Asbjoern Andersen


Intervention is a new, one-of-a-kind tactical weapon SFX library. The library is the result of a collaboration between the team at SoundMorph, sound designer and recordist Charles Maynes and Matt Taylor – and in this interview, SoundMorph’s Jason Cushing gives an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek at just how they went about creating it:
 

Could you share some details on what Intervention is about?

Intervention is a collection of sound effects such as weapon shot sounds, weapons foley, and tactical gear foley, based around what a real US SWAT unit uses currently for equipment and gear. It contains 26 different weapon shots and 6.6Gb worth of files.
 

How did you come up with the idea for a SWAT themed library, and what sort of research went into making it?

We found that during our sound design for various projects in the studios we work at that we constantly needed new weapons, and tactical foley movements, and that in general these are highly sought after resources, especially ones that are well recorded and based in modern times. When working on things involving SWAT, police, or military personnel, having a themed library around such sound effects is something we felt would be quite useful.

The research involved a lot of Wikipedia and googling to see exactly what type of gear and weapons a modern SWAT team would use. We also consulted Charles Maynes about his knowledge of what might be used in these situations and he helped to refine the library in terms of weapons shots. Charles also suggested weapons that might have a good variation of different sounding shots, so that one weapon wouldn’t sound too similar to the next.
 

The library is made in collaboration with Charles Maynes – how did this collaboration come into place, and how did you work together?

Yes, Charles is a great guy, and we have a lot of respect for his professional demeanor and years of experience as a great sound designer and weapons recordist. We had been following Charles work and sound articles, and were working on a World War II game and purchased a set of weapons from him for this project.

We were quite impressed with the quality, and a few months later we contacted him to propose the idea of collaborating on Intervention with us.

Recording weapons from scratch is not an easy task, you need the experience with microphones, microphone placement, a location, an armor, and lots of cash to fund a recording session from scratch for weapons. This was something we weren’t ready to take on as young company, so it made a lot of sense for us to team up with someone who had the knowledge and access to such resources. He loved the idea, and the rest is history!
 

Additional tactical gear sounds were recorded for the library

Additional tactical gear sounds were recorded for the library

The library also features non-gun/rifle sounds such as explosions, boots and more. What tactical gear sounds are included?

Yes! Intervention also contains quite a lot of tactical gear foley, large explosives, gun handling, boots, night vision goggles, gun shot tails, utilities like batons, battering rams, duffle bags, handcuffs, radio chatter, zippers… and the list goes on!

These sounds were all based on extra gear we thought should be included in Intervention since they fit with the theme and were things you might need if you were working on such a project.
 

What sort of recording sessions did you do for the library, and what gear did you use?

We did a two day recording session for foley at Technicolor here in Montreal. They have a great foley room, probably one of the best in Canada. Their collection of props is amazing and overwhelming… one could certainly get lost in there for days. It was like being a kid in a candy shop for sure!

Other than that, all the weapons shots were recorded by Charles. We were not involved in those recording sessions, but did design all the final weapons shots on our side, and Charles provided 4 mic layer perspectives for each weapon. With weapons recording the more mics and perspectives you have, usually the better, as you have much more to work with when you go to design the final shot sound.

You will generally never get a truly rich sounding gun shot with just one or two mics because you need the different characteristics of the weapon to stand out. For me those are: Shot sound, low end, close perspective, medium perspective, distant perspective, gun tail, mechanical sound. And that’s really just the minimum requirements as far as I’m concerned!

Once you combine each of those layers you can start to shape the gun shot sound to what you desire it to sound like using transient designers, EQ, multi-band compression, and even distortion to add a little realness to it. I should also add that we had Matt Taylor provide us with a 14 weapon set of gun foley. Matt is also a Hollywood pro and a friend of Charles. Since we didn’t have easy access to such weapons living in the peaceful confines of Canada, this made sense as Matt had just recorded a large set of weapons foley in his studio. ;)
 

Library highlights
26 weapons commonly used by US SWAT teams • Suppressed and burst variations for most weapons • Shot variations for dry, open exterior, interior and urban locations • 4 source layers for each weapon • 14 gun foley weapon sets including reloads, magazine inserts and cocking • SWAT body gear movements • Utilities like night vision goggles, batons, battering rams and more • Large explosives and explosive sweeteners • Designed gun handling files for gun movements
 

Any favorite sounds from the library?

I really love this library, and would say it’s got a ton of great material to work with. I’m a big fan of the suppressed weapons shots. They just sound really interesting and could be used in a lot of different weapons situations, not just for SWAT or military weapons, they could be a great layer for futuristic weapons as well.

I also think the gear foley we recorded turned out really clean and nice with some nice high frequency detail. But really I love the whole library, there isn’t anything in that doesn’t sound good. But I’m biased of course! :)
 

What were the most challenging sounds to get right?

Designing the final gun shot sounds is by far the most time consuming and challenging. You really have to spend your time with several different layers and various plugins to tweak them to be just right. It’s a fun process, but a long one too.

When designing these we really wanted to lean the sounds towards three things: having them sound modern, having them sound visceral and or interesting, and having them be usable. Usability is a high factor for us, if you don’t like the sound of a weapon, you are more likely not to use it in your project, so we tried to tweak them to bare this in mind.

It’s kind of a matter of opinion I suppose as well, but to me usable shot sounds have a certain balance to them in their character, aggressiveness, mechanical qualities, and frequencies. If any of those are too out of balance, the sound becomes harder to use in my opinion. But of course we provided the layers for all these guns as well, so if someone doesn’t agree with our design choices or prefers to craft any one of the 26 weapons from scratch, they are able to do that as well.

It was quite a long process to make this library, but one of the most fun and rewarding ones as well. When it comes to modern weapons libraries, this is one of the best!

 

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Thanks to Jason Cushing for his insights into the making of Intervention!

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