Scarehouse sound design Asbjoern Andersen


I recently discovered that composer and sound designer Marc Straight’s work can be heard in more than 100 scarehouse attractions. And with this being the spookiest of spooky months, here’s Marc with the story on how he creates the sound for scarehouses:
 

Hi Marc, just what are scarehouses exactly – and how did you get involved with creating sound for them?

Scarehouses are haunted attractions. It’s essentially an interactive live theater of horror. I began as an actor in the fourth grade and while acting I heard our music, which was Midnight Syndicate.

It’s essentially an interactive live theater of horror

I loved working in scarehouses and working with music, so naturally I wanted to make music that scared people.
 

Your work is featured in around 100 attractions. What are some of your favorite ones, and why?

Sadly, I haven’t been able to see all of them, that’s a work in progress. But I generally just like the idea of contributing to the industry. I don’t like to say I like one more than an other, when one may exist that is even more to my style.
 

What are some of the scarehouses you’ve worked on?

This year I’ve worked on Richs Fright Farm, Six Flags of America, The Headless Horseman, and assisted with several others. Production time starts around April and ends in early September so summers are a complete nightmare.
 

Say you’re brought in to create the sound for a new scarehouse: How much creative freedom do you get – and what inspires you?

The process usually involves your visiting and being in the rooms I’m going to be working in. I do a small recording of the room to take home and I begin working from there. With creative freedom, it largely depends on what company I work with.

I treat scoring a haunted attraction as I would a video game

Most of the time I make my version, send it to them and they critique what they want added or take away and we have a back and forth from there.

It is very similar to making video games. In fact, I treat scoring a haunted attraction as I would a video game.
 

Could you describe the creative process behind your work on a recent scarehouse project (or perhaps one of your favorite projects) – from beginning to the final result?

One of my favorite projects was creating music for a 2,500 Sqft, two story room (WITH A SLIDE!) that was made to be overtaken by nature and these horrific monsters. So, I’m going to attempt to describe that process:
I had been visiting the grounds to work on the other 30ish tracks that we were using for the scenes so this was the final piece. I got to see the room start out empty and become fully developed over about three weeks. As this happened, I also worked on the audio for it.

I decided to custom design the percussion then work on the sound effects

I started out with piano because at the time the scenes were a bit understated but quickly switched to church organ for a really harsh impact. From there, I wrote the rest of the music except the percussion. The percussion synth I have is, honestly, pretty weak so I decided to custom design the percussion then work on the sound effects.

For the drums:
• I overfilled a tire to the point where it exploded
• Wrapped a condom around a mic and recorded the sound of a tub upside down inside a larger tub of water while being hit by drum mallets
• Mixed those with a bass drum that I had that was tolerable.

Sidenote: I am sure there are better ways to record underwater but couldn’t think of any.
Once the drums were finished, I took metal cans and scraped them against a mirror, bowed cymbals and gongs to create a really uncomfortable metal underlay. That was probably the worst thing I’ve ever had to mix.

And here’s the story about another one:

One room I did sound for was a dental room gone HORRIBLY wrong. The first thing I did was make an atmosphere layer. For that I took the sound of a refrigerator, slowed and pitched dropped it way down until it felt like a pulse. From there, I combined about 30 different saws, drills and screams to make the dental drill sounds. Afterwards I layered the drills to form different actions – Started the test use, went to the closed mouth and into a sound that seems like you’re drilling through bone.

I combined about 30 different saws, drills and screams to make the dental drill sounds

For the bone part, I used an old pencil sharpener and recorded pencils, plastic and thin rocks grinding in it. Around then I sampled people screaming for an abrasive interrupt layer, cries to add to the refrigerator atmosphere and bowed metals just for flavor. The end result was uncomfortable enough to make me dislike listening to it.
 

