Creating Space Sound Effects for Immersive Exhibitions

Robin Newman is a Sound Designer and Associate Lecturer in at the University of Derby. He recently created the sound effects for the Tetrastar Spaceport immersive space exhibition. Read on to hear how Robin used the Sound Design Bundle 2 to help him to create the space sound effects for this exhibition, which is now open at the National Space Centre in Leicester, UK.

Space Sound Effects Robin Newman Sound Designer

From Robin Newman:

The Tetra Spaceport was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. Visitors enter the experience as space tourists for a relaxing Earth orbital cruise, but needless to say, things take a turn.

I worked on the sound design, mixing and some implementation, as some of the rooms are running in a real-time engine in Unity.

The experience has different zones with multiple speaker layouts, both surround layouts and point source speakers, so we got to play around with loads of fun stuff.

Space Sound Effects with Sound Design Bundle 2 

The sound design involves a lot of futuristic stuff as you’d expect, but we’re also trying to make a realistic world. A lot of the elements that provided the most immersion were from the brand sounds – things like adverts in the departure lounge, or notification sounds for the AI assistant who is your companion throughout the adventure.

Weaponiser

Weaponiser was used for UI sounds, notifications and alerts, and honestly, it was fantastic. We wanted the Tetrastar Travel Company to feel real, so we basically did a marketing branding exercise on an imaginary company to find the sounds for the brand.

UI sound design

UI sounds seem simple, but they’re actually quite complex. Weaponiser allowed for really fast experimentation thanks to the onset, body, thump and tail layers. Those sections can really be used for anything, not just weapons.

In this case, thump was the tonal beep of the sound and onset was the initial transient/click of someone pressing the button. Weaponiser is a really adaptable and open platform which lets you swap and change ideas quickly.

Inside one of the Tetrastar Spaceport Zones

Working with pitched/tonal assets

For frequently-heard UI sounds, subtle variation is important. You can vary the pitch, but if you overdo it, it can start to sound out of key with itself. However, if you vary the non-tonal sounds, then you get subtle variation without messing up the tonal feel of the sound.

You can easily shift the timings in Weaponiser. Swapping sounds in and out becomes much quicker than in the DAW, so I ended up using Weaponiser in all sorts of situations, whether designing cool explosions or the spaceships movement.

You can spend forever searching libraries of sounds, but you’ll always need to layer stuff, so being able to throw five of any sound type – metal, explosions, creaks, gas pressure releases – into a layer in Weaponiser and simply click the fire button a bunch saved me loads of time.

 


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Dehumaniser 2

In the exhibit, players receive communications through an intercom that talks to them in each room. So to make it sound more distant, we added interference and other effects with Dehumaniser 2.

Speed

It was by far the quickest way of doing multiple effects. I could get the same results by daisy-chaining ten plugins, but to be able to split signals and run sounds in parallel is amazing.

To do all that in the DAW manually is just so time-consuming – duplicating tracks and routing etc. I love just reaching for Dehumaniser 2 playing with it and knowing it’ll come out great.

Subtlety

Obviously the flagship for Dehumaniser 2 is to make crazy monster sounds, and it’s so great at that, but also it can do really subtle sounds like slight robotic effects and speaker simulations.

Igniter

Igniter is the sound of every engine in the experience.

Designing the engine

I started off trying to synthesise the engine, but the problem was we needed have a reference for what a futuristic engine sounds like. Electric car engines sound really weird because the engine is all sound design – there’s no actual combustion happening, it’s almost like a haunted car passing by.

So I wanted to still keep it feeling like an engine, even for a spaceship. We haven’t got electric spaceships yet, as far as I know!

Layering sounds

With Igniter, I could layer engine sounds with futuristic sounds that I’d created in the Novation Summit synth. That synth has got so much crazy modulation that you can get these really amazing engine sounds…but they’re also very static.

So being able to combine them with one shots, effects and the engine rev macro, and just control it all with a wheel is just great.

Additional sounds

When the spaceship lands, It’s a bumpy ride with lots of changes in direction; so all of movement has to be in there sonically.

Things like moving seats, have to be reinforce with sound effects to make them feel truly immersive, otherwise would people feel their seats moving without hearing anything, it would just feel weird. So Igniter was amazing for that.

Space Sound Effects Tetrastar Spaceport

Reformer Pro

I used Reformer Pro, which is perfect for sounds where the shape and timing is right, but the sound itself isn’t.

Mapping one sound onto another

With Reformer Pro you can add other, better sounds in, and Reformer will map it to the timing, It’s really cool.

I used Reformer Pro recently for another project for the National Space Centre, where they had a really specific heartbeat in an animation. I had it done in a few minutes with Reformer Pro because I could just do it with a microphone as opposed to having to go frame by frame and put a heartbeat on each one.

Saving time & being creative

All of the Krotos tools I’ve used have been massive time savers, and they’ve made the process more creative as well. The fact that you can experiment quickly means that you actually do experiment, rather than just “getting it done”.

Having fun!

Experimenting means having fun. To track and lay out all of these sound effects and just copy and paste, copy and paste is not very fun nor inspiring. Using Reformer Pro, a tool that’s designed to get you from a blank canvas to a finished sound design, is much cooler and much more fun!

Tetrastar Space Sound Effects

We asked Robin his favourite things about Krotos Software

1. Simple, straightforward user interfaces

For how much depth there is to Weaponiser and Igniter, their UI’s are really simple.

2. They’re easy to learn

If something’s going to come along and try and revolutionise stuff for me, make it so I can understand it! 

I have tried a fair few tools that claim to make things quicker that would have taken me longer to learn. Krotos plugins are really easy to understand and start working with straight away.

3. You achieve instant results

Reformer is such a cool tool and it works. The crazy thing is how well it works with very little tweaking.

4. Combining the tools makes for unique sound design workflows

Reformer Pro & Dehumaniser is a winning combination. For dialogue fun; All you have to do is take the original dialogue, make it trigger a the roars and grunts in Reformer Pro,  make them run in parallel, put Dehumaniser 2 on everything and then you’re away!

Thanks to Robin Newman for taking the time to share his process!

Learn more about the Tetrastar exhibit and other exhibitions at the National Space Centre website, and Follow Robin on Instagram.

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Products Used in The Tetrastar Spaceport Sound Design Space Sound Effects

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Driven Creativity In SoundIgniter Full Tank combines the Igniter plugin with an unparalleled 65GB vehicle sound library...
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