What do you get when you add five sound designers, a handful of audio plugins and one amazingly unique sounding ape? This week we decided to get the entire crew involved with a fun sound design challenge. On a recent visit to the Los Angeles Zoo, my wife got a fantastic recording of Gibbons on her iPhone. If you're not familiar with the gibbon (I wasn't until we heard them from clear across the zoo), they are a species of Ape with a large throat sack that makes incredibly unusual (and loud) sounds. This recording captured a bunch of different tones and seemed like the perfect jumping off point for creative sound design. Each member of the crew was tasked with creating an original sound effect from this recording. Creative processing and mangling was encouraged. The only rule: no adding or layering any additional sounds from our library. You've got the gibbon and your tools. Have at it! Below, in their own words are brief explanations on each sound designer's process and their finished product. The results are completely bananas (I'm sorry. I couldn't resist).
I combined 3 tracks of different variations of the gibbon track. One being the original file. The second, I dropped the pitch and then ran the track through Doubler to get a real low rumbly version. Lastly, I reversed the original Gibbons, ran it through Metaflanger and then Morphoder with a 3 oct holding pitch. I then took all three of those tracks and combined and performed them in Soundmorph's Timeflux and then lastly manipulated them in WaveWarper to make some really cool whooshes.
I was really interested in the overtone series of the gibbon, so I immediately wanted to use a ring modulator to capitalize on those. I used the plugin Sci-Fi, in the freak mod setting. Then, I pitched it down 12 semi tones (one octave), and added some low-air to it, and finally looped two vocalizations to maintain the same tempo. I would use this as a klaxon or maybe just a really low volume element for a sci-fi command center or space ship hallway.
The Gibbons really gave off a hybrid organic and synthetic vibe. To me they sounded other-wordly, so I thought I might try creating some kind of telemetry or beeps for an alien spacecraft or console, hoping to capitalize on that organic DNA. I started by taking my favorite chunks of the gibbon calls, the singular shouts, and running them through a pretty strong gate to remove any ambient noise. Next I broke out Molekular, an ensemble you can run inside Native Instruments Reaktor. I skipped the presets opting to add my own modules. Settling on a comb filter, delay and pitch modulator, the sounds took on a slightly digital character. I then piped them into Samplr, an app for my iPad (more on Samplr here) so I could 'perform' them. Using the Play Mode I was able to overdub a few loops, creating a random and rhythmic performance of my beeps. I layered both this raw performance and pitched/time compressed performances to thicken it up. The final step was to chop it up to create the familiar cadence of typing. These console effects will definitely come in handy when I need something both organic and alien in a sci-fi setting.
To create the helicopter wops, I took a small section of where the gibbon's calls got faster and louder and ran it through morphoder. Creating a loop of that sound, I then sped them up. I then created the "engine hum" out of a section of one screech. I stretched it and pitched it down and created a loop from that as well. Layering these together, I used a Soundshifter to create the doppler of the helicopter going by and faded in/out. I thought it still needed something for the height of the helicopter going by so I took another screech and ran it through morphoder using a different setting and added reverb to make it sound more whoosh-like. I pitched this down and added it in at the hight of the helicopter by.
I didn't really know what I was looking for when I started with the gibbon, but I decided to reverse the whole file and slow it down by about 20%. I made some cool freaky sounds, but none of them were really "speaking" to me, so I decided to try something I'd always thought would be fun. I applied Izotope RX De-Clicker to the reversed, slowed down gibbon file. I raised the sensitivity up to the max, and checked the box for "Output Clicks Only." This gave me a freaky wet mouth sound mess that sounded to me like some cool alien speech. I set about editing the waveform a bit to give something resembling a cadence of speech. To finish it off I added a tremolo effect with a high speed, low ratio of wet to dry, just to add a little bit of purr to speech. I call it Gossiping Alien!