Creating SFX for Wrack — The Latest

In my last post about creating sfx, I mentioned how you have to balance the volumes of the music and sfx. Well, Brad has now implemented sound priorities.

If you’ve never heard the term “ducking” when it comes to sound, it is a method of reducing background volume levels, usually when someone is speaking. You’ll hear it on radio programs, TV and on the web. The most important sound is given priority over every thing else.

So, when you’re in a very “sound active” area of a map in Wrack, you are going to start hearing the music duck under the sfx so you can hear them more clearly. This is a huge improvement for sound effect development.

Does this mean that you’ll be able to jack the volume on every effect you create — and maybe compress it to look like the waveform in my previous post on this subject?

Not really. You still want any background kind of effects to be quiet when they play all by themselves. You’ll still also want other sound effects that play more quietly than weapons and monster alerts.

How do you start creating a sound effect? Any way that works. My method is to watch the animation that needs an effect. Then I try to visualize (“audioize”?) the sound it might make. Sometimes it comes to me right away. Other times I have to wait for an idea to emerge.

Now comes the work of finding existing audio or creating audio that can be edited/mixed to bring your visualization to a physical reality. This is when your own personal collection of effects comes in handy. I’ve collected sound effects over the years that I still haven’t used because they didn’t mix well with other sounds. Most of the time you do not want sounds with their own strong personality — you want multiple sounds to come together for the personality you are trying for.

I’ve sort of stuck with CoolEdit and it’s offspring Audition. Sadly, Audition keeps backing off of the features that CoolEdit had. Many of those features were wonderful for sound effects. Maybe the reason for Adobe to do this is to support plugins, and maybe this increases their financial bottom line. But, there’s room for both native features and plugins. I often start out with CoolEdit for basic effect material and then use Audition to master the final effect. I am not recommending any of this software over what you may already have and be comfortable with.

Sometimes you have to make a sound to record yourself. Such was the case when I was working on player landing and player pain sounds for Wrack. I recorded myself jumping from a step stool and intensified my vocalization. Then I used an equalizer to bring out the frequencies that cut through. Some pitch shifting helped, too.

When I worked on Duke Nukem 3D, we needed the sound of Duke inside duct work. I had a square metal office trash can handy, put a small pillow in the bottom to hold a microphone and then flexed the walls sides of the trash can. The sounds turned out perfect.

One of the screams in Doom is me. It was the middle of the night at id’s office. I may have been the only person there at the time. Anyway, I recorded myself screaming. Problem is I didn’t warm up before that, so I had a sore throat for a couple of days.

Once I needed the sound of a spinning coin. A real spinning coin didn’t sound real when recorded. Ultimately, a large metal washer was used and then pitch shifted. It was the sound of a spinning coin on steroids and it worked great in the project.

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3 Responses to Creating SFX for Wrack — The Latest

  1. Ben says:

    Very cool read! I am a live sound engineer, mostly mixing FOH/Stage Tech for local Chicago shows, but I am also a sound designer for theatre, and have done some post-production work for films. Sound design can be a very tricky thing, but is ultimately extremely rewarding. So glad you mentioned the metal washer being pitch shifted to create the sound of a coin spinning — in my experience, over 50% of the time, if you do a practical recording of the sound you need, like the coin, it usually sounds different. For a show I’m working on now, I needed the sound of a cell phone in a garbage disposal. I recorded my garbage disposal, but that alone sounded rather ‘hollow’. In the end I mixed that with the sounds of forks being dropped onto a metal sheet, guttural noises I made myself, and gears grinding on an old mechanical clock I have to get the full finished sound effect.

    Would love to hear more about the sound design in the game — just pre-ordered a moment ago and can’t wait to play (and hear) what you’ve got.


  2. Alder says:

    One thing that is important when creating fast-paced first-person shooters is indeed auditory feedback. Weapons not sounding powerful enough has been sometimes a problem. For an example, Unreal Tournament 2003/2004 and Serious Sam II had non-powerful-sounding weapons compared to previous installments of the series and those weren’t that fun to use. One of the best-sounding weapons in my opinion is double shotgun from Quake II.

  3. David Wicks says:

    Omg what scream in DOOM is Bobby?!

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