Krotos is based in Edinburgh, Scotland and creates unique audio software products for AAA game studios, film studios, and top-notch post-production companies worldwide. Their first product, Dehumaniser Pro, was launched November 2013 to rave reviews and since, the company has quickly grown in size whilst releasing numerous exciting products. As the brainchild of sound designer Orfeas Boteas, Krotos is always looking for ways to improve the post-production process while simultaneously making it fun for sound engineers.
We spoke with Sarah Gibble-Laska and Karim Douaidy from Chapter Four, the company providing the sound effects and music for Star Atlas. We discuss the process they go through to design the audio for an online MMORPG space game based in the Metaverse.
JJ Lyon: Hi Both! Could you introduce yourselves?
Sarah Gibble-Laska: I’m CEO and partner of Chapter Four. We are a creative technology and post-production studio based in NYC with services in video, sound, and music. We offer our skill sets to brands, studios, artists and organizations around the world.
My craft is sound design, that’s also what I predominately lend to Star Atlas, in addition to overseeing the other sound designers on this project.
Karim Douaidy: I’m Creative Director and also a partner at Chapter Four. we are a team of ten people, but we scale based on the needs of each project. We got our start in traditional media, doing post and music for film, TV and advertising.
Within our first year of business, we had started working on virtual reality projects involving spatial sound and ambisonics, which naturally progressed into more interactive spatial audio and music for video games.
I’m a composer by trade, so I mainly compose music for Star Atlas, and manage the day-to-day operations of the project as Audio Lead.
Let’s Talk about Star Atlas. You mentioned that the game is on the blockchain. Is working in this way different to other interactive projects you’ve done?
S: No, for our role it isn’t any different than working on other interactive projects. You need to consider how sounds behave in a three dimensional space, a process our Technical Audio Lead Paul Drauz-Brown has been an integral part of. Star Atlas is meant to be a metaverse multiplayer game, so we’re focusing on designing sound for many players at once, in a myriad of positions.
There are many games out there whose themes are space exploration, combat, etc, and each one tries to market itself uniquely. In addition to being on the blockchain, Star Atlas is very ambitious in its scale and design. For example, we’re giving each ship and faction their own sonic identity and personality that players can align with.
K: As Sarah said, in the context of video games, the workflow is pretty standard. Star Atlas is at the intersection of various technologies, so from a conceptual perspective, it aims to accommodate how the community lives on the blockchain and what they’re expecting out of the soundscape.
There is of course the NFT component as well, which brings some novel ideas and questions we must ask ourselves. The spaceships purchased in-game, for example, have their own unique signature sounds. Will a ship manufacturer have their own theme song which can also be its own NFT?
On a more global level beyond Star Atlas, will Web3 allow for gamers to customize and own unique versions of the sound associated with the digital assets they own? These are just a few new and fascinating considerations for sound designers and composers working in this medium, and certainly for us.
What has the approach been so far for the spaceship sound effects for Star Atlas?
S: The spaceships are visually striking and unique. We thought it was only appropriate that this also be represented sonically, so our core sound design team lead by myself, Paul Drauz-Brown, and George Bafaloukos, is designing and implementing sound assets that give each ship its own identity and highlight their distinctive features.
Our aim is to differ greatly with smaller details from ship to ship, as well as with overall engine character between ship manufacturers. Krotos has been very helpful in this process.
In our efforts to make every soundscape scalable, we create reliable base layers that can be modified according to the ship’s needs, and also to give them a little extra character.
K: We divide the spaceship sounds into separate categories: locomotion (engine, thrusters, air brakes, etc), ambiences (cockpits, corridors, etc.), interactables (doors, ramps, etc.), UI (both for menu and HUD layers), and so on. Most engine assets consist of two base components: an organic layer that highlights the motor based on the technology used, and the other a synth layer that introduces more suggestive tonal perception to the ship.
Beyond that, we typically have 1-3 more “character” layers based on the ship size, manufacturer and personality. As Sarah said, our goal is to guarantee a consistent sonic identity between models within the same ship manufacturer. That process starts with ensuring continuity at the level of the base engine sounds. But to guarantee that further, we also chose to make all Head-up Display (HUD) and UI sounds similar for all models within the same manufacturer.
Designing sounds for a living, breathing video game universe sounds like the ultimate creative playground for a sound designer or composer!
S: It absolutely is. The deconstruction of assets has been interesting to figure out. We need to assess what is the most re-creatable whilst being the least taxing on both the middleware and the game itself. It has been a great exercise for deciding which will be the most flexible sounds because every sound really must have a purpose. So that’s been really enjoyable to explore.
K: The philosophy behind the game is modularity, so you have the agency as a player to put eclectic components together. One very compelling feature of the game is that you will eventually be able to buy a ship from one faction, and weapons from a different faction etc.. All of these abilities create a unique combination of sounds based on how the player decides to combine them.
How do you make each other’s sound and music work together in the game?
S: After Karim had composed a few initial pieces, we discussed coordinating key signatures so that the ambiences for the space would be in a complementary key or in the same key that he was writing in. I tried not to step on his timbral toes too much! Karim wrote some really beautiful music, I think it was unique enough too that they were able to coexist…so far, at least!
K: From a sound design perspective, as we discussed, most engines include an organic base layer, with some synth layers added on. Those layers are often tonal components. So we think about that in combination with the music. Sometimes you want to be in harmony, and sometimes you want to have some dissonance, based on the identity of the ship and what it is meant to be communicating.
Another aspect that I think is unique , and is the first time I’ve personally done this, is writing the music in A 432Hz. Danny Floyd, The Chief Product Officer of ATMTA, Inc. the company developing Star Atlas, is very much attached to the philosophical elements behind it. It’s been an interesting process, both creatively, and technically. We went back and forth between using software to tune things but also recording in that tuning.
So there was some exploration on that front. Some acoustically recorded instruments like guitars and bass were physically re-tuned. The choir, which is called Khorikos, is accustomed to performing in 440. It was thus decided by their artistic director Alec Galambos to record at A=440 and then pitch it down using a pitch shifting software. We are however considering re-recording the choir in 432 hz for future iterations.
The 432Hz thing is interesting. There are many skeptics, but it could open up a whole new mindset of where you could come from philosophically
K: True, and if it actually generates something physically, the mindset that it invites to the backstory behind the music helps convey the world of Star Atlas. Plus the fact that the developers of the game are thinking this deeply is great.
For the readers who are not familiar with the reasoning behind using it, some theorists and musicians claim that the 432 Hz tuning has better effects on the human body, that it might be the natural frequency of the universe, with cosmic healing powers.
How are you applying the Krotos plug-ins to the sound universe of Star Atlas?
S: The first Krotos plug-in that I was excited to use in general was Dehumaniser 2. This was well before the Star Atlas work. I had used Dehumaniser on many projects, especially narrative sci-fi podcasts and films. One in particular was See You In Your Nightmares, by Einhorn’s Epic Productions which consequently also had original music by Karim.
Each episode featured a different nightmare and corresponding monster, so my familiarity with the plugin expanded on that show. By the time I started working on Star Atlas, years later, I was able to use Dehumanizer for more than just monsters but instead as more of a tool for synth modulation.
I use Reformer Pro for Foley, including footsteps and clothing. Igniter is a big one that we were really excited to use for crafting our ships, and has been useful in giving us a better understanding of engine acceleration and deceleration cycles. Weaponiser has also been a very useful tool. There are a lot of weapons in this game, and this plugin allows for enough customization that we can incorporate standout features from the ships into weapon components for a truly unique identity within each brand.
