How to Make Impact Sound effect
Not satisfied with the impact sounds you’ve found online? Read on for a few surefire ways to easily create your very own.
Whether you’re using a sophisticated music production DAW to create, edit and refine your audio (such as Logic X, Ableton and Pro Tools), or just a basic editing suite to collect and polish your foley (like Garage Band, Adobe Audition or Audacity), creating great-sounding and bespoke impact sounds is an excellent way to enhance your storytelling and add a cinematic quality to your videos. And it’s far more straightforward than you would think. Learning and referencing very simple mixing principles to your technique doesn’t require a great deal of time or effort and will pay dividends during your editing process.
Generally speaking, creating believable and functional impact sounds from scratch using complicated sound synthesis is a difficult task. Especially considering the abundance of available pre-recorded audio that is readily available on the internet, it’s really quite difficult to imagine a scenario that can’t be adequately be soundtracked either using, modifying or layering stock sounds. Sure, perhaps you’re having a hard time matching the audio hits you downloaded to footage you captured of a ball bouncing. Maybe the transitions between scenes in your fast-paced travel video blog are missing the OOMPH factor you feel will make them really stand out and pop. But help is here. Read on for a few simple yet essential tips to get your audio chops in sync with your video creation skills.
As previously mentioned, the internet is literally swamped with hundreds of sound banks containing thousands of samples catering to virtually every type of sound cue imaginable. They’re usually very descriptively titled as well so if you’re looking for “fist punching face close miked” (if that’s your sort of thing), chances are you’re only a few clicks away from a good match. But what if you don’t want to shell out your hard earned cash for every cut you make? What if the sounds you’ve (somehow) sourced are close, but not close enough to what you’ve been looking for?
It all starts with the recording process. Great sound recordings (whether you’re creating them or sourcing them) generally adhere to a few basic hallmarks of quality: correct gain level structure (whether they’re loud enough), mindful noise floor settings (capturing the realistic tone of the spaces in which the principal sound exists), elimination of wind-induced distortion (making sure there is no extraneous noise recorded which can distort the recording itself) and appropriate perspective (sonic characteristics can greatly be influenced by the distance from which the sound is experienced/recorded due to a given location’s acoustic response). You can also read our related post on common problems when recording audio and how to remedy them.
Assuming you’re not ready to grab your nearest boom mike and start roaming your area in search of the perfect acoustic locations, or book your local recording studio to capture the sound of yourself breaking and smashing all manner of household items, your best bet is probably to apply a few simple tricks to customize, blend and craft readily available, suitable sounds.
Intuitively titled, layering refers to the combination (or stacking) of two or more of the same kinds of sound together in order to achieve a more powerful or interesting outcome than the one single source can achieve in isolation, creating the perception of a fuller, denser sound. The idea is pretty much as old as music itself - multiple instruments playing in unison to create more depth and power, while providing a more complicated and interesting sound for the listener. The caveat is that it's easy to make a mess when blending several sound sources together, especially when they have similar characteristics. Importing, placing and editing audio is a much less daunting task than you would think and the process is pretty much the same across all platforms such as in Adobe Premiere. Areas to be particularly mindful of are frequency clashing (where sounds occupy the same sonic space) and masking which can easily muddy up sound, especially in the crucial middle frequencies.
Stacking sounds isn't about quantity over quality or about haphazardly throwing together layers as quickly as possible. You should strive to ensure each element contributes to an overall “bigger picture”, and be prepared to replace things when they aren't working in your quest for a superior sound or if they’re working against the desired end result. The layering process can be simplified if you categorize into the following categories.
Low frequency: bassy, rumbly and dark sounds
Mid-frequency sounds: clear, audible, and comfortable for the most part.
High-frequency sound: squeaky, buzzy, and sharp.
The point of layering impact sounds is to fill out the soundspace by choosing a good mix of high, mid, and low frequency sound effects; with the objective of achieving an overall richer tone and extra punch. Also, it helps to keep an open mind and remember that with this sort of technique there are no mistakes - only discoveries! Sound design is all about experimenting, so creating an additional narrative strand in your productions is very much a subjective exercise. It takes considerably more than merely lining up sounds with the cut mark to achieve a smooth-yet pacey-edit and achieve the impact that will ultimately elevate the story you want to tell.