What the hell was that?


I finally managed to wrangle some time in the surround studio to have a crack at mixing in surround sound. Initially I had some troubles with studio I/O’s being a little skew iff (the LFE fader was routed to left surround) but after a reset of the computer I was good to go. I took the time to give a quick look to the calibration of the system as well. The rear speakers had been moved a little but with a mic cable I was able to re-position them correctly according to ITU standards. This was to ensure I had a clear and accurate representation of my mix by minimizing phase issues between the speakers.

ITU speaker placement

To begin with I set up my routing and began panning things to the rear. I took the advice of my peers and tried to make the ominous sounds more prominent and jarring, I achieved this by keeping them mainly towards the front of the mix with the occasional creature appearing in the rears. I bumped a lot of the ambience tracks to the rear speakers as well to fill in the surrounds. I employed the use of the 20/40 ‘room’ to greatly increase the immersiveness of the entire track. I kept the human sounds centered in the front of the mix to keep the feeling of forward movement. The original setting was that you are in a forest with some sort of creature chasing you. With the addition of the rear speakers the forest ambience is much more obvious.

Overall surround mixing was a great experience and I feel prepared to mix in surround again.



Hello again my fellow audio aficionados! This week in the blogosphere (I think that’s a thing) I am going to explore the intricacies of how sound can affect our emotions. More specifically, fear. I was tasked with creating a horror soundscape to exemplify how sound can drastically affect what we feel.

This started with the watching of the film The Conjuring. I took notes whilst watching the film (good excuse to not watch the scary stuff) and it gave me a good foothold in what sounds needed to be achieved. Notes can be found here. After the film we were asked to describe the sound. These were the words that were used.

Tense, demonic, dissonant, intimate, confronting, dynamic, abrasive, alive, unsettling, sporadic, alluring, haunting, impactful, exaggerated

The goal is to create a soundscape that is at least 2 minutes long and fits at least 10 of these descriptors. Tell me if you think I have achieved this.

To start off I didn’t want a whole bunch of random noise or events happening. A scene needed to be set. This was a little tricky considering there is no visual component to this task. My original idea was to go for classic scary. Haunted house, creaky doors and a big bad evil guy. I recorded some creak sounds of my old chair to inspire some creative juices but it didn’t eventuate into anything tangible. Here are some samples of the chair though.

Creaky creaky.

I needed another scene. I fiddled with a few things, recording sounds, reversing my squeaky chair sounds but nothing was working. So I decided to change my approach and look for some good eerie synthesized sounds. I was looking through some Massive presets when I found one that simulated a bird in the wild. A simple tweet sound. That gave me the idea for the basis of my soundscape. Outdoors, peaceful, sudden change, getting chased by a scary thing.

I experimented with a few synths in Massive to get the basic ambience of my scene. The birds, a rustle of leaves and a droning synth set me up pretty good. The way I recorded the synth was live onto a track playing it by feel and using the pitch and modulation wheels to increase the tension where I felt it was natural.

I used other synthesized sounds to create risers to again build up tension. It really is the key word here. Tension. Usually in the form of some kind of noise generation rather than a musical sound. It feels more oppressive and really drives home the unnaturalness of the setting. Speaking of oppressive I used a signal generator to create a harshness in the rises. It is annoying.


Another tension building aspect I incorporated was the use of breathing. I created three different speed breathing patterns and alternated them in and out depending on the place within the soundscape. Big scary thing happening equals faster breathing equals more tension. Tension.

Finally the key element. The ooga booga if you will. The big scary. I started off by recording my own voice performing this strange clicking sound from the back of my throat. I drew much of my inspiration from the Clickers in The Last of Us video game. Here is an example of the original vocals.

Nice and dry.

It’s a little unnerving maybe, but it needed something extra. Through the use of time stretching, reversing, splicing, pitch shifting, distortion and reverb I was able to create some very menacing sounds. Here is an example of the pitch shifted vocal track and distorted vocal track.

Get low get low.
A little bit crunchy.

The soundscape ends with the protagonist getting eaten. Well it sounds like that anyway. Here is a layered sample with all of the effects described above.

The whole kit and caboodle.

I was very heavy handed with automation with this project. I felt I needed a lot of control on where the creature sounds fit into the scene and by using automation on the reverb level and dry level I could create any blend that I wanted and tried to use this to my advantage to again increase the tension. Tension.

I think I could spend some more time recording some beast sounds to add a little more character to the antagonist. It seems a little blurry to me at times in regards to what is happening and where. Adding some low end footstep sounds could be a great addition as well. All in all I think I have achieved what the brief asked for and eagerly look forward to upmixing to surround sound.

Check it out at your own risk!



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