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
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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:  
  • This is a unique bicycle library that captures this characteristic bike in clean, quiet, nicely performed true exterior rides. Including multiple perspectives, speeds and actions. From fast passbys on asphalt to slow onboard recordings and smooth stops.

    The UglyBike is a typical old bicycle that’s working fine, but needs some TLC. It is a bicycle that’s just average, a little rattle a gentle scrape, a bike that everyone has had but got traded in for a newer one. A story of unrequited love.. :)

    Speeds and actions:
    Three speeds. Departures from slow, medium to fast getaways. Arrivals from slow stops with gently squeaking handbrakes to heavy stuttering skids.

    Five perspectives:
    1. Onboard Front: captures the whirring tire and surface sound.
    2. Onboard Pedal: nice overall combination of pedaling, crank creaks, chain rattle, tire and surface sounds.
    3. Onboard Rear: close up sound of the rear axle, with chain, sprocket and switching of gear.
    4. Tracking shot: mono recording of the passby, keeping the bike in focus while passing by.
    5. Static XY shot: stereo recording of the passby that emphasizes speed.

    Overview of perspectives and mic placement:

    Onboard recordings are 2-3 minutes long depending on speed. Higher speeds > shorter duration.
    All 3 onboard mics are edited in sync with one another to make layering easy.
    All Passbys, Arrivals and Departures move from Left to Right.

    Metadata & Markers:
    Because we know how important metadata is for your sound libraries we have created a consistent and intuitive description method. This allows you to find the sound you need easily, whether you work in a database like Soundminer/Basehead/PT Workspace work, or a Exporer/Finder window.

    However, we are aware that some people have different needs for different purposes, so we’ve created a Metadata Reference Guide that explains the structure. And because we’ve automated the metadata proces, you can be confident that a ‘find & replace’ command will always replace all instances.

    Download our Metadata Reference Guide

    Download complete metadata PDF

    If you have any questions about this, contact us!

    Additionally, we added Markers to some wave files, so specific sound events are easy to spot in Soundminer or other database apps.

    Need more?
    The UglyBike library is part of the complete ‘City Bicycles’ library package available at www.frickandtraa.com. It consists of all 4 bicycles and includes additional surfaces and extras ranging from one-off  bicycle passes captured in the city and bounces and rattles. The extra bicycles surfaces and additional effects are also available seperately here on ‘a Sound Effect’. If you’ve bought a single library and want to upgrade to the full package, contact us for a reduced price on the complete City Bicycles library. Every part of City Bicycles that you paid for will get you an extra reduction on the full package.

    Video Thumbnail
    Responses:

    344 AUDIO:City Bicycles has a plethora of content, for a great price. The perfect balance between a great concept, great presentation and outstanding execution, lands them an almost perfect score of 4.9..

    The Audio Spotlight: City Bicycles is worth getting if you are in need of great sounding and well edited bicycle sounds.

    Watch a video created by Zdravko Djordjevic.

    Video Thumbnail

     

    Add to cart
  • Environments Museums & Galleries Play Track 272 sounds included, 800 mins total $100 $80

    This library features a wide range of recordings from various museums and galleries, each differentiated by the nuances of their size and space. All recordings feature pristine echos, walla and movement. The library includes stereo & 5.0 recordings from:

    • War Museums
    • History Museums
    • State Museums
    • Science Museums
    • Art Galleries
    • Photography Galleries
    • State Galleries

    All sounds were recorded using a stereo pair of DPA 4060s, DPA 5100, Sound Devices Mix-Pre 6 and Sound Devices 788T.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1556056800
    Add to cart
  • The American M5 High Speed Tractor includes over 20 gigabytes of recordings of a WWII US military vehicle with a Continental 6572 six-cylinder petrol engine with 207 horsepower. 188 sound fx document a full suite of performances from M5, also known as versions M5A1, M5A2, M5A3 and M5A4.

    The performances include starting, idling, departing, arriving, and passing by from 6 exterior perspectives at slow, medium, and fast speeds. 10 additional perspectives feature motor, interior, exhaust, tracks, and other locations that capture idles, driving, and steady RPMs from onboard the tractor.

    Includes extensive Soundminer metadata.

    Add to cart
  • Cars Volvo 242 DL 1975 Play Track 364 sounds included $249

    The Volvo 242 sound fx collection includes 271 sounds in 13.51 gigabytes of audio. The 242 is a DL 1975 version of the car, also known as models 240, 244, and 245. It features 25 takes of recordings from the Swedish vehicle and its 4-cylinder B20 A, 82 horsepower engine.

