are great for creating filtered white-noise sweeps, which make terrific
whooshes and swishes. You can use those sounds to create a sense of motion
or action, particularly when theyre augmented with panning and Doppler
processing. Synths are also useful for creating earthquake and rocket
rumbles. One of my favorite techniques is to start with white noise, lower
the cutoff frequency of a lowpass filter until there is nothing left but
the extreme low end, then use a sample-and-hold LFO to modulate the resonance
or filter cutoff. I further enhance the low end through EQ or subharmonic
synthesis; the result is instant beef.
After you have recorded the raw sound materials, transfer your sounds
to a computer and organize them into clear categories. I work on a Mac
with Pro Tools, but I know sound designers who use many varieties of systems
Once you develop a good-size
library, accessing and organizing your data becomes decidedly important.
I have my entire sound library, some 200 GB as of this writing, online at
all times. When I start a new project, I create a new folder that becomes
the master library for the project. Within that folder, I create subfolders
organized by whatever system makes sense for the project (see Fig. 6). For
a film, I might create subfolders by reels (reel 1, reel
2, and so on), whereas for a game, I typically use general categories
that refer to the way the sounds function (for example, backgrounds,
footsteps, or objects). In both cases, I might also
organize by specific categories of sound, such as doors, vehicles, and weapons.
6: Organizing your material for a project can help you locate the
sounds you need quickly. Sound designers commonly create folders
that reflect the type of medium for which they are creating effects.
Next, I pull my DAT field recordings into Pro Tools, edit the materials,
move them into my library folder, and add descriptive names such as night
cricket river amb 01. Any recordings or synth elements I do in the
studio are recorded directly into Pro Tools, then moved into the library.
I like to keep ambience recordings stereo and about two minutes long. Point-source
sounds, such as door slams, are usually mono. I keep all my master material
in Sound Designer II format, the Macintosh/Pro Tools industry standard,
at 16-bit/44.1 kHz. If possible, always transfer your source material into
your computer digitally. I also recommend having an extra hard drive around
to make quick backups.
Once the raw materials are organized in your system, polish them to suit
the project. That manipulation phase can be as simple as a bit of editing
or EQ or as radical as mangling them into totally new sounds, utterly unrecognizable
from the original. What and how much to do depends on the context of the
work and the taste of the sound designer.
If the project is a film involving realistic characters in the present time,
the majority of manipulation will focus on careful editing, EQ, and dynamics
processing. If the project is an ultrahip techno-cyber sci-fi game, manipulations
will involve every weird plug-in and effects processor you can get your
hands on. My personal taste leans toward finding a terrifically beautiful
sound, recording it really well, and using as little processing as possible.
I do rely heavily on pitch-shifting, EQ, and reverb when needed, however.
Magazine, March, 2001
© 2001, Intertec Publishing, A Primedia Company All Rights Reserved.