Asbjoern Andersen


What does a superhero sound like? That was what Empty Sea Audio’s Mark Camperell had to decide when designing the sound for hit series ‘The Flash’.

‘The Flash’ is a spin-off from popular superhero series ‘Arrow’, and it’s been a runaway hit on The CW network, making it their most popular show ever. Season two premieres this Tuesday at 8pm/7pmC on The CW, and I got the chance to get the story behind the sound for the show:

Here’s sound designer Mark Camperell, on superhero sound effects, excitement, workflows – and how you strike that delicate balance between high-impact vs too much in sound design:

 

I was hired by the good folks at Atomic Sound Post Production to edit and design the sound effects for The Flash. I had previously worked with Atomic Sound on Almost Human so they were familiar with my work. The show’s sound supervisor, Michael Mullane has been kind enough to let me, more or less, have free reign on the sound effects and sound design. It’s always great to have ownership of something! (Aside, I don’t cut the BGs on the show. Sebastian Sheehan Visconti, another one of the team members at Atomic Sound, expertly cuts the BGs. I’m just on the hard sound effects and sound design. It’s a big show)
 

What does a superhero sound like?

BOOM! ZOOM! BAM! CRAAAK! BOP! CRASH! POW! THWACK! We’ve no doubt all seen these in countless comic books (and Adam West era Batman episodes) over the years. “The formation of a word… …by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent” is onomatopoeia, according to Dictionary.com. The challenge of sound design and sound editorial for superhero shows is to give the onomatopoeia of comic books a voice in a manner that is organic, iconic, signature, and consistent with the feeling of the book. All in real acoustic space mind you. The signature nature and iconic qualities have been my focus on The Flash from day one. These also prove to be the most challenging sounds to get right because they are so subjective. Every comic book fan could have a different idea of what “THWACK!” sounds like. Thankfully though, the more challenging a sound is, the more fun I get to have. I feel pretty lucky to work on a show that challenges me in this way every week.

Excitement is the key goal for the sound of The Flash. Everything I’m doing on the show is to excite the viewer and to add to the overall storytelling experience. There are superpowers, special weapons and gadgets, natural disasters, creatures, futuristic vehicles and plenty of other craziness to contend with. There are also good and evil variants of these categories and thus the sounds need to be consistent with a viewer’s already preconceived notion of this classic dichotomy.

Excitement is the key goal for the sound of The Flash. Everything I’m doing on the show is to excite the viewer and to add to the overall storytelling experience.

Finally, I’m trying to make sure that everything is properly covered. I don’t go to the mix stage, so I end up having to over cut stuff in case the client wants an alternate take on something or they might want to hear something that I might not have considered the focus of the scene. There isn’t a lot of time for back and forth, so we have to make sure absolutely everything is covered.
 

Sound workflow on The Flash

This is how I work: I’m not suggesting that this is for everybody, but for me it has managed to be a good strategy.
When we receive an episode from the picture department, the first thing I do is drop markers in Pro Tools for just about everything I see. I’m not dropping markers for every gunshot in a gunfight, but I am marking those sections. VFX dependent shots are marked as such and the marker isn’t deleted when I’ve cut this so that I don’t have to search the timeline for them. Again, time is at a premium so we don’t want to miss anything. Dropping the markers gives me a visual list of how deep an episode is sonically. Additionally, it helps me to figure out exactly how much I need to get through each day. After I’ve dropped in my own markers, I’ll drop markers for the stuff that the supervisor and clients have noted as needing coverage.

After the markers have been dropped in, I start cutting sound effects in. This is where things might be really unusual

A big episode will have well over 500 markers dropped. A lighter episode will have 350-400 dropped. And this isn’t even taking BGs into account.

