Ninja Theory Ltd. are a UK-based video game development team whose modus operandi is that ‘the next-generation of gaming consoles offer an opportunity to elevate the games experience into one that can rival film and literature and was one of the first development studios to commit exclusively to next-generation consoles.’

That belief has permeated everything the studio has lent their time and talents to, including the widely acclaimed 2007 title, “Heavenly Sword”. Published by Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively for the PlayStation 3, Ninja Theory’s work scored them a 2008 Escape Award for “Best CG in Games”, and five Develop Industry Excellence Awards nominations the same year for Best New IP, Visual Arts, Audio Accomplishment, Technical Innovation, and Best Independent Developer.

Formed in Cambridge England, in November of 2004 by Nina Kristensen (Chief Development Ninja), Mike Ball (Chief Technology Ninja), Tameem Antoniades (Chief Design Ninja) and Non-Executive Ninja, Jez San OBE, the Ninja team also comprises Lead Audio Ninja Tom Colvin and Darren Lambourne.

Colvin, who joined Ninja Theory in 2005, had previously served as a freelance sound engineer and producer for game developer Climax, working on projects including the Xbox title, “Sudeki”. He and his team at Ninja worked closely with Nitin Sawhney and the Foley artists from Play It By Ear—who created the sounds for the breakthrough 2000 film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”—to produce a compelling sonic experience within “Heavenly Sword”.

Because of the collaborative nature of the creation process, it was key to have simpatico audio systems in each of the studios. Colvin and Lambourne both utilize Blue Sky systems in their daily workflow—Colvin on a Pro Desk 5.1 system and Lambourne using a Blue Sky BMC II in conjunction with Adam Audio monitors.

“It’s a very collaborative process,” Colvin elaborates, “and a large undertaking in terms of content, which often is 12-hours in terms of length. And we’re not editing to picture like we would in a film; it’s an interactive medium so there’s a lot more complexity in the way the sounds are played back. We have to create the sound effects, edit the music, and after that, we’re involved in the tech aspects of them, making sure they play at the right time, mixing those assets—the whole spectrum of audio development happens within each of our little studios. The Blue Sky surround controller and monitors are absolutely key components of that process.”

Colvin’s two main sources are a PC DAW, and the Xbox and PS3 devkits. The devkit audio is decoded by a Denon A7100, and he has a Coleman 5.1 switchbox to swap between the PC and devkits. The PC has a fireface 400, which also routes a ProTools LE rig via the ADAT input.

“The Blue Sky’s are used for monitoring just about everything from music editing, to sound FX creation to VO edits,” says Colvin. “They are my workhorse monitors. When I originally bought them there wasn’t a lot that offered the same degree of quality and convenient control at that price point. I still think the Bass Management System is an incredible value and offers a simple level of control. There are all sorts of monitors competing at a similar price these days, but I think the SAT 5s still hold their own. The monitors have got a very good level of clarity that doesn’t color the sound in any way, which is great. There’s nothing equivalent on the market that offers this level of detailed control for the price—they’re either a lot less pro in terms of capabilities or three times the price.”

The level of detail present in the sound effects construction phase required a system that could provide precise clarity, and the Blue Sky systems fit the bill for Colvin. “It’s like they’re my second ears,” offers Colvin. “They give me a window into what I’m working on in the detailed areas of sound effects construction, making sure our levels of audio compression are correct, etcetera. One of my sound editors, Darren Lambourne, has a 5.1 setup using the Blue Sky Bass management controller, and his system is used for pretty much the same range of tasks as in my room. It’s important to have that detailed clarity in the monitoring, and the Blue Sky’s are the right system for the range of work that we do.”

Lambourne, who started with Ninja last summer, also came armed with a lengthy career in sound design, working previously for a host of companies including the acclaimed Rockstar in Austria. His 5.1 system comprises a Blue Sky BMC II in conjunction with Adam Audio A7 satellites and an Adam Audio Sub8. “Tom was pleased with the Blue Sky system in the main studio and wanted another reference system that behaved in a similar way. The Blue Sky BMC has solid, simple controls, the volume knob is front and center, and does what I need it to do without any fuss. The sound is incredibly transparent.”

The team is currently at work on “Enslaved”, in development for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and which will be published by Namco Bandai Games.

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By Diane Gershuny