Hi guys! I'm cutting sounds for II WW plane battle scene and I have faced few problems. This is a 3d animation and planes are doing many complicated moves. Few questions:

1) Do you pitch down and up engine/prop sound if a plane is going up and down, or you just simply put dopplered whooshing sounds/pass bys when plane is doing such moves? or maybe both?

2) What do you do if you have close ups with two planes - I mean, do you try to put engine/prop sounds for both of them and make them a little bit different with Eq, maybe pitching a little bit? When I layer sounds for both of them I can hear phasing between them and it's definitely not that what I would expect. Or, if they're in phase they're sounding uniform soo... or maybe just focus on one plane which is more important at the moment?

3) Would you recommend any movies to analyze?

4) Any sound design tips for airplane sounds (planes in animation are P51, so the engine is rolls royce merlin V12) or maybe you have some sounds you like to layer in such sequences? (I know stuff with fans and vacuums)

  • It's not animation, but I remember the parachuting scenes from Band of Brothers sounding incredible. Might be worth a look.
    – g.a.harry
    Sep 5 '11 at 18:27

I've never cut a scene like that for animation, but i think the answer to most of your questions might be 'you're already on the right track, keep at it and something good will happen". In my experience you simply need to twist and turn as long as possible until you believe it.

Movies to analyse would be:
-Pearl Harbor: link youtube.com -The trailer of Red Tails link apple.com
-King kong (peter jackson) End scene at the big tower

Good luck!


  • Thanks!!!!!!!! That scene from Pearl Harbor is exactly what I was looking for!!! ;D
    – Marcin
    Aug 31 '11 at 23:07

Another very good reference film would be the awesome animation, Paths Of Hate. The sound design is top notch and there are some excellent dog fight scenes featuring many fly-bys.



This probably doesn't help you much, but the only thing that really works is actual plane sounds and bys; in your case, P51 bys. P51s in particular have a very unique sound compared to other planes of the era. (Zeros, Messerschmidts, etc). I used to work on a show that was nothing but computer animations of air battles, and the only thing that worked were the actual sounds, so I ended up going to air shows and recording them. I did use doppler plugins to create whooshes which I would layer with actual plane sounds to beef them up, but they were secondary. By themselves, they sounded fake.

Another trick that might help is the volume automation of a by. Most recorded plane bys aren't super fast. Keep the volume automation down low and then spike it up very quickly for a fly by. It really adds to the perceived speed of the plane.

For two plane bys simultaneously, that surprises me that you're getting phasing, unless you're using the exact same file for both, which you shouldn't, if you can avoid it. For my show, I would probably have two different files playing simultaneously, maybe with a doppler whoosh in the background if need be. Another trick is to layer two different types of sounds. You could have a super close by and a more distantly recorded plane by playing together. If you're limited by your sound files, try to create different sounding whooshes to layer in the background to give the impression of different sounding bys. Also, as I mentioned earlier, playing with the volume automation.

If you want to see what I did, go on youtube and check out a TV show called Dogfights. The episode, "Death of the Luftwaffe" has some P51s in it. (Though youtube compression is not kind to the overall sound.)

Best of luck.


I was always of the perception that when facing a stereo field you have two axis.

Obviously left and right, but up and down as well. Left right is easy to accomplish obviously because you have two speakers. I always always practiced and been preached higher sounds sound "higher" and lower sounds sound "lower".

When we watch cartoons and we hear a slide whistle the pitched up sound is for going up, and the pitch down for falling back down.

So I guess what I am saying is, I don't know that it matters what it actually sounds like, what would make a person believe or perceive that movement?

Maybe play with the sounds a bit, turn off your video and just listen. Is the plane moving up or is it moving down? I think your best bet is going to be playing around with automating eqs, and bys in addition to dopplers and some pitch automation.

I think it's all about the story you are trying to tell friend. I love the video Colin posted because it really is about what you sound designer wants you to hear. You don't hear all that much in some parts.

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