For instance, I, like many other sound designers, love to include a layer of animal sounds where applicable but not always expected. This of course is also the case when designing certain ship assets. For some ships, I have uploaded a few isolated animal sounds and other less traditional source material into Weaponizer, producing some really fantastic results while staying true to the ship’s sonic identity. The Krotos plugins we use the most on Star Atlas are Weaponiser, DeHumaniser 2 and Igniter, which all lend efficiency and character to this project.
K: From a music perspective, I’m currently working on a really cool application that involves using Krotos. There is a species in Star Atlas called the Mierese, which doesn’t have a written language. They feel written words are too poor of a vessel to express the really important notions of life, like emotions and feelings. So instead, they share all their knowledge through stories and songs.
I’m currently collaborating with José Siqueira, the content writer for Star Atlas who wrote lyrics from the perspective of a Mierese individual disclosing the recipe of one of the species’ most common dishes. The approach is to use Dehumaniser on some of the vocals, which sound like they are sung by a member of this alien species. We will be exploring similar concepts for other species in the future. Danny Floyd has even designed a Universal Phonetic Alphabet (UPA) using a mix of custom and IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols to transcribe and verbalize those languages.
I know for a fact that Dehumaniser 2 will come in handy to create all those crazy alien phonemes.
Dehumaniser is known for its monster voices, But it is just a modular suite of some really unique effects for the most part. It offers some really interesting approaches to sound design.
S: The modularity of it reminds me a bit of the Kyma software, by the company Symbolic Sound, albeit arguably a more affordable and user-friendly version. Dehumaniser 2 is a great plugin to start experimenting on, because it comes loaded with sound banks and presets, sparking inspiration if you aren’t sure where to start, and providing enough flexibility for those who are more experienced or have specific ideas to build on.
Speaking of, I should add to that the sound packs we received with our purchase of the Sound Design Bundle have been so helpful, even as standalone assets. The cars, helicopters, the engines and the exhausts as separate recordings have all been really useful. So kudos to you guys for your sound effects libraries, they’re wonderful!
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Oakenfold is a turn-based strategy game with a twist. Created by indie game developer Rutger van Dijk and published by Studio Taghua. The game combines the classic turn-based flow with a puzzle-solving dynamic. Available on Steam, Oakenfold is a roguelike adventure where the player gets the ability to try out all the potential solutions by “reversing time” and redoing the steps all over again to find the best outcome.
Behind the sound effects design of this clever time-reversible strategy game is Dean Katz-Ritov, an audio designer and composer for different platforms like Nickelodeon or BlackBoard Studios.
Dean, like many sound designers, started his career as a musician. He quickly found himself wanting to make music for film, commercials, and animation and then more and more involved in sound design. During the 2020 pandemic, he became interested in game sound design and started experimenting with tools such as Wwise, Unity or Reformer Pro and got fascinated by them.
Being a big fan of creating sound effects for horror, comedy or anime, one of the things that attracted Dean to work in the game audio design world was the flexibility and openness available in making sound designs for the different creatures, worlds or narratives in the video game industry.
Dean controls every aspect of the overall sound and decides how a certain piece should be perceived. Sound design is more than just creating the different elements of a sound; it’s about building the logic for how and when sound effects should play.”
Eager to know more about Dean’s workflow, we asked him about his approach to Oakenfold’s sound effects design and how he implemented some of the Krotos software in the process.Oakenfold’s Sound Design
For Oakenfold, the process of game sound design was very collaborative. It started with Rutger van Dijk, the game developer, explaining the dynamics of the game and providing references, ideas and even sound demos.
“The sound designer needs to plan ahead what might happen during the gameplay.”
At the beginning of every project, Dean plans what is going to do and the tools he would use to create the sound the game might need. For Oakenfold, he wanted to focus on what would fit perfectly with what we see on screen, in the most diegetic way. He asked himself how each element of the game would sound and came up with ways to bring that to life with the tools available.
Due to the inherited nature of Oakenfold, the main challenge for the game’s audio design was avoiding the effects sounding repetitive while keeping them dry and clean-sounding and making them pop over the ambient music.
For Dean, one of the most important aspects to keep in mind for any game sound design is to create an adaptable soundscape to the player’s decisions. That’s why he focused on accentuating the effects caused by any of the player’s actions, like explosions or the environment’s reaction, and taking into consideration how each of them will sound as the game progresses throughout its different levels.
This way he achieved the sense of an ever-changing soundscape for the game audio design.
Another important aspect Dean worked on was the UI. Especially for any sonic feedback the game will provide when the player would win or lose. Dean focused again on the player’s experience. But this time, he took advantage of his musicianship and skills as a composer. He thought about textures and orchestration to create the feel of an old-school synth and give UI sound design some identity while retaining the DNA of the game.
“Just having the developer being part of the sound design was just fantastic. I loved it very much.”
Finally, one of the most important sound design considerations for Oakenfold was bringing to life the “rolling back in time” game dynamic. Also known as Timescrubber™. Dean recalls it as one of his favourite parts of the game audio design process.
He worked closely with Rutger van Dijk and experienced the gameplay to come up with the right sound effect. Dean told us how he was able to hear the sound of the Timescrubber™ system in his head and very quickly tested those ideas with Rutger directly in the game. A true lesson on how collaboration is key to obtaining the best results.Game Sound Design with Krotos Plugins
Krotos Audio plugins played a big part in the sound design of Oakenfold.
Dehumaniser 2 was Dean’s go-to tool for designing the whole monster soundscape on Oakenfold. From small buggy insect monsters to really big mythological creatures. By using only a microphone and his voice, Dean was able to experiment, play around with weird sounds and come up with the effects for the whole range of creatures in the game without worrying too much about the technical side. Fast, flexible and efficient.
“Krotos makes plugins that I can really trust. They provide me with the tools I need to create high-end sound without the need of being in the studio.”
Another tool Dean used during the game audio design was Weaponiser. It is great to see how game sound designers come up with unorthodox ways to use Weaponiser and this was exactly one of those cases. Dean explained how Weaponiser was rarely used for gunshots in the game sound design process but instead, he used Weaponiser to add layers of sounds to the actions of the game, providing more depth to the whole game sound design.
In Dean’s words: “Dehumanizer and Weaponiser together just really gave me everything I needed to create a whole universe of monsters. Covering a wide spectrum of sound effects from steampunk, fantasy, horror, action and dystopian monsters by simply making weird noises on a microphone.”
Sound design can be considered a hidden creative art. A compelling and attractive way of creating sonic worlds inside the box with tools such as Dehumaniser 2 or Weaponiser.
For Dean, it is very important to have this type of intuitive yet creative software to explore the artistic aspects of sound design. This way sound designers can connect and inspire players and listeners, enhancing and elevating their sonic experience.
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One of the most surprising and shocking releases of 2023 so far was Winnie The Pooh: Blood And Honey – a horror adaptation of the classic A. A. Milne children’s story. We were even more surprised when we heard that Ryan Hatton – Sound Designer for the film – had used Krotos plugins in his workflow!
With this in mind, we spoke with Ryan about how he approached designing the sound effects for one of the most controversial films in recent history.
JJ: Winnie the Pooh is such an established franchise, so it was quite a surprise to everybody when the horror adaptation was announced! What considerations did you have to make on an IP with so much history?
