sound log 1: The Works

Feb 25, 2022

Feb. 25, 2022.

Audio Competition & Criteria

An Indie Networking Discord channel hosted a competition to develop an audio track for a High Stakes Robot Battle. So I went for it, with the idea to create a hybrid Sound Design Sfx and Music track.

Below, I documented my development process in broad strokes, and included misc. notes and references and meandering findings from along the way. What goes into a Robot Battle? What if I mix Gunadam sounds with Rock em' Sock em' 90s blips.. electrical thrums and explosions..hmm. Possibly overwhelming but very likely to be fun.

I began with two personal criteria to frame the project.

1) The submission must weave together Sfx, ambient, and musical rhythmic & melodic phrases.
2) It must incorporate: external instruments, Ableton production with Vsts, and Sfx all with a twist of robo themed sound design. LEO's the limit!

The Process

Step 1: Rhythm & Structure

I love Taiko drums for dramatic battles and heavy exploration and began with a series of Taiko rhythmic patterns and permutations.

Grouped patterns and individual percussive hits in 4 drum busses (buses?) to clean up the lower frequencies.

Step 2 & 3: Sound Palette and Melodic Themes

I then gathered a series of instruments and Sfx from my personal source library and jumped into the space adding sounds and melodic tunes with layered synth rhythms, sirens, and beeps&bloops based from the Taiko foundations.

Arps are fantastic for creating mathematically precise rhythms. [future post?]

Great clock sync'd rhythm from single arp'd notes. In ableton, the Midi +/- 12 semitone fx are also great for quick toggling and general sonic exploration.

Step 4: Sfx & foley recording

Sound effects were added and mixed and layered throughout the process to create a soundscape backdrop suited spacey Robot Battles. At one point, the Sfx completely took over and the piece was like 90% a string of pure Sfx. Definitely overly seasoned. Even after reducing the sounds substantially, the track remains Sfx heavy.

I layered many Sfx clips from my personal Foley/source library; it is always a blast to revisit, manipulate, and develop new sounds from these once used sfx. For this track, I created some sweet new electro-field warbles (left), and death rays sounds built from more simple Sfx (right).

Foley Recording for specific Sfx.

Note: The tails were all faded out before final rendering! I wanted to end the track with the sound of exhaust and depressurization from a giant robot that has returned to base worn but intact. Unfortunately, I didn't have the hissing sound of steam in my personal recordings. A little Foley with my Instapot’s quick release steam valve, and I had what I needed. The steam-locking mechanism for the instapot falls at a crucial moment during de-pressurization which leads to a clack just before the final bit of the steam fades out. This required a small bit of dicing and splicing in the cleanup phase. Small things, but it seems the world of Foley is full of many such details.

Step 5: External Instruments

One of my favorite parts of this entire process was playing guitar with some wild as pedal and plugin effects. Though only a few guitar bends ultimately made it in, it was a hugely productive session with lots of saved plugin chains and recordings for future use.

The session also has me rethinking my studio set-up. My guitar is mounted across the room for spacing purposes, but I'm seeing that it needs to be even easier to reach.

Note: Ableton-Hydrasynth midi routing was also incorporated. This connection  definitely warrants its own blog post.

Step 6: Mixing it for easy listening

The track was first mixed on 250 Ohm impedance flat balanced headphones for stereo effects and then later balanced for laptop speakers. This too is a rabbit hole for a post in the future.

Step 7: Iteration

The entire process was very fluid; the steps were sloshed around, layers were mixed up, sfx modified, melodies deleted, and combinations smoothed all in a blurry series of steps.

Final overview of the soup.

And the product? It was fun. Perhaps not the most efficient or elegant way to construct a track, but one thing I can say with certainty is that I created a ton of new material and it was indeed an Audio Workout - Mission successful.  Until next time ✌️

Visualization on youtube