Get a haunted house-walkthrough:

Want a tour of a real haunted house attraction? In this video, Marc Straight takes you on an empty walkthrough of Richs Fright Farm during their 2015 season to showcase the music production and set design. All scenes have been changed for their 2016 theme. Nothing that is shown in this video will reveal any information or design about their current season:

ARVE Error: The video is likely no longer available. (The API endpoint returned a 404 error)

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in scarehouse sound design?

Making scary electric music for a giant UFO.
 

From a technical perspective, how’s the sound typically delivered in the scarehouses themselves? Is it all loop-based, or are there certain triggers etc?

Most of the time you make a loop track, because cost is always an issue. You usually get asked to make it a minute of sound, but for the sake of the actors and the environment I strongly suggest 3 to 4 minutes. By having more time there are ways to add more dynamics to the tracks.

The other thing that is used a lot are scream boxes, which are set by motion triggers

You could add in stings or high contrast changes, hard tempo resets, etc. The other thing that is used a lot are scream boxes, which are set by motion triggers. Those play a huge sound to be a scare, usually a scream, so that the audience is able to be caught off guard and actors voices to be temporarily spared.

Looking for scary sound effects?

If you need scary sounds for your projects, these are 3 of the most popular horror sound effects collections on A Sound Effect right now:

  • Destruction & Impact The Gut-Wrenching Gore Library Play Track 712 sounds included $249

    The Gut-Wrenching Gore Library gathers 712 clips in 26.96 gigabytes. Recorded from 6 synchronized perspectives in 192 kHz, it shares horror sound design elements in two themes: male and female vocalizations and fruit destruction.

    The vocalization showcase screams, choking, gurgling, gobbling, teeth and biting, and breathing, each with a variety of takes and performances. Body blows, stabs, hits, and gore were provided by tearing, breaking, and squeezing fruit, vegetables, and other food such as watermelons, leeks, porridge, yogurt, tomatoes and others.

    The package includes Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, and embedded metadata in every clip.

    Add to cart
  • Destruction & Impact Crash & Smash – Designed Play Track 450+ sounds included From: $36 From: $18

    The “Crash & Smash – Designed” sound effects library contains 350 sounds of destruction.

    You get 5 categories (Glass, Metal, Stone, Wood, Plastic) each with 50 edited, layered and designed sounds of destruction and demolition. Additionally you get 100 mixed heavy Crash and Destruction Sounds in 5.0 Surround.

    These were fully created and designed in surround not just upmixed. You also get the downmixed versions in 2.0 Stereo.

    All sounds were designed from the original Crash & Smash.

    You can easily create a vast amount of new crashes by combining, layering and arranging these sounds. Comes with embedded Sound Miner Metadata.

    Available in two versions:

    Crash & Smash – Designed (Full):
    Number of files: 450 Files (350 in stereo + 100 in 5.0 Surround)
    Quality: 96kHz / 24bit / Stereo
    Total Size: 2,99 GB

    Crash & Smash – Designed (Stereo only):
    Number of Files: 350 Files
    Quality: 96kHz / 24bit / Stereo
    Total Size: 1,45 GB
    60 %
    OFF
  • Animals & Creatures Screams & Shouts 2 – Monsters Play Track 940 sounds included $45 $22.50

    The “Screams & Shouts 2 – Monsters” sound effects library brings you over 940 shouts of pain and death, disturbing roars plus grunts of anger, struggle and attack from several monsters and zombies.
    Additionally you get 250 clean untreated vocalized human monster sound to create your own designed monsters with it.

    This is the go-to sound effects library to give your monsters an unpleasantly threatening, disgustingly haunting and ferocious voice
    All sounds have been edited precisely and cut clean for instant use in your projects. These sounds fit very well in any scifi, horror, action, fighting or fantasy game, movie or any other audio-visual production.

    50 %
    OFF
    Add to cart

Find many more scary sounds in the Horror category


 

How are you using sound to guide, spook (and perhaps even trick?) scarehouse visitors? And if you were to break down the soundscape for a scarehouse, what are some of the key elements?

