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Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

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Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby gryfyx » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:44 am

Industrial noise; Incessant drones; Ambient atmosphere; Miscellaneous Sci-Fi samples and Reverb can for sure be great ingredients for a horror sound production, but lately I'm not able to cook anything satisfactory.

I know its a very vague approach but I have a few recently recorded samples of industrial sounds (mainly noises) that I want to use for horror sound effects. My problem is that, as of now, my heart beat is quite stable. Although I figured out few samples in Lustmord style but they all are as inauthentic as Lustmord's music itself, which in my humble opinion is as cheesy as the muffled growl in Ju-on, but even then Ju-On Fx's were instantly appealing when it came out, so something of the same league might interest (scare) me.

I dont want to know any specific recipe to produce fright as that would drastically limit my scope, but as I have done this a lot in past (with a different perspective) it would be grand to know your philosophy behind the technique, so that I gather some new ideas in order to shift my style. I mean I want to know what it takes for you to create horror sounds if you go about producing one (I know its still vague).

By the way my own approach is limited to create ambience first and then add few nuances like what Geir Jenssen did in Substrata, which I simply adore. (Please do not misunderstand, I'm not audacious enough to compare my work to Geir's as his Biosphere guise has always been an inspiration to me. Frankly, I'm way too far from achieving that satisfaction.)

Any thoughts?
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Zukan » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:42 am

I once scored a Canadian film by the Film Workshop that was low budget but interestingly scripted and it had a few notable actors in it.

The directive given was to stay away from electronic sounds (I had just scored Macbeth for the Cambridge Shakespeare Co using only the Audity 2000 and an Emax and this was the door opener for this contract).

I decided to go down the classical route of using piano and, wait for it, heavily effecting the foley sounds.

Strangely enough this worked really well. A gated sod off reverb when the door closed, a delayed and panned light switch, that kind of thing. It worked well with this type of genre as it was more Lynch/Russel than Houston.

The film did well on the lower circuits and it's airing at the Odeon Leicester Sq was received really well and the comments were mainly about the sfx.

I have found over the years that special effects is not just about using a specific sound, be it a drone or slam or anything else, but about how that sound is presented. If you watch Scarface you will notice that it's not so much about the musical melodies but of Moroder's presentation of them. A single electro throbbing sound, if presented at the right frequency and time, can be ominous when used in context. Following the script and storyline will always help to guide you to the right sound.

Think outside the norm, watch the stills, and try to find the right nerve jangling frequency, then cane it to death but do it innovatively.

Industrial sounds always work but only if matched to the theme of the film (metallic and clanky for goth or dark movies etc). But the secret is, and always has been, how the sound is presented and effected, and, of course, timing is king. The right sound at the right time carries far more impact than a mutha sound at the wrong time.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby ken long » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:51 am

AuralSerenity wrote:...my humble opinion is as cheesy as the muffled growl in Ju-on, but even then Ju-On Fx's were instantly appealing when it came out, so something of the same league might interest (scare) me.



If we are talking about the Japanese version, I'd say the ST on Ju-On was very good. Half the horror came from that growl, IMO.

The problem is that it was replicated in countless other films and devalued the original watching it the second time around.

Personally, I like the Carpenter style as well as Goblin's work for Argento.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:23 am

Zukan wrote:The right sound at the right time carries far more impact than a mutha sound at the wrong time.

So true - look at Hitchcock for more classic examples of this in action


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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Richie Royale » Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:50 am

Not a fan of Ju-On, but I presume the noise you are referring to is that cat like wail?

Anyway The Ring uses the day information scenes to set the horror with a subtle descending tone. This is very good.

Also a film I referred to in another thread, The legend of Hell House has some fantastic effects to convey the horror.

I saw Biosphere live a few years ago when he was performing Substrata. He was supported by Hazard and Fennesz. The latter made some interesting music, using barely audible atmospherics, juxtaposed with dynamically louder transiant sounds. This shock of the sounds clicking in, could be used in horror or suspense music.

Zukan, I'm interested in what the film was that you did.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby fay spook » Tue Sep 07, 2010 12:04 pm

Try layering up sounds especially for the "jumps". The old trick is to include all the sounds that scare us such as animal roars, kids screaming (sorry but it is horror), thunder etc. These are mixed in so we pick them up almost subconsciously. I say almost because we do need to hear them clearly enough to make them work.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Zukan » Tue Sep 07, 2010 12:05 pm

Richness,

The film was called Table 5 by the London Film Workshop. Was ages ago but great fun.

Had David Thewlis in it (dude from Dragonheart) and a horny bird that I cannot remember the name of but can remember her legs.

I don't think it ever went into mainstream release.

