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So I am working on a trailer for a video game that features Dinosaurs.

I have big ol epic feet for the T-Rex - friggin epic on my monitors. But it seems like the only audio that finds its way through on laptop speakers is the higher end layers. So how do you make it "sound" like something is huge, even though someone may be playing it on smaller speakers? Does this ruin your theatre mix?

*I know you need a larger speaker to hear lower sounds. The question is how to make a big low end boom not sound like a plank of wood.

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3 Answers 3

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A few things to consider - One > is not to have too much bass in the first place - a balanced (in terms of EQ) sound will sustain better across different listening environments and speakers (even tho massive bass will sound awesome on good speakers!).

Secondly > there are some frequencies that 'hint' at bass - brining these out will create the psycho-acoustic understanding that there is bass sounds there that arn't actually played by the speaker. I'm not good enough to tell you exactly HOW to do this step by step - I can only achieve this by tinkering and listening and testing at the moment (sorry for no hard tips here).

Thirdly > this is probably the most practical and useful tip. When it comes to small speakers I think that it is really, really difficult to balance the audio so it is useful (dialogue is clear and relevant information is provided to the player) while at the same time providing an awesome aural 'experience'. This is just not entirely possible on tiny 'tinny' speakers. So what we can do is go for a psychological effect of bigness - rather than making a big sound - we imply bigness with reverb and the idea of bigness. Examples of this could be twigs snapping or tree branches snapping, a rumble that goes on a little after the actual impact of the giant footstep has finished and so on. A good example of this is the melee weapons in Left 4 Dead 2 - the guitar and the cricket bat and golf club all have sounds that are totally not realistic in terms of whacking zombies (whatever realistic means in that situation!) but they all 'sound' like the object in question and provide a very clear psychological effect.

Hope the project goes well!! All the best, Paul 'Volumetric' Nunes

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@Paul Nice tips! Yep, got the twiggies cracking and the reverb and such. The difficult issue is that I have guys running away from the dino at the same time - so their feet are in the foreground volume wise, so I have to make a differentiation between dinos and humans, which is interesting on small speakers since the low end cant be the defining characteristic. Ill dial up the verb and see what happens - thanks Paul! –  C3Sound Dec 6 '10 at 23:36
    
@Paul Nice answer and welcome to the boards! For your second point, i'm not entirely sure, but maybe something like Waves Maxxbass would help. –  Roger Middenway Dec 6 '10 at 23:37
    
@C3Sound - I see - this volume issue between big feet in the background and human feet in the foreground is an interesting issue... I'd approach this definitely as a sustain + decay thing. Human footsteps being more of a shortish tap on the ground compared with T-Rex's bang->scrape->rumble->reverb kind of sound. –  Volumetric Dec 7 '10 at 0:36
    
@Volumetric Yeah its a bit weird - Just because all the bang, scrape, and the reverb of those gets thrown through the laptop speaker without the rumble - which then meshes with the taps of the multiple humans feet, so at one point before I fixed some things, it sounded just like a bunch of racket through laptop speakers. –  C3Sound Dec 7 '10 at 5:30
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instead of the actual lowend itself, work on articulating the overtones for the frequency range you are trying to reproduce. thanks to psycho-acoustics the brain is very capable at producing the "full image" as long as you give it enough clues. you can also try adjusting (narrowing) the width of a certain freq range below a certain threshold to tighten the image. there are quite some plugins for mixing-in the lowend that work on similar principles I think. there is of course not so much you can do to feel the full power on small speakers but simply by enhancing harmonics/focusing on higher octave ranges for bass, you might get a better defined & fuller sound..

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@audiLe Ill to some low-mid focusing and see how it goes. Thanks! –  C3Sound Dec 7 '10 at 0:26
    
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In addition to emphasizing the higher bass frequencies and overtones, don't forget to try compression and limiting. A plug-in chain that could be extremely useful is MaxxBass, LoAir (or LowEnder), followed by a limiter, such as Waves L1, L2, etc. Experiment with the higher frequencies in MaxxBass until you find something that reads through the laptop speakers, then make sure that the limiter is really flattening it out.

You never know till ya try…oh, and don't forget that red/overloading can be desirable in some cases, as distortion will yield even more overtones.

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@Jay Ive got those - ill work with them and find the happy medium - I think one side of it is that I havent baked in my layers for the feet into low/med/hi detail so the layer mixing is a bit sporadic. Ill post a link to the video once its done - thanks Jay! –  C3Sound Dec 7 '10 at 0:25
    
@Jay I was second engineer on an album with a top music mixer and we were hitting the red at the end of the song (slightly) and I turned to him and told him about it and showed him, and he laughs and said "HAH! EXTRA HARMONICS!!!" –  Utopia Dec 9 '10 at 6:29
    
Red is your friend. –  Jay Jennings Dec 9 '10 at 7:12
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