I've just watch Ghost In The Shell and a question poped in my head.

How do sound designers usually create electronic sounds from scratch. I mean the classic sounds we can hear in movies associated with hologram interfaces (Ghost in The Shell, Minority report...)

Do they use synthesizers ? What's the best way to get these sounds ? VST synth ? Usually, most of the VSTi i've tested make long, evolving noises. Short bips are not so easy to get when tweaking the settings of these VSTi. Do you know any VSTi that does a good job with this kind of sound ?

8 Answers 8


Everyone here is right, across their variety of opinions! I often create such sounds for real-world computer interfaces, as opposed to the software you see in films.

Tone generation is the key starting point. In my opinion, the secret sauce boils down to envelopes and filtering. I've designed sounds for UI's by taking nearly microscopic samples from field recordings and with some amplitude and filter envelopes, you'd think the Autechre Virus had hacked yer kernel. ;-)

I think that even tiniest bloop, bleep, squirk, and frrwwweee needs some "animation" to it, via envelopes, filtering, and/or automation. Reflect on the sound design of even Star Trek: The Next Generation series, now more than a decade ago - strong stuff for this very reason. The more pure the tone is, the more analog it sounds, which is fine if you're going for that kind of sound, but it can sound pretty dated against modern pictures.

In terms of source material, if you chop up a sample small enough, anything can be source material. (One of my most-reached-for UI sound libraries is my collection of DAT tape read errors!) If you're more of a synthesis kinda person, I'm +1 with Ian and Justin on knob-laden hardware synths...or, like my Waldorf Pulse+ analog synth or the Logic ES2 synth, any complex synth with a random patch can help unstick you, creatively. I've also found that the free audio utility Audacity has a number of handy tone generators. Short, transient sounds are great too - any sort of drum sample kit can be a good starting point if you're willing to push it far enough.


I think any Soft Synth would do the job. But stay away from the presets because they are usually way too manipulated sounds to showcase the capabilities of that particular VST.

Selecting basic waveforms from Oscillators of the synth is the first step.

  • Square waves with very short decay and release times will give you "cell phone ring tone" type of sounds.

  • Sine waves with short release time will give you softer and more high-tech tpe of interface sounds.

  • Any non-sinusoidal waveforms including sawtooth and triangular waves will give you harsh buggy sounds which can be used to imply errors.

Of course everyone's perception is different and you should try and experiment it yourself. Start with basic and play with it!

Good luck.


For original beeps, blips, chirps, etc. use Pro Tools' Signal Generator. I find a tone that closely matches what I think the picture would represent, then chop it, layer it, distort it, and maybe some reverb. I've accumulated a small library of techie sounds from doing that.


On Friday I was mixing a show and tracklay had used a recording of someone's phone going off for a text message. Just in case of a copyright issue I thought it best to use something else. To be honest I am totally bored of the 8000 series and had the time to create one myself.

It was simple; find a blippy/bloppy (technical term) on Vacuum (PT8) and played 3 notes on my keyboard (Korg Nano, which fits perfectly onto my ProControl).

I find a lot of these sorts of noises are clearly from a synthesizer and are musical in origin. I can't remember now but I read an article about how all the sound in the original Star Trek series is like a musical score in that all the sounds chirp and drone like electroacoustic compositions. I guess we're heading to the other thread about the line between music and sound.

I've always had a love of analog synthesizers so I would go for one of those. It's not VST (it's RTAS) but I'm liking Vacuum. However, I am still madly in love with my Novation Nova, nothing like a proper knob to fiddle with.


"Short bips" just have to do with appropriate settings of a synth's envelope generator.

Search Wikipedia for "ADSR envelope" on the Synthesizer page, and learn about: attack, decay, sustain, release.



Some of the most notable beeps in sci-fi film history were created with a test oscillator, theremin, or an ARP 2600 synth.

Nothing beats tweaking/performing the knobs and switches of a hardware synth for this sort of thing. Although a nice MIDI controller and a soft synth will do the trick.


Thanks Guys ! That's Really interesting !


to add to what's been said above:

  • super high pass filters work well. experiment with cutting everything below 5 or 8k
  • short verbs and slap delays can add a techy feel
  • don't be afraid to micro edit some stutters and repetitions

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