Experienced Audio Designer
Notable games Lorenzo has been involved with: DiRT Rally 2.0, MotoGP franchise, Ride, Sebastian Loeb Rally Evo
Brad: What was the education system like in Italy when you were growing up?
Lorenzo: It’s very theoretical and not very practical. We had “elementary school” from 6 to 10, “medium school” from 11 to 13, and “superior school” from 14 to 18. You get homework throughout the year on which you are graded, plus class tests every month or so for each subject, plus individual interrogation in front of the other classmates. The results of class tests and interrogations are the most important ones, as they will decide the final grade in that subject. At the end of each cycle you get a big exam about all subjects and you get a final grade. Some Universities will not accept you if your grades aren’t high enough.
Brad: What subjects were part of the curriculum? Were there any audio / music related subjects?
Lorenzo: We have general subjects like Italian, History, Geography, Science, English, Math and PE throughout all the schools (except Uni), and we only add subjects like art and music in “medium school”. During the “superior school” years subjects like physics, chemistry, or things related to your course of study are added. Mine was Chartered Surveyor, so I had subjects like Topography and Technical Drawing and so on.
Brad: What sort of student were you at school?
Lorenzo: I have always been a very curious and lively child, and I always asked a lot of questions in class. I generally had good grades in things I was interested in like math, physics, chemistry, science, music, English, and I was doing ok in everything else.
I never really needed to study too hard until I went to Uni. In fact, I hardly did any homework. Most times I was doing it in class the hour before the lecture began. But in Uni it wasn’t enough, especially because I chose quite a challenging subject: Astronomy.
My approach to study was very different than most of my classmates. Because I wasn’t good at memorising I had to understand things thoroughly to remember them. I almost never remembered a demonstration to a theorem or a law. I generally remembered what the premise was, what the theorem trying to address, why and what were the implications on what I already knew, and from there I just used the math I knew to get to the result I needed to demonstrate. It would take me a lot more time, but at least I was sure I understood what I was doing and the implications that it had. In the end it worked out well because I graduated with a first class.
Brad: When did you first get into sound design and music composition?
Lorenzo: When I was a kid I picked up my dad’s guitar and fell in love with the instrument. At first it was all about the music, and I would spend countless hours in front of a tape machine trying to learn songs and solos. Enter the almighty Yamaha FX500: ta-da! With compression, distortion, eq, delay, reverb, flanger, phaser, tremolo, and many other things I started experimenting with sound, twisting a resonance into the gusts of wind, harmonics into drops in a cave, muted taps in footsteps and a reasonably sustained note into a dragon’s roar.
In the meantime I kept studying music, and wrote my own songs, eventually recording songs with my bands and getting into the engineering side of things. I started learning about microphones and how to place them, what comps and eq do in a mix and how to use them, and I started recording other bands. Then while at Uni I got into music composition, and I thought it would be nice to be a composer. So I started writing music to picture, but I soon realised that there’s a plethora of sounds that go unnoticed in a movie. Moreover, all of the different sonic elements must work together in harmony to make things believable and engaging. So I got into Foley, dialogue editing, and sfx creation.
Brad: Studying for a degree is now commonplace for a career in the games industry. You’ve thrown a bit of a curve ball as you do have a degree but it isn’t in audio. Can you talk a bit about what you studied?
Lorenzo: I picked a B.Sc. in Astronomy, so I had subjects like Analysis 1, 2 and 3, Physics, Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism, Optics, Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, Cosmology, Astrophysics and so on. For every subject you attend lectures for three months and you get tested twice, once mid-course and once at the end. Once you pass the written tests you have an interrogation and you earn a mark from 0 to 30, where 30 is the best and 18 is the minimum to not have to repeat the exam. Once you do all the exams your marks are averaged, and you get extra points for your thesis. Mine was about Substructures in Dark Matter Halos.
In the end it’s all very theoretical and I think it doesn’t work as well as the British school system.
Brad: How did you end up going from a degree in Astronomy to working in the games industry? It’s a bit of a different choice of careers!
Lorenzo: After graduation I was fed up with the elitism and general attitude of academia and so I spent all the money I received on a good audio interface and a copy of Pro Tools, determined to make a living out of this. In 2012 I moved to London while starting to think about the possibility of making an interactive soundscape, rather than a linear one. A few months later I attended AdventureX (a small conference about adventure games) and I met Jade Leamcharaskul (game music composer, multi-talented persona and friend). I will forever be thankful to her as she made me realise that what I was looking for was in fact under my nose all the time: videogames!
