Questions by Barney Oram and Aaron Holland
How did you start to work on what turned into Metamorphosis?
For the last 7 years my full time job has been in game audio as sound designer which is a greatly creative gig: getting constantly inspired by amazing art, getting to use the best sound libraries out there and being provided with what is needed to record what you are missing. Going from that to making sound libraries in my spare time has always felt like a great way to take a break from the specific constraints a project at work might have had.
At the same time for my last libraries I wanted bigger “designed” sections but always had to scale back as I didn’t have enough versatile raw ingredients that would work with the various types of themes I was working with.
I wanted to gather a collection of heavily textured and characterful sounds that would represent my favorite type of aesthetic and create a construction library out of it.
When I slowed down the recordings I was really happy to hear these really rich, quaky and gritty textures that sounded nothing like the original material
So I started recording various things with a couple of new microphones that can record up to 200KHz after investing in a 384KHz recording device. One of the first things I recorded was a selection of brass instruments as I had a gut feeling the setup I had would work great. When I slowed down the recordings I was really happy to hear these really rich, quaky and gritty textures that sounded nothing like the original material.
Thanks to the 384KHz setup I could take the recordings to the point where what was originally perceived as a frequency would become a series of aggressive beats. Those results gave me confidence and inspired me to try the same with percussions, fireworks, pass bys of various types and later on pyrotechnics.
The demo for Metamorphosis
What about the synthesized section? This is the first time you use synths for a library, right?
Yes, that’s right, the inspiration came from wanting to make a selection of “hybrid” sounds that ideally should have felt real enough to possibly be recordings but also strange enough to feel unfamiliar. I think the shockwave puzzle of the game “Inside” was a recurring piece of inspiration: a kind of sound that might be ambiguous in its identity in terms of source yet very clear in its design and in the emotional response it evokes.
I thought that by blending recorded and synthesized sounds I could have achieved that kind of aesthetic but had no idea which synth to use for the job. I have never had great relationships with synths, I have always found them either too simple and limited or too complicated and unintuitive, most importantly I have never been able to get a sound out of a synth I would call remotely “organic”.
One day I was speaking with Karél Psota, a truly great sound designer! I was asking him about a sound he made which I really liked and I remember him suggesting I’d try out Serum. After about 2 hours of playing with the synth I was having a blast, it’s incredible. It made me feel silly for not trying it early as I can think of many applications for all past projects, personal and at my full time jobs over the years.
The launch video for Metamorphosis
Have you learnt anything new while working on Metamorphosis?
The answer to this question also has to do with synthesized sounds, I’ll try to explain with an example. One of my favorite sounds is the one of biting into a chocolate covered ice cream lolly, you know the typical slomo crunchy sound I am thinking about? I’ve often wondered how it would sound like if the ice cream was the size of a skyscraper as in the sound design field the goal is often to make things sound bigger.
A year ago if I had to create that sound I would have spent a few hours recording crunchy material with ultrasonic mics, I would have slowed down the material, enhanced it and so on which would have probably taken me 90% there. I would have then spent twice as much time trying to squeeze absolutely everything out of the recordings with transients enhancers, multiband compression and what not to get the last 10%. I would have probably found something I liked in the resulting “deeply flawed” sound and I would have forced some of it on the rest of the material, taking me to a -+ 5% depending on how lucky I got.
What I mean by this is that recordings come with limits that are attached to the way the material is sourced: if you compress any recording enough eventually you’ll start to get a ton of noise from either the location, the recorder, the mic or the source itself. If you wanted a transient to hit within a specific frequency range you can use multiband transient enhancers coupled with EQs to achieve that but ultimately you are butchering a sound into a role it shouldn’t have if that makes sense.
The right kind of synthetic texture can really complement recorded source in unique ways, taking it to a slightly more ambiguous, familiar yet unfamiliar and refreshing place.
