3 Creative Sound Design Tips and Tricks

April 3, 2023
Posted in Equipment
April 3, 2023 Paul Virostek

3 Creative Sound Design Tips and Tricks

Last year, the Pole Position Production team met together for the first time since the pandemic to chat about field recording microphones and audio recorders. Earlier this year the team met again – this time for a linear workshop.

The team gathered at Pole editor and designer Eric Thorsell’s studio to chat about post production tips and tricks. Thorsell – who has contributed sound design for Metallica, Paul McCartney, and Madonna as well as veteran sound editor for broadcast, drama, feature films, and more – shared invaluable linear editing sound design tips, workflow ideas, and little-known Pro Tools secrets.

Looking for ways to improve your mixing and sound editing workflow? Want to learn about some of the best sound design tools? Need workflow ideas to help you get the job done?

You’re in luck! Over the next few articles, we will share our 12 favourite tricks and tips from the Pole linear workshop. Today, we’re starting by looking at sound design tips and tricks.

Sound Design Tips and Tricks

Need to create the sound of a wood monster for an upcoming game? Want to create layered tonal textures to evoke mood and feeling? Perhaps you want to move or shape organic sounds.

The Pole team has designed sound for dozens of games. Here is some of the top sound design software we use to craft creative sound.

Reaktor

  • What is it?: a modular software system
  • How it helps: a “no-limits” tool for designing new sounds or shaping existing ones

Native Instruments’ Reaktor ($199) has been an indispensable sound design secret weapon in Eric Thorsell’s toolbox for ages – back from when it was released by Native Instruments as Generator. Now at version 6, Reaktor is the ultimate modular software system. It is utterly flexible, allowing users to shape sound however they want. While the depth of the software is immense, the Reaktor community helps ease new designers into its workflow with free content: just download the tools, learn how the pros have set things up, then tweak your soundscapes to your heart’s delight.

An invaluable tool for making weird sounds, Thorsell has used Reaktor’s powerful granulating tools to create the sounds of monsters and creatures for some of Pole’s game audio projects. At the workshop, Eric shared how a single wine glass ping can be evolved with Reaktor’s granular synthesis tools to become a multi-layered soundscape of shimmering tones.

Reaktor isn’t limited to just otherworldly audio, either. Thorsell has used the software as a procedural wind designer: with a combination of synthesis and samples and using a handful of sliders, it’s possible to craft a wind soundscape from a light, tumbleweed-blowing breeze into a buffeting windstorm.

Phase Plant

  • What is it?: a modular software synth
  • How it helps: an inspiring, versatile, and simple-to-use sound design tool that gets great results fast

Phase Plant by Kilohearts ($199) is known for its versatility: with open-ended architecture, it allows designers to choose the features they want and build their own toolset themselves. Reaktor – for all its power and depth – can be an undertaking to work with. Phase Plant places inspiring design choices into a much more user-friendly interface. There’s no need to keep track of under-the-hood parameters here. Instead, it’s easy to get inspiring results quickly and simply.

The main power of Phase Plant is the ability to integrate organic samples into the software. It becomes a simple way to combine samples with synthesis; the two influence and modulate each other to produce fantastic results. That’s not possible in Massive, for instance, and comparable results would often involve more work and time in Reaktor. Phase Plant is an exceptional tool to get creative results simply.

Radium

  • What is it?: a sound design-friendly sampler
  • How it helps: work directly with a sound effects library to produce creative results

For years, sound editors and designers have used Soundminer ($899) to browse their sound effects libraries for their feature films, series, and game projects. In version 5 of the software the Soundminer team introduced Radium, a sampler that allows designers to load up 5 slots of sound effects, manipulate them within the search software, and export the results into their projects.

The novelty of Radium is that it is a sampler geared towards sound effect designers – not musicians or composers. It’s simple and quick to find clips from a sound fx library, mark the snippets you want from a longer file, and load them into Radium. From there, it’s easy to change the pitch, time, envelope, and so on, as well as play with effects like compression, phasing, bass enhancement, and more. With a midi keyboard, velocity-sensitive performances easily shape the samples into nuanced creations. The upcoming version 6 of the Soundminer is introducing further enhancements: a quadrant mixer, surround panner, an AAX plug-in, Radium in the main interface, and other tools.

Thorsell has used Radium to select snippets from single stone and dirt recording to compose a textured rockslide, all performed via his midi keyboard within Soundminer. The power of Radium can evolve a single cityscape track into a textured urban environment, or evoke organic character from a simple flowing river. And that’s a hidden bonus of Radium, too: it allows designers to squeeze more sounds out of the libraries they already have.

More Sound Tips and Tricks

That’s it for our sound design tricks and tips. Stay tuned for more articles from our linear workshop including Pro Tools tricks, and sound editing workflow secrets.

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Read More

Read Eric’s choice for his Top 5 Sound Design Plug-Ins.

Check out Eric’s Cinematic Transformation sound library walkthrough video.

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