Creating sound for film, video games and animations can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! This part of the production process can be the most experimental and fun. Whether you are a recording studio creating game audio, just starting to build your sound effects library, or are an experienced foley artist, everyone can benefit from these helpful sound design tips.
How to Make Better Sound Effects:
Layering consists of overlapping multiple recorded sounds over each other to create a completely new sound. By doing simple layering, we can create interesting new ones. A comparison can be made between layering and cooking. Adding a variety of flavours can change the overall taste of a dish much like using an arrangement of sounds can affect the overall character.
By utilizing the layering technique we can make bigger bone breaks, interesting sound of footsteps, larger explosions and other foley sound effects. When layering, pay attention to what sound is missing, as we can sometimes run the risk of using the same sound multiple times and end up masking it entirely. Ask yourself how each layer sounds individually. Two important questions do ask: do the sounds complement each other, and are there any parts of the sound design that sound muddy?
Do not be afraid to experiment, a skilled sound designer can look at an object and hear how it can be used. We can combine natural and synthesized sounds and see what happens. Sometimes the oddest object can make the perfect sound, it is important to use your imagination.
By imagining how a certain object might sound, we can being to also start thinking how other sounds would sound together. This is a great method of training your visual ear, check out some of our sound effects you might find useful for layering.
2. Add Noise
When layering, we can take advantage of adding in noise. Noise comes in a variety of sounds, most notably white, pink and brown. When compared to each other white noise occupies the frequency spectrum evenly while pink noise emphasizes octave frequencies.
By selecting noise as one of our layers, we can strategically place noise in our sound design. We can use white noise in a variety of applications such as adding grit to a sound, layering under synthesizers, spicing up snare drums and filling up background ambience.
3. Pitch Change
The pitch change effect can be found in most DAW (Digital Audio Workstations) as default plugins. When we take a sound file, we can change its frequency by using the pitch change effect. We can use this effect by manually filling up our sound designs frequency spectrum. By changing our sounds pitch, we can manipulate it to fill our frequency spectrum needs.
This plug-in can also be used to clean up sound design. For example, we can find ourselves torn between using 2 similar sounds. We know they occupy the same frequency range and would end up masking each other. Instead of having to choose, we can change the pitch of one sound to make it more distinguishable than the other and therefore eliminating the fear of masking.
4. Time Stretch
Perhaps one of the more experimental techniques available for creating interesting sound design is time stretch. It involves a sound being slowed down or sped up, for some plug-ins the pitch of the sound will rise or fall as well. For speeding up sounds the pitch will rise and for slowing down sounds the pitch will fall.
A notable method of using time stretch is slowing sound down sounds dramatically. By dragging the sound out over time, we can often get interesting results. We can hear glitchy, electronic and distorted effects start to happen to the sound. This is an effective way of generating background ambience to fill up your sound design.
The distortion effect can be found as a default plug-in in many DAWs. It is categorized as a gain effect and can affect your sound design in a number of ways. Unwanted distortion can occur when your sounds are too loud and begin to overload the input or output signal. This can result in clipping and cause your sound to appear as if it is skipping like a broken record.
Despite being painted in a negative light often, distortion isn’t always bad and can be used for a variety of things. Most can think of distortion being used for electric guitars, but in sound design it can be a secret weapon. It can be used to make sounds more powerful and distinguishable. It can add grit to your sound and make it more raw.
Just like the previous effects, the delay effect typically comes as a default plug-in for most DAWs. It can be classified as a time effect and much like the time stretch technique, it can be very experimental.
We can look at the delay effect as an echo we can modify. We can choose the amount of repetitions as well as the speed of them. We can further use this effect by layering another delay plug-in over it to create some interesting patterns.
A cool effect you can achieve with delay is the haas effect. It is the process of taking two identical mono sounds and panning one far left and one far right. Then we can proceed to apply the delay effect on one sound only. If we set the delay to a few milliseconds, we can make the sound appear wider and more full.
Reverb can be classified as a time effect and like the previous effects, it can be found as a default plug-in in most DAWs. This effect emulates empty spaces and can give more life as well as position to your audio file..
Sometimes when using reverb we might push and diffuse our sound into the background, this may be desirable for ambient sound designs. For other situations, we can play with the threshold parameter to set a cut-off for when sounds get pushed to the back, accenting the sound and giving it more life.
An alternative to using the reverb plug-in to create the reverb effect, is the previously mentioned delay plug-in. By setting a fast delay speed with a single repetition, we can actually create our own reverb.
The next time you find yourself in need of sound design, try thinking outside the box and play with odd sounds. By using these tricks we can expand our sound library exponentially and become an expert sound editor.