After the markers have been dropped in, I start cutting sound effects in. This is where things might be really unusual. I have a master sessions built with all of the episodes from each season. There are a lot of repeated sound effects throughout the series that need to maintain continuity so these things need to be moved over and dropped in. For the stuff that is continuity based, its like a really big conform. The sync won’t be exactly the same, but it’s a start. This way too, the SFX mixer (Ethan Beigel) is getting the material in the similar way every week. Avoiding surprises for mixers will keep them happy and hopefully make their process run smoothly.

Once the continuity type things get cut in, (screens, Flash powers, weapons and gadgets) I move on to the new material for the episode. We only get about a week on each episode so the first couple of days are spent doing the continuity items. After that, I try to leave myself an entire day for the material that is new and unique to the episode. Usually each episode is dealing with at least one new super power, vehicle, disaster, or some new and unique piece of technology. I’m trying to build these new items from scratch as much as I can and giving an entire day to these things helps me to focus on them.

Finally, the VFX shots start trickling in and I go back and check my sync on these shots and adjust the sound accordingly as the final concept can be drastically different than the pre-vis and temp VFX, both in look and in detail.Usually what I end up doing is re-syncing stuff and adding detail to the shots.
 

Mark Camperell and the independent sound effects community:

Some of you may know Mark Camperell from The Library by Empty Sea, a great collection of independent sound effects libraries. He’s been involved with the independent SFX community for many years, and has also written this guide on how to get started creating your own indie SFX libraries. Here are some of the libraries from The Library by Empty Sea:
 
  • Drones & Moods Dronos Play Track 154 sounds included, 154 mins total $30 incl. vat

    Brand New Sci-Fi Ambiences from The Library by Empty Sea. 6+ GB, 150+ sounds, almost 3 hours of material, all 96k, all looped for easy use.

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  • Foley Gateway – Part 1, 2 & 3 Play Track 600-3200+ sounds included From: $30

    Tired of those same old door knobs and hinge squeaks that you hear in every single game, film and TV show? Well, Gateway aims to remedy that issue while providing you with a brand new palette of sounds.

    Gateway comes packed with doors, doors and more doors! Low end, high end, slow horror creaks and squeaks, huge slams and impacts, tiny compartment doors.

    The Gateway family now includes the just-released Gateway Part 3, with more than 1400 new sounds.

    Doors, gates, overhead rollups, cabinets, closets, drawers, garage doors, fireplaces, sheds, you name it!

    Latches and knobs, wrought iron and chain link! Metal, wood, glass and MORE! All of these doors were acoustically captured in the real world. You won’t find anything synthesized here!

    Did we mention doors? Yeah, Gateway has those too.

    Gateway Part 1 features 675 files, 1200+ sounds

    Gateway Part 2 features 365 files, 600+ sounds

    Gateway Part 3 features 772 files, 1400+ sounds

    The Gateway 1-3 Bundle features 1812 files, 3200+ sounds

    Special offer:Do you already have Gateway Part 1 or 2? Send a message here for a special upgrade offer for part 3.

    Choose your preferred version below – or land some great savings by getting all three in one handy package!

  • Mechanical Robobiotics Play Track 3600+ sounds included $144 incl. vat

    Robobiotics is an exciting new sound effects collection from The Library by Empty Sea. It delivers 3600+ original sound effects for scifi and robots. We’re talking about almost 3 hours of material here.

    We spent over a year recording and designing Lasers, Robot Vox, Impacts, Servos, Ratcheting Metal, Ambiances, Transformations, Foley, Vehicle Bys and much much more!

    Add to cart
  • User Interface (UI) Ui One Play Track 1400 sounds included $42 incl. vat

    This collection contains over 1400 original sound effects for user interfaces, telemetry, gadgetry and more.

    Add to cart
 

Designing the sound of speed

The Flash is all about speed. In season 1, Barry was discovering his abilities and learning to push them to the limit. He is really, really fast. Sometimes he’s only on screen for a few frames as he motors by. Sometimes he’s on screen for 20 seconds and objects are flying by him. My approach for the sounds of The Flash’s ability was to editorially treat him like a really aggressively driven hot rod. This doesn’t mean that I used car sounds for him, though. What I mean is that when thinking about how to edit his sounds, I thought about it like cutting a car chase. There are approaches, bys, aways, stops, on-boards, even power slides and skids… but all for a superhuman speedster and not a Ford Mustang. This approach for cutting has helped to keep up the aggression and the excitement of his power.

