For our first Sound Design tutorial, we'll introduce the concept of 'Animating the Inanimate'. We'll make a wind sample 'come alive' by using EQ, convolution, reverb and some simple editing tricks in our DAW/multitracker. We will continue to revisit the theme of 'Animating the Inanimate' over time, giving you a wide variety of tips and tricks for breathing life into your sound effects.
Note: this article contains embedded audio that will not display in a feed reader. Click back to the site to read the tutorial with audio, or download the audio files at the bottom of the post.
What we'll create
The following clip is borne from some original wind samples, as well as samples of a cat and dog. We used a variety of techniques to achieve the final result, which breathes life and character into an otherwise ordinary sample.
Whenever I'm designing new sounds, I like to begin the process with the simplest techniques first. Here are two wind samples--one containing more high frequency content, and one containing more mid frequency content. Layering samples with different frequency content is a simple way to build a more complex and interesting result.
Because these wind samples are somewhat lacking in the low frequency spectrum, we can use a harmonic exciter to generate something a bit more full-sounding. Assign the aux send (sometimes also known as group or bus outputs) for the 'windSample2' channel to a Bus channel. Add a harmonic exciter to the insert of your Bus channel. In this case, we'll increase the harmonics at 60Hz by 50%. You might find that even this adds too much low-end to your mix, so you may want to reduce the volume of the bus channel by a few dB.
The resulting mix sounds like this:
Next we'll begin breathing some organic life into these wind samples using our good friend: convolution. I've downloaded two samples from the Freesound.org website.
Please note: These samples are used under a Creative Commons License for demonstration purposes only.
We will use these two samples to generate two different final wind samples.
To prepare these samples for use with a convolution plugin, we'll need to trim them just a bit. The cat sample just needs the head and tail trimmed, and we'll only use the first four growls of the dog sample.
We will create 2 new Bus channels--one for each of the two impulse samples (cat and dog). For each channel, we'll add a convolution reverb into one of the insert slots. In this instance, we will be using Logic's Space Designer, however, there are many convolution plugins on the market: commercial, shareware and freeware. The basic techniques will be similar across each plugin.
The next step is to import our cat and dog samples into our convolution plugin, and to configure the parameters.
Once the import is complete, we'll set the Direct Level to about -10dB for each bus, our Reverb level to 100, and make sure the volume envelope allows the entire impulse sample to be played.
For the final mixdown, you will want to draw volume curves so as to control the interplay between high and mid frequencies, as well as create a sense of motion and momentum.
In addition to automating volume curves, you may wish to automate the send levels for each of the wind channels as they feed the reverb busses.
The final product
As you begin to explore the world of convolution, don't be afraid to simply experiment. You'll find that using longer or shorter impulse samples can have some dramatically different results. With this tutorial, we've merely scratched the surface of what is possible using convolution as an effect for breathing life into inanimate samples.
- Printable PDF tutorial.
- Audio files.