sound particles sound effects tool Asbjoern Andersen


How do you create the sound of, say, a battlefield with 10.000 sounds? One clever way could be to use Sound Particles: It's a fascinating tool to craft sonic scenes of epic proportions with ease, created by Nuno Fonseca. But just how does it work, what's the story behind it - and why is it so groundbreaking? We asked Nuno Fonseca to share the story:
Written by Nuno Fonseca
Please share:

Some of you have probably already have heard of Sound Particles, a strange 3D audio software that is being used a lot on epic Hollywood movies (full list here). But what is Sound Particles?

Sound Particles

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use particle systems with sound? Creating thousands of small sounds that together create the illusion of something great

12 years ago, I realized that the most interesting visual effects I was seeing in movies were using particle systems – a well-known CGI technique where thousands (or even millions) of small points create the illusion of fire, dust, smoke, fairy dust, desert storms, etc. And I thought “wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same thing with sound? Creating thousands of small sounds that together create the illusion of something great”. But that was just an idea, like so many other we have in our lives, and time went by. In 2012, I had finished my PhD and since no one was using particle systems for audio, as a computer nerd that I am (this face doesn’t fool anyone!), I decided to create my own particle system software for audio, and that was the beginning of Sound Particles…

To those who don’t want to read the entire article to know what Sound Particles is able to do, let us see a small example – Imagine that you want to create the sound of a battlefield: You open your DAW, and then you start adding sounds – an explosion here, another explosion over there, some impacts, some screams, guns, etc. Probably, after several hours you may end-up with 50 sounds playing at the same time.

With Sound Particles you can say: give me 10 000 particles (sound sources) spread over 1 square mile, go to your sound library and pick up 200 war-related sounds (each particle will randomly reproduce one of those files), add some random movements and random audio effects, and render the result in 7.1 – everything in a few minutes.

A battlefield with 10 000 sounds…

 

Particle Systems

Particle Systems is a technique widely used in Visual Effects (VFX) and Computer Graphics (CGI) that was originally created by William Reeves, at Lucasfilm, for “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (yes! Lucasfilm also works for other movies besides Star Wars). And since then, this technique is used every time you see CGI fire, rain, smoke, dust.

A particle system will create and manage every single particle, having only a few parameters for the user to control the desired effect

Instead of having an animator to animate each rain drop or each grain of smoke or dust, a software component (particle system) will create and manage every single particle, having only a few parameters for the user to control the desired effect.
 

This approach has 3 big advantages:

Productivity – the animator doesn’t need to worry about every single element. By controlling the parameters of the system, you can control everything, independently of having 100 particles or 100 000 particles.

Scale – Even if you had a big animation team, you were still limited to the amount of things that you can animate manually (for instance, there is a scene on the last “Hunger Games” movie with 250 million particles).

Organic results – even if you have the time to animate all elements of the scene (e.g. rain), you will probably not end-up with a good final result – the animator will animate a few rain drops, and then duplicate or copy/paste them, and the final result will lack something… some true randomness.

A typical use of particle system in visual effects (VFX)

 

So what does it sound like?

Here are some examples created by Sound Particle users:


 

Sound Particles

Sound Particles is a 3D CGI-like standalone software for audio post production – imagine Maya or Blender, but for sound – you start with an empty space; instead of 3D models, you position sounds on the 3D space; and instead of virtual cameras, you use virtual microphones that capture the overall sound of things. For instance, in the following image, each point represents a particle (a sound source) and the arrows represent a 5.1 microphone (which can also be animated, moving thru the scene).

Sound sources and virtual microphones

 

The virtual microphone concept also makes the system agnostic in terms of output

You will always need at least one sound source (to have some sound) and at least one virtual microphone (to be able to capture the sound of the scene). Actually, the concept of the virtual microphone is quite interesting – not only you are able to get the distance attenuation, propagation delays, and Doppler, but this concept also makes the system agnostic in terms of output. You can simply change the mic format, and everything is re-render for the new format.

Particles Group

When you use a particle group, there are several things that you can do…

Number of particles – how many sound sources do you want to use? 20? 10000?

Original Sound Files – which audio files do you want to feed the particles? If you import a single audio file, all thhe particles will play exactly the same. If you import several files (10, 500, …), each particle will randomly select one of the available audio files, and reproduce the file from start to finish.

Position – Where do you want to create the particles? Inside a box, on a circle line, on the surface of a sphere? For instance, if you want to recreate a stadium, probably the shape of a stadium could be a good starting point.

