These two doors specifically have always caught my attention. Both are very heavy, solid wood. The walls in the building are all concrete. One is a storage closet - when the door slams the whole room resonates in a pretty special way. The other door leads to an entirely concrete emergency exit stairwell. The reverb in there is quite impressive and I’ve taken advantage of the space for other reasons in the past.
Voices of the Deep
In terms of creating creepy drones and ambience, a favorite source material is easily recordings of metal objects where friction is involved. Groans, squeals, squeaks, scrapes, the list of possibilities goes on. All of these things can take on a new form when you pitch them down to various degrees.
For this demo, I picked some quick and easy to obtain props I used in my Metal library that could provide a wide range of possibilities when processed.
Pitching down the movement of chains on its own can generate many strange chime-like sounds. Reverse them and they really start to get interesting. I also found that moving them around on different surfaces such as a grate or sheet metal provided some nice additional ambient texture after pitching them down. I found this preferable to recording the chains and a more static texture separately and layering them later.
I’ve managed to get some really great metal scraping sounds by gouging sheet metal firmly with a notched trowel. When I pitch them down they become these terrific deep groaning sounds. The beauty of it, is that depending on how hard you dig into the sheet metal, you can get some totally different results. I have to admit though, these were extremely un-pleasant to record - like nails on a chalkboard times a million.
To be frank, the processing here is simply me having a bit of fun. I hesitated to add anything other than the pitch shifting. The reverb is really helpful for giving it a sense of space though if it is to be used as an ambience. A recent favorite are some of Eventide’s reverbs including Mangleverb and Blackhole. I’ve been doing a deep dive into Eventide’s bundle after recently acquiring it, I’d like to do a whole separate review for some of these soon.
I’ve also been in love with Byome lately from Unfiltered Audio. It’s essentially a rack of modular effects and controllers. I’ve been getting into Eurorack (as much as my wallet is willing) and this definitely scratches that itch while working inside my DAWs.
Better Whooshes, Fast
Sometimes you may need to create a lot of transition effects very quickly. I think many sound designers have different tricks for doing so, and certainly generating white noise is a common one. Recording props is great but that can definitely be time consuming just trying different things and getting performances just right.
By adding two simple steps shown in the clip, I have a way that I manage to create a ton of high quality movement or whoosh effects.
Re-Record the Source
I use white noise as the primary example because it can be shaped into all kinds of things to start with. It’s also simple enough to generate white noise and leave it at that.
As shown, I take my source recordings send them through a speaker. Then I proceed to move my portable recorder around in all directions at varying speeds. By just adding this simple step, you’ll get a natural doppler effect. Starting with this natural effect will only make your movement effects sound more realistic. I spent maybe 30 minutes recording different sources here.
Branching out from White Noise, you can really Re-Record whatever you want. I chose to stick with some drones and noise artificially generated with the Eurorack synth rig at work.
This is where fun starts. Although a discussion for another time, I really like Unfiltered Audio plugins for designing my transition effects. One reason in particular is the input follower.
As shown in the video, I use the input follower to modulate different effects and parameters. This allows the natural motion captured to directly drive what is going on. Using an input follower will also save you the time of manually automating things when you’re on a crunch.
Creating movement and transition effects is always fun, especially trying out different processing techniques and experimenting other ways. Hopefully the approach I’ve shown will give you some cool ideas of your own!
I ended up producing a free library of the sounds I created here. It’s about 300+ sounds (variations included). Signup for our newsletter and you’ll be able to access them from the Members Page
As previously mentioned I’m challenging myself once again to try and create or record one new sound a day for 2019. I won’t do a video for every day.. but ideally I’d like to make one weekly.
I give myself about 30 minutes to make something then maybe an hour later if it’s something I actually end up making a video for. So sometimes I just take inspiration when it strikes. On this particular day, I was doing some yard and house work. I was looking for a hammer in the garage and couldn’t find one anywhere. As I was digging through the tools with no hammer in sight, I simply decided to stop and take the opportunity to make good on my daily sound design goal.
Charging the Laser
A ratchet set - perfect for getting some mechanical clicking without having to edit some other sound together later.
A drill - pitching drills down in different ways you can come across all sorts of crazy textures. There is tones of tonality in there. During recorded I also moved it around a bit to take advantage of the doppler effect.
Side note here, I used Izotope RX for pitch and time modulation. If you’ve never explored using RX for it’s pitch capabilities, I highly recommend it. I’d like to share more information on this, and I will another time.
A telescoping boom pole (for painting) - This thing makes some nice clicking and sliding sounds. Didn’t need to really process it much but I did pitch it up overtime (as shown in video).
So before I mentioned I couldn’t find my hammer - I would have used that to hit a few things and record the result. Instead I grabbed the paint roller and the pan that goes with it and used that to do some banging around.
This part is where most of the processing needed to be done. You can scrub through the plugin chain in the video for the exact specs on what I did but the overall though process was this:
Use Subsynth to make it sound not so weak
Add some distortion and help it sound a bit more percussive / explosive
Use a transient designer to get it sounding super punchy / bit more like a gunshot
Alter feedback on Eventide H910 to dial in a classic “pew pew” laser like sound
Reverb, not so much for spatialization or anything but more for tonality and further shaping the way I wanted to sound to decay
So there you have it! Most of what was done was not much more than simple layering and trying to look at common objects in a new way. This is the biggest thing I always recommend to my students who are interested in sound design. Never underestimate what’s in your junk drawer or garage for that matter.