Thundercats Episode 5: The $100,000 Pyramid

Want to make a cool power down sound? I show you how I sweetened up Mumm-Ra’s pyramid in three simple steps.

Apologies for the rough estimate in the header. I’m not up to speed on the current dollar to Thunderian shilling conversion rate, nor the current climate of the Third Earth real estate market.

When Grune arrives at Mumm-Ra’s pyramid, he places his hand on the wall and triggers a complex chain reaction. As soon as the wall starts to glow, it is clear we are in the realm of technology. For the most part, this build consists of layers of telemetry, hatch clunks, rumbles and various zaps. For the final door opening however, I wanted to build a quick custom power down to button everything up. Here’s how I got there.

Step 1 – Picking the right jumping off point

I started with a compressed air sound which, as another happy accident, was found while I was looking for air releases for Mumm-Ra’s coffin. I thought this one had too much personality to leave well enough alone and jumped into sound design mode.

“Hollow Air Release (clean)”

iPhone or iPad? Hollow Air Release (Clean) audio

What’s so special about it? To me, it has almost had a tonal quality which is good for pitching. Plus, I didn’t think I’d heard many power downs that sounded like they were based on air so that was something different.

Step 2 – Get yourself a powerful pitching plug-in

I use Serato Pitch ‘N Time. It’s by far the best for custom graphing of sound and time modulation. Another good (yet limited to straight line arcs) plug-in is Waves SoundShifter. These are pricey solutions though, and unless you work for a studio that provides you with them, you may want another option. Why not go the cheap route and sample the sound with any basic sampler? Then play back the sound live and mess around with the Modulation wheel on a keyboard. Yes, it’s old school, but some of the best sounds are made this way.

I pitch modified the sound in a nice slow arc to a lower register.

“Hollow Air Release (Pitched)”

iPhone or iPad? Hollow Air Release (Pitched) audio

Step 3 – Get busy pitching

Any steady that you pitch down becomes a simple power down. It’s all about the character you add in this final step. You can go a thousand different directions from here. To mask the natural sound and give it that sci-fi edge, I used an ensemble filter, essentially multiplying the sound and adding a nice phase.

Unsolicited advice: Are you cutting sound effects for a sci-fi type project? Phase is your friend! Try it out some time.

Finally, I ran it through an EQ, messing with the cutoff and resonance until I got a sound I thought would cut nicely in the mix.

“Pyramid Door Power Down”

iPhone or iPad? Pyramid Door Power Down audio

And that’s it! Why use something from a library when making your own custom power down can be so easy?

As always, thanks for listening for what sounds like Jeff.

Creative Toolkit:

  • Hollow air sample
  • Serato Pitch ‘n Time
  • Ensemble Filter
  • KORE multimode filter

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