Movement – Sometimes you want particles to stay still, but sometimes you want particles (sounds) to move around (rotating around, moving left-to-right, random directions, random velocities, etc.).

Audio Modifiers – If you have 100 particles and you import only 5 files, then each audio file will be reproduced by more than one particle, which is not a bad thing, but it could be even better if we could create variations of the original files, to get diversity. That is the goal of audio modifiers, random audio effects that slightly change the sound of each particle. This could be simple things like random gains (some particles play louder, others softer), random delays (some particles start playing later on), random filters (random EQ in each particle), random pitch-shifter, or even granular synthesis (instead of reproducing the entire audio file, each particle only reproduces a small random time slot of the audio).

Besides particle groups, you can also use a particle emitter, an object that creates particles at a constant rate (e.g. creating 20 particles per second, during 30 seconds).

To recreate a stadium: 10 000 particles spread over the surface of a cylinder, with a virtual microphone (Dolby Atmos 9.1 bed) slightly off center.

 

 

Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

Latest releases:  
  • Fire Medieval Play Track 605 sounds included $59

    The Dark Ages are calling! With this curated package full of high-quality sound effects everything in your medieval world is brought to life. From objects like doors, chests and fire over foley sounds like steps, chains and gore to weapons such as the crossbow, sword, hammer and axe. This compilation provides a solid foundation of „ready to use“ sound effects to give your project an authentic medieval feeling.

     

    The Library includes:
    Horse, Textile, Impact, Whoosh, Armor, Chain, Gore, Step, Chest, Door, Drawbridge, Fire, Gate, Mechanical, Flag, Portcullis, Carriage, Axe, Blade, Bow, Catapult, Crossbow, Hammer, Knife, Quarterstaff, Sickle, Sword

    Add to cart
  • Vehicles Classic Vehicles Play Track 40+ sounds included $20 $15

    Classic vehicles is a jam packed high-quality classic vehicle sound library filled with fantastic engine starts, engine revs, engine idles, door opening/closing, kick starts and much much more! Recorded at 24 bit/192 kHz you'll be able to pitch/bend these sounds to your hearts desire to create some truly monstrous sounds! The vehicles in this library are: a custom 1930 Ford Model A with a V8 flathead engine & a 1967 Triumph Bonneville. Let this pack be a small but powerful addition to your sound FX library.

    25 %
    OFF
    Ends 1562018400
    Add to cart
  • Designed in Imperial Russia, spread around the world, this is the rifle of Zaitsev and millions of other Soviets and non-Soviets alike, sounding off through the bloodier moments of the 20th century, and sometimes this century too.

    Shooting was recorded at the outdoor range, with additional handling foley taken at the studio. The all-angle library includes the recording of distant shots on Sennheiser Ambeo, and on Neumann U87s in quadro formation. Our mic-ing and capturing process has been intricate enough to give you all the sound versatility you'll need for use in a fully dynamic project, and also for the ability for these sounds to pass for not just authentic Mosin fire, but also for a generic bolt-action internal magazine-fed 'old rifle' sound.

    Also included are several pre-designed mixed sounds for quick-use without additional mixing needed. Our comprehensive library of this WW1, WW2, and freedom fighting classic weapon stands ready to fire!

    Add to cart
  • Fabric Party Pack Play Track 210 - 2000 sounds included From: $15 From: $13.50

    An extensive collection of party-related sounds, “Party Pack” brings you 96kHz/24-bit stereo recordings of balloons, party horns, matches, sparklers, party poppers, confetti, various toys and more!

    The library is available as 4 individual packs of related sounds (Balloons, Fire, Horns and Toys). So if you are only after balloon sounds, then you can grab only the balloon sounds! Of course, all 4 packs can be picked up together as a heavily discounted bundle!

    Read more about each pack below:

    Note: The sounds in the audio sample have some panning added; the sounds in the library itself are centered.

    Party Pack – BUNDLE (2,000 sounds, 1.98 GB)
    This pack contains all 4 of the individual packs below at a heavily discounted price:

    Party Pack – BALLOONS (649 sounds, 716 MB)
    Party Pack – FIRE (210 sounds, 424 MB)
    Party Pack – HORNS (662 sounds, 573 MB)
    Party Pack – TOYS (479 sounds, 323 MB)

    For a grand total of 2,000 party sounds!

