It’s great when you come across someone who is open enough to post a step-by-step brain dump of their sound design process, and especially welcomed when the audio comes married to video pulled directly from a game you can all run off and play.
After digging through his spell book of secrets, it’s clear that Glenn Goa (@SoundWizard) has got the sound design bug and a deep urge to educate the masses. Since July of this year he’s been breaking down each of the featured characters sound sets by: attack, ability, and death sounds. Through each post he brings you into his design process by detailing decisions and sharing his experiences along the way.
An example from the Geomancer:
I was quite puzzled on how I was going to make a loopable sound out of sand that didn’t sound like it was doing damage but loud enough. I found a bizarre solution by simply using various sounds of wind gusts picking up sand, and making it loop with a generated signal sound called a Brownian Noise.
Or this one with the Drunken Master:
For the geysers, I used recordings of a water hose being squeezed tightly to get a harsher sound.
I added that with the sound of waterfalls and buckets throwing water onto the ground.
I basically had to become 12 years old again and do the things my parents told me to stop doing, in other words, I got paid for making a mess.
In your face, parents!
Definitely drop by and read up on some of the cool things he’s doing with sound in the game, then head over and give Heroes of Newerth a spin!
[SFX Lab, the laboratory of sound effects, a place dedicated to experiment and explore sound libraries. The main goal is to hear what happens when sounds of a specific kind are combined, processed, and transformed in several ways.]
Over the years, transformation of sound has become a giant field that barely touches the infinite. Sounds can be manipulated in a lot of different ways, using a lot of different things. Besides that, the different ways sounds can be recorded, and the variety of tools that allow us to gather sonic information from the world evolve so fast that we can never stop to find new ways to generate, listen, record, and process sound.
I’m not sure if it’s right to call this a golden era for sound transformation, or a saturated culture when the possibilities control us. Although, technological evolution represents new frontiers for what we can imagine and create. When it comes about transformation of sound, I immediately think about Trevor Wishart, composer and author dedicated -between many other things- to explore sound morphology and its transformation. In his great book “Audible Design”, he says that “the ways in which this sound can be transformed are limited only by the imagination of the composer.” (Suggested reading: Red Bird, Interview @ USO)
And that’s the point. Technology evolves and give us new ways of transforming sound, but there’s also a parallel evolution on the way we imagine and the sounds we know we’re able to create. However, many things remain fresh and undiscovered. Technology has risen the possibilities for creating and transforming sounds, but hasn’t changed too much things in the way we percibe sound and how we define the aesthetics of our work. I remember an interview Matteo Milani had with sound designer Richard Beggs and Matteo asked him about the impact of the technological evolution on his artistic approach, to which Richard said:
No, there isn’t any. I could speculate on how my work has been affected by new technologies, but I don’t think it’s that interesting. I feel my approach has always been fundamentally the same. It’s been the same as my approach to painting. My interactions with the track and the process by which ideas occur and develop is very similar to my interaction with the canvas as a painter. Light, dark, mass, line, contrast, color, texture, objects advance or recede, these visual properties all have sonic equivalents. These qualities, when used successfully, contribute to an emotional or expressive state that advances the story.
Let’s say a transformation is any kind of variation applied to a sound, in order to obtain a new object. It can be because of the narrative, because of the different qualities you attribute to it, its meaning, its emotional or musical characteristics, its context, etc. In the world of sound design, we could say sound effects are almost always transformed with the story in mind. Field recording material is processed and transformed in order to achieve sonic metaphors, create tension, put questions to the audience, change realities, influence the qualities of a character, recreate an era, tell a story. All these decisions create a fascinating link between technology and the storytelling; and the evolution of the tools, also gives more opportunities for discovering new flavors that can not only enhance the sound, but the story itself.
So today we’re going to focus on sound effects transformation, from the recording process to the extreme processing. The material to be used is the just released library of Twisted Tools, called Transform. Quite unique library created by sound designer Jean-Edouard Miclot and perfect for today’s our experiments, since it includes a wide variety of sounds material. It’s a gold mine; useful, inspiring, full of great sound ideas to learn from and also to use and re-transform in many different ways. Sounds are delivered at 96k and have a great job on the metadata, which is Soundminer friendly.