    16 synchronized perspectives capture both onboard and exterior performances. Eight onboard perspectives (12 channels, including 4 in AMBEO) recorded driving at steady RPMs, with gearshifts, and ramps using microphones mounted in the engine, interior, and exhaust. Eight other exterior perspectives (18 channels) showcase driving at fast, medium, and slow speeds approaching, departing, and passing by. There are also steadies in neutral, blips, and performed effects, as well as an Altiverb impulse response.

    All clips have 18 fields of Soundminer, BWAV, and MacOS Finder metadata.

    Add to cart
  • Sports Downhill Skiing Play Track 37 sounds included, 13 minutes 08 seconds mins total $35 $30

    Get ready to hit the slopes with this wintery gem of a sound library!

    Taken from many trips up and down the slopes in Upstate New York, this library gives you in your face gliding swishes, crunching carves, turns, stops, passbys from the left and right, falls, jumps, landings, poles poking and scraping the snow, chairlift machine sounds, bindings, and more!

    If you need authentic skiing sounds this library has you covered. Whether you need to create loops and insert carves in a video game or film project or if you need lengthy recordings of full trips from the top of the mountain to the bottom this library will give you it all. Enjoy Downhill Skiing!

    14 %
    OFF
    Ends 1555970400
    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:


 


 
 
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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 - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Foley Body Pack 01: Humanoid Play Track 554+ sounds included $41.67

    The Body Pack 01: Humanoid contains over 80 minutes (554 files) of high quality body falls, impacts & lands on multiple surface types.

    The assets have been designed for use with computer game media that demands high asset variations, however this pack is suited for all forms of audio media.

    The included basic construction kit / original recordings enables further body fall details to be created for more granular focus.

    All assets have been recorded & produced at 96kHz/24bit.
    Included in this pack:

    • Individual Body Fall, Lands and Impacts designed assets
    • Designed assets feature between 2>5 armour types: Chain-mail, Cloth, Leather, No Armour & Segmented
    • Sets of individual body designed assets (3>10 of the individual designed assets in one file)
    • Surface types: Concrete, Grass, Gravel, Leaves, Metal, Pebbles, Rock, Sand, Snow, Undergrowth, Wood & Water
    • Basic construction kits of the original body fall recording with 2 microphone versions (further creation detail can be added with our Armour Pack 01: Humanoid)
    • Bonus content – Surface texture pack: Grass, Leaves, Metal, Pebbles, Sand, Snow & Undergrowth, with various sweetener actions including 2 different mic tracks for each texture listed (excluding metal)
    Add to cart
  • Foley Rings And Tones Play Track 101 sounds included $15

    Rings And Tones is a collection of original ringtone and mobile notification sound effects: from old stationary, office, and mobile phones, to the modern organic and synthetic sounds. The pack includes sounds for every occasion and situation on-screen/in-game: positive, anxious, aggressive, or neutral – everything is designed to fit right in. As a bonus, there is plenty of cellphone interference sounds and various service tones to enhance the final experience further.

    Rings And Tones contains 100+ 24bit/96kHz sounds, all enriched with Soundminer metadata. All sounds are custom-designed, original and royalty-free.

    Add to cart
  • This library makes the walls shake! Massive cannon shots, ancient hand mortars and large saluting guns let you revive the old days of gun battles.

    You're looking for a huge cannon shot to end a sea fight? That big explosion at the end of the movie is missing that one amazing crispy impact sound?

    Use BLACK POWDER and your search is over!

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • This is a unique bicycle library that captures this characteristic bike in clean, quiet, nicely performed true exterior rides. Including multiple perspectives, speeds and actions. From fast passbys on asphalt to slow onboard recordings and smooth stops.

    The UglyBike is a typical old bicycle that’s working fine, but needs some TLC. It is a bicycle that’s just average, a little rattle a gentle scrape, a bike that everyone has had but got traded in for a newer one. A story of unrequited love.. :)

    Speeds and actions:
    Three speeds. Departures from slow, medium to fast getaways. Arrivals from slow stops with gently squeaking handbrakes to heavy stuttering skids.

    Five perspectives:
    1. Onboard Front: captures the whirring tire and surface sound.
    2. Onboard Pedal: nice overall combination of pedaling, crank creaks, chain rattle, tire and surface sounds.
    3. Onboard Rear: close up sound of the rear axle, with chain, sprocket and switching of gear.
    4. Tracking shot: mono recording of the passby, keeping the bike in focus while passing by.
    5. Static XY shot: stereo recording of the passby that emphasizes speed.

