Welcome to Developer Month 2019. Between April 8th and May 8th 2019, we will feature a variety of developers, publishers, community personalities and more who will tell us their story. From written interviews and blog posts to video interviews and more, we have curated a range of interesting content to maybe even inspire you to be one of these developers in future years. Please enjoy Developer Month 2019 as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you.
We couldn’t have put together Developer Month without the support of all the developers & publishers involved. Also, huge thanks to Thrustmaster for their assistance in sponsoring Developer Month.
April 17th: Immersive Audio
Immersive Audio are the people behind the popular 737 Immersion Sound pack, which enhances your entire PMDG 737 range. They’ve also worked hard on other sound packs and the Ultimate Realism Pack. Predrag has an interesting history as a music producer and enjoys photography which meant he would use those skills to create the flight sim content. Enjoy his interview below.
Tell us who you are and what you do currently?
My name is Predrag Drobac, main developer and CEO of Immersive Audio. Father of two amazing kids, flight simmer, sim racer, avid photographer, cinematographer, gamer, and (ex)music producer. Someone will ask – ” how do you manage to do all that?”. Well, I do, but barely.
How did you get into flight simulation?
I was maybe my father’s “fault”. It was around 25 to 30 years ago, we had a ZX Spectrum and a couple of flying sims among many popular games. I can remember one fighter jet sim – you could see only a few gauges as numbers, the lower part of the screen was green, the upper part was the cyan sky, of course, mountains were big triangles, enemies white dots. Imagine the 10-year-old kid fascinated by the airplanes and flying, and all you could see were a few white lines, few dots and triangles. After that, Dad bought his first PC, and year after year I was pulled even more deeply into the flight simulators. I was in love with Falcon and F15 Strike Eagle, and then my dad showed me Flight Simulator 5.0. Oh boy, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I was in love with every single FS from that point, FS95, FS98, FS2000, FS2002, and finally FSX.
Your sound packages are incredibly popular. Why did you decide to recreate sound packages for some of the most popular aircraft in the simulator?
As I mentioned in the beginning, I’m an (ex)music producer. Using brackets because I plan to continue composing/producing music, but I can’t simply find the free time for it. I was producing music from 1999 up to the year 2012. Composed and produced many tracks, but sadly 50% of them were lost in many hard drive transitions. Finally, I released two tracks for one Trance record label, and both tracks were, and they are still one of the most popular releases on that label. I decided to make a longer break from music production and focused on my family after my daughter’s birth in 2012. A year later, with a full-time job and a baby daughter, I spent most of my free time trying to tweak FSX so I could find myself enjoying flight simming on my modest system.
To be honest, those two years were the most frustrating flight simming years that I remember, I spent 80% of time tweaking FSX, I couldn’t simply enjoy 15 to 25fps stutter fest. Finally, in 2015 I found out of Prepar3D v3 and decided to give it a go. After many tests, I was fully focused to migrate to the new platform. The migration took months due to the low amount of free time, but my passion for flight simulation was stronger than ever. To cut the story short, year after in Spring 2016, I stumbled upon one guy that had full access to hangared 737NG, and I thought – “hey, it’s a chance to see the aircraft up close, and I could record some sounds to make my NGX flight experience nicer!”.
Well, what can I say… I ended recording over 200 sounds, spent over 10 hours total in the cockpit – all over the course of 3 days. It didn’t take me long to realize that my project was so serious and comprehensive, that I decided to put a maximum effort and deliver a complete package to the community. When I was seriously tired of working on NGX Cockpit Sound Immersion, in June I started working on my side project – Boeing Stearman PT-17 Soundpack HD. After realizing how serious my projects were, and the fact that I didn’t have a full-time job, in July 2016 I founded Immersive Audio as my solution to both situations.
Two months after, in August, I released Boeing Stearman PT-17 Soundpack HD exclusively on SimMarket. NGX Cockpit Sound Immersion development continued for one more month and released in September 2016. Few people asked me how long took me to completely develop NGX Cockpit Sound Immersion and to be honest, I lost track. I only know that I spent practically every night, 4 to 8 hours on average, from May to September. Not even mentioning the time for three service packs that I released in the next 2 years. So roughly I worked on it over 600 hours in total, including work on service packs. Take that number with a grain of salt, it could be easily 100hrs more. What can I say, I was focused on every tiny detail in every single sound file – you can call me a perfectionist.
