Thundercats Episode 6: Mumm-Ra’s Souped up Ride

Villains in black SUV’s are so cliché. This week we explore a tank shaped like a sarcophagus. Now that’s a twisted ride!

Mumm-Ra's Ride

I have to confess, this tank almost didn’t happen. There was an enormous amount of fail going on. Just like any other creative work, there are highs and lows and for some reason, this tank was a tough nut to crack.

Sounds like a no brainer… it’s a tank, what’s so confusing? Well for starters, the Thunder Tank had already been well established; all throaty and muscled-out. To set it apart, Mumm-Ra’s tank had to be more high-tech; whirs and whines while still retaining it’s weight (wow, that’s a crazy string of words). I wanted to create two distinct layers that would work together in harmony to sell the futuristic nature of the tank while still conveying the treads and internal mechanics. It felt like a tall order but eventually, I did (finally) crack it.

The ‘aha’ moment came as I was auditioning some samples to use for the treads. One tread sample reminded me of an impact wrench. You know, the kind they use to quickly change out tires in NASCAR. I thought, ‘hey, this tank tread kind of sounds like an impact wrench. I wonder if processing an impact wrench would kind of sound like tank treads?’ Turns out it kind of does.

“Impact Wrench (pitched)”
iPhone or iPad? click here

After some creative finagling (i.e. a string of random processing I can’t remember), I got the sound to a point where it almost had the quality of both tank treads and an engine idle. 2 birds, one stone. Moving on.

“Mumm-Ra Tank Engine steady (with treads)”

iPhone or iPad? click here

Now that I had the base for the tank’s low end, I created and layered in a few more design-y elements to help convey all of the mechanics. It’s a complicated machine after all.

Unsolicited advice: When building any kind of engine, start by placing all of your layers on top of one another. Look for any distinct rhythmic elements in the sounds (you can often see this visually in the waveform) and then time compress/edit each layer until they match up, creating a consistent cadance with one another (like a drum beat). I find this helps to make it seem more like a cohesive machine. Try imagining the futuristic equivalent of pistons and crankshafts working in unison under the hood (yes I had to google ‘engine parts,’ even though I’m from Detroit. Shame).

Once you have your engine built, it’s easy to either bounce it down or bulk time and pitch compress each layer to give the vehicle some movement, which is exactly what I did using Serato Pitch ‘N Time.

The other piece of the puzzle was to add a high-end element to give the tank a futuristic quality and help cut through in the mix. For this, I used some basic turbine wind ups but added a twist. All turbines were layered in twice; one clean version and one that I ran through a tremolo effect and pitched up or down an octave. I rendered this new layer and aggressively pitched as needed for the scene. For any shots where the tank flys by camera I used Waves Doppler effect.

“Futuristic Turbines”
iPhone or iPad? click here

Layer all of this together and you get the sound of a pretty unusual and distinct vehicle. And when you’re talking unusual, I’d say a Sarcopha-Tank™ fits the bill.

“Mumm-Ra Tank”
iPhone or iPad? click here

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

Creative Toolkit:

  • Pneumatic Drill Sample
  • Turbine Sample
  • Serato Pitch ‘n Time
  • Waves Doppler
  • KORE multimode filter, tremelo effect
Mumm-Ra from this week’s image by Edbot5000.
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