Sound Off! Thundercats Tiger Fighter (Futuristic Jet)


Sound Off! is a series of quick posts sharing custom sound effects.

“Thundercats Tiger Fighter Builds”

Metadata Keywords: futuristic jet, spaceship, fly by, power down, cargo door, spaceship door

Image from the official Jetplanes.co.uk.

Sound Off! Sword of Omens Unsheath/Sheath


Sound Off! is a series of quick posts sharing custom sound effects. 

“Sword Of Omens Unsheath”

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“Sword Of Omens Sheath”

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Metadata Keywords: sword, sword of omens, sheath, unsheath, metal scrape, ringing

Image from the official Thundercats Facebook Page.

From the Trenches: Spec Work

From the Trenches is a series of posts sharing true life experiences and stories from within the fun and exciting (although sometimes crazy and convoluted) world of sound design.

And we’ll start with some unsolicited advice:  If you can avoid it, don’t work on spec.

I get it. When you’re first starting out in any job, it’s truly hard to get your foot in the door. It’s the classic Catch-22 of needing to know a skill to work in a field where you can only learn that skill by working in that field. A large majority of people then chose to work for free (or peanuts) in order to gain the necessary experience. All I’m saying is, if you can avoid this route, please do. And if you absolutely must work ‘on spec,’ keep the projects small and don’t do it for too long.

That said, once you’ve been working for a while in this industry, it can be pretty common practice to do a ‘test’ on a LARGE project before it will come to your door. In my case, I’m specifically referring to projects on the series level of television. If a production is going to drop 26+ episodes of television work on your doorstep, wanting a small taste of what you can do for them is completely understandable.

The Backstory:

A few years back I was asked to create some spec sound design in hopes of attracting an animated series about a kid who can turn his body into all kinds of machines and weapons (as a courtesy, I’m not going to mention the specific show. But you’re smart. You’ll probably have enough clues to figure it out). Long story short, we didn’t get the show. There are a number of reasons why any given television series can chose to go to any given studio.

The point is, besides the handful of people that got this batch of test sounds in their email, these sounds never saw the light of day. They are highly specialized so reusing is probably not much of an option. Thus, I’m posting them here for you to check out. If nothing else, it should be (slightly?) interesting to hear an entirely realized set of sounds created without any images or references.

The direction:

Organic matter gives way to metallic contructs. Think: trees creaks and liquid bubbling to create high tech metal machinery. Also… we need big footsteps. And servos.

The product:

“Organic Robot Transformation 1”
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“Organic Robot Transformation 2”
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“Organic Robot Servos”
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“Organic Robot Walk Cycle”
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As always, thanks for listening for what sounds like Jeff.

This week’s image comes from the futuristicky.

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.

Thundercats Episode 12: Crocodile Hum-Vee

The lizards have fancy bikes of their own…

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!!

This week’s order was to give this breed of motorcycle a lizard-like quality to match their drivers.

I’m usually searching for a while to find the right source sound but this one came up quickly. It’s a crocodile growl that sounds an awful lot like a Harley idling (at least to my ears… You might have to squint… If ears can squint).

“Crocodile Growl (Source)”
iPhone or iPad? click here

Next up was experimenting with the sample and a pitch modulator to give the performance the feel of acceleration and deceleration.

“Crocodile Growl Pitch Experiments”
iPhone or iPad? click here

These experiments gave me a lot to work with but I needed another layer. I dug up an older build I had made for the mining carts in episode 6. These were also ‘lizard inspired’ and paired nicely with the modulated croc growls when globally pitched.

“Lizard Mining Cart Idle”
iPhone or iPad? click here

The last step was adding in a startup sound, which I grabbed from an old Harley. (after many attempts at creating one with lizard sounds, I decided going with the real deal here was much more successful). The idle it leads into is the croc.

“Lizard Bike Start-Idle”
iPhone or iPad? click here

Here are some examples from the final builds that ended up in the show.

“Lizard Bike Accelerate”
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“Lizard Bike Group”
iPhone or iPad? click here

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

Creative Toolkit:

  • Crocodile Growl Sample
  • Serato Pitch ‘N Time
This week’s image… Is awesome. And yes, I realize it’s a frog, not a lizard.