WRITTEN BY IAN HOWARD
ASSISTANT SOUND EDITOR, BOOM BOX POST
We’ve all been there. There's an action or object on screen that isn’t in a sound effects library at your disposal. This can be a tricky or fun and creative situation to be in. Working on ever changing animation, this situation comes up all the time. Here are a few tips and tricks to help re create realistic on screen sound effects.
THINK OUTSIDE THE PROP
When an object comes up on screen and your first realization is “I don’t have that prop”, don’t panic. There are plenty of things around you that you may be surprised sounds like the real deal. One example would be squeaking a balloon to use for rubber movements or small animal noises. Another would be using an old wooden chair to replicate floor creaks or an old sailboat swaying in the water.
LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS
It’s important to listen back to your recordings once you have done them. One thing you may find is your recording can sound smaller or thin compared to what you see on screen. There's no harm in recording and combining different textures together to create a fuller overall sound. One example would be movement on a leather bean bag chair. If the only thing you have is a cloth bean bag chair but you still want to get that creaky leather sound with the distinct sound of the beads in the bean bag, do an additional leather movement pass with a leather prop and combine it with the recording of the chair. Keep in mind however to limit the amount of unwanted sound from each prop. In this case, try to record more of the bead sounds from the chair than the fabric on the surface.
record props in different ways
Sometimes the action of what you are trying to replicate doesn't sound good if you repeat the action you see. A way you could combat this is to use a secondary prop or to replicate without re-enacting. One example would be footsteps. If recording yourself or someone else walking in place might not cut it for you, don’t be afraid to “walk” the shoes with your hands to get a fuller heel toe sound. Another could be sit downs on a chair. If you record yourself sitting in a chair, it may give a different and possibly more desirable sound by using a prop such as a pillow or heavy blanket.
TRUST YOUR EARS
In the end, keep experimenting with different ways to record your prop(s) and listen to what sounds right to you.