Hi all,

I'm working on a piece that involves a portal blasting or ripping open and I'm having some difficulty getting it sounding right. The 'portal' is centre-screen and meant to burst open fairly suddenly.

Right now I've got a nice EQ'd thunderclap and a sizzle and crackle going on that works well for the energy of the portal dying off, and I've recorded tearing paper and foil and layered them for the actual portal ripping open but it's lacking a certain 'energy'.

Any suggestions for things to try to add would be greatly appreciated!

  • 4
    Maybe you should just go out and record one. ;) – Jay Jennings Sep 17 '12 at 0:02
  • 1
    @Jay Yeah I considered it, but I don't really have the time to fly out to Bermuda at the moment...! – Skarik Sep 17 '12 at 6:04

11 Answers 11


I completely agree with Bryce on the synthesis angle. A good thick synth element can get waaay punchier results than anything recorded in the real world, and they are much easier to bend with regards to pitch and timing because you're bending them at the generative stage and not at the post-waveform stage - no artifacts.

Also, consider frequency content and arrangement when you're putting the sound together. A low or high freq ear candy lead in (but not both), then a very slight pause and a large full frequency event (with that thick synth as a key element) that is followed by a composition that's got a well-mapped frequency layout. elements that bend or stutter will cut through better - but be careful not to junk the design up with too many layers. Everything in there needs to be clearly audible and to be doing something positive to the overall effect.

Play with automating some distortion either in or out on some of the elements. Have the punchiest things in mono and panned dead center. mids and highs can sit or move out to the edges.

mix it on small speakers. If it sounds huge on small then it'll work better on big ones.

  • +1 on the stutter idea. Could sound awesome. iZotope's Stutter Edit could work well for this scene. – Colin Hunter Dec 20 '12 at 8:27

Explosions. Animal roars. Metal clangs. Glass shattering. Car crashes. Depth charges.

Throw them all into your favorite sampler and get to work!

  • @Jay Some great suggestions, thanks! I especially like the idea if working in some animal roars, will give that a shot! – Skarik Sep 17 '12 at 6:05

Add a musical element to it perhaps?

  • 1
    @Joe Yeah, could try throwing something musical in... You've just reminded me of some "singing wine glass" recordings I made a while back, might throw some of that in! – Skarik Sep 17 '12 at 6:07
  • Cool! I hope it works out! – Joe Griffin Sep 17 '12 at 20:45

One of the portal effects I was pretty happy with involved the following elements:

  • Bass heavy explosion with a nice thud to it
  • Fire burst (flammable liquid dumped on a fire)
  • Jacobs' ladder electrical arcs (two different recordings panned left and right plus heavy reverb and I think a bit of flange)
  • A few layers of metal melodic pipe drones (continues throughout portal being open)

But are there perhaps other elements in the environment that might resonate with the portal opening? Metal structures vibrating? Wooden floors cracking? Birds scattering? Comes back to the idea of adding debris to an explosion to make it sound really dangerous.

If you're interested though, the above recipe can be heard at 6min 7second here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/tales-from-the-table/4804-Chapter-14-A-Tale-of-a-Sirens-Call


You might consider synthesis as an option for this sort of thing. Since it's not a real-world sound it gives you a lot of options - it can really sound like whatever you want it to sound like. I would tend to use a lot of bass-heavy explosion type sounds - reverse explosions? Go pitch-shift crazy. Try using a sampler. Try some nice designed whooshes. Reversed glass shards. Just get creative with it.


If there is metal around, the groaning and creaking can add some tear and pain to it. Even if not, I imagine it's a commonly used element.

Dry ice in metal recordings would be great for this, those groans are perfect, especially with some time manipulation and some granular effects.


Expanding slightly on Bryce's ideas of reverse explosion, the classic reverse reverb technique could be very effective. Care would be needed to ensure the "sudden" effect isn't lost but a subtle mix of reverse reverb could add a nice element of suspension.


Try taking a large explosion and reversing it. Then sweeten it with the EQ'd thunderclap and a sizzle and crackle that you already have.


As an additional layer to all the above mentioned sounds, how about the sound of an actual seam tearing from a piece of clothing, to take the 'seam' in space/time idea to it's literal extreme.


Definitely put a pitching down sub in there! A bit of saturation on top of it too.


On Monday the 21st this month my 23 year old daughter and I heard what I am sure was a supernatural sound. It was definitely a sound that I would describe as a dimensional portal that "opened and shut very quick". It happened in a park and the sound happened as fast as a bolt of lightning and only a fraction or so of a second (like the speed of a firecracker) and it happened right in the tree as the leaves blew instantly off the area it took place. There was absolutely no wind that evening. It was the strangest thing I have ever experienced. When I though what it was right after it happened I felt as though something was being intercepted. The sound was an amplified and echo effect version of when the hose of the vacuum cleaner gets clogged, nothing after except the whooshing of the tree because of the immense speed of whatever was travelling through. Just thought I would share hope it helps. This is a great sound effect for a movie I have already written a script for and submitted. We shall see if their sound engineers can get it right!

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