    Party Pack – BALLOONS (649 sounds, 716 MB)
    This pack brings you 649 balloon-related sounds, including the sounds of:

    • Air Pump (Manual)
    • Bouncing (Single and Multi)
    • Deflating (Regular, Squeaking, Farting, and Loose)
    • Friction (Hair, Hands, and other Balloons)
    • Inflating (Mouth and Air Pump)
    • Popping
    • Punching Balloons
    • Stretching
    • Tying (Short, Moderate and Long)

    Party Pack – FIRE (210 sounds, 424 MB)
    This pack brings you 210 fire-related sounds, including the sounds of:

    • Matches
    •• Extinguishing (Blowout, Burnout, Shaking, Water)
    •• Igniting (Close and Distant)
    • Party Poppers
    • Safety Gas Lighter
    • Sparklers (Still, Movement and Water Extinguishing)

    Party Pack – HORNS (662 sounds, 573 MB)
    This pack brings you 662 classic party horn sounds from over 20 different horns, covering numerous durations:

    • Very Short (under 1s)
    • Short (1 – 2s)
    • Moderate (2 – 3s)
    • Long (3 – 5s)
    • Very Long (over 5s)

    Party Pack – TOYS (479 sounds, 323 MB)
    This pack brings you 479 toy-related sounds, including the sounds of:

    • Chattering Teeth
    • Confetti – Plastic (Single and Multi drops, Movement, and Picking Up)
    • Duck Whistle
    • Groan Tubes
    • Hand Clapper
    • Lip Whizzer
    • Oidz Magnet
    • Pig Toy
    • Plastic Whistle
    • Shell Shaker
    • Wooden Train Whistle

    10 %
    OFF
    Ends 1561845600
  • Foley Switch Play Track 124 sounds included $20 $12

    124 recordings of various switches and buttons, flipped, pressed and clicked. This collection contains household light and lamp switches, radio buttons and a variety of other activate and click presses.

    Recorded in 2018 and 2019 with a stereo shotgun microphone.

    All sounds were recorded and edited at 24-bit / 96Khz resolution and mastered to broadcast quality, with only the best final sounds selected for this collection. Each audio file includes embedded meta-data.

    40 %
    OFF
    Ends 1561500000
    Add to cart

Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

Microphones

Regarding virtual microphones, you can select the traditional mono (omni, cardioid, fig-of-eight), stereo pairs (XY, MS, ORTF, Decca Tree), Ambisonics (up to 6th order), multichannel (5.1, 7.1, Dolby Atmos 9.1 bed, 11.1/13.1, 12.0), or even create your own custom configuration. For instance, last year, there was a play in NYC, with actor Ed Harris, where rain had a significant role, and they used Sound Particles with a custom 20 channel virtual microphone, where each channel corresponded to the exact position of the 20 speakers of the theatre, allowing a perfect 3D reproduction of the virtual scene. And even if they wanted to replicate that in a different room, with a completely different speaker layout, they would only need to change the mic settings and re-render everything again.

a few multichannel microphones you can use…

 

Other applications

Although most people use Sound Particles with its particle systems features, you can actually use it with single individual sounds. For instance, many people love its Doppler.

Also, a lot of people are using it for VR, due to the ability to import videos (including 360º videos) and actually position and animate sounds on top of the image, by simply dragging the position of the sound with the sound (Sound Particles was probably the first software to allow this). And, you can even use key-frame animation (automation) to animate everything.

Positioning sounds and animating them on a 360 video.

 

Epic, but detailed

When you think on the concept of using thousands of sounds, most of you would automatically think “that will be a big noise-like mess, right?”. Well, it depends… Most of the time, you want both that sense of many things happening, but you also want sound detail. Imagine that battlefield scene…

Most of the time, you want both that sense of many things happening, but you also want sound detail

On a true battlefield, you will have thousands of sounds (1000 soldiers, each one doing several sounds with their weapons, boots, talking, impacts, etc.). But if you play 200 war-related sounds on your DAW, you will have a very bad experience – a noise-like experience. So, what is the difference? Well, on the battlefield, 99% of those thousands sounds will be highly attenuated, since they are happening at a distance. And then you have only some few sounds actually happening close to you – thousands of attenuated sounds to give the sense of epic scale, and a few sounds close to you to give you detail.