Growing up I played hours of racing and RPG games, but it hadn’t dawned on me that this was in fact a possible career. From that moment on I started learning FMOD and Wwise, enrolled in a course where I was taught Unity, and did a fair bit in order to improve my knowledge of codes (C, C++, C#, JS, Lua, Python) and engines (UE4). October 2014, Milan Games week: I was at the event and the guys from Milestone were giving a talk about Ride (the GT of motorbikes), so I asked how they would go about making the engine sounds. They told me to hand in a CV, and it all went on from there.
Brad: What was the process like for getting your first job and how did the interview process go?
Lorenzo: The milestone interview process was quite hard, as I didn’t know much about cars. I played racing games in the past, and I prepared for the interview trying to figure out how to create engine sounds. I even recorded my own car and implemented it in two ways using Wwise, to show them that I could do it. Then questions about superchargers and turbochargers started to roll in and I had no idea. Fortunately those were things that I could then learn on the job. The last thing they did was a 20 minutes test where I would list all the sounds that are in a racing game and what parameters would I need to drive them. I think it was a brilliant question and honestly a good exercise to analyse any sort of game one is interested in.
Brad: What experience did you gain while at Milestone?
Lorenzo: I worked on many games as there were different teams focusing on different franchises, namely MotoGP ’15 through ’17, Ride, Ride Ducati 90th anniversary (when we started a new pipeline for audio), Ride 2, MXGP2, MXGP3, Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo (like WRC, but based on the life of the 9 times world champion), and Gravel (although I wasn’t there when it was released). I’m very proud of what we achieved at Milestone introducing improvements game by game and slowly making them better. It’s been a nice journey alongside many talented and passionate people that will do very well in the years to come.
Brad: You were naturally a good fit for Codemasters then. How did you end up working here?
Lorenzo: After Milestone I briefly moved to Lyon to work at Ivory Tower (a Ubisoft studio), making vehicles sounds for The Crew 2 and trying to help as much as I could with technical assessments about console performances and how to optimise it. I met many good people there and I am still in touch with some of them.
When my work on The Crew 2 was done I had the opportunity to come and work at Codemasters, and here I am, almost one year in, working on Dirt Rally 2.0, with some incredibly experienced people from which I learn a lot every day.
Brad: While driving home from work one night you look up at the night sky and see a light coming towards you. You see a flash of light and pass out. You wake up aboard a craft and notice a collection of games these creatures have collected to analyse our society. Quickly you grab some games and a soundtrack before passing out again. You wake several hours later in the middle of nowhere and find a log cabin. What games did you bring with you?
1) Duck Tales 1 (NES)
These were very fun and surprisingly challenging games I used to play with my father when I was 6/8 years old. Also, gotta love Duck Tales!
2) Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (PS2)
It came with my PS2 and I spent countless hours getting gold in all licences and filling my garage with every possible car. And yes, a lot of Suzuki Escudo on the ovals. This game was traded with a friend for…
3) Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
This is a game, or more precisely a saga, that I enjoyed playing with my best friend. Maxed all our characters to lv.99 (except Aerith, so sad to see her go…) with a great story and an incredible soundtrack. I loved them all from FFI to FFX.
4) Machinarium (PC)
It was one of those games that blew me away. I am a big fan of puzzle games and point & click games, but the art and the music on this one was just something else. Honestly everything from Amanita Design is just on another level.
I might be a nerd audio person, but I’m still Italian so I’d have to pick a football franchise but I can’t narrow it down to a specific year as they constantly evolve and improve. Plus the commentary implementation was really impressive in FIFA. And the crowd excitement states depending on how the match is going, home/away matches, etc, was also ground breaking for me at the time. PES comes a close second.
Soundtrack – Child of Light
I loved this game so much, but the soundtrack was just something else. Best soundtrack in a game by far for me. I listened to it so many times and I can never get tired of it. It is delicate but powerful at the same time, fitting perfectly the theme of the game. Brilliant use of leit-motifs, orchestration is top notch, it has a wide dynamic range and it makes use of accelerandos and ritardandos that really makes it come alive. Love it.
Brad: As the aliens come back to retrieve their prized collection you manage to escape with just one game from your haul. What will it be?
About the choices
Developer – Capcom
Platform – NES
Release – 14th December 1990
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
Developer – Polyphony Digital
Platform – PlayStation 2
Release – 20th July 2001
Final Fantasy VII
Developer – Square
Platform – PlayStation 1
Release – 31st January 1997
Developer – Amanita Design
Platform – PC
Release – 16th October 2009
Developer – EA
Platform – Various
Release – Various