For this month's Inside Sound Design post I met with Brad Meyer again to talk more about the exciting vehicle sound effects he creates.  Brad spends a lot of his time designing exciting signature sound effects for his shows, especially vehicles, using both custom recordings and sound library material.  This time we talked about a unique semi-truck vehicle and its exciting transformation sequence.  

How did you approach creating new sound effects for the unique transformation?

First we needed some engine sounds for the semi-truck.  I used a standard Peterbilt semi truck from our library.  Because the vehicle is high tech, I needed a tech-y layer, so I  added a lot of robot servo elements, beep sequences and power ups.  The vehicle gets bigger as it transforms so I wanted to choose layers that had an ascending pitch.   There’s also a lot of metal involved so I cut a lot of metal hits and latches to sound like  things locking in place.  The whole build wraps up with a semi horn, to match a visual cue.

How did you incorporate the engine and startup into the transformation?  What kind of engine elements did you use?

This is the first time the truck even turns on, so it starts with a sci-fi remote control activation.  After that I used a semi-truck engine start up, cut into an engine idle underneath.  Then I placed revving sounds to accentuate bigger moves in the animation, as the vehicle deploys into different positions.  This give the motion some power.


What other elements did you create for this specific vehicle, and what was your approach?

I used a lot of semi-truck material, but I did create a custom suspension build for it.   A lot of the suspension elements actually came from our Mustang and metal recording sessions.  We created some metal rattling by filling a bin with metal junk, setting on top of a sub-woofer, and playing a low sine wave through the sub-woofer to cause the metal to vibrate and create a steady rattle.  We cut the low end out of the recording to leave us with the pure metal rattles.  I used those elements whenever the characters are in the cab of the truck driving, since it is bumpy.  I also cut the rattling when they drive out of control, to show that things are crazy and they don’t know how to control the vehicle.

How did you create a sense of speed and excitement for a vehicle that moves more slowly in real life?

In animation especially, vehicles don’t really act realistically.  Working on animated vehicles is always about creating and accenting movement.  I’m often cutting back and forth between pass-bys, we’re cutting back and forth to the interior, we might hold that for only 5-10 seconds.  To create accelerations, I have to cut things down and create custom loops of a shorter 15 second engine sequence since things are a lot faster than real life.  A lot of the auxiliary sound stuff that goes along with the car helps create movements too, such as tire screeches.  For the semi-truck, I used low metal elements, which helps create a sense of weight, but its really the tire pieces that help make it feel fast.

What are your favorite movies and TV shows for exciting car sound effects?  Let us know in the comments!