The library is composed by a diverse gallery of sounds, intended to be used as part of music and sound design compositions. The package is about layers, textures, and flavors. Tasteful pieces of sound created in a line between the organic and synthetic worlds, and developed with the goal of being used alone or inside a combination with other different elements.
This analogy of flavors and ingredients its actually something that Jean-Edouard uses as an inspiration on his approach to sound design and the creation of the library, whereas each sound is created as an ingredient, as Jean-Edouard explains:
We always tend to make an analogy of what we hear with something we know. Some people like using painting and colors as a representation for composing sounds, either it’s musical composition or sound editing. Being French, I prefer talking about cooking and ingredients Imagine that you have to cook for all your friends coming over to your house. You can simply buy a frozen meal at the closest supermarket and it won’t take you too long to prepare it, but you also know that there’s a chance they bought the same one before. Or you can decide to surprise them buying all the ingredients you need to cook a unique meal. Would you be more interested in this meal or in the one that everybody can find in the frozen aisle of the supermarket?
I think of editing like cooking. You blend an ingredient with another one in order to create a distinct flavor or texture. But if you inappropriately mix too many of them, your taste buds won’t be able to distinguish anything and your meal will start to lose of taste. Ingredients can also be processed by crunching, scraping, mashing, steaming, heating, freezing or fermenting them. It just transforms a matter into another one like we do with sounds. Tasting is also very similar to hearing. It is just another kind of information that your brain can interpret. A wine for example is a complex combination of tastes and dynamics that change over time.
So, this library is about ingredients which can also work as a full meal if you like, but these sounds are mostly transformations for recordings that are intended to be part of your meals. We’re going to explore the whole process. From gathering the initial elements, to the process of combining and cooking the final meal.
Let’s start with the initial sound collecting. This library is a perfect example of how important is not only the process of alterations you can do to your recordings, but the experimentation and research on props, tools, places and objects to record, as well as knowing how to perform with them in unique ways, meaning that great transformations or sound not only depend on the process applied, but also on how the material is performed and recorded.
I think that knowing how to transform sound is important, but knowing what to transform is even more important, since the greatest sound effects comes from great recordings and disciplined recordists which are not only interested in the act of recording, but listening, researching and being aware for the accidents the real world always have. On the foreword of “The Sounds of Star Wars”, Ben Burtt comments something about this topic:
Many of the sounds have stories behind their origin that I love to recall for fans. Some of the most famous sounds were thoughtfully imagined and slowly crafted. However, many of them were surprises, “accidents” that came about during research and trough discovery. Some of the most famous sounds were discovered during the course of daily life. Most often, a successful sound came from an object with no real connection to the film object it meant to portray aurally. So I learned to record and stockpile anything that caught my attention-and, ultimately, I found a use for just about every noise in the collection.
In the case of the library, Jean-Edouard shared a fantastic video for the article, showing different examples of recordings, some of them used in the library.
You can watch more inspiring videos from Jean-Edouard on his blog.
Jean-Edouard’s recordings passed trough a wide variety of processes and editing, and ended grouped into 10 categories of ingredients for all kinds of recipes. Below you can hear two examples of sfx I did by just editing and combining sounds from the library. No plug-ins were used, just common editing processes that pretend to transform the original material into new one, by making a fusion of elements.
Twisted Tools has released Transform, a new sound design library created by Jean-Edouard Miclot, french sound designer from Vancouver, Canada..
TRANSFORM is an extensive collection of field recordings, sound effects and designed sounds developed by sound designer Jean-Edouard Miclot (a.k.a. JEDSOUND). Bundled with sample mappings for many popular formats, TRANSFORM’s painstakingly recorded and processed sounds will find their home in the arsenals of sound designers, editors and music producers alike.
TRANSFORM features over 1.6 Gigabytes of 24-bit/96khz audio, all meticulously embedded with Soundminer enriched metadata and processed using a plethora of sound design tools, such as Symbolic Sound’s Kyma. Whether you’re a sound designer needing a massive Hollywood impact, an editor looking for a radio stinger or a musician wanting to add some ice crunch to a snare…or bass wobbles made from a processed moose, TRANSFORM has something for you.