As far as guiding visitors, the set designers usually handle that. They run all the spacing and make the paths clear to go from point A to B in the area. As far as making it scary, you really just need to gather the intent of the room, the subject matter and everything like that, and make it as if you are basically living in that for a film or video game. I like to think of it as a living, breathing version of Silent Hill.
 

In general, what’s essential to great, scary sound, in your book?

High contrast will always be a huge focus for anyone, but the main thing is getting sounds that are naturally uncomfortable and exaggerating that. Creaky doors, the scrapping of guitar strings in to an amp, everyday sounds that make us uncomfortable. A good example of that is in the opening theme to American Horror Story. All the sounds feel somewhat natural, but still innately foreign and that triggers a good solid response.
 

 

Any special techniques or approaches you’re using to create scary sounds?

A source that I have been using lately that is pretty controversially in the sound design world is the use of Omisphere. I’ll make all of my own sound effects, and they have a really expansive sound effects rack that I like to manipulate to create a lot of my patterns and atmospheres that normally I wouldn’t be able to create. Otherwise, I focus on the standards of panning usage, high contrast and harsh dynamic tones.
 

How has scarehouse sound evolved since you started out – and have you noticed any interesting trends?

The trends haven’t changed very much yet. Scarehouses have a tendency to follow slowly behind film trends, with that in mind I see more and more of scarehouses moving toward sound designs and atmospheres in the future rather than orchestra. Of course the classic sounds styles will always exist, but the intent and tone that designers are looking for are changing.

My first year bringing music into the industry I did a mix of orchestra instrumentation as well as atmosphere and sound design. Most of the customers were intently looking for orchestration but a few were strongly into my sound design stuff.

The way things seem to be going is very focused on ambient sound, driven by harsh sound design

After a year establishing myself in the community, I released an album that took an extreme hard turn away from anything symphonic. That one is called Nyctophobia and to date, that’s my most successful album.

The way things seem to be going is very focused on ambient sound, driven by harsh sound design – an example would be the opening theme for American Horror Story. Sound like that is gripping and raw. It feels uncomfortable. Soundscapes like that and Silent Hill are the two biggest styles that I get asked about every year. I don’t see that stopping any time soon.

Just to add to this, for people looking to break into the industry, as much as I talk about trends and stuff the biggest thing is to bring your best into it. Stand out and bring your own brand. If you have something that’s unique and fits the medium people will respond to it. Disregard fear. Be the fear.
 

A big thanks to Marc Straight for his insights on scarehouse sound – meet him on Twitter right here

 

Please share this:


 


 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Destruction & Impact Magic Elements vol.2 Play Track 1438 sounds included $149 $89.40

    Discover the new and complementary opus of Magic Elements sound library!

    ‘Magic Elements’ is a detailed collection of designed & source sounds of organic elements, actions, characters, items, spells & atmospheres in the realm of Magic.
    Volume 2 is complementary to Volume 1 and comes with almost twice the sounds!

    The library is meant to be modular: while being ready-to-use, it delivers useful materials and building blocks that will allow you to create your own sounds.

    • DESIGNED: (772 SOUNDS)
    Volume 2 of this magic saga is comprehensively focused on these 6 elements:
    Energy, Liquid, Foliage, White, Cartoon/Anime, and Generic.

    Each element comes with a variety of spells, actions/movements such as whoosh, impacts, atmospheres, projectiles, along with many variations in intensity and speed.

    All these sounds are carefully designed, edited and meta-tagged.
    The ‘generic’ category contains handy neutral go-to sounds that are useful for any project.

    The ‘cartoon’ will also work well with anime, & manga.