My approach for the sounds of The Flash’s ability was to editorially treat him like a really aggressively driven hot rod. This doesn’t mean that I used car sounds for him, though.

Next up were the sounds themselves. I have blended several items together to make up Barry’s sound. There are elements of thunder, electricity, jets, fireballs, and various custom whooshes and impacts. These things are manipulated for certain situations to give a feeling of perspective. A more distant shot of Barry speeding through the city could be more on the side of fireball and jet, whereas a closer Flash by is heavier on the electricity and impact elements. POV and on-board type shots are more focused on the blur of his body moving, electricity zapping around him and environmental elements speeding by. If this isn’t crazy enough, there is of course the evil variant of Barry in season 1, The Reverse Flash. So same approach, but you know, completely different and evil sounding.
 

Serious about superheroes – striking a balance between high-impact vs overblown & too much

Very few superhero-related things on this show are requested as subtle elements. It’s a big show in size and scope. I’ve alluded to our short timeline for an episode previously. My thought has always been it’s a lot easier for a mixer to pare something back and make it smaller than it is for them to make something bigger. So I always aim to provide the elements as big — bordering on overblown, big. The SFX mixer, Ethan, has the difficult task of adjusting the size of the sound to be appropriate for the situation. (Bless his heart.) This could be via EQ, some reverb for perspective, or ducking out elements of what I have provided to make a sound fit better. It varies from situation to situation.

So while what I’m cutting for The Flash is big, I aim to hit it hard quickly and then try get out of it quickly. This keeps things punchy and allows for space between elements, which in turn gives clarity and dynamic range.

That being said, I try to be sensitive to a mixer’s plight. Something I learned early on in my career is that when you’re working with a lot of material that is large, you need to hit the big moments quickly and get out of them. Then, fill in the gaps with unique, detail elements. That way, you aren’t simply filling your entire timeline with massive stuff. If you make everything big, the viewers won’t perceive it as such. So while what I’m cutting for The Flash is big, I aim to hit it hard quickly and then try get out of it quickly. This keeps things punchy and allows for space between elements, which in turn gives clarity and dynamic range. Big is always exciting. But so are dynamic changes.

In some of the more cinematic sequences, a sound designer / editor needs to try to make sure to think like a mixer. With all of these choices though, we need to be prepared for the possibility that the producers will want it the opposite way. This leads to cutting variations or alternate versions of things. For instance, I might want to let music have a section completely to heighten an emotional connection to a moment. But if something is happening on screen there, I still have to cut the material and leave it muted on the tracks. This way, if my concept doesn’t pan out with the producers, the material is already cued and ready to be played.
 


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

 

Latest releases:  
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    FINAL IMPACT is an extremely detailed and comprehensive collection of 300 designed impacts, smashes and hits. Carefully layered and designed with game audio, animators and filmmakers in mind, we believe that this could be the last impact sound collection you will ever need.

    Each impact has been layered multiple times to create rich, full sounds, composed of recorded hits and synthetic blasts. This collection contains a wide variety of sounds to accent every possible on-screen action imaginable: from simple knock sounds and small hits, to massive wide impacts designed with 50+ layers of material.

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    Collection consists of 20 carefully mastered and rendered rain ambiences with baked-in Soundminer’s metadata.
    All sounds (with one exception – see metadata) loop seamlessly which makes them perfect for games, meditation apps etc.
    All sounds have been created and processed using top tier gear in order to deliver crisp, modern, error free sound.

    RECORDED WITH: Sony PCM D100
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    • General Gore Attacks
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Favorite sound design tools for the show

As much as I’d love to be able to build everything from scratch on a show like The Flash, it simply isn’t possible in the time allowed. So first and foremost, my number one tool for the show is my ever-expanding sound library. That is slightly misleading, because it makes it sound like I have a massive library.

