Asbjoern Andersen

The following is a guest blog post by Jason Cushing, senior sound designer and co-founder of Soundmorph:


As sound designers we bring life to worlds that would otherwise be without an audible character, stuck in the silent void of space.

We add information such as location, time of day, mood, and most importantly the emotional state of a moment. The slightest change in sound can vastly alter how a moment is perceived emotionally by an audience, so to me, it is one of the most important things to remember when designing sound.

Sound tells a story, and the emotion you set with sound supports that story.

The feet of a drunk man don’t sound the same as one who is sober. The raw high tech power of a race car has to be felt, sometimes with more than just a car recording. A dark tense moment in a horror film needs to build stress, anticipation, and fear. The choices made during these moments define the emotion and character of a moment, and draw an audience into that world.

I recently had to create around 40 gun sounds for a game I was working on, and at first I was quite overwhelmed with how I was going to not only a create unique sound and character for each weapon, but also how I was going to create an emotion for the player every time they fired a different weapon. I started by asking myself a set of questions.
What type of Gun is it? Is it a realistic gun or a surreal gun? Is it old and clunky, or is it modern and tight? Does it have loose parts or is it a high tech tight firing weapon? Does it have more low end or does it have a crisp tight shot?

Most importantly, every time I fire it, does it make me feel empowered and happy? Answering these questions throughout the process really helped me finalize each gun sound.

A few quotes from masters of sound design have stuck with me in my career as a sound designer, and this one resonates well:

“…The most important thing you can do as a sound designer is to make the right choice for the right sound at the right moment…” – Ben Burtt

Sounds simple enough?

Well, yes, sometimes.

But if it were really that simple, then Joe Blow or Sally Simple off the street could easily do sound design. It’s supposed to be a challenge!

Choosing the right sound at the right moment is what defines the character and emotion of that moment. It’s also what separates a professional from an amateur. It takes time and it takes patience. The reward is creating something that one can truly take pride in. If you don’t love the feeling your sound creates, chances are, others won’t either. Which incidentally leads me to a quote from another master of sound design:

“The most important skill for any sound designer to have is will-power. Never give up.” –Charles Deenen

Even the most seasoned masters of sound design don’t always know how they are going to achieve the sound that they want for a moment.

They experiment, they re-work it, they don’t stop until they have accomplished what they feel is the perfect emotional state of that moment. They have passion!

Ben Burtt took a year to develop the iconic sound for the voice of Wall-e, and struggled with creating the iconic voice of R2D2 from Star Wars. He never gave up, and to this day they are some of the characters that he says he is still the most proud of.

It isn’t easy, it takes practice, discipline, and reflection. I find that instilling these values into my own work stops me from becoming too frustrated when something isn’t working, and in the end leads to a true enjoyment of shaping emotional states through my sound work.

I hope that this quick write up on thinking about the emotion you are creating with your sound design will help you reflect when you craft your sounds, and will help your own emotional state while working.

Have fun creating and experimenting – it’s what life as a sound designer is all about!


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About Jason Cushing:

After graduating from the Art Institute of Vancouver in 2001, Jason went on to work at animation studios in New York City as a sound effects and dialog editor, later working exclusively in sound design for film and television. Jason then established himself in the video games industry, beginning as a lead dialog editor on Skate 2 for Electronic Arts, and later as a sound designer with EA’s BioWare for the award-winning Mass Effect 2. He currently resides in Montreal, Canada and continues to work as a senior sound designer for games, films and SoundMorph.

Selected SoundMorph libraries:

  • Welcome to SoundMorph’s Future Weapons soundpack, one of the most advanced weapon sound effects libraries ever created.

    Inspired by some of the latest modern sci-fi films, Future Weapons takes high tech weaponry to whole other universes.

    Divided into two factions ‘Alliance’ and ‘Resistance’, Future Weapons sound effects create sonic signatures for both good and evil forces.

    Providing excellent designed sounds and source to get you started on crafting your own advanced arsenal, Future Weapons is a must have for the twenty-first century sound designer!

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    Ends 1722376800
  • The Users of Tomorrow library is the next level of futuristic and high-tech interface sounds, containing 2.2GB and more than 1,800 sounds designed to be used as final assets or layers.

    Users of Tomorrow features more than 2.2GB of 1,800 24bit/96khz files, all embedded with Soundminer metadata.

    Users of Tomorrow gets you:

    • Confirms
    • Calculations and text
    • Drones
    • Environment loops
    • Holograms
    • Glitch
    • Liquid interfaces
    • Beeps
    • Buttons
    • Static and noise
    • Alarms
    • Interface expansions and compressions



    Users of Tomorrow also includes the unique Galactic Assistant Synthesizer Tool to design your own hi-tech interface sounds – it works in stand-alone mode, as well as with Reaktor and Max4Live.
    20 %
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  • This SFX library is a complete collection of everything ENERGY, covering Electricity, Power Ups, Shockwaves, Sparks, Force Fields, Zaps, Loops, and plenty more.

    ENERGY is created in collaboration with talented French sound design duo Frederic Devanlay and Cedric Denooz, and features more than 625+ sounds and 6.4GB of 24bit/96khz .WAV files, all meticulously embedded with Soundminer & Basehead metadata.

    Sounds include:

    • Energy Loops (start, loop, end)
    • Neutrons and Particles
    • Electricity sparks, zaps, impacts
    • Energy Weapons / Special Powers
    • Whoosh and Passbys
    • Energy Foley
    • Ambiences
    • Hums and Buzzes
    • Lightning Elements
    • Power Ups and Power Downs
    • Source Tool Box – Create your own sounds from scratch!

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  • Mechanical Sound Effects Mechanism Play Track 769+ sounds included $79.20

    Get the sounds of mechanisms, Steampunk inspired gears, contraptions, metal and servos with the Mechanism sound effects library.

    Mechanism was created in collaboration with Sweet Justice Sound, Richard Devine, and SoundMorph, and we put great effort into ensuring the quality and usefulness of this unique collection. Half designed and half source recordings, Mechanism gives you a toolbox to be inspired by.

    It features more than 300 files – and right now you get a bonus 400 best-of-sounds from our Robotic Lifeforms library, for a total of 2.8GB of 24bit/96khz .WAV files.

    Mechanism highlights:

    • Mechanical Gears
    • Designed contraptions
    • Steampunk rusty doors and levers
    • Source recorded by Richard Devine
    • All meticulously embedded with Soundminer & Basehead metadata
    + 400 “best of” sounds from our Robotic Lifeforms library

    20 %
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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:
Explore the full, unique collection here

2 thoughts on “Sound Design Guide: Emotional States & Sound Design

  1. Pingback: General | Pearltrees
  2. I hate it that sometimes, I just can’t take the time of founding the exact right sound/emotion for something. You know, it’s like: it works, but it could work so much better… I actually do think anyone could be a sound designer. What defines the pro is his fastness for decision making and how quick he works it out with the tools. Anyone can achieve great results, but the great guys are the fastest. And the most accurate. Damn, I love that challenge!

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