This is the big week with the new Star Wars rolling out, so we’ve got another exploration into the sound design heard in the films, this time crafting laser blaster sounds. Last week, we examined some voice effects using the Ring Modulator modes in Mutable Instruments Warps. This time, we’re employing a few Make Noise modules, including the trusty Swiss-army-knife/function generator Maths, to generate classic laser zaps.
Laser sounds usually have certain definable characteristics, such as the motion of the volume and pitch. Typically, laser sounds will start at a high pitch and quickly dip down to a low pitch sound, to get the feeling of fast motion. As well, laser sounds don’t usually sustain, starting loud and tapering to silence fairly quickly leaving no lingering tones. Conveniently, these two specific attributes can be controlled using the same Attack/Decay Envelope, which makes Maths a great candidate.
By routing the same Envelope shape into a VCA (to control volume) and a VCO (to control pitch), the laser sound starts to take shape. Starting with a pure Sine wave and adding some Frequency Modulation from another source can give a little bit more liquidity to the sound. We can also run the basic laser sound through some effects to get closer to the spatial effects we hear in some of the Star Wars battles, using a very short Delay effect to generate an echo, in this case the Sputnik Modular 4 Tap Delay.
The great thing about starting from this basic shape is that it can be tweaked into a ton of other sounds. Tuning the Oscillator or limiting the pitch modulation can quickly turn a laser sound into a kick drum or tom sound. Dialing the Attack time to a high setting and the Decay time to zero will give a rising effect. Playing with the Envelope and Oscillator settings in this arrangement can yield a vast array of sounds.
What movie sound design effects have caught your ear? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to learn more about Make Noise Maths? Check out our Maths Course, starting soon!