I know my library extremely well and that’s important for hitting a deadline

It’s actually kind of on the small side, but I feel having a smaller library helps me to better know what I have to work with. I know my library extremely well and that’s important for hitting a deadline. I also like constraints and limitations. I feel they help me to make better choices because I don’t have the ability to noodle around as much, looking for all the sound possibilities that could work.

I guess it’d be nice to give some credit where it is due so here goes. My library is made up of indie collections (in no particular order and I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff too, sorry) from Rabbit Ears Audio, Echo Collective, Airborne Sound, Tonsturm, The Recordist, Sound Morph, Boom Library, Sound Dogs, and my own material from The Library by Empty Sea as well as proprietary stuff I have recorded that isn’t a part of any collection. There is also stuff from The Hollywood Edge and even some things that I personally recorded for the Soundelux Library back in the day.

As far as software tools go. I’m using a lot of Izotope Iris, Waves Element, and Absynth to make unique UI for some of the story-driven screens and sci-fi stuff for weapons and vehicles. I’m using Waves Soundshifter to varispeed things quite a bit. I’m also using Melted Sounds Whoosh to create layers for the sounds of the Speedsters (Flash / Reverse Flash). With Whoosh, I’ll start with their presets, manipulate settings and add in my own sounds to create weird stuff. There are countless others, but I’ll round out the name-dropping with Waves MondoMod and SuperTap Delay. They have been very useful for making unique layers on pretty much everything.
 

Looking back at the sound for season 1 – and what awaits in season 2:

Season 1 was a blast. We had a girl who could teleport, a guy that could shoot lightning from his hands, another guy who could turn into a toxic mist, people who could manipulate the weather, a giant telepathic gorilla and that’s just a few of the super powers.

We had a girl who could teleport, a guy that could shoot lightning from his hands, another guy who could turn into a toxic mist, people who could manipulate the weather, a giant telepathic gorilla and that’s just a few of the super powers.

We had tidal waves, weird vortices, wormholes, and event horizons. Special weapons like a gun that could freeze people, a super flamethrower, a gun that could turn things to gold. Weird vehicles like drones and time machines. In short, we had lots of fun stuff to play with sonically.
I can’t go into much depth as to what there will be in season 2, but I can say with certainty that it is going to be just as challenging as season 1. You’re going to have to tune in to hear it!

 

Please share this:


 

 
A big thanks to Mark Camperell for sharing the inside-story on the sound for The Flash! The Flash Season 2 premieres Tuesday October 6 at 8pm/7pmC on The CW.

 
 
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:
 
 
  • Environments Submersion Play Track 1800+ sounds included, 383 mins total $84 $67.20 incl. vat

    Submersion is a sound effect library delivering over 1800 high quality sounds in 377 files (more than 9Gb), from bubbles and impacts over whooshes to ambiences, propellers sounds and many more, this collection has all you need to create an exciting underwater audio experience.
    From raw recordings to ready-to-use sound effects, all the content has been recorded and designed at 24bit, 96 KHz, all fully tagged with metadatas, by sound designers Arnaud Noble and Benoît Marsalone.
    This library is split in two different sections:

    The Raw section:
    Captured with the Aquarians H2a Hydrophone in different locations (pool, river or inside several props), the raw section allows you to sculpt, create, and edit your own sounds with more than 1300 individuals sounds, with many variations.
    This is your toolkit for all your underwater scenes and projects.

    The Designed Section:
    This section provides you ready-to-use sounds (over 593 individuals sounds in 172 files), all created and designed from the Raw section materials.
    From huge to tiny, this collection delivers Cinematic Impacts, Ambiences, Whooshes, Explosions, Propellers, Lava sounds, Sci-fi sounds and many more.

