In my mind, all sound effects are just collections of other sounds happening at the same time. I thought about the mechanics of the weapon, how it should work if such technology existed, and added the sounds together in a way that seemed logical to me.
I have approached sound design this way before out of necessity. For a previous class, I had to create a soundscape in which I had to tell a story using only sound. Part of my story involved a man getting hit by a car, from that man's perspective. That sound was a collection of three sounds; the car screeching to a halt, the body hitting the bonnet and bouncing off, and the glass of the windshield shattering. Since I couldn't actually perform a hit and run, I had to record the sounds individually and combine them. With the help of a friend, I recorded my car screeching to a halt. I jumped on the bonnet and rolled off and recorded that. And lastly I smashed up a bit of glass. The combination of all the elements was perfect, so I've pretty much gone with that approach for all my sound design ever since.
In the case of the Shock Rifle, there are seven Sound Cues, with ten total sounds files, and many individual sounds. I will go through each Cue, describe the individual sound files that make up each Cue, describe the sounds I used to create each file, and lastly describe how the files are implemented in the Cue.
Cue 1: Primary Fire
The Primary Fire of the Shock Rifle is a laser blast. It is made up of three combined files.
1. Primary Fire 1 & 2
- A thump of recoil - I used a door slamming, with just a touch of phasing in the low end.
- The electrical spark in the chamber - A small bottle rocket sound worked perfectly.
- The battery recharging - This is the characteristic Star Wars laser sound. For this I used the sound of a taught metal cable being struck.
- The rifle cooling itself - Simple rush of air, with some slight chorusing.
- The air collapsing on itself as the energy passes through it - I used an unaffected shotgun blast for this sound.
2. Primary Fire Layer
- The electrical arc surrounding the muzzle - This is the combination of an actual electric arc, and a quick blast from a fire extinguisher.
I bounced two versions of the Primary Fire by just slightly changing the phasing and chorusing effects I used. This with the Primary Fire Layer sound makes three. I implemented these three sounds by setting up a randomization node on Primary Fire 1 & 2 with some modulation, and then mixing it with the Layer sound, which also went through a modulation node.
Cue 2: Alternative Fire
The Alternative Fire of the Shock Rifle sends out an electrical orb that travels along. The alternative fire cue is a one shot Cue of just that orb being fired out, and is made up of three files.
1. Alternative Fire 1 & 2
- This is the exact same sound as the Primary Fire, but without the air collapsing, and without the thump of recoil.
2. Alternative Fire Layer
- I constructed this sound the same way as the Primary Fire Layer, since the electrical arc around the muzzle is still there, but with different versions of the sounds.
Only one Alternative Fire file was required for the project, but I bounced two in the same way I did the Primary Fire for more variation. The implementation for the Alternative Fire is the same as the Primary Fire, but with the Alternative Fire files.
Cue 3: Alternative Fire Travel
Now we get to the sound of the electrical orb itself. This is simply one looping Cue. I used the sound of a continuous electrical arc, but EQ'd it, cutting out most of the high frequencies, so that it had more of a sense of 'contained power' than something overly aggressive.
I noticed that the original sound of the arc had a natural pulse. In looping, I had to be careful to match that tempo, and loop it in such a fashion that it didn't interrupt the pulse or else the loop would be noticeable.
The Travel file is implemented using a looping node, followed by some modulation, so that it is slightly different each time.
Cue 4: Alternative Fire Impact
If the electrical orb hits something (a player or wall for example), it bursts into a small electrical spark. I wanted this cue to sound impotent so as to inform the player that this was not the best way to use this weapon. How to use it best, I will describe later.
It is a one shot sound file of a bottle rocket shooting into water, with some slight chorusing. In the implementation, it is attached to a modulation node to make it slightly different each time.
Cue 5: Combo Explosion
Now for the fun bit; the way you're supposed to use the Shock Rifle. If you shoot the Alternative Fire, and then shoot the travelling orb with the Primary Fire, you get a massive explosion of electricity, which does a lot of damage to opponents. It is one sound file made up out of 6 individual sounds
- The low-end thump - This is the same door slam sound from the Primary Fire.
- The air collapsing - Again, the same shotgun sound from the Primary Fire.
- The vacuum created by the explosion - Another sound of a bottle rocket flying into water, this time with only the tail of the sound; all the initial attack is cut out.
- The expanding electrical arc - This uses the same electricity sound as the Alternative Fire.
- The supersonic blast of air as it expands again - Another electrical spark, this time sharper. This sound is slightly delayed, and is not part of the initial transient of the explosion.
- In the video of the Combo Explosion, you can see trails of light shooting towards the center of the explosion as it dissipates. I'm not entirely sure what this is supposed to be, but I wanted to represent it sonically anyway - I had another sound of a bottle rocket shooting into water, but this time reversed and time stretched it, so that it matched the exact timing of these trails of light.
Once these were all combined into one file, the file is simply attached to a modulation node within the Cue to give it some variation each time it fires.
In retrospect, I needed a bigger bang. This sound didn't have the power I had envisioned for it. Some more low-end perhaps, or something almost subsonic could have worked. The lows also need to reverberate a bit more.
Cue 6: Weapon Pickup
The sound of the weapon getting picked up is two sounds, combined into one file.
- The cooling system engaging - I used the sound of the fire extinguisher from the Primary Fire Layer sound.
- The rifle powering up - This is a small electrical buzz, barely noticeable.
Implementation was again just the one file through a modulation node.
Cue 7: Ammo Pickup
For the Ammo Pickup I wanted to represent the sound of power dissipating into the system. I took the loop from the Alternative File Travel and affected it with a Vari-Speed plugin so that it started normally and slowed to a stop. Then adding a simple click sound of a button I had, I had my Ammo Pickup.
This has the same implementation as the Weapon Pickup; one file through a modulation node.