In late 2015, we were approached by Capcom to begin working on the latest installment of the ever-popular Resident Evil series. They were very impressed by our work on Tearaway and chose us from a list of several hundred people. After meeting with their team over video call, our visions for the project were incredibly aligned and we began working in a matter of weeks.
From the initial brief, our goal was to create a “virtual instrument” of completely unique sounds that their audio department could then use to build the game’s soundscape. Their creative team gave us directions such as “Make it gross, like if you were stepping on insects.” and “Make it dark. It should feel like this color.” Despite the unconventional direction, this went very well. We truly reframed their expectations, bringing things to the table that they had never thought of. Our team isn’t the type to simply carry out instructions. Once that trust was established at the beginning, we received a carte blanche to create the rest of the project.
In order to maximize ease of creation and implementation, we needed to create a sonic palette that would allow Capcom’s sound designers and composers to easily compose intense emotional experiences within a highly focused art direction. We addressed this by crafting sounds within a “musique concrète” aesthetic using unusual sound sources. And rather than relying on musical notes and instrumentation, we harnessed sounds and raw tones from nature. In combination with binaural recording techniques, this allowed us to trigger the deep primal fear that lies within us all, the stuff that really makes your hair stand on end.
We carefully thought out sound sources and drew inspiration from both our direct environment and the extremes of humanity’s darkness. We then juxtaposed these themes to achieve a strong visceral impact. In this process, we tested hundreds of objects and instruments—We went through every object in our foley room, performed field recordings, tested our internal instrument collection, disassembled a piano, and even found a beehive. With multiple microphones, we were able to achieve an immense range of sound, textures, and spatiality that frankly, had never been done before.
We recorded hundreds of elements throughout the process, with our omni-binaural microphone. We played with different planes and directions to create a “swarm” effect of spatialized sound that, if heard for a long period of time, could bring discomfort to listeners. We knew we were onto something.
We constantly iterated on these recording techniques, as we explored the idea of how physical matter is transmuted by sound vibration. We tried unusual methods such as using water and other materials as a resonator which gave us a multitude of sonic textures that we could choose from. Another technique we used was recording ultra-high subsonic frequencies that are not usually heard by the human ear. However, we found that when the pitch is lowered, it would reveal unusual and scary sounds previously dormant in the objects we were using.
After all of this work, we were asked to mix final pieces for the game. When composing, we were able to harness all of that R&D and take it to a further level when combined with live performance. A fluid workflow of instrumentation, objects, and creepy and crazy sounds.
We were even asked to mix a limited edition soundtrack for Japan. Which was a highly cross-cultural project involving translators so we could all understand our mutual vision. Luckily, music is universal.
In the end, this was our largest amount of binaural tracks in one musical piece ever. Our multi-thousand dollar computers were choking up just trying to process the sound. The result was so vivid that it literally made us nauseous after only a few minutes of listening.
The entire project lasted over a year. We were able to deliver most of the sounds in the first six months, and the remaining music in the following six. And after a lot of hard work by the Capcom team, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard had one of the largest video game launches in recent history. Top ratings and sales passed 3.5 million units worldwide in the first three months.
The overall audio approach for this project was brilliant and the direction that was provided to us by the Capcom team was bold and inspiring. We are so grateful for the encouragement and trust we received from the team and are very happy we were able to push our creative boundaries in ways that we had never thought possible.
When we started La Hacienda, we never would have thought we’d be working on something the scale of Resident Evil. For that, we are truly thankful and are looking forward to working with Capcom on another project.