world a better place. That’s when longtime friends Meredith Light and Beth Ruoff contacted us to help create an informative PSA about slowing the spread of Covid-19 for Gillman Communications, sponsored by the Gates Foundation and Public Health Seattle & King County. Needless to say, we jumped right in.

Creative Director Giles D’Souza came up with a geometric approach that was “…simple and expressive… The circles needed to emote. The simplicity added to the inclusive nature of the messaging.” With support from designer Richard Mijangos, Giles created a powerful, elegant animation that amplified steps we can all take to save lives, and leveraged the elementary nature of the geometry to deliver easy to understand messaging about how to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Harry Evans, Senior Sound Designer and Mixer with our sister company Clean Cuts, took inspiration from the animation approach and utilized subtle musical elements to reinforce the message; placing low reversed piano behind every mention of Covid-19 and adding synths and bells to punctuate movement and ideas. Harry’s signature musicianship proved advantageous allowing him to create a new melody for the close of the spots.

We’re keeping our spirits up during this scary time by watching the helpers, and doing anything we can to fall into that group ourselves. Stay safe everyone, we’ll only beat this if we all do our part.

Destination DC

Cerebral Lounge Celebrates the District!

happy couple in Washington DC, still image from Cerebral Lounge work

 

Here at Cerebral Lounge, we love DC – half smokes, museums, championships, mmm…. it’s a good time to be in the district. So, when Destination DC brought us back to follow up our work on their 2016 summer anthem spots, we strapped on our ice skates, and prepared to showcase a weekend in Washington’s winter wonderland.

Owen Lang directed the action, packed everyone into a couple of vans and took our cast and crew on a carefully and cleverly orchestrated whirlwind tour. Over a span of two days we shot 20 locations featuring the fun, food and culture DC has to offer, even when the temperature is low. We watched pandas goofing off at the zoo! We went ice skating by the mall! We warmed our toes in the Botanic Garden! We ate too much, drank too much and were very, very merry.

JP Hertel, our multi-talented editor, immersed himself in the footage, collaborated with our clients at Destination DC and created a series of spots highlighting the best ways to spend a winter weekend within the beltway. Colorist Rob Brown put the finishing touches on all the spots and mix was handled by our sister company, Clean Cuts.

From planning to producing, we always have fun showcasing what DC has to offer. Click below to see how the final spots turned out.

Jump In And Battle It Out

Clean Cuts is proud to announce the work our team has done for the release of two new games that are making waves in the gaming world!

ASGARD’S WRATH

The Clean Cuts team has finally come up for air after three years working on the highly anticipated Oculus Rift/Rift S exclusive “Asgard’s Wrath.” In this epic VR action-adventure RPG game inspired by Norse mythology, you play as a fledgling god, possess mortal heroes, and transform animals into loyal warriors.

This is the sixth release with our long time friends at Sanzaru Games as their dedicated audio team. Our collaboration has grown over the years and we all worked hard to make sure the soundscape is every bit as rich as the immersive visual world.


“Asgard’s Wrath is a fantastic action-adventure RPG that can stand with the best of them on consoles and PC, but the fact that it’s meticulously crafted for VR means it sits in a league of its own”
– Gabriel Moss, IGN

Our audio lead Jared Bartlett and sound designer Tristan Panniers took the reigns on sound design, FMOD implementation and the overall mix. Everyone on the Clean Cuts team touched some part of the project in order to make the (virtual) reality come true. We crafted everything you hear across the six sagas in the game: unique weapons, intimidating creature voices, and lush ambiences.

Creating the assets for the 30+ hour epic was half the challenge but the step of FMOD implementation and mixing breathed life into every sound and immersed the player fully into the world of Asgard’s Wrath.

 

NBA 2K20

Clean Cuts is proud to have continued its 6th year of collaboration with Visual Concepts and 2k Sports for the release of NBA 2k20. This is the 20th installment of the world’s best selling NBA video game series– it has been critically acclaimed and nominated for numerous awards since 1999. This year’s game features celebrities such as Idris Elba, Thomas Middleditch, Rosario Dawson, and Lebron James!


“On the court, NBA 2K20 is a dazzling experience that matches the energy and presentation of its real-life counterpart”
– Ben Vollmer, IGN


Lead by Cory Marsello and Jonathan Miller, our team provided sound design and mixed all the MyCareer cinematics, following MyPlayer’s path from college all the way through the championship parade.

Along the journey we created dynamic locker room chatter, edited radio shows, crafted ambiences, and added detailed layers of audio for the Live Locker Room that changed based on how My Player performs. This was the most immersive year yet!

Be sure to check out all of our hard work, and the work of our friends at Visual Concepts in this year’s game, released on September 6th!


SOUND LIKE YOU MEAN IT

Clean Cuts is an award-winning creative boutique producing inspired, emotional audio and sound design for all media.

Have a project in mind? Contact Tom Dao.
tom@cleancuts.com

Behind Every Hero: L2 Defense

banner image for L2 Defense

 

One of the risks of exponential growth for many SMEs is maintaining the same passion, purpose and values which were the catalyst for the company’s ascension in the first place. As one of the fastest-growing companies in Baltimore, L2 identified the need to develop a brand architecture that ensured the core values of the company remained front of mind for employees as they expanded, as well as attract new talent to join the company.

creative banner design by Gigawatt Group at L2 Defense event

Supported by powerful creative crafted by the Gigawatt design team, L2’s brand messaging was launched at an event attended by high-ranking public figures, members of the military, and first responders.

We are so proud to have partnered with an organization that has such a powerful story and vital role in supporting our nation’s heroes.

Ready to energize your brand?

