As you wander through the surreal universe of the Myst computer game series, have you ever wondered where those eerie sounds come from? Academy Award-winning sound engineer Tim Larkin has applied talent and technology to craft dramatic soundscapes for games such as Myst Online, Half Life 2 and Lair. With the M-Audio MicroTrack handheld digital recorder, Larkin captures sounds in diverse environments from his backyard and beyond—then uses them to create unusual sounds like the 30 ft. monster featured in Myst Online.
Tim Larkin entered the music industry as a trumpet player, performing with acts such as Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Mel Torme, Sheila E and Huey Lewis. He then moved on to studio work and solo performances with Avenue Jazz. Larkin is also well respected in the television and film industries—his work has been featured on HBO’s The Rat Pack, Steven Spielberg’s Munich Trailer and movie-based games including The Incredibles, Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth. Throughout his career, this accomplished artist has demonstrated a keen ear for sonic innovation.
How and where do you use your MicroTrack?
I keep the MicroTrack with me pretty much everywhere—in the car or a briefcase, even on my nightstand at night. I think it’s more rewarding for me to use any own sound rather than libraries whenever possible. With the MicroTrack, sounds become more available. You get sounds you couldn’t get if you had to set up a remote recording rig. It’s spontaneous because you just happen to have the MicroTrack with you.
What are some of the diverse ways you have used the MicroTrack?
One time I had it with me on an airplane. I was flying to Seattle and I wanted to get some sounds of the airplanes taking off and landing. I used the MicroTrack, and that sound ended up on Half-Life 2. There’s a launch sequence where a rocket takes off and that was part of the underlying rumble sound that I used for it.
How has the MicroTrack simplified your overall recording processes?
I've got two gigs of flash memory for recording at the highest resolution to get the best source material—and I very seldom get even close to filling up the card. With 24-bit/96kHz recordings, you don’t get the artifacts that normally happen when you start pitching audio down real low. I've also recorded some outdoor ambiance, and with just some EQ and a little bit of noise reduction, it was ready to go in a game.