    • SOURCE: (666 SOUNDS)
    The source folder is packed with`many useful files that cover a large spectrum; thoroughly edited and meta-tagged. They will support your creativity with materials such as electricity, liquids, foliage, explosion, whoosh, drones, textures, impacts, chimes, … (file list here)

    Unique & Useful
    This library is made to empower the sound designer’s sonic palette with high quality material but also with unique ‘never heard before’ sound effects.
    A godsend for every sound artist, wether you are looking to start off with a magical toolkit, or you want to enrich your collection with new unique sounds!

    What’s inside:
    Impacts, Whoosh, explosion, fireworks
    Chemical Acid, Bubble, Splash
    Aura, Glyph, Shimmer, Fairy Dust
    Electric Spark, zap, Discharge
    Foliage motion, hit, rustle
    Growing vines, Ent Footstep
    Choir, Harp, Chimes, Bells
    Laboratory, Potion
    Buff, Spell, Hypnotize, Projectile,

    Choose how you want your sounds!
    2 DOWNLOAD OPTIONS PROVIDED:

    • GLUED (Multiple variations of the same sound glued in one file)

    • SEPARATED (Each variations of sound are separated in different files)

    40 %
    OFF
    Ends 1575586799
  • Sci-Fi Lo-Fi Sci-Fi Play Track 1,000+ sounds included, 431 mins total $30 $15

    Lo-Fi Sci-Fi is a library packed full of characterful, authentic and gritty sounds. It was lovingly created by sound designers Barney Oram and Derek Brown, in homage to classic late 70’s and early 80’s sci-fi movies.
    The collection is comprised of a wide range of sounds, including metal, organics, fire, mechanical, interfaces, creatures, foley and footsteps, abstract, ambience, and much more.

    Lo-Fi Sci-Fi features 620 24bit / 48kHz WAV files in total, including 45 designed sounds and 575 source sounds.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1576105199
  • Metal Resonant Rusty Door Play Track 100+ sounds included $15

    Recorded at an old bunker constructed near the Chebucto Head lighthouse (Halifax, Nova Scotia) during WWII, now derelict and covered in rust.

    These recordings were a happy accident, discovered on the way to record something else. This large, heavy steel door has been rusting since wartime, and when I noticed it I immediately knew it would have a unique sonic character. When moved, it produces interesting almost musical tones, rich with harmonics and ripe for processing.

    This library includes a variety of sounds generated by interacting with the door in different ways (scraping, punching, and moving at various speeds), and was recorded in mid-side with a Schoeps Mini CMIT + CMC6 MK8 into a Sound Devices 633.

    All sounds are decoded to LR stereo, normalized and processed minimally beyond noise reduction. Files are tagged with metadata in Basehead and stamped in iXML, bext and ID3 formats.

 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Environments Windy Hill Play Track 8 sounds included, 24 mins total $14.99 $10.99

    WINDY HILL is a collection of high quality exterior wind ambiences.
    The library consists of wind gusts through branches, shrub, dry grass, coniferous trees and more.


    Recorded at superb 192 kHz/24 Bit

    2 Super wide AB recordings with a pair of spaced out DPA4060’s

    3 M/S (decoded) with Sennheiser MKH8060 combo + Ambient ATE208

    3 Sony PCM D100 recording

    All SFX have baked-in Soundminer’s meta data.

    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + Sennheiser MKH 8060, ATE208, 2x DPA4060, SONY PCM D100
    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: RX, Pro Tools, Equality.

    27 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574549999
  • Environments Transportation – Ambiance Play Track 68 sounds included, 157 mins total $68 $54

    Transportation – Ambiance is a great collection of ambience recordings performed at various transportation scenarios.
    You will find recordings such as a Train car interior, Jumbo jet interior, multiple cars interior under different driving conditions,
    Bus interior, public transportation stations and much more.

    This package includes 68 Samples.
    A total 2h 37m of content.
    Stereo files sampled @ 96Khz / 24bit.

