A few months back, an episode of Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles presented us with a stone cold challenge. In The Moons of Thalos 3, the gang encounters a bunch of Ice Dragons. We decided to get some custom ice recordings in order to give these creatures lots of original character.
Just about any recording of ice cracking, when pitched down, sounds epic. The challenge here is trying to get some length in the recording. Once ice cracks, it's cracked. Sound over. Some of our best sounds actually came when slowly bending plastic ice cube trays. This allowed us to really lengthen and control the cracks.
For the movements of the dragons, I wanted to start by rubbing blocks of ice together. I sent our intern David out to find different containers that had some shape or ridges. He came back with all sorts of fun stuff. In addition to pie tins and both plastic and rubber ice cube trays, he figured he could mold aluminum loaf pans to any texture we wanted. After an overnight freeze, we were ready to record the following day. in the above video, you can hear how the loaf pan molded with large ridges gave us some of the best texture.
The ridges from the pie tin turned out to be too small for any noticeable difference. However, Tess jumped in with a knife from the kitchen, slowing scraping these wide blocks of ice for some really fantastic and creepy results.
We needed some good impact sounds for the Ice Dragons crashing into things. The key here was to exaggerate the icy debris at the tail of any impact. This helped the impacts come across with a more 'snowy' texture. Saving this for last, we build a small base of some of the larger left over pieces of ice and dropped the smaller pieces in groups onto this base.
The fabulous Jessey Drake put all of this together to create the final sounds you hear in the show. Here are just a few examples of some layered renders.
Recording Tips For Working With Ice
- Remember to work quickly, or have lots of backups. Ice melts faster than you think!
- Speaking of which, have some plastic on hand to protect your floor from the inevitable pool of water you'll be creating.
- Gloves. Definitely wear gloves. We did not, and it was mighty painful.
- Short of a trip to one of the poles, it's going to be very hard to get ice recordings with any size to them. Plan on eventually pitching down your material which means recording at a high sample rate.
- Experimentation can really pay off. There wasn't much to do with simple blocks of ice, but the extreme shapes our intern created gave us some fantastic results.