Cranking Down the Volume to Create Buzzsaw 2
[written by Jim Stout]
Blastwave FX is known for its signature sound and style. Feedback from their customers usually includes comments like “unique”, “high quality” and “clean” -“super clean”, in fact. However, one product prides itself on being anything but clean – Buzzsaw. The innovative distortion library was created in 2007 and released in early 2008. Since then, it has continued to be a huge hit with Blastwave FX’s fans and requests for a sequel are common place in the Blastwave FX email inbox.
We sat down with Ric Viers, founder of Blastwave FX and author of The Sound Effects Bible, to discuss the much anticipated release of Buzzsaw 2.
What is Buzzsaw?
Buzzsaw is a niche library that explores the darker, edgier side of sound design. My team and I realized that there were a lot of useful elements like distortions, noises, hisses, feedbacks and other goodies that would make a cool library. The goal behind the project was simple: Create sound effects that would give Trent Reznor nightmares. Although we haven’t heard from Trent, we’re pretty sure that we accomplished our goal.
Does the world really need more distortion sounds?
To be honest, I thought we did a pretty good job of creating a comprehensive distortion library the first time around. I thought it would do well, but I certainly didn’t think it was going to be the big hit that it turned out to be. I was surprised with the fan response. We’ve received a ton of requests for “another Buzzsaw”. I’m really big on listening to the fans and customers. That’s who we’re in business for. So, we cranked the gain to “11” and started all over again.
How did you create all this noise?
The first Buzzsaw really made Buzzsaw 2 harder to make. We had to come up with new material that wasn’t covered in the first library. That meant that I needed a different approach for source material and plug-ins. There are synthesized sources in the library, but I would guess that 90% of the material was organic at first and then mutilated from there. Synths are great and I’ve got a synth-specific product that we’re working on, but for the most part, I always try to start with real-world elements. The funny thing is that the stuff that sounds like synths weren’t synths at all. There are some drum elements that were real drums that were processed and other drum elements that came from bashing dumpsters with sledgehammers or whatever. Because the library is kind of abstract in nature, we exploited sounds that seemed harmless, but turned them into vicious screeches and slams.
What plug-ins did you use?
For the most part, I avoided plug-ins that we used the first time around. Certain plug-ins can create a signature sound and we didn’t want any overlap with the first library. We recently got the iZotope suite of plug-ins and made good use of them. There are a lot of cool toys to experiment with. We also played with guitar emulators and pedals.
Who is this product for?
Sound designers were certainly a focus, but there were many music creators who chimed in with requests. So, we tried to make a product that provides something for everyone. There are big hits and cinematic elements as well as drum and guitar elements. We even put in a bunch of air horns, lasers and synth stabs for the dubsteppers and DJs.
What was the process like?
The process was very cool. I’m a big fan of working when I’m inspired. Fortunately, the inspiration lasted throughout this project. Even after we mastered the product, I’m still playing with different distortion sounds and experimenting with some new plug-ins. The real issue was my ears. Distortion sounds can really fatigue your ears, especially when you are listening to hundreds of sounds every day for weeks on end. After the first week of production, I simply turned my monitors down. The normal setting was just too painful. So, I tracked and designed at about a third of the normal volume. During the mastering process, I cranked the volume back to the normal setting. Once we reached the sorting, renaming and metadata process, the monitors were turned down pretty low. I have no scientific evidence to back up this statement, but I’m pretty sure that listening to overdriven sounds for weeks and weeks can mess with your emotions!
It’s weird to work on a project like this. Twenty years ago, these sounds would’ve been considered garbage or poor engineering. If you think about it, we basically have to destroy what would otherwise be good sounds. But, today these sounds are staples in music production and sound design for trailers. As the craft evolves and different styles emerge, you have to grow with the industry and try to stay one-step ahead of the customer’s needs – even if that means deliberately mangling the super-clean sounds that you’ve recorded!
Does this mean you foresee a Buzzsaw 3?
God, I hope not. Just kidding. If there is a need for it and the fans want it, I would certainly consider a Buzzsaw 3. But, trust me, it’s not something I’d want to jump into any time soon. My ears are still ringing!
What’s next for Blastwave FX?
We’re always making noise! We continue to support our hard drive products with “free updates for life”. So, that always keeps us busy. We have a couple of unique products that will be released this year and a few big surprises for 2013.
When does your next book come out and what is it about?
The book is called The Location Sound Bible and covers dialog recording for film and television production. That’s really how I got my start in the business. We’ve wrapped up the editorial process and the book will be on shelves in September of this year .