     

    21 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574549999
  • Destruction & Impact Warehouse Kicks Play Track 50 sounds included $13

    50 powerful industrial kicks tell a story about the role of a man among machines and unprecedented heavy mechanisms. The right kick is 50% success for a track in the true techno style and other experimental sounds. The pack includes oneshots of varying sizes and sonics, with booming subs, persistent tones and reflections. Inspired by illegal raves, parties at abandoned factories and dark basements.

    This compilation is not designed for Deep House, Minimal and EDM regular artists.

    This impacts library can be used as sfx’es for movie, trailers and commercial.

  • Ambisonics Ambisonic – Transportation Play Track 68 sounds included, 314 mins total $136 $99

    Ambisonic – Transportation is a great collection of ambisonic ambiences recordings performed at various transportation scenarios.
    It is aimed to provide you with great spherical content to wrap your dialogue or main focus content, allowing you to create a conniving and immersing soundtrack.
    You will find recordings such as a Train car interior, Jumbo jet interior, multiple cars interior under different driving conditions,
    Bus interior, public transportation stations and much more.

    This collection is great for post-production, VR/AR interactive sound-design, game developers and any real-time 3D audio engine.
    All files are tagged and categorized for your convenience – supporting multiple tag filtering browsing applications.

    A Sennheiser Ambeo microphone paired with Zoom H8 was used to create this product.

    This package includes 68 Samples – 136 Files.
    A total 2h 37m of content.
    First Order AmbiX B-Format and Stereo @ 96Khz / 24bit.

    Download a Demo here:
    Want to hear an example of the included recordings? Download the B-format Demo Here

    27 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574204399
  • Foley Footstep Loops II Play Track 663 sounds included $75 $49

    Editing footsteps in audio post-production can be time-consuming. Footstep Loops II is a sound library that delivers a comprehensive kit of footstep sound effects made to ease your daily work.

    The collection contains footstep sounds of various shoes and surfaces, recorded in different paces and edited to continuous but lively 30-second sound loops.

    VARIETY

    The Footstep Loops II Sound Library covers a wide range of different footsteps:

    Barefoot, Socks, Slippers, Flip-Flops, Sneakers on Wood, Sneakers on Concrete, Boots on Wood, Boots on Concrete, Heels on Wood, Heels on Stone;
    Grass, Gravel, Forest, Foliage, Dry Foliage, Stones, Puddle, Mud, Snow;
    Stairs up + down: Wooden Stairs, Metal Stairs, Stone Stairs



    PACE

    Each type of footsteps is available as a set of 13 sound files that represent a range from walking very slowly up to very speedy. Paces are sorted by Footsteps per Minute (FPM):

    Ground Footsteps: from 40 FPM to 160 FPM
    Stairs Footsteps: from 60 FPM to 180 FPM (up) / from 80 FPM to 200 FPM (down)



    LAYERS

    Since all (ground) footstep loops have the same FPM paces, they can be layered easily. E.g. you can add a puddle sound element to sneakers walking on concrete etc.



    CLOTHING

    You can add clothing as a layer to make the movements sound more natural. The sounds of jeans & jacket fit to all ground footsteps. Furthermore, versions with well-balanced clothing sounds of all main footstep loops are already included as ready-to-use files!



    ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS

    Some experimental elements are also included in the library:
    2 layers of floor creaks and one layer that adds the sound of keys in the pocket while walking.



    TIME-COMPRESS

    Paces of the sound loops included in the Footstep Loops II sound library increase in steps of 10 FPM each. If you need a value in between, time-compress the file just a tiny bit – the quality loss is almost inaudible in modern digital audio workstations.



    ONLINE FOOTSTEPS GENERATOR

    To get an impression of what you get with the Footstep Loops II sound library, go HERE and play around with footsteps online.


    • 663 audio files
    • 331 minutes total runtime
    • all files contain meta-data / keywords for easy search
    Video Thumbnail



    All sounds from this library are included in:
    Diversity

    35 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574204399
 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.