Ryan: Thankfully for sound, the main consideration was to avoid any owned catchphrases and given that there is barely any dialogue, this was incredibly easy!
Aside from that, we wanted to treat this like any other obscenely gory slasher. A lot of the attraction and buzz around this is that you just wouldn’t expect everyone’s favourite little yellow bear hacking and slashing innocent people to death, so we really wanted to push the gore as much as possible to cause a reaction.
How did you approach the sound design for Winnie the Pooh: Blood & Honey?
When discussing the soundscape with director Rhys Frake Waterfield, we quickly decided that we wanted to separate the humour from the sound and focus on the gore elements.
We wanted to provoke a reaction from the audience by going over the top with the gore sound effects. A great example of this is a slow death scene involving a machete. The slower pace gave us the freedom to really sell this shot using detailed, visceral sound effects. I checked my library for gruesome sounds such as flesh ripping, bones cracking and the sound of a machete blade piercing the character. I also recorded some stone scraping sounds to replicate the sound of the blade grinding against bones and teeth.
When we were in the mixing room with Rhys and Scott (Producer) we added ADR of breathing/choking sounds to push the shock factor to the next level. I really think it paid off. This had an incredible reaction in the theatre, the audience was so reactive with audible gasps – super gruesome stuff!
Is there a scene you were most proud of?
The most enjoyable scene that I worked on was the ‘Killbilly’ scene, where the girls run into a group of guys after being chased by Pooh. This scene was actually the first scene I worked on and I wanted this to set the soundscape for the rest of the film. Within this scene, I started creating the signature Hundred Acre Wood ambience, full of dead wood creaks and stresses along with some cold wind layered underneath.
The scene gradually escalates into a full-on brawl in which each member of the guys had their own unique weapon, ranging from a crowbar to a sledgehammer, not that any of those would work against ol’ Pooh Bear!
This section was particularly enjoyable, it was great experimenting with various metal impact sounds for each weapon and layering them with the gore sounds! We wanted these sounds to hit hard in the theatre, so a lot of attention was paid to balancing the punch of the impacts with bone cracks and fleshy rips.
Were there any particular influences which helped to shape your sound designs?
My biggest inspirations drew from films such as Scream and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I really appreciate the over-the-top ‘Hollywood’ style slasher sounds, which are very prominent in those films. This style of sound design is very fun because we can really explore ways to push the gore to the next level.
There’s a crazy scene where Pooh is whipping Christopher Robin with Eeyore’s detached tail. When initially watching this scene, I recalled a scene from Django Unchained, where Jamie Foxx’s character is whipping one of the Brittle Brothers.
I remember watching this for the first time and was really impressed with how brutal the sounds were, I could almost feel each whip myself, and it really helped sell the scene, so In Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey, I also wanted the tail whips to have a huge crack with some gruesome skin tearing and fleshy impacts to reflect the shots of Christopher’s back.
Can you talk us through how you used Dehumaniser 2 in Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey?
I recorded my own voice and used Dehumaniser 2 to create the sinister voice of Pooh. I’ve used Dehumaniser 2 on previous horror-based projects, so I knew that it was the perfect tool to achieve the dark gritty sound that we wanted.
The first node I used was the pitch shifter, as my voice isn’t particularly scary! So I lowered the pitch a few semitones until I found the best blend of pitch and intelligible dialogue.
Another tool I used was the granular node. One of the great things about this tool is there are so many options to dramatically alter the sound by changing the pitch, size and density of the grains. I used this node to add grittiness to Pooh’s voice by lowering the grain pitch and blending the grain size and variation until I found the perfect amount to compliment the original sound.
Could you also talk us through your use of Weaponiser?
As Weaponiser is triggered by MIDI, I found this to be the perfect sound design tool for footsteps. Weaponiser was a huge time saver as I could browse various footstep sounds to match the scene and punch them in as I go.
Footsteps were extremely important for the story to enhance a sense of trepidation in the audience. In the chase scenes, we enhanced this by giving Pooh’s footsteps a really deep rhythmic stomp every time he was on screen to drive the intensity of the scenes.
The majority of the chase scenes were in woodland areas or on grass and these types of sounds were readily available in Weaponiser. It built the perfect foundation for me to add further layers such as low stomps, which were sent to the LFE channel, which sounded absolutely thunderous in the theatre!
Why did you choose Krotos plugins for this project?
I’ve been a huge fan of Krotos throughout my career. A lot of the projects I work on are horror based and this pairs perfectly with what Krotos plugins can offer and with them being so versatile in sound, I rarely find myself looking elsewhere.
One thing that has also kept me using Krotos plugins is the fact that they’re so fun to use whilst getting incredible results. It can be a long process trying to find the right sound for a particular part and I find it’s much more enjoyable when using Krotos software.
What were the main challenges of this project?
The mix, for sure. With so many elements in the soundscape, we had to be really mindful of each audio group to ensure that we are communicating the directors’ intentions for each scene. Our goal was to go big on the sound and to really push it where needed to, but also understand balance and bring things back down when the scene required.
This was especially the case towards the last act which has a lot of louder scenes. Whilst we wanted the loud bits to be loud, we didn’t want to overwhelm the audience, so knowing when to bring it down to reduce the intensity was extremely important to the mix and maintaining audience engagement.
Did you learn anything whilst working on this project that would be good advice for others?
Throughout this project I made sure to sit back and watch as an audience member, trying to switch my sound designer brain off, and not focus on anything in particular.
I found this beneficial in many ways, mostly by being able to pick up on elements of the mix I might not have before. I’m very guilty of being so focused on particular elements of the mix and sometimes other (and painfully obvious) things can go under the radar.
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The NAMM and the NAB shows were a resounding success once again this year, and we got the chance to exhibit all of the new and upcoming features to the Krotos Studio platform. Below we share a rundown of Krotos coverage from the show and after.Sound on Sound Magazine
Sound on Sound came by our booth to take Krotos Studio for a spin! Check out their video:Sonic State
Krotos Product Expert Alessandro Mastroianni performs an excellent demonstration of Krotos Studio’s speed and flexibility to Sonic State during their trip to the booth:Charly Rodriguez
After stopping by to say hello at NAMM, Spanish singer, producer and DJ Charly Rodriguez went home, got his hands on Krotos Studio and filmed this awesome demo in Logic Pro X!Producer & Audio Engineer, Gabey Baby
Gabey also visited us at NAB for a Demo of Krotos Studio, and included it in his news rundown on his YouTube channelCactuzz Sound
Sound Designer and Audio Post-Production Engineer Cactuzz Sound covered Krotos Studio in this video:Melodie Music Australia
We met Melodie Music Library at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, who came to our booth to explore Krotos Studio and featured it in their “Turn up the Volume: Top New Sound Design Tools for Content Creators” blog post:
“Don’t have a foley pit in your edit suite? No problem! This innovative plugin allows filmmakers to create unique sound effects…With its extensive library, you can use Krotos Studio to create everything from custom cloth tracks to perfect nature ambiences and tailor-made whooshes.” – Andy Wilson, Melod.ie Music LibraryCinemaTechnica
I have played with this program a bit now, and am impressed with the variety of sounds you can generate and how easy it is to get some great sounding trailer intro and effects sounds with the Genesis upgrade. It is quick and easy enough that I no longer have an excuse not to have a great sounding intro for any projects. – CinemaTechnica
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Matt Treacy is a producer, and sound designer working on the Horror and Weird Fiction Anthology podcast, Phantom Limb at Free Jambalaya, his production studio located in Ashland, Virginia, USA.
