The Pokémon Analogy
I think of sounds like Pokémons.
You can find level 2-5 sound effects in your household. Door knobs, floor cracks, sink etc… However, you can come across some higher level sounds if you search harder in unexpected areas like inside ovens, inside draws, old TV, radiators, printers.
Of course, to reach even higher-level sound effects you’ll need to explore the world. Start by going out to your car and record the door, the stick shift and some engine sounds. That would probably be equivalent to level 15-25 Pokémons.
To catch some level 30+ sounds you might to need to go to crazy locations. Junk yards, music studios, warehouses, churches, cathedrals… But be aware that the higher the level - the more preparation and equipment you’ll need. Recording a drum kit requires multiple microphones and some recording expertise. A cathedral might require a permit. A junkyard requires some protective glasses and a baseball bat.
With AVA we had to bribe the construction chief to get into the church and record our drums. It was a stressful experience but we got the best out of it.
By now you must be wondering where can we find the “legendary” sound effects. Just like Pokémons some are in obvious locations, and some are hiding deeply.
For instance Rayquaza would the equivalent of recording 13 taikos at AIR studios in London. Everyone knows the location, but not many people can afford it or even know how to capture it properly.
The other legendary Pokémons appear randomly out of the blue. Just like Mew, you only have one chance to get them. That would the equivalent of a building collapsing or a tiger roaring right next to you.
In some instance you might come across the rarest sound and not have the right Poke Ball… I mean “mic” to capture it. This happened to me so many times… I couldn’t even sleep at night.
Over time you’ll acquire knowledge of all the great locations and sound effect types that are out there. Ben Burtt (Star Wars) is probably the father of sound design. Just like Professor Oak, his first job was to go out on the field and record all the sound he possibly could. He did that for 2 years straight!
Just like Pokémon types, you’ll quickly notice that you can categories each sound into type: Fire, Water, Electricity, Wind, Ice, Metal, etc. Some combinations work really well together.
Now what’s fantastic about this analogy is that: just like Pokémons, you can train a level 5 starter Pokémon to compete with a legendary Pokémon with a bit of dedication and hard work.
Like Squirtle, you can make your sound effects evolve into a Blastoise! Increase weight by lowering pitch. Enhance depth by using reverb. Add energy by using distortion. Add punch by using transient designers… the list goes on!
In this class, we’ll both be trainers.
By the end of it, we might become rivals.
See you in The League... and by League I mean Hollywood Trailers!