Music in the Manual: FMOD Studio Vs. Wwise

Wwise-FMOD

A few days ago, I downloaded and installed the latest version of a software package entitled FMOD Studio and was pleasantly surprised to discover that an oversight had been corrected. It’s not unusual for software updates to correct problems or provide additional functionality, but this update was especially satisfying for me. The makers of FMOD Studio had added the “Music” section to the software manual.

A brief explanation: FMOD Studio is a software application designed by Firelight Technologies to enable game audio professionals to incorporate sound into video games. The application focuses solely on audio, and is used in conjunction with game software. In essence, FMOD Studio is folded into the larger construct of a game’s operational code, giving the overall game the ability to do more sophisticated things with the audio side of its presentation.

When FMOD Studio was initially released in August of 2012, the manual did not include information about the music capabilities of the software. Admittedly, the majority of FMOD Studio users are sound designers whose interests tend to focus on the tools for triggering sound effects and creating environmental atmospheres. That being said, many composers also use the portions of the FMOD Studio application that are specifically designed to enable the assignment of interactive behaviors to music tracks. It was a bit puzzling that the manual didn’t describe those music tools.

One of the biggest competitors to FMOD Studio is the Wwise software from Audiokinetic. Wwise offers much of the same functionality as FMOD, and in working with the software one of the things I really like about it is its documentation. Audiokinetic put a lot of thought and energy into the Wwise Fundamentals Approach document and the expansive tutorial handbook, Project Adventure. Both of these documents discuss the music features of the Wwise software, offering step-by-step guidance for the creation of interactive music systems within the Wwise application. This is why the omission of any discussion of the music tools from the FMOD manual was so perplexing.

It’s true that many of the music features of the FMOD Studio software are also useful in sound design applications, and some are similar in their function to tools described in the sound design portions of the manual. Firelight Technologies may have assumed that those portions of the manual would be sufficient for all users, including composers. However, composers are specialists, and their priorities do not match those of their sound design colleagues. In using the FMOD Studio tools, the needs of composers would be sharply different from those driving the rest of the audio development community. Wwise understood this from the start, but FMOD seemed to be following a philosophy that hearkened back to the early days of the game industry.

In those days, the audio side of a game was often created and implemented by a single person. This jack-of-all-trades would create all the sound effects, voice-overs and music. Nowadays, the audio field is populated by scores of specialists. It makes sense for FMOD Studio to acknowledge specialists such as composers in their software documentation, and I’m very glad to see that they’ve just done so. If you’d like to learn more about FMOD Studio, you can see a general overview of the application in this YouTube video:

10 responses to “Music in the Manual: FMOD Studio Vs. Wwise

  1. Hello Winifred

    I need to put my hand up and take responsibility for this. I am the person producing the user manual for FMOD Studio and you are completely correct, up until recently there has been almost no reference to functions from a musical point of view. As someone who has been a composer in the games industry for over 13 years I have little excuse for this oversight.

    I think the error is in thinking that the tools within FMOD Studio are either music or sound focused, when the truth is they are all applicable to both. This has been greatly rectified in the official FMOD Studio course we just launched, it divides the focus equally between sound and music to cater to both.

    Thank you for pointing this out as I will now ensure that examples and supporting content for FMOD Studio provide an equal level of support and insight into both music and sound design elements.

    • Thanks, Stephan! I’m looking forward to digging deeper into FMOD Studio now. Will there be any FMOD Studio video tutorials focusing on the music functions? Your tutorials series is great, and I’d love to see a music-focused one.

  2. Hello Winifred
    Just letting you know there are some new FMOD Studio tutorial videos available.
    http://www.soundlibrarian.com/education-and-training.html
    we will now be hosting them on the Sound Librarian site so we can include the actual projects to download and examine. There are only three available so far but I plan to grow that very quickly.

    All three of these deal with aspects relevant to music and I will be focusing on that much more in the future.

    enjoy!

    Stephan

  3. Hi Winifred, Being a newbie to the video game sound arena, I have downloaded Wwise in preparation for the conference tomorrow. I will probably learn both eventually, but hope to get some insight at the conference. I am looking forward to hearing your talk, and am anxious to see if I will be able to follow in your footsteps. Thank you for your insight!

  4. If i want to learn audio engineering from the very basic, which program is should use? FMOD or Wwise?
    I play music and know how to use auda city but, are these audio engineering programs for both game and composing are entirely different thing?
    I realy want to study this because i love the immersions created by the sounds >_<

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