Phantom Limb pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the podcast format with every episode, and here, Matt talks us through the creation process, which is deeply focused on immersive soundscapes, intricate sound effects and original music composition.
‘Krotos has been a big part of Phantom Limb since the beginning. We actually first bought that sound design bundle because of the podcast. And for three seasons, it’s been very reliable’ – Matt Treacy
Hey Matt! How did you get started in sound design?
I started as a touring musician, then throughout my career, I focused more on the studio side of things and eventually I came to sound design. Now, I compose, engineer and produce for a few podcasts, theatrical productions and short films, mainly in Virginia where I’m based.
What was your first sound design role?
Sound design was kind of a trademark I was known for when I was a hip-hop producer. I’d produce songs for bands and artists who focused on narratives in their music, so I would incorporate sound design and effects for their projects.
Sound Design is so important to audio formats. With literature and film, the story is represented through text, but sound and music have to be interpreted by the audience.
That’s so true, and I think that sound design and music can be considered as characters themselves as a result.
I really look up to great composers like John Williams, because they insert themselves into the story, as a character. When you hear their music, all of a sudden you know that something is changing.
Working with directors, and even costume designers, you have to make sure that the sound isn’t hiding something in the story that the costume designer wants to be heard, like spurs on somebody’s boots for example. There are so many collaborative opportunities to be explored.
Could you talk about Phantom Limb, the Podcast you produce?
Sure! I run a studio called Free Jambalaya which focuses mainly on audio-video production. We do analogue recordings as much as we can, then use digital solutions such as Krotos to fill in the gaps. The studio is currently focusing on a podcast called Phantom Limb, a sci-fi anthology. We have a number of tremendous writers creating scripts, and then my colleague Ben and I produce all the audio: everything from music and sound effects to dialogue recording and editing. We make a draft of the episode and send it off to the director, then we incorporate the director’s notes before we release it.
Talk us through the process of creating an episode
It’s like making an episode of South Park. We know the due date and It’s a mad rush to make it, but it’s beautiful chaos. We do 10 episodes in a season, then have a two-month hiatus before the beginning of the next season. I love the challenge of trying to fit it all into that time frame that we already know is there. I’ve had to do so many sound design experiments that I never thought I would do!
Can you share any sound design ideas from the podcast?
In one episode, we only scored music for this one alien character. When he talks, the music is playing, but as soon as he stops talking, there is silence. It was so creative and hilarious. I started the scoring, then I quickly realised that it was going to take a long time!
It took three weeks to score every little phrase that this character said, But in the end, we had a really interesting episode. Sometimes you get completely lost in the sound design while you’re creating it, and it’s only when you finish an episode that you can reflect on what you created. It keeps things fresh every time.
Phantom Limb is an anthology podcast, so is the sound design for each episode completely new, or are there recurring themes to keep things unified as a series?
Honestly, every episode is completely standalone. I’m really fortunate to work with my audio partner Ben Patterson because, without two people, it would be too much to create everything new each time. We’re recording new foley material and everything for each episode, it is a lot of work, but it is very rewarding.
Are there any standout moments in Phantom Limb that have been really challenging to create?
We did an unscripted episode called Harrison Polytropos, where we let the sound design decide the story.
I put together a few minutes of environmental sound design using Reformer Pro, then passed it to Ben who created the next few minutes to continue the story, and we did this back and forth.
Then we got an amazing actress, Taylor Dawson, and I placed three microphones on her so that we had left, centre, and right channels. We set a rule that she couldn’t say any words, she could only react to the scene. It was an incredible episode because there was not a single word spoken by her. The entire story unfolds through sound design.
How do you use the Krotos plugins in your sound design for Phantom Limb?
So I initially edit the sounds meticulously and methodically, following the script. I arrange the dialogue and make sure that it flows appropriately before even thinking about sound design and cool fun things. Once we’ve put the script together, I then break out the Krotos plug-ins and start to experiment!
With Dehumaniser 2, we use it live, because it’s an awesome tool for taking a signal and processing the crap out of it! But there are so many opportunities to use it. I’d say at least three or four times per season there’s an episode with a monster or a beast, and Dehumaniser is always where I go first.
When the actor puts the headphones on and monitors themselves, it changes their delivery completely. At that moment, they really become the monster. As long as the performance of the creature is accurate, then Krotos just does this awesome job of turning it into whatever you need, whether it’s huge beasts in the jungle or tiny little aliens. Most recently. We did an episode where this man is impregnated by an alien and gives birth. I used Dehumaniser 2 for the alien baby when it’s born! That’s the best result that I’ve gotten with that one.
With Weaponiser I find different sounds that I like and record them into the DAW with a MIDI keyboard. For podcasts, the script is so specific, so it will say where certain sounds are needed, so I’ll go into the UI sounds for example, layer one or two things, then just click the “Fire” button and just record things straight into the DAW.
Reformer Pro is my favourite. In one episode, I had somebody walk through the woods and I was having trouble lining up all of their footsteps in the DAW. Every time their foot hit the ground, there had to be sticks crunching and leaves crunching and there had to be this whole soundscape of them walking slowly through the woods.
What I ultimately did was run some walk recordings to a bus which had Reformer Pro on it, then every time a foot hit the ground I could make Reformer Pro react with the sounds I needed without having to line up every footstep meticulously. I’ve used the same method in Reformer for a bunch of different uses
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“It takes a bit of time to get your foot in the door of the industry, but there are so many opportunities within the indie game sound effects world…For the last three or four years, it’s been a full-time job for me”. – Alberto Sueri
The world of indie video games is a vibrant and growing industry. Many freelance sound engineers have found active, exciting careers designing sound effects for indie games.
The indie game industry is more booming now than it has ever been, with the need for sound designers at an all-time high. To learn more about working in that world, we talked with Alberto Sueri, a sound designer for various indie game titles such as Ra Ra Boom, Steamcore and Legends of Venari.
Alberto told us about his transition into game sound design, his workflow and the importance of working in context when sound designing for indie games and collaborating with others in the indie video game industry.
Check out his sound design reel below, then dive in to learn more about the process of designing sound effects for indie games.Indie Game Sound Design – Getting Started
Like many people in the audio industry, I started working in sound for fixed media and music for films. Then, I started collaborating with indie game developers, which allowed me to explore a wider range of music genres and creative sound designs.
I like to play around with sounds and create sci-fi effects. When I started working on games I soon understood that the video game industry is open for more experimental work. That’s what attracted me and finally led me to transition into sound design for video games.
It takes a bit of time to get your foot in the industry, but I think there are more opportunities within the indie game sound effects world. Once you start collaborating on different projects and get your name out as a video game sound designer, you start getting more consistent work. For the last three or four years, it’s been a full-time job for me.
I have worked on around 10 indie games, and I have three or four more in the making. Some of these are expansions of previously released games, so It’s been really good!Designing Sound Effects For Creative Game Projects
In terms of creative freedom, I like the work I did for Ra Ra Boom. The game is not out yet but premiered at the Game Developers Conference and other media. It’s a mix of anime and multiplayer beat ’em-up games. Very dynamic, vibrant and colourful, where all the game audio design needed to be relatively short.
There are so many effects happening at once that you can’t have big, powerful, long, and reverberant sounds. That’s why the sound effects needed to be spread out across the frequency spectrum. It was important they didn’t clash with each other.