Sh1t, I just found it on Google.
It be 'ere.

The dude who put it together was Elliot Groves and the film cost a staggering 300 squids or so.

I worked with a Romanian composer and never got to shag the bird who starred in it. This left a massive dent in my future life and I believe has affected me greatly as a moderator.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby gryfyx » Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:20 pm

ken long wrote:
AuralSerenity wrote:...my humble opinion is as cheesy as the muffled growl in Ju-on, but even then Ju-On Fx's were instantly appealing when it came out, so something of the same league might interest (scare) me.



If we are talking about the Japanese version, I'd say the ST on Ju-On was very good. Half the horror came from that growl, IMO.

The problem is that it was replicated in countless other films and devalued the original watching it the second time around.

Personally, I like the Carpenter style as well as Goblin's work for Argento.


100% Jap. It was only about the Jap version, Ken. You may notice that I crafted the sentence with the words like 'humble opinion' and 'instantly appealing', hence it could never be about the American version.

O yeah! I too like Carpenter's work. Never came across Argento, would check it soon.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Richie Royale » Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:35 pm

Cheers Eddie, I'll check it out later and post a scathing review.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby gryfyx » Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:17 pm

Thanx Zukes.

I too googled Table 5 but found nothing and got further curious. Was it Indie?

Yes, effects make a hell lot of difference and timing too is essential, especially if a synchronization part is followed along with the synthesis. I saw 'Pi' and instantly fell in love with the beautifully unsettling sound fx. They were heavily accentuated through effects.

A gated sod off reverb when the door closed, a delayed and panned light switch. =

Great ideas, Zukes, but how exactly you'll decide what sound can represent the subject? I mean, how for example Shiro Sato (or for that matter anyone) decides which sound may sound creepy and at the same time represents the muffled growl coming from a witch whose neck was broken before she dies; Or how Geir Jenssen decides what sound can create the visual imagery of desolate landscapes.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Zukan » Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:48 pm

AuralSerenity wrote:Thanx Zukes.


Great ideas, Zukes, but how exactly you'll decide what sound can represent the subject? I mean, how for example Shiro Sato (or for that matter anyone) decides which sound may sound creepy and at the same time represents the muffled growl coming from a witch whose neck was broken before she dies; Or how Geir Jenssen decides what sound can create the visual imagery of desolate landscapes.


This all comes down to the drugs one is on during composing.

Actually, and almost all jokes apart, it's pretty much like any composition but to a brief.

Although genre based music has some limits in terms of colour and delivery (a kick that makes your eyes bleed in Glitch, or a sub that makes your nuts rattle in Hip Hop) sound effects have to follow a detailed storyline and any sound designer who thinks that it's simply a case of dumping a bunch of sfx onto film is heading for a short career.

Although your signature can be all over the place the mood and direction of the film is critical. When working on film not only are you working closely with the director and the sound team you are also having to follow the foley clan.

I can think of a thousand ways to express a wind sweep on a desolate planet and will look to using data gained from the film and research into the landscape I am scoring the wind to. For example, how many times have you watched a sci-fi film where a spaceship blows up and the sound is heard thousands of miles away on another spaceship? Now, sound doesn't travel in space. It's a vacuum. But hell, if they didn't make a bit of noise it'd be a pretty quiet film huh? The point I am trying to make is that sound design is not just about getting a sound for a scene but about studying the scene and storyline/direction and then designing within those directives.

Let us stay with the wind on a planet example: is there an atmosphere or is it a complete vacuum? Is the wind driven by a sun's solar winds or is it sourced from the planet's geology? And so on........
This may seem a bit to detailed and anal but, trust me, a director will chew your nuts with his molars if you don't consider these things.

Now, let us get a touch 'out there'. A director says 'Do your thang Ed and we'll go with whatever you decide'. Now we come down to signature. But you are still governed by the movies attributes and limitations. The wind on the planet can now be ominous and dark and rumble under your feet and then climb up the frequencies when it approaches you and swoops above you. This is the imagination at work. The creativity is governed by your interpretation of the event itself.

Like with anything else, you need to understand the physics of what you are trying to achieve and if you are stuck for ideas then listen to notable designers and evaluate what their restrictions were and how they stretched the envelope.

Table 5 was a non existent budget film that we all had fun making. It had no premise, no major message, hell it barely scraped the intellectual surface. BUT, what it did have was a bunch of actors and a couple of hairy ethnic musos doing whatever they wanted to to express themselves. The film was almost a fracas of ad-libbing and 'adapting'. I think it took a weekend to film. My hairy friend and I wrote the whole score efx in a weekend whilst pissing ourselves watching the 'movie'. The piano lines we laid down were standard 'black and white no sound days' type of appended music. You know the type I mean. The type you can barely replicate nowadays in the event that someone might actually hear it.

