Ryan Hobler (Sound Designer, Gramercy Park Studios) shares 6 tips for creating sound effects for motion graphics based on his And/Or series on Instagram. Ryan demonstrates several projects and offers advice he has learned from each experience.

1) Make Sure the Sound FX Serve the Visuals

Designing sound effects for motion graphics is a useful and productive way to develop your portfolio, improve your sound design skills and collaborate with other artists.

When working on the Rubik’s Cube visual, the textures in Matjaz Valentar’s work were so realistic, the colours were vibrant and warm and there was something about the individual cubes transforming into softer spheres that really captivated me. I knew I had to try to capture that in the sounds!

The Blue Background Space

The warm, musical bed functions as the sound of the blue space in the video. It has a serene, welcoming vibe, almost like it is embracing the cube’s willingness to change. I complimented this with pitched, swirly synth sounds to match the cubes spins and shifts. 

The Cubes

The main sound is of the cubes turning into spheres. I achieved this with bubbly sounds and rubbery stretches that ascend and descend in pitch.

Adding Final Details

The last layer was to ornament the movement with some discrete sound effects. These spinning swishes enhance the movements in the graphics to make them more dynamic.

The Results

2) Focus on Developing Your Sound Design Skills With Every Project

By doing these projects, I wanted to be able to quickly tap into that creative place where you make something without any rules or inhibitions, but I found myself getting in my own way due to second-guessing and overthinking my decisions. I wasn’t experimenting enough and I wasn’t stretching or improving my skills.

By making sound effects for these animations, I’ve grown as a sound designer and  have gotten much faster and better at trying new things out, without holding myself back.

3) Draw Inspiration From Music

A real turning point for me was Mirror Mirror, where I collaborated with Tyler Sparks a phenomenal cinematographer and motion graphics artist.

We used drone footage of Hjart Island in Norway. It felt like the opening title to a mind-bending TV show like Lost or Dark, so I used that vibe to write an anthemic theme for this project.

The Results

I was listening to the band Big Data, and was particularly inspired by their song “Unglued”. I explored some ideas from that song and started right away making sounds.

After watching the video several times, I got a sense of the rhythm of the visuals. From there, I made a menacing, pulsating bass part as for a low, ominous, evil driving force. The sound design reflects the slow creeping towards the expanding mirrored treelines, using the wave sound as we get closer and closer.

4) Use Mono Sound Effects for Busy Projects

This was a realisation from Luminous Bloom, a cool, dystopian, cyberpunk short made with Dave Sujono. There is a lot going on in this clip, so the majority of sounds we hear are mono sounds.

I needed as much space as possible to play with the scene and I wanted to be able to move a lot of pieces around in the stereo field. Moving elements include Dave walking into the scene, the two people chatting at Dave’s Diner counter, and the sparks from the neon sign moving around depending on where our perspective is.

The flower that emerges is a combination of monster and creature sounds, growls, egg-hatching gushes, and a reversed horse stampede. I definitely wanted to make a slithery, snake-like sound for this alien lifeform and it was a lot of fun to create with Dehumaniser 2!

5) Always Remember the Project Brief

Animation is challenging because it is an empty sonic canvas. With so many creative choices to make, which choices should we choose for our projects? For me, I aim to capture the emotion and intent in my choices. I always ask my collaborators two things:

  1. “Where is this project coming from?”
  2. “What are we trying to convey?”

I write down every word they answer with and use that as a starting point. This is  often all I need to start generating ideas as I am confident that we are creatively aligned from the outset. More importantly, it allows my collaborator to feel heard and establishes me as an ally in the quest for our creative cause.

6) Getting Started on your own Collaborative Projects

If you want to get started on projects like this, then the best way is to reach out to motion graphics designers and animators directly. All of the And/Or projects started by messaging creators directly through social media and Instagram.

Search popular hashtags such as #3Dart #motiongraphics #mograph and reach out to creators whose work you really appreciate. Tell them how much you appreciate their work and politely ask if they would like to collaborate!

About Ryan Hobler

Ryan Hobler Sound Designer

New York-based composer and sound designer Ryan Hobler works at Gramercy Park Studios, designing sound for commercial projects. He uses Krotos Dehumaniser 2, Reformer Pro and Weaponiser in his sound design workflow.