I also worked recently on a game called FIFA AI League. It’s a mobile game app in partnership with the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, with minion-like avatars playing football. For this game, I had the creative freedom to come up with the sound of the character’s special abilities. I didn’t need to stick to realism since it wasn’t a classic FIFA game. It’s something very different from what you would expect.
I used Weaponiser to design the kicks and the football sounds. I borrowed a ball that happened to be in my garden. I recorded it for two days, added the sounds into Weaponiser so I could get lots of variations. I added a sub layer to beef up the kick sounds, some impacts, and exported those, It worked great for this project
Two other games that I liked working on because of my creative input are Steamcore and Legends of Venari.
Steamcore is a sci-fi game where players start with the same weapon, but as they progress, their weapon gets punchier and heavier. The game’s audio design is very sci-fi, something that doesn’t exist in the real world.
It was very interesting to design the sound of this weapon since we had to split it into 10 different layers to sound more powerful every time the player progresses. I enjoyed that.
I’m currently working on Legends of Venari. It’s a game with a lot of creatures which makes it very challenging. I’m creating sounds for 60 or 70 creatures and they all need to have an idle sound, attack and damage sounds… and It’s not always easy to be organic with the way these creatures sound.
Also, they are not big, scary creatures which I think makes it harder to design their sounds. We are talking about smaller creatures that need to be very polished. The producers of the game are really interested in the cleanliness and the brightness of the sounds. I would say that the game sound design needs to be very dry, not reverberant and very hyper-realistic.Game Audio Case Study: Ra Ra Boom
My approach to Ra Ra Boom’s sound design was a hybrid between classic anime sound effects and modern game sound effects. One of the references that I got from the producers for a specific effect was the iconic Dragon Ball Kamehameha sound effect.
I had never done something in that specific style which was really exciting. I wanted to make something that sounded fresh and not outdated.
The game needed to sound punchy, but not overwhelming. In the space of five seconds you would have 200 sounds playing at the same time. Every sound needed to be clean. I knew that a specific sound effect very rarely was triggered without something else happening simultaneously.
I tried to be precise with sound placement within the frequency spectrum and set up their behaviour in the game using FMOD*. That’s how I made sure they worked together nicely.
*(sound effects engine for video games)The Indie Game Sound Effects Design Workflow 1. Pre-Production
Pre-production is all about understanding what the game is about, what its style is, and what is needed from the sound to enhance the experience of the game. Having a couple of days of pre-production helps me to narrow down what I need to do and be more productive from that point on.
The way I usually start is by taking notes. I would read the game design document, have a chat with the developers, and then create a separate document where I keep track of all the keywords used for the game. This helps me to understand exactly what the game developers want and have a reference for the game down the line. This process is probably something I carry with me from working with film directors.
When working on films you usually spend a lot of time talking about the style and the context of the film and it can get difficult to remember everything when you are actively working on the project. Having this document helps me to keep my work aligned with the vision of the film. Now I try to do that thoroughly for indie game sound effects as well.
I also like to send a rough demo to the game developers at the beginning of the project to make sure that I got the style for the sound design right. Maybe things are not mixed properly or some effects are missing but it will tell them if I’m in the right direction. If they say yes, I keep going.2. Designing the Sound Effects
I ask the game developers for a video of the gameplay, or I do a screen capture from Unity or the testst version of the mobile game. Working on linear fixed media is the best approach, because it provides a good understanding of how things work in the context of the video game. This reduces the risk of the sound effects sounding too powerful and over the top.
You need to ensure that you understand how a specific sound is going to be placed within the video game. The video is normally 5 to 10 minutes long and I synchronise elements as I progress. I prefer to work with MIDI because it’s easier to synchronise, which is a great benefit to using Krotos Weaponiser.
If afterwards I don’t like how a certain sound effect works, I can always swap it and the MIDI event will stay in sync with the picture.3. Feedback and Revisions
After I finish sound designing the whole video I send it to my associate with whom I co-founded Møtif, Johnny Moutzouris. He does a first pass of revisions and gives me feedback as to whether the sound fits, or needs finalising later. It might sound unnecessary, but it helps me to see from a different perspective, and deliver a better-quality product.
Once I’m happy with how the video is sounding, I send it to game developers. They are the best people for feedback because they know the game inside out.
They will point out things like if I misunderstood the function of an action, or if a sound effect sounds too negative, whereas it’s a good action because it improves a player’s skill… That way I would have a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the game and review my work paying attention to those details.4. Organisation and Delivery
Once the developers are happy with the whole sound design, I export the game sound effects individually, keeping the implementation system in mind: layering sounds, cleaning them up if necessary and adding or removing effects.
I keep two projects: one for the actual design, and one for editing the exported sounds. In the editing project, I trim silences, add fades, ensuring every sound starts where it should and carrying out any audio repair needed to remove artefacts that might happen during the export process.
Finally, I save each sound into folders and follow the naming convention to send everything to the game development team, or import them into FMOD myself. I also make a spreadsheet where I keep track of everything I do in the process: each sound location, Is it in FMOD, is it in Unity, the FMOD path, and if it’s the final version or not. That’s pretty much my workflow!
About Alberto Sueri
Alberto Sueri is an Italian-born composer and sound designer specialising in Video-Games. His strong musical background led him to seeking to apply technology to media, where he now works in video games, installations and linear media projects.
Read more about Alberto on his website.
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We spoke with Supervising Sound Editor Jan Bezouska (Spree, 3 From Hell) about the sound design of the Paramount+ drama, Wolf Pack.
Jan trusted in our plugins from the start of post-production, using Dehumaniser 2 and Reformer Pro at the core of the sound effects, and building the rest of the sound world around them. The resulting sound effects were a dense, texture-rich soundscape that is full of original and contemporary sounds.
Read the interview below!
JJ: Hi Jan! Did Wolf Pack turn out the way you had hoped?
Jan: It was a wild ride! It was something that I was expecting to be a fun but tough challenge, as it was the first season of a brand new show, so you’re starting everything from scratch. There were no rules, and nothing had been established, but there were superpowers to create, original characters, and of course a bunch of Werewolves!
I’m really happy with how it turned out. The whole season is out now and we’re getting really good feedback, the fans love it.
How essential was the sound to the narrative of the show?
More than I could have imagined. The amount of sound design in one episode is about the same as a whole season of another show, and that is no exaggeration. It’s a really dense soundscape.
We went all out, designing sound effects, atmospheres and ambiences. There were ambiguous moments where we didn’t really know if what we were creating was music or sound design as it was blending so nicely.
Which sound design choices do you feel most contributed to Wolf Pack?
Firstly, we wanted to avoid monster/animal libraries. We wanted to keep the werewolves, as human as possible, so the the audience would remember that there’s still a human being inside the werewolf, so it was crucial to translate that.
We initially tried to record the vocalisations ourselves, but we couldn’t achieve the aggression we wanted. So we hired a voice actor and tried different approaches using Dehumaniser 2 and Reformer Pro layered together using Sanken Microphones so we could pitch things own and not lose high-frequency information.
At that point, the werewolves really came to life. The showrunner loved it as soon as we hit play. It sounded so dangerous, but still so human. It was far better than finding something in libraries that felt processed.
Did the creative freedom help you to detach from previous approaches to Werewolf sound effects in shows like Teen Wolf or Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
It did, it was great. It’s funny you mention Buffy because Sarah Michelle Gellar is in the show and is a producer. We knew it would bring Buffy fans to our show, but we wanted to do something original and different.
