Sci-fi sound design Asbjoern Andersen


While creating his impressive Advanced Propulsion debut SFX library, seasoned sound designer and audio lead Paul Stoughton came across some highly useful source material, from some rather unusual places. Here they are:
Written by Paul Stoughton
Please share:
 

Light cycle, pod racer, Nebuchadnezzar, spinner, tie fighter, USS Enterprise.

I’ve never been a car guy. I drive a Volkswagen because it gets pretty good mileage and it fits in most parking spaces. However, show me something that hovers, warps, tears through space-time, or can cloak itself, and I’m 100% in. A lifelong obsession with sci-fi movie vehicles followed me into the world of sound creation and has ended up as the focus of my most recent audio exploration.


The demo for Paul Stoughton’s excellent Advanced Propulsion SFX library

My goal in creating the Advanced Propulsion sound library was to let intuition drive me down the road of happy accidents. This time around, I had the most fun unplugging my synths and going on the hunt for organic sources. I wanted to answer the question: “What would make the most compelling and versatile source for creating sci-fi engines?”

These are a few of my favorite discoveries:
 

1. DoubleBass

One of the first legends I heard as a new sound designer was how the original Godzilla roar was created. In 1954, during production of the film, the sound effects team tried unsuccessfully to design the roar using animal sounds. It wasn’t until Japanese composer Akira Afukube suggested a technique using a musical instrument that this iconic vocalization was born. The friction of a leather glove coated in pine-tar resin, rubbed against the strings of a double bass, gave them exactly what they’d been looking for.

I decided to follow in their footsteps and reach out to the musical side of sound, contacting a composer friend of mine for a double bass player recommendation. This would preferably be someone with their own recording rig so that we could do the exploration session over video chat (#quarantinelife).

As a master of his instrument, Sam Bobinski showed up prepared with a diverse collection of techniques to try. I was blown away by the sonic potential of the instrument, and ended up with a vast array of useful source material. One of my favorite techniques was the bowing of downtuned strings, which immediately reminded me of a purring engine. Here’s a video of the raw recording and one of the processed variations that came from it.

Video Thumbnail

Bowing downtuned strings on a double bass

 

2. Fountain Slaps

An inevitable result of a career in sound design is that you become a constant listener. Whether or not you’re conscious of it at the time, part of your brain is always on the hunt for cool sounds. Anyone whose known me for a while instantly recognizes the look. Head cocked, body frozen, eyes wide…. basically a meerkat that sees a circling hawk.

This happened to me after I had recently moved and was eating my first lunch in the new town square. The wind picked up and I froze mid-bite of a B.L.T.. I had never heard this sound before, and the source took me completely by surprise when I saw where it was coming from. Like most sounds I find, I had no idea what I’d eventually use it for, but was absolutely sure it would be great for something.

Its core element, a rhythmic pulsing, proved to be perfect for creating evolving engine layers.

The first person to email me where this fountain is (SF Bay Area), I’ll give you a free copy of the library.

Video Thumbnail

Fountain of inspiration

 

3. Harley Tubed

For about a year, I drove around with a long corrugated drainage tube in my trunk. Just one of those sound designer things I guess. I had been in a Home Depot perusing for Foley props when I stuck my ear into one of these tubes and instantly fell in love with its resonance. I dragged it out of the store and ended up recording a small library worth of sounds through it that year. Several of the synth engine loops in the library were worldized through the tube using a speaker at one end and mics at the other.

By far my favorite pairing with the tube was my neighbors Harley Davidson motorcycle. It had this throaty growl that lit up the resonance in a way I hadn’t heard before, creating something greater than the sum of its parts.

In the video below, you’ll hear the raw mic in the right channel and the tubed one in the left, then one of the processed versions I made from it.

Video Thumbnail

Harley Davidson, tubed

 

Fruits of the labor – Advanced Propulsion:

 
Advanced Propulsion is a next-gen sound design toolkit built for creating dynamic sci-fi vehicle engines and pass-bys. The designed engine source assets are all seamless loops, making them perfect for use with various plug-ins and interactive applications. All raw source material used to design the engine layers is included in the kit.
 

 
  • Sci-Fi Advanced Propulsion Play Track 1191 sounds included $99

    ADVANCED PROPULSION is a next-gen sound design toolkit built for creating dynamic sci-fi vehicle engines and passbys. The designed engine sounds are all seamless loops, making them perfect for use with various plug-ins and interactive applications. All raw source material used to design the engines is included, giving you maximum creative flexibility.

    Add to cart
 

What others are saying about the SFX library:

“This library has some fantastic textures to work with. The source is so creatively recorded that it almost sounds like it was designed. So many novel sounds in this library and so much content that I would highly recommend it to anyone working in sound design. Can’t wait to see what’s next!”
– Juan Pablo Uribe

4. Eulers Disk

Eulers Disk, not pronounced how you’d think, is a physics demo toy that I bought a few years back. You spin the heavy disk on the flat mirrored surface and it goes through an uncomfortably long display of awesome sounding, logarithmically accelerating wobbles. This equation, likely some form of math, partially explains how it does some of the stuff it does.

