With Tommy Bradly of Esrever Audio
We talk with Sound Designer Tommy Bradly of Esrever Audio, who designed our latest library, Cinematic Whooshes and Transitions. He talks about his process, how he became a sound designer, and what makes this library so interesting.
Hi Tommy! Tell us a little bit about Starting Esrever Audio
I started my business at university. In my first year, I lived with TV production students who were in their final year and their final year projects were to make short films. I helped all of those out and like, by the end of my first year, I had a good enough portfolio to take it to people and start properly freelancing. I can’t say that I turned up to many lectures though…
How did your work on this library come about?
Discord! I had a look and saw a post looking for freelance sound designers. We briefly chatted about doing something, then I sent a proper email. I think we went through a few ideas and then eventually we settled on the idea for a Whoosh library.
In Cinematic Whooshes, you hear all of the layers with such clarity and definition, yet they also work together so cohesively – was that an intentional design choice?
It was. I find a lot of libraries can be so over the top and over-processed with distortion and compression. I came to Cinematic Whooshes from a musical perspective and aimed for a ‘cleaner’ sound, compared to other libraries.
Let’s talk plugins! What did you use when designing these whooshes for Weaponiser?
I use Logic Pro X, and sometimes I use Adobe Audition for just external audio editing. Audition has a great frequency tool that you can look at and edit sounds by the frequency spectrum. It feels like using Photoshop for audio because you can just erase frequency spikes directly from the audio, it’s super helpful.
Sound Design Plugins
In terms of external plugins, I use Serum for synthesised layers and bass, and I used Waves Doppler for the doppler presets. I really enjoyed using Valhalla Shimmer, their granular reverb. It’s just a nice extra layer to add to the tension. It’s great for those nice “fake” reverbs for Whooshes. Those kinds of reverbs don’t necessarily try to replicate real spaces, so they help to give additional creative freedom. I don’t think I really like any distortion – Sometimes I use the logic built-in overdrive because I know how it sounds and how I can manipulate it to make it sound how I want, But I don’t use any amp designers or anything.
Sound design techniques for Cinematic Whooshes
Mainly, I used a lot of extreme EQs for these sounds. When you abstractify sound so much, it is difficult to even explain what a Whoosh is, so you can drop all preconceptions of how you should EQ and just go by what sounds good.
Probably controversial, but I didn’t really use much compression for these whooshes. With whooshes, you are designing dynamic sounds, so you can sort of ignore compression in a way. I didn’t really use many overly ‘creative’ effects. I used the Waves Doppler, for some of the doppler specific whooshes in there, but for me, I think the main success comes from choosing the right base audio for the whoosh, and making sure the volume automation is right.
I used some pitch bending, dependent on which of the sounds I was working on, as the assets in cinematic whooshes are formulated into different categories – whooshes, swishes, risers and transitions. Pitch automation helps to control the tension of the whoosh depending on the speed of the curves.
How does Cinematic Whooshes differ to some of the other Whoosh libraries on the market?
Libraries like Native Instruments Rise & Hit are good, but in my opinion I think they lack customisation between layers. This is a great benefit of Weaponiser as you have free reign to do what you want because you have the four different categories that you can treat as individual layers.
It also ties into that idea of them not being overproduced and sounding really dynamic, not overdone with compression and saturation. A lot of whoosh libraries can be overproduced, but they offers very little useable source material for sound designers to work with, as every sound is already so over designed. I tried to take a step back from this and give designers something they can still customise and work with.
When sourcing base sounds, What do you look for?
I look for Interesting frequency spectrums – wind samples, leaves rustling etc. because when they’re in the context of a whoosh, it becomes decontextualized. You don’t really hear it as wind. So interesting frequencies and sounds define the sonic character.
A good example was some internal bus recordings: when they accelerate away from a bus stop, they have a natural pitch rise, so I’d use things like that.
Smooth bass frequencies
The other part of the design would be pure bass sounds. I did some simple sine-based synth patches in Serum, or I’d choose some of those interesting frequency spectrum sounds and just filter or EQ them all the way down with low pass, so you just have the bass frequencies with some interesting motion and movement.
From here, you can mix and match any of these sounds together. You’d can combine interesting top-end sounds where the bass doesn’t really add or mean much, then select the bass parts to complement them.
When capturing sounds in the field, what hardware do you use?
I use the Zoom H4n when I am out recording. I normally use the in-built capsules, which rotate so you can change the angle from 90 degrees up to 120 degrees, so you can get some nice stereo fields. In the studio, I use the Rode NT-1a large diaphragm condenser microphone, it is super-versatile and has a really low noise floor, I love it.
Do you feel like the microphone that you use has much of an impact on the end results?
For certain things, it definitely makes a difference. I did a cityscapes project recently, and it made a difference there because you have to consider things like noise floor, as well as how much detail your microphone picks up.
In terms of designed sounds, you could probably get away with your iPhone microphone, to be honest! The number of effects you can use brings the character out, plus the sources you’re capturing are often already noisy, so you don’t need a clear and focused signal, just some interesting spectral information.
Using reverb helps to smear the sound. Used subtly, it won’t really sound that different, as you’re just smoothing all of the rough edges out within the sound. For whooshes, you can use whatever you’ve got… it all comes down to how you apply it!
When you’re evaluating source material, are you using spectrum analysers, or are you simply trusting your ears?
I just use my ears for initial decisions, however, you do need to look at the consistency of a sound. If there is a large drop in volume, it makes the sound hard to work with if you are making long sounds, so I properly listen first, then put them into the DAW and I’d check out the frequencies in an analyser.
I’d probably do an early EQ too – the low frequencies from these recordings aren’t necessary as they’re on a separate layer. so I do like a 50-80Hz cut.
Any Final Thoughts to share on the Cinematic Whooshes Library?
I think why these whooshes sound so modern is because I had a music producer approach to it. I pictured them almost as much in a song as I did as being used by a sound designer.
This library is really modular – every layered sound can be used with each other and are ready out of the box or can be sculpted further with EQ and Compression from the sound designer who is using the library in their work. And this layering step is made even better with Weaponiser!
For More on Tommy Bradly:
Visit the Esrever Audio website
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