If I had to design that same sound today I’d still mostly rely on field recording but right after capturing the crunchy material I’d go into Serum and try to find something to complement the realistic part of the sound with elements I didn’t see coming. The right kind of synthetic texture can really complement recorded source in unique ways, taking it to a slightly more ambiguous, familiar yet unfamiliar and refreshing place.
I used to think of synthesis as a slow way to make believable sounds whereas now I think about it as a quick way to enhancing any kind of material, I am sure my relationship with synths will evolve further but for now I am thankful this library made me cross paths with Serum.
Tim Atkins: An absolutely essential library. From the moment I loaded these sounds into Soundminer, I knew these sounds would find their way into countless future projects. They are so useful and so effortless to add to a mix.
Not only does this library offer excellent value, it also inspired me to push myself to become a better sound designer and field recordist
Mattia always presents his work beautifully and this is no exception. Metadata is clear and easy to search and the sounds themselves are beautifully crafted. His libraries just keep getting better and ever more inventive. The microphone choices he made alone are testament to this.
Not only does this library offer excellent value, it also inspired me to push myself to become a better sound designer and field recordist. Thanks Mattia!
Kai Paquin: Mattia did it again.
This library has an amazing tool kit of different natural textural pass bys, synth elements, and impacts I don’t feel any other library offers
If you’ve heard his work before, it’s some of the best out there, and this library keeps raising the ceiling of what a good library can be.
This library has an amazing tool kit of different natural textural pass bys, synth elements, and impacts I don’t feel any other library offers and is worth purchasing to supplement other staple libraries like Tonstrum Whoosh and Boom Cinematic.
It’s only February, but I can safely say this is going to be one of the best libraries of the year.
Juan: I always look forward to what Mattia is up to next, and he never disappoints. This library is an absolute joy to sift through, with content that’s both unique and also beautifully recorded. Mattia puts a lot of work into cleaning the sounds to a pristine level all the way up the frequency range so it pitches beautifully, and his composites of multiple mics to create a unified sound is unlike anything else I know of.
Now we get not just incredibly creative and fun recordings, but also a fantastic display of synthesized material with a sonic signature that’s like ear candy for any sound designer
Now we get not just incredibly creative and fun recordings, but also a fantastic display of synthesized material with a sonic signature that’s like ear candy for any sound designer.
His shaping of the low and mid range into a tight, punchy, satisfying result lends itself great for making assets in game audio. I could keep going but all I have to say is wow. Thank you for your work!
You mentioned you wanted to create a library section by blending synthetic and recorded sounds, is that how the hybrid part of the library was created? Got any tricks to share?
That’s right yes, after I gathered 80% of the recorded and synthesized material I started creating the hybrid section as I couldn’t wait to test my theories on blending the sounds.
For the first 10 sounds I made for this section I heavily relied on morphing, specifically Melda MMorph was vital to the creation of ambiguous textures. I would pick a synthesized sound and route it to the auxiliary channel of a recorded source (or vice versa). This would result in the interaction of the two different spectrums which often led to really strangely abstract yet grounded and organic results. I would do that a number of times and I’d record the output the same sounds would generate with different morphing presets, which in a way is like recording this hybrid sound with different mics, giving you better mixing opportunities to achieve the final result.
I ended up with tons of hybrid material that had not only a unique texture to it but also its own behaviour in time and frequency domains which no longer resemble the source
One of the tricks I learnt along the way had to do with transient artifacts: when using a morphing plugin the resulting sound can acquire a very rich transient if you start playback or recording at different points in the sound. What one would normally do is to leave some silence before pressing play to listen to the morphed result (which is the correct way to do it) but upon mistakenly pressing play in the middle of the source sounds I noticed I was hearing very defined and rich transients. After a few of these experiments I ended up with tons of hybrid material that had not only a unique texture to it but also its own behaviour in time and frequency domains which no longer resemble the source.
For other sections of the hybrid section I proceeded with more standard editing methods while exploring the stretching potential of the source further, sometimes slowing down content to 1/10th of the original speed.
Do you have any favorite recordings in the library?