My recordings with regular microphones were cool but lacked a bit of the weight necessary to make useful source for sci-fi vehicle engines. After some experimentation, it turned out that a stereo set of contact mics fixed to the mirror plate gave me much better results. One of the best parts about this source is that the full range of RPM’s the disk goes through gives you everything you’d need to build a set of engine loops covering various speeds.

Video Thumbnail

Eulers Disk spinning

 

5. Paper Fan

A pocket fan is the swiss army knife of sound design tools. Whether you’re taping things to it for insect wing sounds, using it to create a constant flow of disruptive air on a gas burner flame for rocket thrust source, or using it against the strings of an instrument, it’s a cheap/valuable tool that everyone should have on hand.

Since these are quarantine times, I was searching for new fan techniques using common household items. Pieces of paper, while not the most exciting idea “on paper,” are actually versatile instruments when paired with a pocket fan. The size and thickness of the paper, the fan’s angle of attack, the pressure of the blades, and the location of the contact point are all useful modulators that can yield a wide range of source for sci-fi engine design.

Here’s a raw envelope recording and one of the resulting processed versions.

Video Thumbnail

For all the fans out there

The Takeaway

At the end of this deep dive into sci-fi vehicle sound design, the biggest takeaway was the effectiveness of organic sources in generating believable sounds. Synthesized source will always have a place, and I generated a large amount of it for this library, but there will always be a special part of our consciousness that more fully accepts sounds from real-world sources.

If you pick up this library, I’d love to hear what happy accidents you make while using it. Reach out any time to penguingrenadesfx@gmail.com

A big thanks to Paul Stoughton for sharing a behind-the-scenes look at the surprising sound sources for Advanced Propulsion!

 

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:
 
 
  • Sci-Fi Advanced Propulsion Play Track 1191 sounds included $99

    ADVANCED PROPULSION is a next-gen sound design toolkit built for creating dynamic sci-fi vehicle engines and passbys. The designed engine sounds are all seamless loops, making them perfect for use with various plug-ins and interactive applications. All raw source material used to design the engines is included, giving you maximum creative flexibility.

    Add to cart
  • Rocky Impacts is a collection of 262 rock & stone impact sound effects.
    Rock impacts, LFEs, Debris, Moving textures and more

    Collection consist of 150 designed sound effects and 112 source sound effects. All sound effects were recorded with Sennheiser MKH8060
    + ATE 208 in mid-side at superb 192KHZ. Recording session took place in a quiet canyon between mountains.

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

    Download includes additional 44.1kHz 16Bit version for Unreal Engine.
    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + 2 x Sennheiser MKH8060 + ATE208 (M/S)
    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: Pro Tools, BOOM ReCenter, iZotope RX, Brusfri, FabFilter, ReFuse, Reaktor

    50 %
    OFF
    Add to cart
  • Need sound effects for your explainer videos? The EXPLNR sounds series is a collection of sfx libraries designed and produced with the classic 2d animated explainer video in mind. These sounds will give quick and useful coverage to the common moves used in this style.

    Vol 1 is an excellent all-around base library that includes whooshes, clicks, pops, swells, ratchets, slides, rips, drags, flicks, crumples, and dings – all custom designed with the playfulness and clean edges required to match the explainer video style.

    To help cover repetitive visual movements, multiple iterations of each sound are included. A host of designed sounds will quickly cover more complex movements.

    The next time you have an explainer video in the house, you know your starting point.

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Horror Giant Pinecones Play Track 500+ sounds included, 44 mins total $79

    • In Giant Pinecones, get a visceral collection of scraped and eviscerated pinecones from the gray pine trees of Northern California. Scrape the razor-sharp hooks of the cone petals and hear guttural scrapes crackling with energy. Hear rolling cones popping and fluttering with rich stuttering tones. Hear fully open cone pedals squeaking with woody vocalizations like supernatural animals and hardy crunches filled with organic grit.
    • This library offers you an extensive collection of sounds from a unique organic sound source. Digger pinecone sounds are incredibly soft and intimate in real life, but when recorded from two inches they morph into a unique wooden sound source brimming with powerful glitchy and stuttering textures.

    2% FOR THE ENVIRONMENT & CARBON NEUTRAL:
    • Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause, as an “artist royalty” for the planet!
    • Carbon offset credits were purchased to offset my field recording travel for this library.

