A key aspect of sound design is performance. The most common way to do this is through editing. Much like an animator will create the illusion of a performance through the painstaking process of drawing individual frames, the sound effects editor creates the illusion of performance by editing and manipulating pre-recorded sounds.
Of course, we also have the option of performing and recording sounds live; manipulating and “playing” props live to tape the way a Foley artist does, but for some sounds that’s not a feasible option. Take the sound of electricity for example. I don’t want to say it’s impossible to perform this sound live (hmm future project) but suffice to say it’s not convenient.
So if editing together a performance is the second, the performing a sound live with props is the second, then the third option would be synthesis. With synthesized sounds you have control over every parameter of the sound and those parameters can all be manipulated and performed to create some very dynamic sounds.
Here’s an example of an electricity sound I recently synthesized using NI’s Massive. It’s actually a pretty simple patch. It uses just one oscillator but takes advantage of Massive’s filters and modulation oscillator. By controlling the filter cutoff, the wavetable position and other parameters, I can make the sound dip and bend however I like without any editing of the waveform.
Then, to beef up the sound and add a layer of naturalism, I pulled in some firework explosions and other sounds from my library.
In the following clip you’ll hear just the synthesized sound, then just the library sounds, then both together processed with a flanger and other effects.