And guess what, after I released the sound pack, I wasn’t fully satisfied with the quality. I’m not satisfied fully even now after three service packs. All of that “perfectionism” comes from years of music production I guess. In the end, it seems that my passion for flight simulation and audio resulted in NGX Cockpit Sound Immersion success.
Tell us a bit more about the development process? What tools do you use? How do you plan a sound recording?
It’s all about planning the sound pack. Which aircraft you have access to, is it a good option to enhance the sounds for that particular add-on. I’m using the combination of three audio editing/processing applications available for PC, with few various processing plugins. I already used two of these applications during my music production. Planning a sound recording session is the toughest part. I’m in contact with many people from real aviation, so I could properly plan the recording session, should I go and record it with my professional recorder, or let one of my partners do it. It all depends on so many variables.
You also do work with trying to make the simulator look more life-like. What inspired you to do this?
The answer is quite simple – the passion for photography and flight simming brought me there. Since my most beloved hobby is photography (also I did professional photo sessions for few clients, so it’s not the only hobby), and I simply can’t enjoy virtual flying with not-up-to-par graphics in a modern flight sim, I started playing with the visuals. Not long after, I released Realism Shader Pack for Prepar3D v3, and first Ultimate Realism Pack (URP) a few months after when PTA Tool was available. Both packages are freeware.
Sadly due to many obligations lately, I’m forced to neglect Ultimate Realism Pack, and struggling to finalize the 1.2 version. Additions in Prepar3D v4.5 are nice, so I might get back to tweaking URP in the following weeks/months.
How has real-world experiences helped you in making the products we see today from you?
I can only thank my sharp hearing and many years of music production experience. I also spent many hours listening and taking photos of airplanes around the airports, and also never missed a chance to record the audio of every real-world airliner flight I experienced, only because I could dive into the details of sounds of engines, ground roll, etc.
What products currently available are you most impressed with and why?
It could be easily FTX Global from ORBX. The way it transforms the scenery in the sim is astonishing. It is even more astonishing how the devs pulled that project off with God knows how many hundreds of textures in the work pipeline, and finally the fine tweaking of the textures so they perfectly match in the simulator. Oh, and that doesn’t mean that I’m not highly impressed by add-on aircraft developers like PMDG, FSLabs, Majestic, etc. The stuff that those guys are pulling off is just extraordinary, and you can freely say their projects are bigger than many popular games out there.
What other projects would you like to work on, but maybe don’t have the time to do so right now?
There are few flight simulator projects that I started, and that isn’t connected to Immersive Audio by any means. I will finish all of them hopefully in the next 2 years, but somehow I’m still putting Immersive Audio projects on a first place, even if I think that those non-related projects are very promising. It’s not that hard to admit that I’m not the best on organizing my time and work schedule. 🙁
What advice would you give to a new developer who would like to make a product?
First and foremost, just be sure to plan your projects properly. Be in constant contact with the community, and arm yourself with a lot of patience. Also, you must trust the community, even when it doesn’t play fair from your point of view. Don’t let a few bad reviews to bring down your confidence.
Anything else you would like to share with the community?
Audio is an incredibly important part of any computer simulator title. I think it shares the first place with graphics, head to head with flight physics and aircraft fidelity. If you want a completely immersive experience, you don’t wanna take just one part out of the equation, or you will get a half baked bread out of the oven. I also feel that simmers that doesn’t tend to full immersive experience are blessed, I’m serious. I’m quite sure they are enjoying virtual flying much more than I do. In my world, every part of the sim must be practically perfect, and that need brought me here – more tweaking and creating than flying. But honestly, I feel blessed too for a chance to share the passion towards audio and visuals with the community. It’s a path with many stumbling stones, but in the end, when you see that community enjoys virtual flying even more with your products, all stumbling stones suddenly feel only like stepping stones.
Thank you once again to Predrag from Immersive Audio taking part. You can explore his range of products on his store.
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Stay tuned as Developer Month continues tomorrow with Ben McClintock from Orbx.