    KEY FEATURES:
    • Woody vocalizations
    • Rolling, scraping, and stuttering textures
    • Visceral and guttural scrapes
    • Fluttering and popping textures
    • Rich crunches
    • Chalkboard-like squeaks and squeals
    FILE LIST & METADATA:
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    • A spectrogram is included for each audio file. Double click on the photo to enlarge.
    MORE INFO:
    • Read 40+ testimonials for Thomas Rex Beverly Audio
    • Read my Field Recording Mastering Rules and learn more about how these recordings were mastered.
    • Browse the Library Info Master List to compare specs on all my libraries.
    • Browse the Metadata Master List to search my entire catalog.
    • MD5 and SHA 256 Checksums are included for each zip file in my catalog. Use these hashes to check the integrity of your downloaded files.
    GEAR USED:
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 and MKH30 in MS
    • Sound Devices MixPre-6
  • Recording of the American 2017 Polaris Ranger EV. Powered by an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor.


    The American 2017 Polaris Industries Ranger EV sound collection shares 44 sounds in 3.49 gigabytes of audio. It showcases the sound of an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor in 4 channels with 2 custom stereo mixes.

    The sound pack includes 4 synchronized takes of onboard driving. 4 channels of audio capture the engine and onboard perspectives, with 2 custom stereo mixes provided. Performances include driving slow and fast, with steady RPMs and ramps, starting, stopping, and more.

    The package includes Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, full professional metadata, and metadata import files in 7 languages.

  • A crush on music

    Distortion and saturation play a very important role in music production. From subtle, clean and warm tube or tape saturation to the wildest multiband guitar amp effects: FabFilter Saturn 2 delivers.

    Saturn 2 introduces a host of new features such as a redesigned interface with modulation visualization, new subtle saturation and linear phase processing for mastering, many new distortion styles, and more.


    Warmth, harmonics, color and dynamics

    FabFilter Saturn 2 offers a range of different high quality distortion models, inspired by the vintage sound of tubes, tape, transformers and guitar amps. In addition, you get five creative FX distortion styles to mangle your sounds in weird and unexpected ways.

    With its multiband design and per-band feedback, dynamics, drive, tone and modulation options, Saturn 2 will bring a unique flavor to your music.

    Bring your sounds to life

    Add life and depth to your music using the extensive modulation section. By applying subtle modulation to crossover frequencies, dynamics, band levels or tone controls, great warmth and definition can be achieved.

    With all the XLFOs, EGs, XY controllers/sliders, envelope followers and MIDI sources you will ever need, you get practically unlimited modulation possibilities. Creating new modulation connections could not be easier: just drag and drop. And Saturn 2 visualizes all modulation in real-time to show exactly what’s going on.

    FabFilter goodies

    Finally, FabFilter Saturn 2 contains all the usual FabFilter goodies: perfectly tuned knobs, MIDI Learn, Smart Parameter Interpolation for smooth parameter transitions, interface resizing and full screen mode, support for Avid control surfaces, GPU-powered graphics acceleration, extensive help with interactive help hints, SSE optimization, and much more.

  • Cricket – Junior & Senior is our latest SFX library toolkit, created to cater to cricket specific sounds. We have covered a broad range of specific sounds that differentiate Cricket from other batting sports. Included are sounds for Cricket Gear, Movements, Batting, Bowling, Fielding and Other Miscellaneous sounds.

    17 %
    OFF
    Ends 1590530399
  • An ice hockey game is an exciting, dynamic and powerful sonic experience. From the thunderous crack of a puck hitting the boards at full speed to the gentle scrape of a stick on the ice, this library contains a complete range of the game’s on ice sounds, all captured with natural reverb in an indoor arena.

    Included are a range of performances of skate, stick, puck, and whistle sounds, as well as rink door opens and closes, and various board, glass, and ice impacts.

    The skate sounds include starts, stops, turns, and pass bys, as well as single steps and scrapes for detailed editing and layering. Stick sounds include different kinds of shots, passes, drops and scrapes, and impacts with other sticks, the boards, and the ice. Puck sounds include impacts with the ice, boards, skates, the goal metal and net, and even goalie pads. Rink sounds include the opening and closing of doors, impacts with the boards and glass, and a goal horn. Two different types of whistles were recorded, with varying durations.

    Each sound effect performance was recorded from multiple perspectives – a stereo ORTF pair of Lewitt LCT 540s microphones, a closer wide XY from an Audio Technica BP4025, and a close mono Schoeps CMC6/MK41 – either stationary or following the action on a boom, depending on the type of sound. The ratio of direct to reverberant sound differs between these perspectives, offering a variety of options when editing to picture.

    Also included are quad-channel room tones from two different ice rinks, and a special onboard recording of a puck, made by taping a Sony PCM-M10 to a puck and sliding it across the surface of the ice.

    The actions were performed at a range of speeds and energy levels, with multiple takes for variety. Please refer to the sound list pdf below for details. Captured at a sampling rate of 96kHz, these recordings contain detailed information above 20kHz, expanding the possibilities for manipulation when slowing and pitching them down.

    30 %
    OFF
 
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.