We’ve all heard it before – the low hum, clinks, and whoosh of the PlayStation startup sounds, and the Sony Computer Entertainment and PlayStation logo. But just how was it created? Part of an interview with the PlayStation sound designer Takafumi Fujisawa reveals more about this sidenote of gaming history for the console’s 25th anniversary.
Here are the highlights below:
How were you first approached to design the PlayStation’s startup sound?
Takafumi Fujisawa, sound designer: “I was a part of the PlayStation project even before the team was official, and as the hardware development progressed and the prototype was built in the spring of 1994, I created the startup sound. I received the logo animation (in Japanese we call it motion logo) and added my sound design on it.”
What were the parameters that you were given? Were you limited to a specific amount of time?
Fujisawa: “There weren’t much time restrictions on the design itself, but being also a part of the sound chip, firmware, development tool team I was aware of the polyphony and ADPCM requirements already, so I tried to make the best out of them. The concept was set to maintain the core image of PlayStation no matter what type of TV speaker it is played on, as there could be countless kinds of TV around the world. The only limitation I experienced was the size of the ROM, so I kept the size as minimal as possible.”
The startup sound almost seems as though it shifts through several phases that tells a story. You have the opening tones, then it has the bells, then the swooshing sound, then an almost ethereal finale. Were you trying to tell a musical story? If so, what was that story, in your mind?
Fujisawa: I expressed the excitement to the game that begins after this sound by starting the music quietly in order not to scare the user when they turn the power on and follow it with the sound quality that sounds original and also welcoming.
My aim is to lead the sense of security when the console is turned on to the excitement after with the C major dominant motion showing the intention for continuing to be on the mainstream, the rich strings kick in and the last part features twinkling tones and setting the perfect 4th chords.
The function of this sound is to tell the user that the hardware is running like it is supposed to, and that the disc has successfully been read.
To add, the swooshing reverse sound is designed so that it can go into loop if the disc couldn’t be read, and we can understand if something went wrong.
Did the sound come to you fairly quickly, or was it something that took a significant number of iterations?
Fujisawa: I thought of the structure, selected the tones, and gathered the instruments in two weeks, and the studio work was done essentially in two days. I kept thinking from the start that I wanted the sound image to be something exciting, like that feeling when you walk into a cinema. I really wanted to communicate and reinforce that something fun is going to happen.
The original PlayStation released on December 3, 1994. If you haven’t yet, you can check a message from SIE president Jim Ryan for the 25th anniversary here.