I'm working on a film that takes place on a passenger jet that is modified to fly at high altitudes. black ops kind of thing. in the script, the pilot fights off a cockpit invasion by firing off a flurry of shots. one of which hits a character in the face; ouch. But the rest ricochet/embed themselves somewhere in the plane. they do not pierce the fuselage, which I assume is correct for a gun designed to be used for airplane security...

my questions are, what caliber might that be? should there be soft metal impacts, assuming the bullets are made to smash or crush? would there be a crazy tight high feedback/hard delay effect, like shooting a gun in a basement?

I suppose the other question would be about the cockpit/cabin atmosphere. what effect would higher than normal altitudes have on the typical sound we're used to? higher pitched? or more pressurized, so possibly... quieter? what do you guys and gals think?

  • Out of curiosity, have you reviewed/studied Air Force One? I'm not sure myself of what they did/did not do, but it seems to be a similar context to what you describe so it might offer some insight on what they did for inspiration. May 11, 2013 at 2:09
  • It might be also worth watching submarine movies like Crimson Tide et al - same idea/context, but in a underwater capsule instead of an air capsule. May 11, 2013 at 2:13

2 Answers 2


You say Black Ops, so I would guess likely something like a Glock 17 or 26, or SIG-Sauer variety, maybe even a Beretta 92 if you're talking handguns (especially silencers). If they have assault rifles, my guess would be something more like an M4, H&K MP5, maybe an FN P90, or an AK74.

Check this out too:

Internet Movie Firearm Database

In the end though, the sound can be whatever you want it to be as long as it fits the style of gun (pistol versus rifle) and feels right - some guns may look like you'd hear more of the mechanics, whereas others you see may feel more like a solid 'boom'. It's a taste thing, designing the sound of each one so the feel right and fit the character. I'd opt for the idea of not taking it quite so literally as long as you follow the above mentioned general ideas.

Same goes for the ricos/impacts. giving the ricos an interesting character could flavor up the scene and give it a more claustrophobic feel. If we see the metal chassis, maybe play them bigger sharper metal with interesting decays (like in a submarine), but if it's a more finished interior with carpeting, etc it might be good to play more muted but thumps, with some metal showing throw on occasion. Again, going by what you see and what feels right. It's the kind of thing nobody can really teach, you have to feel it out - some can and some have trouble. Studying films of similar nature might give you some ideas to elaborate upon too.

As for the interior, definitely pressurized - a very distinctive sound compared to a house room. It's going to usually have a thich (mid-hi) air quality and usually some sort of distinctive air whine, often with a slight metallic quality. Think of a server room, but just the air/fans. Frank Bry has an outstanding set of well-recorded Airplane interiors on his Recordist site. In my opinion I would never just drop one of those in and call it a day, but it serves as fantastic source material palette to build upon and layer. Think of other source material for which air moves or has an interesting whine - fans (even small ones), jets, HVAC units, hiss, roadside electrical boxes (these have such interesting sounds!), blow dryers, fridge int air. Lots of source material to pull from.

I think you are not suffering from uncertainty, but rather not committing to trying a specific idea ;)

P.S. Please, for the love of God, avoid the well-over-used silencer zip! ;) If there are silencers going on, make it your own and design something special. It will be worth it! Inception has an interesting take on a silencer at the beginning which is very different than the cliche sound, as do the silencer(s) in The Iceman and the TV show Nikita. I'm sure there are many other examples too, but.... please don't use that zip silencer!

  • Its definitely a handgun; maybe one of the glocks you mentioned, but perhaps it has more to do with some kind of specialized ammunition? great ideas, though! my plan is to have tons of cabin destruction, which I imagine is more plastic & carpet than metal, & a few aluminum impacts. it needs to feel super claustrophobic, so I'm using gun mechanics to get the clinch before the chaos & the gun blasts will be uncomfortably loud. I'm not sure about the science of the hard reflection, like a submarine. maybe that's my imagination since the plane is "re-enforced" & the shots are from the cockpit door
    – Rawly
    May 11, 2013 at 8:37
  • on the atmosphere, the director inserted a "decent" stock 747 sound, which I'm thinking about pitching up & then comb filtering or resonating; something musical but dissonant. or perhaps I should create a unique design from scratch with some of the sound sources you listed. maybe I'll get with the composer on more of a horror drone/background blend. what would you use for turbulence? I'm shaking all my bookshelves & bins, but its not the same.
    – Rawly
    May 11, 2013 at 8:53

I feel like people over-think stuff like this all the time. Does it sound cool? If the answer is no then experiment until it does. Doesn't have to be literal.

  • I understand your point... but making it sound "cool" is icing. I'm still going to bake a realistic cake. The director wants everything to seem 100% believable, so I'm just making sure I don't toss a bunch of ideas around that aren't scientifically plausible.
    – Rawly
    May 14, 2013 at 13:52
  • Then you are creatively limiting yourself to the literal world, which isn't the most thrilling or engaging most the time. I'm not saying use missle for a gun, it needs to make sense, but if you spend too much time thinking about how to emulate scientifically plausible reality it probably wont be exciting. Aim for enhanced reality. The sound of the ammunition is irrelevant unless there is a specific story element of the ammunition in the movie. Grab weapon, animal, metallic, impact samples, start processing with verb, pitching, layering, and build something with impact that fits the scene.
    – None
    May 14, 2013 at 14:56

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