SFX Lab #2: Wind
[SFX Lab, the laboratory of sound effects, a place dedicated to experiment and explore sound effects libraries. The main goal is to hear what happens when sounds of a specific kind are combined, processed, and transformed in several ways.]
Wind is such a great sound to work with. It’s soft, it’s versatile, it can sound very musical, or very noisy and aggressive, if you want. It’s very moldeable and diverse. Also, apart of serving as pure wind sound, it can be also used as a source for generating a lot of stuff such as whooshes, ambiences, drones, transition elements, etc.
For today’s experiments, I’ve got two different wind libraries, including great recordings of natural wind from North Idaho Wind HD by The Recordist, and artificial wind sounds from The Windhowler, a unique library released by Tonsturm a couple months ago.
So let’s start by combining some stuff. Below you can hear two sounds of each library being combined and processed in different ways using Pro Tools and plugins.
North Idaho Wind HD
This package includes four different wind libraries recorded by Frank Bry in North Idaho. The wide variety of wind sounds is amazing. From slow and calmed wind, to really powerful storms and blizzards. On each category you can hear many variations and different intensities of the wind, and also inside the recordings you can hear a lot of random things happening.
For example, there are several recordings that start with wind activity, which becomes accelerated and ends in the storm, where you can hear a sequence of thunders, blizzards and other sounds of our furious planet.
Let’s make some experiments with those recordings:
Here are three sounds. The two first sounds were obtained from a wind recording of the library, processed twice and then layered in order to make it wide but softer. Sound #1 is the wind processed with Aether to make a soft wind movement. Sound #2 is the same recording, but pitched down. The third sound is a combination of #1 and #2. Let’s hear:
I really like Aether for this kind of things. It’s a very powerful and unique algorithmic reverb. It’s not the typical reverb unit. This monster can handle very powerful and advanced algorythms that creates very interesting reverberations and modulation effects. I’ve used it for common reverb tasks, but my favorite uses are for processing tasks on making drones, textures and ambiences in general. It’s awesome.
Now let’s hear another similar process, but this time using Altiverb and one of the resonant spaces form the default impulse response library. That puts our wind in a 30 feet tank (image above), which results in a very interesting resonant element. Then, the sound is pitched down and then processed into GRM Shuffling. The last one creates a quite nice movement. Hear below:
Quite unique library of artificial wind sounds generated by a rare Windhowler Moleeffect Type 2281 machine. This package is pretty amazing for crafting wind sounds that need that resonant and variable pitch sound. The recordings included are detailed and flexible, plus there’s also a pack of well designed sounds obtained from the recordings. From calmed and slow wind rumbles, to high pitched and hunting sounds. The windhowler is the one of its kind.
I’m a big fan of resonance, so I’m going to try another way to play with that. Convolution is a very nice way to achieve the effect, but there are a lot of possibilities with filters too. There are even effects dedicated to resonate, such as the GRM Comb/Reson, the fantastic resonator of Ableton Live or some great Reaktor ensembles, such as the one I’m going to use now.It’s called Resonatter, a fantastic effect that you can get for free at the user library. I’m not going to explain how it works, but you can see it in action in the video below:
And here’s a windhowler sound from the Designed package, processed into Resonatter to get a beautiful texture:
Finally, time to explore something more aggressive. Here we have a windhowler recording processed into Avid LoFi, with reduced sample rate, plus some distortion and saturation. Adaptive quantization is used.
One cool thing to do with wind sounds is to filter and play with the different frequencies and their movements over time. Once you start to manipulate pitch and apply filters on wind recordings, you start to realize about the lots of different textures and delicate movements you can achieve.
Since the release of the GRM Tools 3, there are two plugins that I’ve been using a lot: Evolution and Fusion. Since we already took a look to Evolution in the first sfx lab, now let’s try to do some things to the wind by using Fusion.
GRM Fusion is a very special plugin that works basically as a filter machine, but with some nice and unusual controls. It can gives you 8 bandpass filters, called “players”, which feature amplitude, feedback, delay and pan control. So you can pick each of these players and put them on specific spectral ranges, time and size.
Fusion will give you a lot of fun with any source, but I’ve found it specially interesting for making drones and filtering constant elements, like wind in this case. The way you can control the different tonalities is very cool, and the agitator function makes things even better, since help you to automate the movements
As you notice, GRM Fusion alone can do a lot of cool things, but it’s also interesting to add it to the end of a chain and start changing values of other elements, which are then filtered at the end. Let’s hear how it sounds at the end of a simple chain similar to the one I used at the beginning.
Beyond the Whoosh
So we have wind recordings, and we also have ways to cut that air for creating some whooshes. In the Blow holes lab I worked with dopplers and other effects processors in order to make and shape whooshes. Now let’s go further, and take those whooshes into an instrument where can be re-processed and performed as we want.
First, I took sounds from both libraries, layered them and applied some effects for getting different whooshes. Then, these sounds are loaded into Camel Audio Alchemy, where granular processing is used to blend and transform the whoosh sounds.
I like Alchemy for several reasons, mostly for its flexibility. This is the kind of synth that can generate a lot of cool sounds from algorithms and also from VA samples of different synthesizers, but things doesn’t end here. Alchemy can load sounds (and even images), map them into the keyboard and manipulate them like the way you’d normally do in a sampler. The instrument includes a traditional sampling engine, but more interesting is that it let you process the sounds using the granular, additive and re-synthesis engines, which are fantastic and very powerful for transforming and morphing sounds. You can load up to four sounds, each one with a different engine and processes.
Besides that, another thing I really love about Alchemy is the modulation & effects engine. The possibilities are quite extensive. You can modulate almost any parameter available in the instrument (including parameters of modulation sources as well), by using all kinds of modulators such as sequencers, envelope generators, LFOs, and more. That gives a lot of oportunities to transform and tweak sounds. I’m going to show you some simple uses of Alchemy’s modulation features, by tweaking and combining the whooshes. LFOs can be used to alter pitch and time in many ways, sequencers can be useful for gate-type effects, or MSEG envelopes could be amazing for a lot of things, such as sweeps, rises, etc (you can draw the envelope you want).
Finally, I can’t finish the lab with another torture chamber episode This time with another wicked creation of Twisted Tools, called Buffeater, a multi-effect created in Reaktor 5 and featured with six different processors focused on time and pitch manipulation. The effect samples real time audio, stores it in a temporary buffer and do different processes on the signal, including granular effects.
All effects feature their own automation system so there’s a lot of crazy movement happening in the effect. Buffeater can be used as a real-time multi-fx unit, but each module also works individually, which is great. Let’s hear what it does to the wind: