Co-owners of Cedar Studios, Tom Puttick and Phil French (pictured below) – with the help of their Audient ASP880 eight channel mic pre – were responsible for the sound design for Two Point Hospital, the simulation game created by Two Point Studios and published by SEGA, which was released this autumn. “Anything you hear has gone through us in some way,” they tell us, explaining their part in the process. Set in the 2D world of Two Point County, players are tasked with building a healthcare empire: building hospitals, teaching healthcare staff and curing a constantly growing number of illnesses.
Two Point Hospital is the brainchild of the same designers who created the 90’s cult classic PC game, Theme Hospital and aficionados will recognise that same whimsy running through this latest edition. Nothing takes itself too seriously; Light Headed patients present with a giant light bulb instead of a head and Mock Star sufferers believe themselves to be great rock stars. With a distinctive, quirky British humour throughout, diseases are cured in different ways, from seeing a psychiatrist to the less conventional option of being put through a machine.
“I made my own instrument out of PVC bathroom pipes” ~ Cedar Studios’ co-owner, Phil French
It was only when the boys saw these machines that the game designers had imagined, that they realised the extent of the work needed to bring them to life with bespoke, cartoon-style sounds. “There’s a machine called Chromotherapy,” explains Tom, which is the cure for patients diagnosed with Grey Anatomy that have lost their colour. “It spins paint colours around and sprays paint on them,” he says. That sound effect was created – and ably demonstrated by Phil – with a bunch of straws, a thick yogurt drink and an umbrella.
It wasn’t just a question of inventing sounds for fictitious machines however; Tom & Phil were tasked with creating all the sound for the entire game. “It was quite a weird process. We had to watch the animation, look at everything that could make a sound and think about what we could use to make that sound!” says Phil. Everything from the user interface (UI) and the characters’ various exclamations, to the ambient noises and tannoy announcements, the county radio station and its playful adverts to the background music – it all came out of Cedar Studios.
“ASP880 made it really easy for me turn my two channel setup into a 10 channel setup”
For the music, the brief provided by Two Point Studios gave them the artistic freedom to produce what they described as “elevator music with a jukebox feel.” Phil describes their songwriting process. “We’d start with a guitar or piano riff, put it into DAW and then start adding percussion elements,” explaining that as well as using samples, they recorded a lot of their own sounds for the music in the studio. “I made my own instrument out of PVC bathroom pipes,” he adds, demonstrating how he plays it with flip-flops – and still not sure what to call it.
“The ASP880 has been great for when we recorded the polypipes (working title) instrument!” laughs Phil. “Having the option to record close mic top, close mic bottom, overheads and a stereo pair of room mics with two channels to spare was something I think people take for granted in big studios. With new technology and everything being ‘in the box’, I see a lot of composers/producers just having a two channel interface in their home studios. The ASP880 made it really easy for me turn my two channel setup into a 10 channel setup with a tiny adat cable – as easy as that!”
“We had to watch the game animation, look at everything that could make a sound and think about what we could use to make that sound”
Part of their original pitch was that they would create all the different sound effects themselves. “With the ambients, we recorded trees here in Guildford,” says Tom. Going further afield, they also captured some babbling river sounds in Scotland and waves on a beach late at night in Spain. They even popped into Surrey Hospital to get some authentic “background mumble”, quickly relocating after mistakenly wandering into the gynaecology ward with their location microphones.
Find out more about their two-year journey working on Two Point Hospital by watching the full video.