Designing Zombie Sound Effects in ‘My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving’

Introduction

I recently found myself designing zombie sound effects for the film My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving, directed by Charles B. Unger and written by Richard Soriano. It’s a film about a young man with special needs, but with an underlying zombie theme.

Without giving any spoilers, the main character Marcus is a big fan of a fictional zombie show which we find ourselves in and out of throughout the movie.

As the sound designer on the project, I was tasked with the wildly entertaining task of creating zombie voices,  so I set out to purchase some libraries for this very task.

After exploring a couple of zombie sound effects libraries, I knew it was going to take something a little more special to make this film as interesting as it deserved to be – this is how I began to work with Dehumaniser II on My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving.

Zombies in My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving

Looking back to other examples

I remembered an animated short called Winds of War that I had worked on with Andy Greenberg at One Union Recording. We had recorded a bunch of foley sounds for these animated characters that were wind-up toys that had come to life. The film sounded great, but we needed voices for the little toy characters.

He ended up using Dehumaniser to create the voices for these little animated characters. That was my first time running into the Dehumaniser software. Maybe that was the solution for MAT. This time, I would be using the Dehumaniser software for creating zombie voices. I immediately started looking at demo videos of Dehumaniser.

Getting to grips with Dehumaniser II

I started working on the scenes, cutting sound effects and trying to get the right feel. I loaded one of the presets on Dehumaniser II and made a couple of adjustments and voiced one of the zombies. Then I tried another preset and voiced the zombie again. I had two or three options for this character. I was trying to get a feel for what style of zombie voice the supervising sound editor, James Morioka would like. I sent it to him, but he didn’t like the first version and sent it back to me.

However, he had taken the two or three voices that I had performed for that zombie and cut them up and layered them together to create some really interesting zombie voices.

My apocalyptic thanksgiving Zombies

Developing initial designs

From there, I really started to get a feel for how this film was going to work, and I knew that the principal zombie characters in each scene needed to stand out from the rest. Background zombies had to be just that…background. I also wanted to give each of the main zombies their own unique voice. Here’s how I did it:

  • I tweaked a bunch of presets, recorded multiple passes with each and layered them together differently, assigning each unique combination to a different zombie with one layer as the dominating sound.
  • I gave certain screams a little extra emphasis, by layering in animal growls and some elements from the zombie libraries.
  • After this, I made the decision to cut all background zombies from library, to create distinction from the recordings that I was doing with Dehumaniser II.

This gave the film the right feel, and I was really happy with the results!

zombies in my apocalyptic thanksgiving

The results

When combined with the music by David G. Russell, and the other sound effects, the results were fantastic. The director and producers loved the sound of the zombie voices, the film was wrapped, and now it is off to the festival circuit!

We are already seeing some fantastic accolades for the film; Richard Soriano has already won best screenplay, and actor Joshua Warren Bush won best actor at Festival International ENTR’2 Marches in Cannes.

Watch the trailer below!

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So, what made Dehumaniser II so special for the zombie sound effects?

Intuitive workflows

I love the intuitiveness of Dehumaniser II – it’s plug and play and you can figure it out very easily, which is vital for tight deadlines when you need results fast.

The large preset range

On top of this, the volume of presets & voice styles means nothing ever sounds too similar. The presets are great, and whether I’m recording my voice through them or playing animal sounds through them, they get the job done.

clip from the timeline of the zombie sound effects

The real-time performance aspect

The fact that Dehumaniser II can be performed in real-time to the picture meant I could really act out the different screams and growls from the zombies. It’s so much better than trying to fit a recorded bunch of screams and growls in to see which one fits the picture the best.

Going forwards with Dehumaniser II

After using Dehumaniser II while working on this project, I can’t wait to see what Krotos is cooking up next! Krotos studio looks as if it will open up another world of sound design possibilities…

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Our monthly free sounds offer you a wide range of sound categories from Foley, combat sounds, impacts, animal sounds, to transitions and more!

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