Yes! The first one that comes to mind is a specific take on a bullroarer passby slowed down to one quarter of its original speed. When I heard it the first time I thought it reminded me of something eerie and ominous.
I later realized the sound’s tonality matched pretty closely a movement on the soundtrack of Dark, a Netflix series I am quite fond of.
Another sound I really liked recording was the one of a pyro spitting fire, that kind of sound is the full package: looks great, sounds great and gets twice as angry at one quarter speed.
What inspired you throughout the creation of Metamorphosis?
Anything Source Sound has ever put out in terms of crispiness for impacts and explosion-like sounds but also thundery textures and aggressive but well rounded sounds. Joshua Crispin and Karél Psota’s Quantum library was also an inspiration in terms of aesthetic. For projectiles’ recording I recall watching a video from Bryan Higa, recordist and sound designer who was also very generous in sharing tips on what works, what doesn’t work. After chatting with him I spent 2 months collecting potentially nice sounding projectiles for a recording session, here is a selection of some of the ones I used:
For the hybrid section I kept referring to Star Wars (pick any!) to add personality and movement to the sounds along with some of Barney Oram’s work (UK based recordist and sound designer) which he generously often shares along with techniques in field recording channels.
What do you think is the most important part of your process in creating sound libraries? Any tricks to share to aspiring recordists and sound designers?
One of the most important lessons I was ever taught in sound editing was from Steve Smith, a truly great teacher I had the chance to meet during my time at Vancouver Film School’s sound design course. During classes Steve would often point out the number of unnecessary mouse clicks, keystrokes and redundant actions while we worked. Originally I thought that being able to work quicker would give me an edge just because of the time I’d be saving but I now believe there is much more to this.
Any time spent working in a non-creative mindset while making content is time taken away from the fun and more inspired work
Any time spent working in a non-creative mindset while making content is time taken away from the fun and more inspired work. Every time I press play to verify I correctly declicked a file I know I am losing some perspective over the potential of the sound I am creating as I get used to how it currently sounds. Every time I get lost in tweaking an EQ over and over for marginal gains I now know I am wasting energy that could be spent turning the asset upside down in a much more creative way.
Luckily after years of recording and editing one can start to trust their gut with many things, so lately I embraced more and more any form of macro, shortcut and tool that allows me to save time.
For example here is what my main Streamdeck page looks like when I open RX.
The denoise actions in this image are Macros: both assume the selection of noise to be used to train the algorithm as starting point so upon pressing each of the buttons a corresponding preset is selected, trained, the entirety of the file is then selected and finally the denoise is applied without ever needing to open the denoise window at all.
All of the directional buttons are presets for “Spectral Repair” where the direction of interpolation, before and after weighting and bands are tweaked based on what I am trying to fix and its surroundings in the spectrum.
Pretty much all of my workflow now features this kind of approach, I have shortcuts to drop specific effects on an item in Reaper or to show the last touched envelope of an effect’s parameter etc. I know that this may sound like a simple “use shortcuts” advice but what all of these quality-of-life improvements enable me to do is to make mistakes a lot quicker and they help me to completely forget about the non-creative part of the process as it becomes a single button press instead of a series of repetitive tasks.
What all of these quality-of-life improvements enable me to do is to make mistakes a lot quicker and they help me to completely forget about the non-creative part of the process
In addition to that I try not to listen to the sounds I am working on too many times: if for example I am trying to enhance a specific aspect of a recording I might apply 3 effects and tweak their settings based on past experience to then press play once, bypassing them one at a time if the outcome isn’t what I expected it to be. Doing this helps me review my own work without being attached to it, it’s as if someone else did the effects tweaking and I am simply reviewing their work with no investment in the specific method that was used, all that matters is the output, what sound designers will hear when they get the libraries :) Of course I am not saying one should work “blindfolded” either but whenever you think you know what you are trying to achieve I would suggest trying to achieve it without tweaking effects in real time over a looping section of the sound, in my experience that is both fatiguing and contributes to placebo or nobeco effects.
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