We made sure that we could identify which character is transforming, so there are unique sound effects elements to each character. The actors from the show came to the studio and performed the growls for us, which was really exciting.
Growls are hard on the voices and some actors can be hesitant to go hard, but the cast loved coming to the studio to perform the growls. They heard the first episode with the voice actor and they loved it, so we earned their trust. It’s really cool to hear each character growl, especially in episode 6 when they are all growling together next to each other and you hear how different the growls are. I really love that.
Did you record the actors for every episode or did you repurpose sounds?
We recorded them for every episode, so we had individual growls and breathing for each scene. There’s a scene when one character is fighting to prevent the werewolf inside him from coming out. The real-time power of Dehumaniser 2 worked so well, it was affecting the breaths in-between growls whereas, with Library, you wouldn’t get these details. This really helped to feel the animal inside him starting to come out.
Those were real “wow” moments in the sound design, and I couldn’t imagine how to do it better without Dehumaniser, it was just perfect.
And when combined with Reformer Pro…I just love Reformer Pro. The Black Leopard library has so much body and character, it offered some great qualities alongside Dehumaniser 2. Combining those plugins was where we would have the most success. But yes, every growl is designed for that moment.
I imagine as the series progressed and the actors had a couple of growl sessions, their confidence and their performance developed too?
Absolutely, it was so great to see that happen. We were able to go to the premiere screening and the actors were all there, It was really cool to see them enjoy the results so much!
You mentioned earlier how much sound design is in one episode. How much time did you and your team take?
I was lucky to have two / three sound designers per episode, plus one hard effects editor and two dialogue editors. We would have around eight days per episode, which is a more average, but the amount of design we did was more than most feature films I have worked on. There are so many things happening; breaths, growls, steps, pumping, but thankfully I always felt that we had enough time.
Did the Krotos plugins live up to your expectations for the sound design on Wolf Pack?
They really did. At this point, I really don’t know how else I would do it, I have my character presets that I know to go to.
I was pushing my team to use Krotos for everything. I was using it for voices, forest fires creatures, werewolves. There’s so much happening in one scene in Wolf Pack, so using Krotos plugins for it was a huge benefit.
Are there sound design ideas that you would love to try next time?
I know now what the show sounds like, so I want to take it even further and go deeper. If we have the opportunity, I just want to keep going.
By the finale, we were designing Foley, soundscapes, heavily-designed stuff, blending the sounds into the music, and doing really stylized, sound effects, there were no rules for what we achieved in the last episode, the whole production team achieved something really strange, hypnotic and cool. That is something that it’s really rare on network TV. That’s where I would start building!About Jan Bezouska
Jan Bezouska was born in the Czech Republic and is a graduate from the Film and Television Production MFA program at the University of Southern California. He has worked on project such as Spree, 3 From Hell, Teen Wolf: The Movie and The Munsters.
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With a resumé that features projects from Misfits and The Last Dragon Slayer, through to Patrick Melrose and SAS Rogue, Tony Gibson’s creative and skilful approach to creating and editing sound has led him from working as a runner through to his current role of Supervising Sound Designer.
We caught up with Tony to talk about his sound design work and to ask for advice for sound people who are looking to develop their careers.Getting Started In Sound Design
I started through work experience. I’m from Sunderland originally, but I had a post-production contact in London. I worked in various VFX houses, film labs and edit houses before I finally got a placement at a post-production sound studio.
I started as a runner and after a couple of years, around the same time Pro Tools really took off in post, I moved into Foley editing. As I gained more experience, I gradually transitioned into animation, documentaries and eventually drama and film. I’ve also recently started working on games.The Most Important Sound Design Skills to Develop
Foley was vital as it really helped me to learn the equipment and software fast. Editing Foley is very similar to editing hard sound effects, but the difference is all the source sound is already there for you, your role is to manipulate the sounds and get them into sync with the picture.
Foley turnaround times are very fast, you get 2-4 days to fit an hour of Foley. Working at that pace means you have to learn the Pro Tools shortcuts and tricks quickly. It’s similar to documentaries and other short-form projects – the short turnaround times really help you to learn time management.My Most Fun Sound Design Project
The first major one that I loved was Misfits because it was very different from anything that I was doing at the time. Up to that point, I’d been doing effects editing on police drama, period drama etc, so when Misfits came along, it was a chance to be really creative.Misfits Original Cast, Sound Design by Tony Gibson
I’ve always been a massive comic book fan, and Misfits was all about superpowers. I designed all the powers for the main cast, and each week, a different adversary would come along with another new power, so I got to design their abilities. It was just great fun.
Misfits really let me experiment to design these weird superpower sound effects. There is no actual sound of someone turning invisible or turning back time of course, so it a great opportunity to get creative. That was my first job doing real sound design instead of just laying sound effects.Designing Sound Effects for TV with Krotos Plugins
I worked on ITV’s Beowulf, which had a lot of creatures that I needed to design the Sound FX for so I got the original Dehumaniser plugin to help. There were troll and beast sound effects for which I was manipulating my own voice with Dehumaniser to create.Reformer Pro as a Multipurpose Sound Design Tool
Reformer Pro is my favourite Krotos tool. Being able to add layers to sound effects quickly for anything from footsteps to creature sounds is just awesome. People seem to think it’s just a Foley tool because you can perform your own sounds with to add different textures, but it’s so much more.
For example, when I was working on Truth Seekers, I had these wraith creatures to design. With Reformer Pro I was able to manipulate bird recordings I had, to create this horrendous screech sound. It’s a multi-purpose tool. It’s such a great plugin and it is really quick and easy to use!Vocalising to Create Characterful Sounds
By vocalising sounds, you get so many different variations. If I’ve got creature sound effects to create, I’ll throw Tigers, Walruses and other animals into Reformer Pro and just experiment around with my voice. Sometimes it won’t be useful, other times it’ll be great. But those great moments are really great!Sound Designing SAS Rogue Heroes with Krotos Designing Desert Ambience Sound Effects
Krotos Studio was also incredibly useful for creating desert backgrounds. Instead of manually layering sounds, I was able to use Krotos Studio to produce rich, nuanced soundscapes, rich with subtle rise-and-fall movements, wind, grains of sand & foliage. Those components were important for creating immersive and realistic environments and It was great to create long 10-minute ambiences, to chop into when needed.Building Machine Gun Sound Effects
In our weapon sound effect design for SAS, our aim was to maintain accuracy and realism, and only embellish the guns to make them more impactful. The show has an energetic and exciting tone, so while we were conscious of the historical setting, we also had creative license to enhance the excitement and intensity of the audio experience.
We recorded the actual Thompson machine guns used by the SAS at that time. I loaded these recordings into Weaponiser at different distances and added some metal layers and sub-kick elements to make them sound heavy, big and punchy. Weaponiser was amazing for that.
When you are working with rapid-fire guns, the great thing about Weaponiser is you can trigger elements as round robins so they don’t constantly repeat. It’s not often that we get to design something so explosion and weapon-heavy, and it was really fun to do!Designing Sound Effects for Explosive Scenes
One explosive episode starts on a plane, and 60% of the soldiers die jumping from it into a storm. They are dragged through the desert while being shot at with anti-aircraft guns. There were also multiple air bases being destroyed, full of explosions and shootouts and Messerschmitts being blown up. It was basically just like a feature film in itself!