    Included sounds / Keywords

    Ambience – Impact – Explosion – Movement – Whoosh – Swim – Bubble – Propeller – Air release – Stream – Scrape – Squeak – Creak – Crack – Waves – Ice – Lava – Hot – Embers – Sizzle – Crackle – Acid – Soak – Quench – Combustion – Organic – Fizz – Pulses – Plunger – Bottle – Drip – Boil – Drain – Pour – Rattle – Bounce – Slide – Hollow – Crush – Plonk – Snap – Metal – Plastic – Wood – Realistic – Sci-fi – Abstract – Alien
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    Our sound designers and creative engineers have been on an epic journey across the fields of Rohan to the great Misty Mountains to discover and create the perfect alchemy of Quest Game. An entirely new collection of game ready audio assets for building your own immersive world of fantasy gameplay, action and adventure.

    In mere moments you’ll be able to muster a hoard of orcs, create the soundscapes of village life or outfit fantasy character actions with ease. With more than 1300 mix and master ready SFX, you are instantly rewarded with a king’s ransom of premium quality AAA game ready audio assets for adding to your project in 96k 24bit, 44.1k 16bit and MP3 formats.

    Sound the call of eminent victory with loot crates and treasures chests to reward your players, an empowering allotment of sliding and moving gears and mechanisms, character equipment pickups and placements, menu selects, unlocks, positive rewards and achievements, footstep and foley sound effects on cobblestone road, forest grass, brick walkway, tavern wood floor.

    The deep selection of ambient background and nature loops, over an hour of sound by themselves, make this collection a powerful tool for completing your project on time and a certifiable best value. Quest Game – Fantasy Adventure Sound Effects Library is well equipped with undead magic, elemental spell sounds, game action effects like crafting, harvesting, jumps, gear bags, books and scrolls plus scene setting and environmental sounds for haunted crypts, dungeon wind, undead city, royal chambers and elven outpost custom backgrounds.

    All nature ambiences recorded on location in Finland, Tennessee and Illinois USA. Over 6 Months in the making.

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    Old Drawers is a collection of 151 carefully recorded and mastered drawer sound effects.
    Opens, Closes, Slides, Rolls, Creaks, Wrestles and more!

    All audio files have been recorded at superb 192KHZ 24BIT. Multiple mic positions to capture all the little details such as rollers, creaky wood etc

    Comprehensive Soundminer’s metadata. Over 20 different, old, traditional, wooden drawers.

    LOCATION: Spain, Costa Blanca. Traditional Spanish hacienda before renovation.
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Explore the full, unique collection here

Horror Sound Effects Sale

The Horror Sound Effects Sale is now live!

Land huge savings on scary sound effects libraries here


Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Destruction & Impact Final Impact Play Track 723 sounds included $118.80 $94.80 incl. vat

    FINAL IMPACT is an extremely detailed and comprehensive collection of 300 designed impacts, smashes and hits. Carefully layered and designed with game audio, animators and filmmakers in mind, we believe that this could be the last impact sound collection you will ever need.

    Each impact has been layered multiple times to create rich, full sounds, composed of recorded hits and synthetic blasts. This collection contains a wide variety of sounds to accent every possible on-screen action imaginable: from simple knock sounds and small hits, to massive wide impacts designed with 50+ layers of material.

    This collection is divided into 10 folders, according the type of sound:

    – Animated Impacts (45): Big, colorful, super-real impacts.
    – Deep Impacts (22): Low end, dark and bassy impacts.
    – Designed Knocks (10): Simple designed knock sounds.
    – Dry Impacts (29): Hard hits, multi-layered, with no processing.
    – Hard Impacts (24): Designed for maximum destruction.
    – Junk (43): Imagine piles of junk falling from the sky.
    – Layered Material Hits (93): Multi-layered with dry and processed hits.
    – Metal Hits (8): Metal based hits.
    – Other (9): Various materials, including plastic and water.
    – Synthetic Wrecks (17): Synthesized, chaotic impacts.

