Here’s a Q&A I had with Axel Rohrbach of BOOM Library, talking about the process on their latest release, Medieval Weapons.
Could you tell us a bit about the process on this library? What happened on the different stages of production?
First we had a rough concept of what should be included in that library. Of course there have to be tons of elements for the Construction Kit and as always a good general sound base for the pre-designed weapons of the Designed collection.
We started discussing about the experiences we had in recording and designing hand weapons and ranged weapons like bows and crossbows for movies or games. One big issue we all came across: we just don’t have enough material to work with. Shortly after that we talked to some reenactment fighting clubs about the most important fighting techniques and what kind of sounds they make. There was one interesting statement: “You can actually hear who knows how to fight with a sword and who doesn’t – the less sound variation, the less skilled the knight is”. That only encouraged us to provide tons of different clanks, clonks and scrapes from different sizes, materials, etc.
We started to record the most important medieval weapon: swords and blades. First we used the real thing and had about ten different swords including one handed, one and a half handed and two handed, a whole bunch of knifes and daggers, one- and two-handed axes, scythes and more. But we already knew that those might not necessarily produce the best thinkable sound for swords or hand weapons. So we grabbed metal poles, bars, sticks, planks and so on to get the extra thing.
After recording the most basic thing for the medieval battle scenery, we started to go out and shoot some bows again. We had a bow / arrow manufacturer build some for us and we tried a lot of things on our own. We attached all kind of things to the arrows, used so called Flu-flu arrows and different kinds of bows. However, same thing here, the real bow sounds interesting but doesn’t really give us the elements to create an in-your-face bow shot, in our opinion. So we also recorded some bow shot sweetener sounds like wood impacts, string sounds and so on which we used either on top of the real recording or on their own to create bow shots for Medieval Weapons – Designed.
We shot a crossbow a while ago which was one of the most boring sounds I ever heard for such a powerful piece of equipment. Again, we decided to record a lot of elements so that designing that mighty William-Tell-ish shot is easy and fun.
How was the experience with the siege weapons? I wonder how challenging it was to record those ones
We went to a bunch of festivals and medieval shows that happen a lot in the castles around here in the spring and summer. We realized that real catapults don’t sound too impressive. The sound you can hear is mostly squeaking hinges. We recorded one catapult to have a whole shooting sequence and fire shots. But for the rest we decided to focus on good sounds rather than good marketing material. We used the time more efficiently in recording gears, winches, squeaks, wood and metal impacts and rattle sounds – all the stuff that fits into the process of designing sound for a catapult. We went to a winery that actually had a lot of historic equipment. Those things sounded just perfect for our needs. One of our Sound Designers, Sebastian Pohle, went out to record large wood drops of whole tree trunks from an excavator. Tristan Horton recorded a whole bunch of large fire whooshes down in South Africa.
You went to a very special place to find medieval weapons to record. Could you tell us how were the sessions in that place? Any favorite weapons you found there?
We are actually located in the upper Middle Rhine area, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. There are tons of medieval castles around here, some habitable, others are only ruins. However, we did not really record there, but we were able to get contact to reenactment groups who work at shows or festivals which take place in or around those castles. One of them was Robert Forster (German only: http://www.ritterausleidenschaft.de). He had a bunch of equipment and it was his catapult we recorded. Most of those reenactment guys are amazing. They really try to be as authentic as possible. Some of them even have their homes furnished like an average medieval house – no electric lights, just candles, straw beds, arsenal of weapons right next to the bed. I can relate to their passion, though. Most people don’t understand why we are always listening to the surroundings rather than the small-talk either.
Any happy accident or unexpected sound you got in the process?
Speaking of accidents: we saw some real blood during the recordings. The catapult slipped out of Robert’s hands once, hitting his forehead pretty bad and leaving a bleeding cut. The bow string slipped off the bow twice, resulting in major bruises, literally reaching down Michael’s and my whole left arm. We missed the windshield of our car with a burning arrow once by about an inch or less. The rest was some minor stuff like splinters, bruises from dropping stuff and such. Well, it’s called “Medieval Weapons”, not “Medieval Toys”.
Sounds that accidentally happened are not really in the library. We knew for about a year or so that we were going to create this Medieval Weapons library. So before the real process began, whenever we heard something that might suit the library we tried to reproduce that in the studio or wherever it was possible to do that. We ended up recording some things at our homes. I recorded a loose wooden floor board at my place which makes very cool, low creaks and Michael has this wooden cabinet that creates very cool grumbling squeaks.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to add about the process on the designed package? How was it?
For the designed collection we decided to make them less aggressive and loud than the Trailers – Designed sounds because their field of application is a whole different one. With the Designed sounds you will still be able to compress, limit and layer them with other sounds if necessary. They are ready to use as always, just more open to the application, be it TV, games, movies, radio shows etc. Once again, the making of the Designed collection influenced the Construction Kit. There’s a bunch of blood and gore libraries out there and originally we did not want to include those sounds in the Construction Kit. However, since we only use the audio of the corresponding Construction Kit for a Designed collection, we had to record some. Designed hammer hits without breaking bones, stabs without blood, arrow impacts only in metal and wood – we found out that this doesn’t make too much sense.