Today Alex explores layering, a core concept of sound design, and how it’s used when creating a video game sound effect.
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Transcript (Video Must Be Watched For Complete Experience):
A video game sound designer’s job is really all about persuasion. They’re job is to convince you, through audio, that the objects, environments, and characters you’re interacting with are believable and real – even if they’re not. Sometimes that’s a lot trickier to do than you might think. How would a sound designer create the sound for an energy shield? How about a frost spell? Or even a more grounded sound like an airplane engine? Like I said, designing sound effects is all about persuasion, and most of the time the sounds you hear aren’t actually the sounds you think you hear. Instead, sound designers gather their source recordings, manipulate them, and then mix them together to construct brand new sound effect. This process is called layering. Ben Burtt famously created Star Wars’ TIE fighter sound by slowing down a vehicle’s skid through a large puddle and layering it over an elephant’s roar that had been pitched down.
Let’s take a look at the God of War clip that we watched earlier in this video. Your brain sees and hears Kratos walking through the crunchy snow, however the source of that sound actually comes from walking on sand and cornstarch.
So with this concept of layering in mind, I want to recreate a classic video game sound effect that’s in about every game imaginable. We’re making our very own punch sound effect, and since we can’t exactly go around recording ourselves punching another person, we’re going to use four simple ingredients that can be bought at any grocery store. Using french bread, celery, grapefruit, and a small steak, we’re going to create a hyper realistic, energetic, and over-the-top punch sound – something like what you might hear in the upcoming PlayStation 4 Spider-Man game. We’ll record and then layer our sounds on top of one another to create Spidey’s punches, and then pitch shift the same sound down half an octave to create the sound effect for his kicks.
Cutting a loaf of bread in half and then hitting the pieces together will give us a nice thump sound and will help serve to enhance the body of our punch. Next, we’ll break some celery apart to recreate the snapping sound of a bone cracking. Since we aren’t trying to make it sound like Spider-Man’s popping skulls 24/7, we’ll keep this sound really low in the mix, however it’ll serve as a great snapping sound effect for when Spidey whips an enemy around with his webs. Then, we’ll cut a grapefruit in half, and use it’s juicy pulp to simulate blood splattering. Lastly, we’ll use the steak we grabbed at the store to simulate a fist hitting human skin.
So after we layer these sounds together, here’s what we get. I’m pretty happy with the sound effect so far, but now I’m going to process my punch with equalization, compression, saturation, and reverb to get a beefier sound. The final step before implementing our sound effect into the game is a technique called worldization, which was developed by Walter Murch, a legendary American film editor and sound designer who has worked on Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, and The Godfather movies. Essentially, worldization is the process of simulating a target acoustic space by utilizing reverb on the relevant sound effect. In the section of the game we’re referencing, Spider-Man is fighting inside the frame of an unfinished skyscraper wherein there are only a few surfaces that a sound would bounce off of, so our reverb is going to be pretty subtle.
Alright, let’s listen to the finished product.
Thank you for watching this video… sound design is a big interest of mine and i’m constantly trying to improve my knowledge on the subject, so thank you so much for watching this video.