what are some efficient and cheap ways to record your own cinematic 'booms'? By this I mean the typical Hollywood film trailer low end impacts with a little rumble that rocks the sub woofer but is just wide enough in frequency range that it can still be just about felt on domestic speakers.

on this topic, are there any similar effective ways to get a nice heavy whoosh.

In general, I guess I'm asking how the heck these high end sound libraries recorded them in the first place?


9 Answers 9


I take it you mean low rumbles and such, and not explosions?

Well, the secret to really kick-ass bass-effects must always begin with exceptionally good monitoring. See, bass is pretty much imho the hardest thing in the entire realm of sound to get great, especially the lower you go below 100Hz. For consumers, that mostly goes pretty unnoticed because pretty much everything they ever listen to, that actually has that kind of bass, is already heavily contained and shaped. For us making said effects though it is not, and for those buying already shaped effects they still must balance it, which can be very difficult if the mix-room isn't well padded in the lows. And add to that that the human hearing reacts very differently to bass that higher frequencies, only a few decibels might very well be the difference between inaudible and unbearable in the sub-bass (sub-bass is freqs below approx 70Hz, the subwoofer is an LFE).

Now to the funny stuff: Don't let that let you down though. With a good and honest sub-woofer made for studio-work and nice acoustics this is literally a blast! ;-) How to reach these sound differ a lot between designers, though I'd say most of us work first and foremost with pitchshifting and bass-management like the Waves Air and such. Ta mention a few of the soundsources I often use to make dedicated bass-effects can be mentioned djembe-drums, dharbukas, large sheets of both a special plastic and different kinds of metal, a big auto-harp, and my own body. As it's often a pure matter of mic-positioning, you may find lotta really impressive sounds if you only play around with the mic in different ways for different sound sources.

A common misconception is that to make something fatter you need to add more bass, but the truth is that that often just makes things muddy. Though it might sound like a contradiction, one often gets the best bassy sounds by adding more of the higher frequensies, the human ear is extremely sensitive to details and good details in higher ranges makes the sound much more prominent.

Often though the best sounds are the ones created. Your best friend here is the pitchshifter. The best you can do is just experiment by yourself, but to give you a hint of how unlikely sources can sometimes become a human rear part full of Dr Martens (ie= kick ass like there's no tomorrow), a few years ago I messed around i the corridor outside my studio with something that's called "tricky-smällare" in Swedish. Dunnu what they're called in English, but they're a kind of small round crackers of thin paper that detonates on impact with a not exactly ear-threatening little "poff". I didn't really know what to do with it, but after a fun time of playing with my recordings through different pitchshifters and filters I actually got an amazingly convincing (and heavy) hearth-beat!

  • Thank you to all of you for your feedback it is much appreciated !! I played around with low-fi and pitch shifting of distant jets in the air and got some stuff but sounds less effective than hitting an oil drum as suggested. The other problem is where I only have stereo speakers that have a great range on them but are not exactly a substitute for a sub woofer. Not sure how I would route that through an mbox 2 though! Thanks again
    – bob
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 20:45

In regards to the wooshes that you seek, there's a great video on Tonsturm's website showing how they achieved some of their woosh sounds.

You can find it here, near the middle of the page:




I've had a lot of success at making cinematic booms using large metal containers (barrels, dumpsters, storage containers) that have deep long-lasting resonances. One object that I have recently sampled has been a large metal flower pot (with nothing inside). Although the resonances in objects like this are usually higher than you would want, they can easily be pitch shifted down to get that bass rumble you might be after.

Hitting metal handrails inside stairwells also produces useful booms and rumbles.

In reference to whooshes, like Fred said, that Tonsturm video is great.

Good luck and have fun experimenting!

  • RBass's "Big Bottoms" preset can be an ally with this ;) Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 3:10

I watched this a few months ago through the Designing Sound website; it has a few videos about how to mix the sounds, once you have them.

Boom Library: http://vimeo.com/23965688


You can get really nice low tail rumble by using a high pass filter on any EQ set around 200-400Hz then process you sound over and over till you get the sound you want. The texture of the original sound you use will influence the outcome, I've found outdoors atmos tracks with lots of sonic information work well. This can then be mixed with your other explosion components to your hearts content...


What did it for me is a timpani drum pitched down with a low synthesiser over the top. Would be interested to hear any results you get.


I've heard that some folks like kicking their garage door when it's closed to get some nice rumbles and interesting base tones. You might also want to play around with contact mics to get lower sounds that are still in the "consumer" range. If you make your own, the bigger elements get lower frequencies. Once you got a wide variety, start EQing, layering, and pitch shifting until you get what you want.


Any sound with a sharp initial transient is good for booms (and enough low-end information!), like the other metallic 'hits' are often good. I smashed around a microwave quite recently that gave some epic 'crashes'. Layer that with a kick or some other 'thud' and keep experimenting.

I like to loop-record with different reverb settings and to try out other plugins to give them different flavours.

  • I just recently smashed a microwave as well... great fun, and highly therapeutic. Fantastic stuff for car crashes and other metal stress sounds.
    – Matt Glenn
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 22:14

I would also suggest re-recording your designs in an acoustical space. In the soundworkscollection.com video about Inception, the designers talked about putting huge subwoofers on a large soundstage, putting low-frequency sine waves through them, and recording the results. While the sine waves by themselves are fairly stale, the acoustics of the room add harmonics and spatial quality which helps to make the low stuff organic. This could also apply to low frequency booms and such. The downside is that you would need access to recording gear and large subwoofers, but if you can get your hands on this stuff it could be a cool thickness layer.

Just my 2¢! :)

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