We only had three weeks per episode, so having Weaponiser to help me so that I didn’t have to layer every single element was huge. I could set the fire rate easily by timing the muzzle flashes, and then in Weaponiser syncing them with the fire rate slider, rather than syncing each flash manually. It saved me so much time.
All of the Krotos products have really good starting points in the presets. There are a lot of variables, so having something that’s been set already enables you to see what each variable is doing. Then once you get more of an understanding, you can start with a blank slate and go from there.
Krotos Studio too, with the weapon fire distance, you can shoot from a distance and then get closer and closer and closer. It inspires you to make your own presets.My Favourite Sound Design Projects Patrick Melrose
Patrick Melrose was a really good show that I worked on. Directed by Edward Berger and starred Benedict Cumberbatch. It was set over a lengthy time scale, spanning the 60s, the 80s and the modern day. It was a really powerful drama about someone dealing with drug addiction and there were lots of really cool sound design moments to work on. For example, one moment the show would be in New York, then the next it’s in France. The huge contrasts in time and place provided really cool soundscape to work with, and it was so much fun to work on.Critical
Critical was a great experience – Imagine 24 but in an A&E department. Each episode was set in an hour and it was all in real-time. It was incredibly gory, with lots of beeping heart monitors that needed to be at the right pitch and speed every time you saw the monitor. It had to be very precise so that was really cool. It was very challenging from a sound point of view to design sound for full-on action in a hospital setting.Extraordinary
Extraordinary is a project I worked on for Disney, about a world where everyone has superpowers, apart from one girl. So for someone to not have superpowers was unusual.
We aimed to make the superpowers sound natural and not too over-the-top, since they were considered the norm in this world. So we used lots of natural recordings and elements rather than using anything too over the top or synthy. That was really fun to doDesigning Sound Effects for Video Games Total War: Warhammer 3
I’ve been a massive Warhammer fan since I was a kid so it was a dream project to create spells and soundscapes for. I did 38 cut scenes for Total War: Warhammer 3, in my garage during the lockdown, on headphones! That was a challenge. I didn’t have access to a crowd of people to record, so I had to do a lot of voices myself, so I can do a good ‘ogre’ voice now!
Video game sound design is a very different experience, with lots of reviews and back-and-forth communication. It was hard, but I enjoyed it a lot. I was able to collaborate with the talented team at Creative Assembly and receive invaluable feedback from Richard Beddow (Audio Director, Creative Assembly).
My goal was to ensure the sound design remained grounded in the game’s world and context, without being too sci-fi. The timescale was longer than what I’m used to working with too, which was awesome!
Creative Assembly wanted to incorporate spells and sound effects from the game into the cut scenes, which are like paintings with some moving elements. I had to use a lot of imagination to create the background sounds. Listening to the great work Creative Assembly did gave me so much inspiration, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to such an amazing franchise!
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Grant Elder designed a soundscape of Halloween sound effects for Netflix’s The Curse of Bridge Hollow. Dehumaniser 2 was used in Grant’s workflow as part of the Halloween decorations that come to life throughout the film, as well as for the film’s main antagonist, Stingy Jack. We spoke with Grant about his beginnings in sound, and his work on the film in the exclusive interview below.
Actor Marlon Wayans fighting an evil clown decoration, which Grant Elder designed sound effects for
Hi Grant – tell us how you started designing sound effects
I moved to NYC straight out of college. I had a background in music and a lot of experience working in Ableton Live. My first gig was at a small sound studio that worked mostly in commercials and music mastering.
At the same time, I started an apprenticeship at Harbor Picture Company, where I worked diligently to learn as much as I could from the designers, mixers, and engineers on staff, as well as other talented individuals who came through the doors.
My background in music proved invaluable. Thanks to my knowledge of basic editing in Ableton’s arrangement view, which I found to be more challenging than Pro Tools, I was able to quickly adapt to the latter software.
I leaned on my experience with software synthesizers and samplers to refine my techniques. As I began to book more jobs, I gravitated towards sound design roles. Rather than relying solely on pre-existing sound effects libraries, I tried to create unique designs using the tools and techniques I had learned from my previous experience.
How did you start working on the sound effects for The Curse of Bridge Hollow?
I had collaborated with Matt Waters, the film’s sound supervisor/re-recording mixer, on previous projects. I was scheduled to be on another show when he asked me to join this film, so I jumped onto it a little later. There were a few temp mixes and some editorial done before I came on. I didn’t know much about the film at the time, but after watching it, I was really excited to dive in.
Sound Supervisor Matt Waters (left) & Sound Designer Grant Elder (right)
The sound design was great on the film – these Halloween decorations were coming to life, and as much as they were scary/creepy, you can hear materially plasticky sounds in there as wellI’m glad you noticed! One of Netflix’s biggest notes from the first temp was that it was just too scary, so we had to dial that stuff back. That was the general idea. We wanted to keep it fun and entertaining for everybody! Yeah, that definitely does come through, they sound like actual Halloween decorations It was great that I didn’t have to make it sound too real, I could just have fun with it. When I was auditioning things I remember thinking “Oh, that sounds like a yard decoration. Great!” It didn’t have to be too Hi-fi and large, it could just be playful. That made the entire project super interesting.
Stingy Jack, is the villain in The Curse of Bridge Hollow. Sounds Designed by Grant Elder using Dehumaniser 2
You Used Dehumaniser 2 on The Curse of Bridge Hollow – Would you be able to talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, of course, Let’s dive in!
I used Dehumaniser 2 on a lot of different characters and groups of monsters in the film. Perhaps most importantly, I used it on the main antagonist, Stingy Jack. I also used it on some other yard decorations that come to life and the three clowns that come to life as they’re walking through the high school hallway.
One technique that I found to be very useful was setting up a separate design session for each character. Within each session, I included source tracks and four or five different effects chains that could be applied to the character. Each effects chain started with Dehumaniser 2 and then I inserted other helpful design plugins after that, to create several unique flavors of processing.
For example, our source material for the clowns and the horde was performed by our group loopers. I took those recordings and cut them into mono source tracks that I would then send to these effects chains to be able to compare versions seamlessly. That was a really helpful workflow because I could tweak the processing before printing anything. If I needed to go back and change something or use a different chain altogether, then I could do that.
Dehumaniser 2 was so flexible because all the parameters can be modulated. That gave me a lot of comfort knowing that I had the flexibility to continue to build on the sounds we liked within the plugin.
That all sounds amazing, there are some really fantastic approaches using Dehumaniser 2 there.
Dehumaniser 2 was so great because right out of the box it started giving me really good results. That really helped propel me in the right direction quickly. This was a huge help because starting with a great palette gave us time and flexibility to play around with our sounds and refine before our mix.
Dehumaniser 2 lets you shape the sound around your vocal performance, then from there you can then add layers and get really creative!
