Thundercats Episode 13: Astral Plane and Simple

Ever wonder what the world collapsing under your feet would sound like in another dimension? Yeah, me too.

As Lion-O and Tygra defeat Mumm-Ra, the ground beneath their feet begins to break apart. In our original workprint, the pieces of the astral plane were all white but I was informed that it would eventually be mapped with the surrounding astral plane backgrounds. This gave me the idea that the earth below their feet was less like the ground and more like a giant mirror, shattering as it collapsed.

With that idea in mind, I started by looking for window and tile smashing sounds, cutting each in place to match the timing of the large cracks appearing on screen. I like the fat, somewhat bassy impact of these sounds.

“Window Smashing Sample”
iPhone or iPad? click here

Then, to fill the scene up a bit, I added a bunch of layers of debris… crashing/crumbling rock and earth ( I know it doesn’t fit my ‘mirror shattering’ concept, but it feels right within the context of the scene).

Unsolicited advice: You can drive yourself crazy trying to sync every little element up on screen. I find it best to pick out a focal point (the larger shattering in this case) and cut those to picture first. Then, have fun layering in some other elements to really give the scene some depth. You can fill up a scene pretty quickly with just a few good choices. Maybe every little sound doesn’t have a corresponding bit of animation to show for it, but trust your ears. As long as it sounds cool, you’re good to go.

Once the astral plane’s own steady sound (whomp whomp whomp) were layered in and volume graphed to crescendo to the end of the scene, everything was sounding pretty good.

But just pretty good. Not great.

I needed something to send it over the edge. I’ve talked a lot about fancy effects processors, but for this challenge I kept it very simple. I decided to start with the current window smashing samples I had already cut into place. Since I wanted them to sound more other-worldly my approach was to purposely degrade the sound by over stretching them. Using the Time Compression/Expansion tool built into Pro Tools (the one that looks like a bracket with a little clock on it) I was able to drag the edge of the file off to the right and ultimately stretch the samples of glass breaking well beyond any reasonable amount. This give the sound a strange robotic/digital quality.

Fair warning folks, it’s about to get technical up in here.

Now, I have a marginal background in audio theory but I’m going to fake my way through an explanation of how this works regardless. Recorded sounds are made up of samples which are tiny snapshots of the sound that’s being recorded, like frames on film. Our ears interpolate the missing bits upon playback and so we do not notice these holes. Higher quality sounds are recorded at higher ‘sample rates’ (taking more snapshots within the same given amount of time). The higher the sample rate, the better the samples respond to time expansion because there are still plenty of snapshots in the sound to play back. However, if you stretch a sample far enough, eventually you’ll get to that breaking point no matter how high the sample rate. When you stretch any given sample past a certain point, it begins to degrade and you start to get that weird robot/digital kind of sound. I believe it’s because Pro Tools fills in the gaps by doubling samples up and this doubling, when compounded, starts to sound very unnatural. Remember the way Neo’s voice goes from natural to digital as he is transformed into The Matrix? That’s the sound I was going for!

Turns out it sounded really cool and layered in well with the rest of the build.

“Astral Plane Cracking
iPhone or iPad? click here

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

Creative Toolkit:

    • Window Smash Sample
    • Pro Tools Time Expansion/Compression Tool
This week’s image comes from the Rabidhamsters Blog.
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2 thoughts on “Thundercats Episode 13: Astral Plane and Simple

  1. It is always a pleasure to see your thread pop up on TCL! And as always, you deliver a great blog that explains how you arrive at the sounds we hear in Thundercats. Thank you for doing this! I look forward to when the season kicks back up next year and you can continue your writing.

  2. Thanks Larry! I’m excited to start writing about the back half of season one as well. In the meantime, I’ll try and keep it up with some fun bonus content. As always, it’s an honor to work on the show and I’m sure we wouldn’t have the chance if it weren’t for you!! That’s assuming I’m thinking of the right Larry 🙂

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