A Glimpse into the Future:
The Making of the ‘Futurism’ Sound Effects Library
‘Futurism’ is the latest Krotos sound library. It’s a heavy-duty science-fiction and abstract sound design workhorse with over 1000 high quality assets including drones, whooshes, textures, mech and electromagnetic recordings. It was also designed during the recent UK lockdown, which made for some interesting challenges that we had to overcome in order to get the quality and variety we were looking for. This meant careful planning during pre-production and using imagination to take a look at our surroundings and use what was available to us during lockdown. In this blog post, I am going to be discussing how we overcame these challenges and I am going to be showing you behind-the-scenes footage and snippets of the library itself. If this sparks your interest, take a look at the Futurism Library!
Part I: Synthesis
The content of the Futurism library can be separated into three categories: synthetic, organic recordings and electromagnetic recordings. The synthetic content was mainly used for the most abstract parts of the library and represents technologies beyond our current reach. That’s why it had to have a touch of mystery and grandiosity to it. I started creating the synthetic part of the library by creating a palette of synth drones. Those drones became starting points for future experiments.
I was happy with this selection but a couple of drones won’t make a full library! I started looking for something more grounded so to source more synthetic recordings, I turned to analogue and DIY synths. I wanted to capture some source content that would be simpler, sometimes also with a retro SciFi aesthetic. To do that, I turned to the Arturia MicroBrute. I also constructed a DIY synth called Noise-X (shout out to MadLab for creating such a cool DIY project).
(P.S. As you can see I had some SciFi reading there for inspiration!)
With enough source material in place, I could start experimenting. I used a couple of different approaches to create new assets from the source recordings. I combined that with randomising items positions and an approach to making whooshes highlighted in this great article by Charles Deenen.
Initially, I tried to just play the two pieces of audio together to create a new layered asset but this did not work for the source content and that’s why I decided to morph them to glue the assets together and create even more variation.
Part II: Recording
Recording duties for this library were split between two sound designers from the Krotos team: me and Andrew Dodds. We both had access to a different variety of props that could help with making the library. For the recorded part, we were looking for sources that will ground the listening experience but still feel like elements of a futuristic landscape. Andrew has provided a huge range of mechanical and drone sounds that are used in the library. One of the most exciting sources were: bullroarer, an ethnic instrument that sounds very much like a vehicle and haunting drones created by bowing an electric guitar.
I also supplied some recordings but due to limited space, I needed to find sources that were small enough to fit in my acoustically dampened space but also would fit the audio style of the library. Once again, I turned to my newly found love of DIY and took a look at how my Arduino could be of use. I wired a servo to it and controlled the frequency of the operation with a simple script.
I also tampered it to get more variation. I had to keep the Arduino board in my pocket so that I could fit it all in my confined recording space but it worked!
Part III: Electromagnetic
Recordings made using an electromagnetic pickup coil were the middle ground between the synthetic and organic parts of the library. They are collected by capturing the sound of the electromagnetic field of electric-powered objects. This makes it both grounded and uncanny as we get a new perspective on everyday items. The objects captured for this library included servos, disk trays, game console and a digital camera. It involved a lot of trial-and-error, getting the coil to sit in the right place but it was well worth it!
Part IV: Bringing it all together
With all the source recordings supplied, it was time to design presets. I had a wide selection of assets that could be categorised as: abstract (synthesis), grounded (organic recordings) and in-between (electromagnetic). I created the presets in Weaponiser so that they combine said elements, trying to achieve balance in the designs. The aim was to create sounds that were believable but also exciting and letting the listener imagine visions of the future. The preset library consists of more than 80 drone, droid, space travel, passby and machine sounds. All with instant variation when you press the Fire button in Weaponiser so you can easily and quickly find inspiration for your next futuristic sound.
You can listen to the finished library here:
With careful planning and letting our audio curiosity and imagination drive us, we overcame design challenges we faced and created a balanced, well-rounded library of futuristic content that we hope will help you with any sci-fi or abstract sound projects you might face.