    Overview of perspectives and mic placement:

    Onboard recordings are 2-3 minutes long depending on speed. Higher speeds > shorter duration.
    All 3 onboard mics are edited in sync with one another to make layering easy.
    All Passbys, Arrivals and Departures move from Left to Right.

    Metadata & Markers:
    Because we know how important metadata is for your sound libraries we have created a consistent and intuitive description method. This allows you to find the sound you need easily, whether you work in a database like Soundminer/Basehead/PT Workspace work, or a Exporer/Finder window.

    However, we are aware that some people have different needs for different purposes, so we’ve created a Metadata Reference Guide that explains the structure. And because we’ve automated the metadata proces, you can be confident that a ‘find & replace’ command will always replace all instances.

    Download our Metadata Reference Guide

    Download complete metadata PDF

    If you have any questions about this, contact us!

    Additionally, we added Markers to some wave files, so specific sound events are easy to spot in Soundminer or other database apps.

    Need more?
    The UglyBike library is part of the complete ‘City Bicycles’ library package available at www.frickandtraa.com. It consists of all 4 bicycles and includes additional surfaces and extras ranging from one-off  bicycle passes captured in the city and bounces and rattles. The extra bicycles surfaces and additional effects are also available seperately here on ‘a Sound Effect’. If you’ve bought a single library and want to upgrade to the full package, contact us for a reduced price on the complete City Bicycles library. Every part of City Bicycles that you paid for will get you an extra reduction on the full package.

    Video Thumbnail
    Responses:

    344 AUDIO:City Bicycles has a plethora of content, for a great price. The perfect balance between a great concept, great presentation and outstanding execution, lands them an almost perfect score of 4.9..

    The Audio Spotlight: City Bicycles is worth getting if you are in need of great sounding and well edited bicycle sounds.

    Watch a video created by Zdravko Djordjevic.

    Video Thumbnail

     

  • Environments Museums & Galleries Play Track 272 sounds included, 800 mins total $100 $80

    This library features a wide range of recordings from various museums and galleries, each differentiated by the nuances of their size and space. All recordings feature pristine echos, walla and movement. The library includes stereo & 5.0 recordings from:

    • War Museums
    • History Museums
    • State Museums
    • Science Museums
    • Art Galleries
    • Photography Galleries
    • State Galleries

    All sounds were recorded using a stereo pair of DPA 4060s, DPA 5100, Sound Devices Mix-Pre 6 and Sound Devices 788T.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1556056800
  • The American M5 High Speed Tractor includes over 20 gigabytes of recordings of a WWII US military vehicle with a Continental 6572 six-cylinder petrol engine with 207 horsepower. 188 sound fx document a full suite of performances from M5, also known as versions M5A1, M5A2, M5A3 and M5A4.

    The performances include starting, idling, departing, arriving, and passing by from 6 exterior perspectives at slow, medium, and fast speeds. 10 additional perspectives feature motor, interior, exhaust, tracks, and other locations that capture idles, driving, and steady RPMs from onboard the tractor.

    Includes extensive Soundminer metadata.

  • Cars Volvo 242 DL 1975 Play Track 364 sounds included $249

    The Volvo 242 sound fx collection includes 271 sounds in 13.51 gigabytes of audio. The 242 is a DL 1975 version of the car, also known as models 240, 244, and 245. It features 25 takes of recordings from the Swedish vehicle and its 4-cylinder B20 A, 82 horsepower engine.

    16 synchronized perspectives capture both onboard and exterior performances. Eight onboard perspectives (12 channels, including 4 in AMBEO) recorded driving at steady RPMs, with gearshifts, and ramps using microphones mounted in the engine, interior, and exhaust. Eight other exterior perspectives (18 channels) showcase driving at fast, medium, and slow speeds approaching, departing, and passing by. There are also steadies in neutral, blips, and performed effects, as well as an Altiverb impulse response.

    All clips have 18 fields of Soundminer, BWAV, and MacOS Finder metadata.

  • Sports Downhill Skiing Play Track 37 sounds included, 13 minutes 08 seconds mins total $35 $30

    Get ready to hit the slopes with this wintery gem of a sound library!

    Taken from many trips up and down the slopes in Upstate New York, this library gives you in your face gliding swishes, crunching carves, turns, stops, passbys from the left and right, falls, jumps, landings, poles poking and scraping the snow, chairlift machine sounds, bindings, and more!

    If you need authentic skiing sounds this library has you covered. Whether you need to create loops and insert carves in a video game or film project or if you need lengthy recordings of full trips from the top of the mountain to the bottom this library will give you it all. Enjoy Downhill Skiing!

    14 %
    OFF
    Ends 1555970400
 
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