Now, Macbeth was an entirely different ballgame and one of my proudest moments.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby hollowsun » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:25 pm

Zukan wrote:Had David Thewlis in it (dude from Dragonheart)
And Harry Potter.

The bastard gets to have sex with Anna Friel every night as well!
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Zukan » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:29 pm

hollowsun wrote:
Zukan wrote:Had David Thewlis in it (dude from Dragonheart)
And Harry Potter.

The bastard gets to have sex with Anna Friel every night as well!

Image
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby gryfyx » Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:13 am

Zukan wrote:
hollowsun wrote:
Zukan wrote:Had David Thewlis in it (dude from Dragonheart)
And Harry Potter.

The bastard gets to have sex with Anna Friel every night as well!

Image

Well... not exactly.

Image
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Richie Royale » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:57 am

Zukan wrote:Richness,

The film was called Table 5 by the London Film Workshop. Was ages ago but great fun.

Had David Thewlis in it (dude from Dragonheart) and a horny bird that I cannot remember the name of but can remember her legs.

I don't think it ever went into mainstream release.

Sh1t, I just found it on Google.
It be 'ere.


The link didn't seem to take me to the right place, other than the Raindance website.

I did find an IMDB entry for a film by Elliot Grove called Table 5, but that didn't seem to have David Thewlis in it, but it does have "Mad" Frankie Fraser!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0286191/
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Zukan » Wed Sep 08, 2010 9:47 am

Mad Frank, yes!

I forgot about him. They told me he made an appearance but we never say him in the stills.

D.Anna rumper was def in it as I remember him in a sexy kinda scene with the bird with the legs.

I Wiki'd him and he doesn't list Table 5 in his credits. Wonder why.......

I wish I could get hold of this film.
I emailed Elliot and am awaiting a response.

I shall keep you posted, well, any of you that give a marsupial's nut.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Richie Royale » Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:10 am

It seems that Frankie is the lead. I'm still curious to see this, in part for your input and also to see what this film is about. Elliot seems like a curious fellow from what I saw on Raindance and I'm wondering what kind of films he makes for £300.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Zukan » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:36 pm

Not sure Richness.

I haven't spoken to him in over 20 years.

Check his website and see if there are any links to completed movies. He seems to have good ratings for the books he's written.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby gryfyx » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:46 pm

Thanx Zukes. After coming in terms with studio claustrophobia my imagination learned to escape the anxiety of boredom. I tried drugs to enhance it but no great results were achieved. The best inspirational thing I've known that touches the faculty of my musical mind is nothing but reality. Its hard to get inspired by landscapes of Arctic Circle and produce the sounds that may induce the the same imagery in mind what one may actually see on Arctic Circle, if one has never ever been to Arctic Circle. The imagination of the Arctic Circle will only be there due to the influence of similar landscapes that one has visited. Similarly if I've never been to Amazonia or any other rain forest then its really a tough challenge to produce anything that may truly be inspired by a rain forest if I had actually visited one.

Problem comes up when I realize that the fear that I'm trying to instill in the listener's mind is not scaring me at very first place. If those wind sweeps and drones are not scaring me then actually I've not yet been there and felt that. And if that is the case then how can I present what I dont have up my sleeves.

So, how do I scare myself of something that has not yet been imagined by me? Do I keep digging blindly and in the meantime wait for some inspiration to materialize all by fluke?

By the way when I was a kid I too wondered how they record sounds of a space ship in absolute vacuum, and learned from my dad that it was only their to make things appear better, I found it ridiculous until I saw one episode of StarTrek without any sound as our TV went nuts It was immensely boring and it forced me to spank the TV really hard till it started working.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Zukan » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:55 pm

I think the answer lies in both sound and imagery.
A sound on it's own can sound unimaginative but when coupled with the imagery it comes alive.

Any chance you can work to the stills?

With regards to scapes that you haven't visited, don't let that worry you. I have never really met a witch, a warlock yes, but never a witch unless you count ex babes. However, watch some real footage of your subject and then warp the sounds. Sometimes, you can use the existing sounds that are there and warp them to death. Take leaves rustling in Amazonia and pitch them down but maintain the timing/tempo (timestretching), filter it with a LP and add reverb and you have something a little more ominous.

That kinda thing.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby gryfyx » Wed Sep 08, 2010 5:21 pm

Thanx. I'll try to get some visual feedback but this work of mine isnt actually meant to go in any movie. I'll look into Daily Inspiration For The Sound Designer, maybe I'll find some visual treat there. Would you know of any such inspirational audio or video?
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby ken long » Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:44 am

Hollowsun's Novachord would be a good choice. I'm looking at getting this myself when funds permit.

http://www.hollowsun.com/HS2/products/novachord/index.htm
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Sep 09, 2010 3:16 pm

Woo!