    BONUS MATERIAL:
    The 3Maze 'IMPACTUS' collection is included free in this package. An additional 423 designed and recorded impacts, bringing this collection to 723 impacts!

    Included formats: 24-bit / 96kHz wav, 16-bit / 44.1kHz and 320k Mp3.

    All sounds were designed, processed and edited at 24-bit / 96kHz, with embedded meta data and accompanying spreadsheet.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1540940400
  • Environments Submersion Play Track 1800+ sounds included, 383 mins total $84 $67.20 incl. vat

    Submersion is a sound effect library delivering over 1800 high quality sounds in 377 files (more than 9Gb), from bubbles and impacts over whooshes to ambiences, propellers sounds and many more, this collection has all you need to create an exciting underwater audio experience.
    From raw recordings to ready-to-use sound effects, all the content has been recorded and designed at 24bit, 96 KHz, all fully tagged with metadatas, by sound designers Arnaud Noble and Benoît Marsalone.
    This library is split in two different sections:

    The Raw section:
    Captured with the Aquarians H2a Hydrophone in different locations (pool, river or inside several props), the raw section allows you to sculpt, create, and edit your own sounds with more than 1300 individuals sounds, with many variations.
    This is your toolkit for all your underwater scenes and projects.

    The Designed Section:
    This section provides you ready-to-use sounds (over 593 individuals sounds in 172 files), all created and designed from the Raw section materials.
    From huge to tiny, this collection delivers Cinematic Impacts, Ambiences, Whooshes, Explosions, Propellers, Lava sounds, Sci-fi sounds and many more.

    Included sounds / Keywords
    Ambience – Impact – Explosion – Movement – Whoosh – Swim – Bubble – Propeller – Air release – Stream – Scrape – Squeak – Creak – Crack – Waves – Ice – Lava – Hot – Embers – Sizzle – Crackle – Acid – Soak – Quench – Combustion – Organic – Fizz – Pulses – Plunger – Bottle – Drip – Boil – Drain – Pour – Rattle – Bounce – Slide – Hollow – Crush – Plonk – Snap – Metal – Plastic – Wood – Realistic – Sci-fi – Abstract – Alien

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1541113200
  • Weather Back Alley Rain Play Track 20 sounds included, 15 mins total $23.99 incl. vat

    Back Alley Rain is a collection of 20 rain & thunder sound effects.
    Light/medium/downpour rain, aftermath, drips, muffled thunder and more

    Collection consists of 20 carefully mastered and rendered rain ambiences with baked-in Soundminer’s metadata.
    All sounds (with one exception – see metadata) loop seamlessly which makes them perfect for games, meditation apps etc.
    All sounds have been created and processed using top tier gear in order to deliver crisp, modern, error free sound.

    RECORDED WITH: Sony PCM D100
    EDITED WITH: iZotope RX, Pro Tools.

  • Horror Gore (SSP) Play Track 257 sounds included, 13 mins total $23.99 $20.39 incl. vat

    The Gore library contains 257 total sounds of squishes, smashes, squelches melee weapon attacks, zombies and more. All effects have been thoughtfully named and crafted into multiple variations making them extremely flexible and easy to use. This library will work well if you need ready to use sounds for your game or if you’re a sound editor needing some extra material for your latest project. Sounds are well rounded and simple enough to fit Sci-Fi, Horror, Fantasy and any other genre where you might need some blood and guts.

    Sound types include:

    • General Gore Attacks
    • Melee Weaponry
    • Basic Smashes, Hits and Slaps (Yeah Slaps).
    • Squishes and Squelches
    • Bonus Zombie Grows and Horror Ambience!
    15 %
    OFF
    Ends 1541026800
  • World Sounds Background Morocco Play Track 55 sounds included, 105 mins total $12 incl. vat

    Ambience library recorded in Marrakech, Essaouira, and the Agafay Desert. Birds, insects, wind, foliage, market/souk, prayer, etc. Recorded at 96kHz stereo/binaural.

 
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