LOS ANGELES — The Motion Picture Sound Editors (www.mpse.org) recently brought together a group of elite audio storytellers to showcase the creativity involved in adapting video games for film and television. The event, titled “MPSE Sound Advice: Adapting Video Games for Film & TV,” was moderated by Eric Marks, MPSE, and founder of Transported Audio. It brought together sound industry experts to dive deep into the intricacies of translating video game sounds for linear storytelling.
The panel featured Randy Thom and Jamey Scott (sound designers of The Super Mario Bros. Movie), Michael Benavente (supervising sound editor of The Last of Us on HBO), Phillip Kovats (audio director of The Last of Us on PlayStation 3), James Parnell (supervising sound editor of Twisted Metal on Peacock), and Steven Avila (sound designer of Twisted Metal on PlayStation 3).
To begin, the discussion explored the excitement of working on game adaptations, with Randy Thom emphasizing the challenge of balancing respect for legacy sounds and the need for innovation.
Michael Benavente discussed this same balance, sharing, “We had to be loyal to the game…and it also had to be somewhat cinematic. I didn’t want it to be exactly like the game, but I wanted to be loyal to the game.”
Jamey Scott highlighted the experimentation involved, balancing faithfulness to the source with creative liberties.
The panelists shared insights into specific projects and characters, such as Randy Thom's focus on enhancing Jack Black's voice for Bowser in The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Challenges in recreating iconic sounds, especially from the original coin-op “Donkey Kong,” were also covered, with Jamey Scott revealing how his team overcame the challenge of recreating sounds from the original arcade title for an impactful theatrical mix.
Michael Benavente provided valuable insights into adapting sounds for characters, citing an example from The Last of Us on HBO, where low-frequency additions were used to emphasize a character's size during quiet scenes. The importance of communication between post production sound teams and game audio teams was a focus as well, with James Parnell highlighting the need to research behind the scenes of game sources for Twisted Metal, as understanding the creative intent informed their new approach for Twisted Metal on Peacock.
In offering advice to future film or TV sound teams adapting popular games, the panelists stressed the importance of listening to fans, being aware of the project's history, and striking a balance between honoring the source material and providing a fresh, compelling experience for any audience. Randy Thom emphasized the challenge, sharing, “If you’re going to try something new, then it better be good. It better be strong enough, compelling enough, funny enough and interesting enough that you make them forget about the original sound to some degree.”