TRANSFORM comes with sampler presets for the EXS24MKII, Kontakt, Battery, Maschine and Reaktor as well as the all new MP16c sampler for *Reaktor. To top it off, we’ve included MP16c templates for Maschine, Kore and TouchOSC for the iPad, as well as bonus material by Richard Devine.
Transform is available now at $69.
Below is an interview I had with Jean-Edouard talking about his work on the library. There’s also a SFX Lab dedicated to explore sound transformation and featuring sounds from the package.
What were your main inspirations for doing this library?
Josh Hinden from Twisted Tools contacted me in early 2011 to ask me to make a sound library for musicians and sound editors looking for new sonic textures. At this time, Amon Tobin was just releasing his new album ISAM and Josh advised me to listen to it and maybe draw some inspiration from it. So one evening, I came back from work, turned off the lights and dived into Amon’s universe. I had that feeling of being an acrobat walking on a wire swinging from left to right. I loved that feeling of instability and metamorphosis between organic and melodic sounds.
Twisted Tools gave me enough time to develop the ideas. At first, I went about things a bit too rigorously, but I quickly noticed it was a hindrance to creativity. I knew that I had to experiment and let things go wrong. You do something and then you innocently think ’What if I do the exact opposite?’ That’s something that I do when I cook too. Well… very often as you imagine, it doesn’t work. Once in a while though, you capture that essence that makes your emotions react in a certain way. In my opinion, that’s how I get the most characterful sounds, or the most interesting flavors. I’m still young and full of misconceptions so I always feel I have to experiment more than others. Science, history, economy, politics, art, nature, gastronomy etc. can inspire you to be better at what you do, whatever you do. The world is an immense source of inspiration and only being focused on one domain like films or games is in my opinion, an error that can only lead you to copy what others have done in the past.
What were your main/favorite tools for recording and designing these sounds?
The tools that we have on the market today can be very expensive so you want to make sure you make the right choice for yourself and that this investment is profitable in the long run. I own the classic Sound Devices 722, a Neumann RSM191 AS and a Sony PCM D50. I also have a few custom guitar pickups, a H2 XLR hydrophone and a couple of cheap contact mics that I’m looking to change. Plug-ins can also be very expensive and I thought a few years ago that if I could analyze how some plug-ins worked and if I had a modular system that allowed me to combine processing chains, I could probably create my own… I bought a Paca hardware unit from Symbolic Sound and I started to customize my own processing chains in Kyma. I mostly learned not to use Kyma to do the same things that other plugins do. Instead, I save all the sounds that return glitches and weird behaviors that stimulate my emotional response. If that makes me giggle, makes me scared or gives me a “wow” feeling etc. then I know I have to record it. Otherwise, I work with the industry standard Pro Tools, Soundminer, Waves, Sound Toys and Altiverb. What I like to play the most with are probably the toys that I collected over the years. I have tons of different springs that I sometimes stretch out on stairs, some neonodyum magnets that keep my colleagues entertained, some DC motors that I control on a breadboard with variable resistors, many whistles that I sometimes stick on arrows or at the end of a weighted string, some bullroarers, a double windwand, a professional whip, some bungee cords, some goopy liquids etc. I also recently ordered a custom Tesla Coil that I’ll be able to remotely control. If you don’t know that website yet, check out instructables.com, there are tons of interesting things to build for almost no cost if you’re willing to get your hands dirty.
For the next Film Sound Discussion Group, we’ll be taking a look at the film Cast Away (2000)…directed by Robert Zemeckis, with sound design by Randy Thom. This session is going to be different from the previous two, we aren’t going to have any special or central presenters. This is going to be a moderated free form discussion to take a look at the use of sound and effects in Cast Away. In particular, I think it would be interesting to focus on the scene where Tom Hanks wakes up on the beach after the plane crash (pictured above). We won’t restrict it to just that scene, but it is an excellent starting place. There is a lot that we can talk about in that scene alone.
So grab the movie, watch it and pop in to the discussion with your opinions and webcam/mic. [note: There's also some interesting commentary from Randy Thom available on the disc.] The group will meet on Saturday, December 17th, at 11AM (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
You can sign up for the discussion here.
Hope to see you there.
A recording of the webinar is now available here.
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