The same happens with Sound Particles. If you create 100 particles positioned on a circle around you, by default, all sounds will have the same amplitude, and probably will end up with a big noise-like sound (sometimes, you want noise-like sounds). But if you use a rectangle (spreading sounds over a rectangle with 1-mile length), you get the same natural behaviour that you get from the actual field. Even with 10 000 particles there, doesn’t matter where you place the microphone, you will always have only a few particles near the microphone.

Even with 10 000 particles spread over a square mile (left image), if you zoom in, you noticed that only a few sounds are actually near the microphone (right image).

 

In conclusion

The most interesting thing about creating Sound Particles is that when people start to understand its concept, their imagination starts to sparkle with ideas (“what would be the sound if I …”).

For me, the current version is only the starting point (I confess I have a list of 200 additional features I want to add in the future, but days only have 24 hours). And if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to email us… really!

PS – The software is free for schools, teachers and students
 

A big thanks to Nuno Fonseca for this in depth introduction to Sound Particles! Find out more about it 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:
 
 
  • Foley Switch Play Track 124 sounds included $20 $12

    124 recordings of various switches and buttons, flipped, pressed and clicked. This collection contains household light and lamp switches, radio buttons and a variety of other activate and click presses.

    Recorded in 2018 and 2019 with a stereo shotgun microphone.

    All sounds were recorded and edited at 24-bit / 96Khz resolution and mastered to broadcast quality, with only the best final sounds selected for this collection. Each audio file includes embedded meta-data.

    40 %
    OFF
    Ends 1561500000
    Add to cart
  • The Gun Shell sound effects library features a comprehensive collection of sounds made with empty gun shell casings. Including 12 different shell types, 7 surfaces, and a huge amount of takes (3600+ files in total), this library is more than just a collection of falling shell sounds. It includes shells colliding with each other, rolling, bouncing, being picked up, and more.

    These expressive little sounds can add the essential detail in your project, or you can use them creatively to craft totally new sound effects layers for weapons or item/coin pick up. Ammo box handling foley and bullet belt link sounds are also included.

    Included calibers / shell types: 

    7.62×39mm • 7.62×54mmR • 9mm • .22LR • .30-06 • .38 SPL • .44 MAG • .45 ACP • .223 REM • .308 WIN • 12-gauge Shotgun Paper Shell • 12-gauge Shotgun Plastic Shell


    Included surfaces: 

    Concrete floor • Wooden floor • Carpet floor • Rumbling metal • Hard metal • Gravel • Dirt

    Recorded in a quiet studio environment in 96 kHz / 24 bit, these well-edited and meta-tagged sound clips make it easy to add the perfect gun shell sounds in your projects. In addition to a massive amount of variations of shells falling on different surfaces, the sounds are useful for sweetening bullet impacts, creating collect/pick up sound assets, and pitch-shifting them to create totally new sci-fi weapons.

    An informative PDF spec sheet is included with a lot of details about the shells. There you can easily find example firearms using the specific cartridge to accurately match the correct shell sounds with the guns in your projects.

    Two variations included:

    The library comes in two versions: One with multiple takes in a single audio clip, the other has a new audio clip for each shell drop. Both versions are included with this library.

    Add to cart
  • Need real snake sounds? This compact, hand-picked pack delivers recordings of actual snakes hissing, inhaling and exhaling, shaking, rattling – and striking. Features snakes such as Boa, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Mexican Rattler, African Puff Adder, and Gopher Snake.

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Fire Medieval Play Track 605 sounds included $59

    The Dark Ages are calling! With this curated package full of high-quality sound effects everything in your medieval world is brought to life. From objects like doors, chests and fire over foley sounds like steps, chains and gore to weapons such as the crossbow, sword, hammer and axe. This compilation provides a solid foundation of „ready to use“ sound effects to give your project an authentic medieval feeling.

     

    The Library includes:
    Horse, Textile, Impact, Whoosh, Armor, Chain, Gore, Step, Chest, Door, Drawbridge, Fire, Gate, Mechanical, Flag, Portcullis, Carriage, Axe, Blade, Bow, Catapult, Crossbow, Hammer, Knife, Quarterstaff, Sickle, Sword

  • Vehicles Classic Vehicles Play Track 40+ sounds included $20 $15

    Classic vehicles is a jam packed high-quality classic vehicle sound library filled with fantastic engine starts, engine revs, engine idles, door opening/closing, kick starts and much much more! Recorded at 24 bit/192 kHz you'll be able to pitch/bend these sounds to your hearts desire to create some truly monstrous sounds! The vehicles in this library are: a custom 1930 Ford Model A with a V8 flathead engine & a 1967 Triumph Bonneville. Let this pack be a small but powerful addition to your sound FX library.

