Thundercats Episode 0: Sight Beyond Sight (a sneak peek)

Appropriately, the first sound I upload here for you happens to be the first sound recreation I took on for the series.

Thundercats is set to premier tonight. In the meantime, I thought I’d get the ball rolling and upload an early preview effect. No spoilers here, but if you’re a fan of the original series, this should sound familiar to you.

One of the main challenges of the show is making sure we stay true to the original series for the die hard fans (and as I have learned from working on this show for the past few months, Thundercats fans in general are DIE HARD fans… no pressure!). As a sound designer, playing to the fans means finding the right pieces to pull from the original sound design of the show and peppering them in whenever possible. The example I want to start out with is the extending of the sword and hilt when Lion-O starts his ‘Sight Beyond Sight’ routine. Referencing the original series, this sound is always married to various pieces of the score and very lo-fi. Capturing it was not an option. It was time to get to work re-creating it.

The Process:

First, I captured the sound from the original show into Pro Tools so that I could easily loop it, listening to it on repeat so I could break it down.

“Original Sword of Omens Extend”

Using an iPhone or iPad? Click for Eye of Thundera Reveal audio.

I’m hearing 3 distinct elements. There’s a dissonant chord that is building in the score. We’ll rule that out. On the low end, there’s a cool synth that sounds like it’s being run through a wah-wah pedal. Lastly, there’s a magical sting at the end.

I started with the synth generated by Native Instrument’s KORE. I was looking for one that had some teeth to it, like a saw tooth wave. Don’t get caught up in the technical side of it though, I just tried a bunch out until I found one I liked and matching pitch and tambour. Playing it live through a cutoff filter gave me the wah effect. A little pro tools editorial to match the proper tempo and that element was ready to go. Here’s a render of some of my experimentation (synth and cutoff live > The piece I chose to work with > final editorial)

“Sword Extend – Live Synth Experimenting”

Using an iPhone or iPad? Click for Synth Liveplay audio.

As I searched for the magical sting element, I found a sample that I believe was from the Shazzam series (don’t quote me on that though, it’s a little before my time). It sounded cool and retro… might as well see what I can make out of it. It turns out that the sound wasn’t right for the magic sting, but it did start to have a metallic quality the more I processed it. I realized that this sound I’m designing (a growing sword effect) was missing something to sweeten the actual metal growing and this sound could work perfectly. Happy accident!

“Sword Extend – Growing Metal Before and After”

Using an iPhone or iPad? Click for Growing Metal Process audio.

There was still the matter of the magical sting at the end. I couldn’t help but hear an actual cat sound in there. At this point, I was probably losing my mind a bit (listening to reference loops a couple of hundred times can do that to you) but regardless, I decided to run with it. I grabbed a favorite sample of mine that is basically a housecat freaking out (it’s called ‘angry cat’). I found a piece I liked, end edited it to shorten it up (see below for the raw edited sound).

“Sword Extend – Angry Cat Edit (unprocessed)”

Using an iPhone or iPad? Click for Angry Cat Edit audio.

I ran the cat through a delay/pitch effect chain to give it that repeating, magical sound I heard in the reference. To give it more depth, I also doubled it an octave up. It matched up pretty well! I don’t think it sounds much like a cat anymore, but maybe it will on a subconscious level. OK, probably not, but regardless, it makes me smile.

One two three, I layered all of the sounds on top of each other, found a balance and mixed it down. Good to go.

“New Sword of Omens Extend”

Using an iPhone or iPad? Click for Eye of Thundera Reveal audio.

One sound, a LOT of work. But this is the fun stuff. If this sound helps fans of the original series get waves of nostalgia when we first see Lion-O bring up the Sword of Omens, I’ve done my job.

Thanks for listening for what sounds like Jeff.

Creative Toolkit:

  • Native Instruments KORE instrument and FX plugins
  • Shazzam magic effect
  • angry cat effect
  • Pro Tools Multi-Tap Delay
  • waves TrueVerb
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