In this installment of guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production Frank continues his three-part series on remastering the audio for Command & Conquer. If you missed Frank’s previous post, you can read it here.
I still had the old sound libraries from which we had pulled a lot of the original source material, so I was able to use the high-quality versions or re-create the sounds from the source elements as I spotted them. The only handful of sounds that really showed their age were mostly those used for weapons and explosions. There simply wasn’t a lot a weapon library material to choose from unless you went and recorded it yourself in the early ’90s, but 25 years later I had access to other, newer high-quality sounds with the same characteristics. These were more suitable for modern sound and yet were consistent with the rest of the game sounds that did still hold up.
This was an extremely tedious process. I had to pull up an original game file sound effect, and then guess where the source elements for it might be within the tons of CDs in my arsenal. After hours on the hunt for that, I would eventually find it and have the new, better version. Then I’d load up the next sound and repeat the process! I also needed to do this with every instrument sound in my synths and samplers, to match each one I used for the handful of tunes I needed to recreate. I stopped at nothing, wanting it to be perfect and authentic, and therefore went through weeks of this mind-numbing process to make it happen.
The voices, fortunately, were an easier part of the process because they were all mostly radio-processed, and any higher-quality source honestly didn’t sound much better than the originals. But what I could do to further enhance them was clean up the noise artifacts and EQ it to improve the vocal clarity.
One improvement that I felt strongly about doing from the beginning was to bring back the original voice actress of the EVA character from the original Command & Conquer game, who the player hears for all the major notifications throughout the game. She still sounded the same as she did 25 years ago, and was a welcome improvement to the original compressed, artifacted files. Unfortunately, the announcer voice actor from the Red Alert game had passed away. So, with respect to that, we did not seek out a replacement; I just cleaned up his files as best as I could. Fortunately, I had an easier time doing that since we had recorded him in better quality at the time of that game’s development.
These games were groundbreaking at the time of the original releases in 1995 and 1996, with the use of video sequences that spoke directly to the player, provided story immersion, and showed some action scenes between missions. The original video sources, unfortunately, could not be found, and neither could the original audio mixes for these videos. So, we had to pull from the best versions we could find, and upscale and clean them up for 4K resolution support. I was left with no choice but to enhance the original audio mixes of these videos to have less noise and sharper EQ. The challenge here was that I could not simply use one preset to batch process all these audio mixes. I had to analyze and capture a custom “noiseprint” of each individual movie mix, and then make the adjustments to clean up and enhance them one by one. Imagine having to do this for over 300 videos!
One interesting hiccup we ran into was in regard to foreign versions. We had localized French and German versions in the original release, so we remastered those assets as well. The challenge was specifically with regard to the German version because in 1995 the games released there needed to be censored for violence and certain language if it glorified killing in any way. So, we noticed that some of the video’s timing and content was edited compared to the English versions, whether it was parts of someone’s speech or blatant visual gunshots that were removed. Nowadays this is no longer an issue there, so I was able to restore the original content to be the same as the English versions, with the German localization. Even though the English audio mixes could not be found, we did fortunately find the German localized recordings and were able to faithfully reinsert the missing speech.
The Command & Conquer Remastered Collection is available on Steam and Origin:
The Command & Conquer Remastered Collection soundtracks are available on various streaming services:
C&C Remastered: https://open.spotify.com/album/6diK51gAlxp4pbpmoe8Ahc
Red Alert Remastered: https://open.spotify.com/album/0PVfiTe7jFoMIcKr4yvkEk
Frank Klepacki & The Tiberian Sons – Celebrating 25 Years of Command & Conquer:
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer, sound designer, audio director, recording artist, touring performer, and producer. He has worked on top video game titles such as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports television programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com
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Come back next week to check out the third and final part in this series!