Contact Jim McNulty
Email: jim@gigawattgroup.com
Phone: 202-888-0504

Clean Cuts And Fast Cars

cover of Fastest Cars in the Dirty South

Clean Cuts is proud to have provided audio post services for MotorTrend’s new series “Fastest Cars in the Dirty South.”

Produced by Flying Scoop M&E, this series dives into the exciting world of grudge racing, a hot rod racing sport for big cash and even bigger engines.

Our engineers Jonathan MillerArchie Moore and resident motorhead Andrew Eppig spearheaded the final mixes often getting help with sound design, dialogue and music editing, backgrounds, and noise reduction from the rest of the team.

Keeping the sounds authentic throughout the series was important, so having Andrew on our team helped ensure that every engine note, tire screech, and gear shift was on point.

Collaboration with Flying Scoop M&E couldn’t have been easier. They set up offline suites in our Silver Spring office, where Cerebral Lounge’s Rob Brown was on hand for color correction.

Be sure to check out the exciting and gritty world of grudge racer Eric Malone, his partner Brant Arnold, and their Team 256 on demand through MotorTrend’s website or mobile app. The series will also be airing on MotorTrend’s cable network in November.


SOUND LIKE YOU MEAN IT

Clean Cuts is an award-winning creative boutique producing inspired, emotional audio and sound design for all media.

Have a project in mind? Contact Tom Dao.
tom@cleancuts.com

Family Reunion

Cerebral Lounge Makes Its Netflix Debut!

promotional picture for show Family Reunion

 

Our team of animators, led by Creative Director Giles D’Souza and Editor Ian Corey, had the exciting opportunity to create the main title design for “Family Reunion,” a new Netflix Original family sitcom.

We are very proud of this project and the marketing materials that followed, including web videos and a billboard promoting the series in Times Square. The project was directed by Lee Konen, who traveled west to capture the fabulous cast having fun on a green screen at the world-renowned Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

This footage was used to create a vibrant, graphic environment that sets the tone and tells the backstory for the series. “Family Reunion” is now available for streaming on Netflix!


Bringing your stories to life

No matter the scope of the project or size of the budget, Cerebral Lounge works with producers, directors, networks, agencies, and other creatives to bring your stories to life.

Have a project in mind? Contact Mia Regalado.

Phone: 301-495-9000
Email: mia@cerebral.tv

How to brand a bank that cares.

 

Howard Bank recently relaunched their brand with a campaign that reflected their commitment in helping build legacies for the people, businesses and communities they serve and centered around their new tagline: “We Care About Here.” We were thrilled to contribute.

 

After conducting a thorough research and discovery phase, our team led a full overhaul of their brand architecture. This overhaul laid the groundwork for us to create a through the line campaign that included television, digital, social media, and a microsite as well as a full range of branded collateral. Check out the microsite.

We were honored to partner with them at every stage, helping to evolve their brand through this emotive, powerful campaign that leveraged the talents of each of our creative boutiques. It’s always a privilege to work on a campaign you truly believe in, because if you’ve ever worked with us, you know that we care too.

Looking for branding guidance? Contact Jim McNulty.

Email: jim@gigawattgroup.com
Phone: 202-888-0504

Gigawatt Group Takes on Burney Wealth Management

Image result for gigawatt group logo

Challenge

Burney Company, an SEC established investment advisor company recently launched a wealth management brand and were looking for a branding agency to craft a brand architecture that resonates with their target audience, build out a visual identity that reflects the brand then apply this to collateral and a brand new website.

Approach

We began by identifying the attributes that collectively differentiated Burney in the market: independence from industry convention and original thinking, sophisticated in-house expertise, a true sense of trust and security and the promise of acting as truly invested partners. Building on a foundation of solid research and insights, we were then able to craft a robust brand architecture that articulated their value proposition while communicating a compelling brand story that leaves a lasting impression on their audience. We then pushed ahead with the development of a new logo, font, color scheme and other branded elements. Finally we built a full custom website from the ground up, with a backend tailored to suit their needs, a design that reflected their aesthetic and messaging that reflected their brand. We even produced an anthem video to feature on the homepage which reinforces their brand promise.

Results

Building a brand experience from the ground up gave us an opportunity to play to our biggest strengths, which is crafting fully connected brands, then producing content, collateral and websites that reflect and enhance the brand identity.

 

Gigawatt Group. Clever together.

Knock, Knock. It’s Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels: A Gigawatt Group Case Study

Challenge:

Script, shoot, edit and deliver a 60-second spot that convinces one of the world’s biggest philanthropic organizations to invest in Meals on Wheels. In one week.

Solution: 

Mobilizing all of the capabilities of Three Seas in a moment’s notice, we were able to ideate and present four solid creative ideas to MOW. The same day, they signed off “House Down the Street”, a live action spot that uses sound design, color and copy to deliver a poignant message of hope and an emotive call to action.

Results:

We scripted and shot the piece in three days, then edited, mixed, color corrected and added graphics in just two days to deliver a day early and well within budget.

Gigawatt Group. Clever Together.

Unconventional Percussion

NDBucket Concerto: A Noise Distillery Case Study

Challenge:
Create an original piece of music for a series of UMUC spots. The music needed to reflect the energy and diversity of the college, and a decision was made to use percussion as the creative focus. But the client wanted something a little different.

Solution:
Using a combination of close microphones and room microphones, we recorded multiple rhythmic patterns using buckets, trash cans, hand claps, foot stomps and other unconventional percussion instruments. Those patterns were then combined in various ways to post score the spots. We removed all sonic treatments from the recording space to make the room as loud and bombastic as possible.

Results:
An organic, original and powerful piece of music that reflects the college and the student body; and one happy client.

Noise Distillery. Sound Like No Other.

COVID-19 UPDATE: We continue to work remotely and socially distant—but emotionally engaged! Click here for more.

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