    25 %
    OFF
    Ends 1562018400
  • Designed in Imperial Russia, spread around the world, this is the rifle of Zaitsev and millions of other Soviets and non-Soviets alike, sounding off through the bloodier moments of the 20th century, and sometimes this century too.

    Shooting was recorded at the outdoor range, with additional handling foley taken at the studio. The all-angle library includes the recording of distant shots on Sennheiser Ambeo, and on Neumann U87s in quadro formation. Our mic-ing and capturing process has been intricate enough to give you all the sound versatility you'll need for use in a fully dynamic project, and also for the ability for these sounds to pass for not just authentic Mosin fire, but also for a generic bolt-action internal magazine-fed 'old rifle' sound.

    Also included are several pre-designed mixed sounds for quick-use without additional mixing needed. Our comprehensive library of this WW1, WW2, and freedom fighting classic weapon stands ready to fire!

  • Fabric Party Pack Play Track 210 - 2000 sounds included From: $15 From: $13.50

    An extensive collection of party-related sounds, “Party Pack” brings you 96kHz/24-bit stereo recordings of balloons, party horns, matches, sparklers, party poppers, confetti, various toys and more!

    The library is available as 4 individual packs of related sounds (Balloons, Fire, Horns and Toys). So if you are only after balloon sounds, then you can grab only the balloon sounds! Of course, all 4 packs can be picked up together as a heavily discounted bundle!

    Read more about each pack below:

    Note: The sounds in the audio sample have some panning added; the sounds in the library itself are centered.

    Party Pack – BUNDLE (2,000 sounds, 1.98 GB)
    This pack contains all 4 of the individual packs below at a heavily discounted price:

    Party Pack – BALLOONS (649 sounds, 716 MB)
    Party Pack – FIRE (210 sounds, 424 MB)
    Party Pack – HORNS (662 sounds, 573 MB)
    Party Pack – TOYS (479 sounds, 323 MB)

    For a grand total of 2,000 party sounds!

    Party Pack – BALLOONS (649 sounds, 716 MB)
    This pack brings you 649 balloon-related sounds, including the sounds of:

    • Air Pump (Manual)
    • Bouncing (Single and Multi)
    • Deflating (Regular, Squeaking, Farting, and Loose)
    • Friction (Hair, Hands, and other Balloons)
    • Inflating (Mouth and Air Pump)
    • Popping
    • Punching Balloons
    • Stretching
    • Tying (Short, Moderate and Long)

    Party Pack – FIRE (210 sounds, 424 MB)
    This pack brings you 210 fire-related sounds, including the sounds of:

    • Matches
    •• Extinguishing (Blowout, Burnout, Shaking, Water)
    •• Igniting (Close and Distant)
    • Party Poppers
    • Safety Gas Lighter
    • Sparklers (Still, Movement and Water Extinguishing)

    Party Pack – HORNS (662 sounds, 573 MB)
    This pack brings you 662 classic party horn sounds from over 20 different horns, covering numerous durations:

    • Very Short (under 1s)
    • Short (1 – 2s)
    • Moderate (2 – 3s)
    • Long (3 – 5s)
    • Very Long (over 5s)

    Party Pack – TOYS (479 sounds, 323 MB)
    This pack brings you 479 toy-related sounds, including the sounds of:

    • Chattering Teeth
    • Confetti – Plastic (Single and Multi drops, Movement, and Picking Up)
    • Duck Whistle
    • Groan Tubes
    • Hand Clapper
    • Lip Whizzer
    • Oidz Magnet
    • Pig Toy
    • Plastic Whistle
    • Shell Shaker
    • Wooden Train Whistle

    10 %
    OFF
    Ends 1561845600
  • Foley Switch Play Track 124 sounds included $20 $12

    124 recordings of various switches and buttons, flipped, pressed and clicked. This collection contains household light and lamp switches, radio buttons and a variety of other activate and click presses.

    Recorded in 2018 and 2019 with a stereo shotgun microphone.

    All sounds were recorded and edited at 24-bit / 96Khz resolution and mastered to broadcast quality, with only the best final sounds selected for this collection. Each audio file includes embedded meta-data.

    40 %
    OFF
    Ends 1561500000
 
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.