If you’ve got Kontakt then Hollow Sun’s Novachord is indeed a seriously good sampled instrument for spooky stuff - it has so much character. I gave it the top 5-star rating in my SOS Sample Shop review here:

www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul10/articles/novachord.htm

Have a listen to the Novachord demos on Steve’s web site (follow the link at the bottom of my review) to get the flavour of this wonderful instrument.

And here are some relevant quotes from users:

“I can't seem to play anything that doesn't sound spooky!”

“the novachord library is freaking fantastic. totally settles my dark shadows fetish.”

“it is very spiffing indeed. I'm going to have to have the carpets professionally cleaned.”




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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby ken long » Thu Sep 09, 2010 3:40 pm

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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby gryfyx » Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:34 am

ken long wrote:Hollowsun's Novachord would be a good choice. I'm looking at getting this myself when funds permit.

http://www.hollowsun.com/HS2/products/novachord/index.htm

Holy shite! Where was I, and what was I doing when this thing came up? This thing predates even moog and ANS. But does its limited components and switches have all it takes? It has a super minimalistic appearance which is almost a turnoff.

And also it has a refill version as well. I am okay with both versions; Is there any difference in sound, which one do I pick up?
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby gryfyx » Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:40 am

Martin Walker wrote:Woo!

If you’ve got Kontakt then Hollow Sun’s Novachord is indeed a seriously good sampled instrument for spooky stuff - it has so much character. I gave it the top 5-star rating in my SOS Sample Shop review here:


And here are some relevant quotes from users:

“I can't seem to play anything that doesn't sound spooky!”

“the novachord library is freaking fantastic. totally settles my dark shadows fetish.”

“it is very spiffing indeed. I'm going to have to have the carpets professionally cleaned.”




Martin


Martin if you knew this then why the hell second post in this thread isnt yours talking about Hammond.

Still it seem to have limited variations in timbre. (I'm just going by its limited controls)
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby hollowsun » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:46 am

AuralSerenity wrote:Still it seem to have limited variations in timbre. (I'm just going by its limited controls)
It generates a sawtooth(ish) sound as the basis for the sounds but this passes through three fixed band 'resonators' and low and high pass filters (all static) and is shaped by a simple envelope. There is also a polyphonic LFO for a rich ensemble effect. It's capable of quite a wide range of tones as it happens (although they all have an essential basic character I suppose ... but it's a very distinctive character)

You can see the HS Novachord up close and personal HERE

There also THIS that describes the instrument in more detail.
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Sep 10, 2010 11:59 pm

AuralSerenity wrote:
Martin if you knew this then why the hell second post in this thread isnt yours talking about Hammond.

Still it seem to have limited variations in timbre. (I'm just going by its limited controls)

There's horror and there's horror

When described in cold waveform terms as Steve just has, it does suggest limited timbre, but what you'll actually hear when you listen to the various demos is that each note sounds slightly different, and the polyphonic vibrato adds a great deal as well - this is an instrument with its own distinct and very rich and varied character


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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby hollowsun » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:31 am

Martin Walker wrote:When described in cold waveform terms as Steve just has, it does suggest limited timbre, but what you'll actually hear when you listen to the various demos is that each note sounds slightly different, and the polyphonic vibrato adds a great deal as well - this is an instrument with its own distinct and very rich and varied character
Not just that but back in the day, the Novas that would have been wheeled into the soundtrack composer's studio would have been a bit cronky (they were notoriously unreliable with the 100+ valves and 1,000+ capacitors, etc., playing up).

As such, it was down to the composer and the engineers to be creative and abuse the thing with all sorts of techniques to create the scary textures that graced the many sci-fi and horror movies the Novachord featured in.

I'd like to think that I captured a bit of that creative spirit in my Nova library, cronky and flawed as it might be!
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Re: Philosophy Of Horror Sound Fx

Postby Shreddie » Sun Sep 12, 2010 5:07 pm

I'm a bit late to this thread but ah well...

AuralSerenity wrote:I mean I want to know what it takes for you to create horror sounds if you go about producing one (I know its still vague).
I just mess about to be honest, multi effects, layered sounds (crossfading from one to another), slow LFO's/envolopes, filters and random samples used in random ways. Sometimes I find that samples which don't sound anything like a horror sound can easily be coaxed in to one with some manipulation/tweakage.

Heavily tweaked percussive sounds are generally pretty good I find... Slow them down, dig short (and harmonically rich) loops out of them etc... You might be surprised what you can get out of a bell tree sample.
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