Yeah, exactly. For Stingy Jack, I had Dehumaniser 2 running through the effects chain, and then on top of that I had a bunch of the fire layers because he’s breathing fire the whole time. So that was also added on top – that was a lot of fun!You came onto the project with the temp mixes in place. Did that present other issues to overcome, or is it purely a benefit? Jeff, (Director, Bridge Hollow) and Sean (Editor, Bridge Hollow), really trust Matt, which made this an incredible collaboration to be a part of. There was a lot of material that stuck from the temps. For instance the massive spider in the retirement home had a great sound to it already once I got on. That was a huge help because that was such a massive set piece. Matt had done a great job at getting a lot of good material in with limited time before the temps. A lot of the process was making things sound similar to the AAF material, but not necessarily the same. Matt wanted the clowns to sound more like the temp material. We achieved that, but they were much more full and cinematic, thanks in part to Dehumaniser 2! And for Stingy Jack, they had a bunch of really cool ideas already, but it wasn’t hitting the mark for us. They did have some interesting seal samples in there though… that was cool! But the fidelity of the samples was poor and we needed more control over the performance. We were constantly getting VFX changes with new mouth movements for all the characters so having the ability to re-perform the vocals with the same processing to get us in sync was massive. Another great benefit though is that the temp sounds give you an idea of narratively where they want to hear certain monsters. It’s almost like a template for you to start working in, which is nice.
When you’re making sound effects, do you have any references in mind from other films or other particular sounds?
I find that I try to jump in as fresh as possible on most things. Of course if I’m getting bogged down a little bit, I’ll go watch some stuff that I think is really cool and inspiring, but I like to have a base layer of my own creative fresh ideas down, then work from that.
Although if the director mentions a film or show they have in mind during our process I’ll always go watch it. I sometimes default to more musical production techniques I’ve used in the past when thinking out how I can achieve creating the right sounds. For example, old synth patches, samplers, or effects racks I used to play around with are sometimes good creative jumping blocks.
For big set pieces on this project in particular, I don’t remember thinking of another film as a reference point, but I do remember thinking, “Oh, Krotos has that Dehumaniser plugin. I’m going to go for that right away!” (So good job on the marketing front).Thank you very much! (Laughs) Again, if I get into a place where I need some creative inspiration, of course, I’ll go watch some of the films that I think would be helpful. Not necessarily to try to replicate their sound, but just to become excited again about what we do as sound designers and propel me with new energy towards creating something cool.
You referred again to how you have these musical ideas that you implement into your sound design. Do you have any examples that you can share with us?The show’s director and editor wanted Stingy Jack to sound like an old tree moving. You can hear the monster creaking around as it moves toward the wife when she’s hiding and scared. I loaded a bunch of earth, tree creaks, dirt, and gravel into a sampler and performed its movements on my keyboard. The attack was very slow and then the release was also pulled down so when I hit the keys it had this natural movement, rather than just a sting. I was triggering multiple samples playing forward, some reverse, while I had other parameters MIDI-mapped to create additional randomizations and character. The other element I created in a similar fashion was Stingy Jack’s vortex. That was a bunch of tonal winds, tornados, and some liquid elements. Again, having experience with samplers always comes in handy with stuff like this. I’m really excited about Krotos Studio because it looks like it’s going to be a great new tool that will continue to propel this type of performative sound design. Sound design can be so performative, It’s on a spectrum of performative to super-technical, but it can just be as performative as music performance. It’s nice to draw from both of those sides, isn’t it? For me, there’s something extra special about hitting keys or pads and hearing something new and original pour into the picture. That for me is one of the most gratifying parts of my job. I find the most satisfaction in being able to perform something that helps tell the story, and knowing that it’s my own creation. If I’m able to nail that during a project that checks all the boxes for me.
About Grant Elder
Grant Elder is a New York City-based Sound Designer and Supervising Editor, who has worked on Ad Astra (2019), Knock at the Cabin (2023) and To Leslie (2022).
The post Halloween Sound Effects in Netflix’s The Curse of Bridge Hollow appeared first on Krotos.Read More
Ryan Hobler (Sound Designer, Gramercy Park Studios) shares 6 tips for creating sound effects for motion graphics based on his And/Or series on Instagram. Ryan demonstrates several projects and offers advice he has learned from each experience.1) Make Sure the Sound FX Serve the Visuals
Designing sound effects for motion graphics is a useful and productive way to develop your portfolio, improve your sound design skills and collaborate with other artists.
When working on the Rubik’s Cube visual, the textures in Matjaz Valentar’s work were so realistic, the colours were vibrant and warm and there was something about the individual cubes transforming into softer spheres that really captivated me. I knew I had to try to capture that in the sounds!
The Blue Background Space
The warm, musical bed functions as the sound of the blue space in the video. It has a serene, welcoming vibe, almost like it is embracing the cube’s willingness to change. I complimented this with pitched, swirly synth sounds to match the cubes spins and shifts.
The main sound is of the cubes turning into spheres. I achieved this with bubbly sounds and rubbery stretches that ascend and descend in pitch.
Adding Final Details
The last layer was to ornament the movement with some discrete sound effects. These spinning swishes enhance the movements in the graphics to make them more dynamic.
The Results2) Focus on Developing Your Sound Design Skills With Every Project
By doing these projects, I wanted to be able to quickly tap into that creative place where you make something without any rules or inhibitions, but I found myself getting in my own way due to second-guessing and overthinking my decisions. I wasn’t experimenting enough and I wasn’t stretching or improving my skills.
By making sound effects for these animations, I’ve grown as a sound designer and have gotten much faster and better at trying new things out, without holding myself back.3) Draw Inspiration From Music
A real turning point for me was Mirror Mirror, where I collaborated with Tyler Sparks a phenomenal cinematographer and motion graphics artist.
We used drone footage of Hjart Island in Norway. It felt like the opening title to a mind-bending TV show like Lost or Dark, so I used that vibe to write an anthemic theme for this project.
I was listening to the band Big Data, and was particularly inspired by their song “Unglued”. I explored some ideas from that song and started right away making sounds.
After watching the video several times, I got a sense of the rhythm of the visuals. From there, I made a menacing, pulsating bass part as for a low, ominous, evil driving force. The sound design reflects the slow creeping towards the expanding mirrored treelines, using the wave sound as we get closer and closer.4) Use Mono Sound Effects for Busy Projects
This was a realisation from Luminous Bloom, a cool, dystopian, cyberpunk short made with Dave Sujono. There is a lot going on in this clip, so the majority of sounds we hear are mono sounds.
I needed as much space as possible to play with the scene and I wanted to be able to move a lot of pieces around in the stereo field. Moving elements include Dave walking into the scene, the two people chatting at Dave’s Diner counter, and the sparks from the neon sign moving around depending on where our perspective is.
The flower that emerges is a combination of monster and creature sounds, growls, egg-hatching gushes, and a reversed horse stampede. I definitely wanted to make a slithery, snake-like sound for this alien lifeform and it was a lot of fun to create with Dehumaniser 2!5) Always Remember the Project Brief
Animation is challenging because it is an empty sonic canvas. With so many creative choices to make, which choices should we choose for our projects? For me, I aim to capture the emotion and intent in my choices. I always ask my collaborators two things:
I write down every word they answer with and use that as a starting point. This is often all I need to start generating ideas as I am confident that we are creatively aligned from the outset. More importantly, it allows my collaborator to feel heard and establishes me as an ally in the quest for our creative cause.6) Getting Started on your own Collaborative Projects
If you want to get started on projects like this, then the best way is to reach out to motion graphics designers and animators directly. All of the And/Or projects started by messaging creators directly through social media and Instagram.
Search popular hashtags such as #3Dart #motiongraphics #mograph and reach out to creators whose work you really appreciate. Tell them how much you appreciate their work and politely ask if they would like to collaborate!
About Ryan Hobler
New York-based composer and sound designer Ryan Hobler works at Gramercy Park Studios, designing sound for commercial projects. He uses Krotos Dehumaniser 2, Reformer Pro and Weaponiser in his sound design workflow.
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