I have a real close up on a wave crashing on a short I'm working on. I'm trying to make as precise as possible but I'm not satisfied yet.

I have good real big wave sounds as source that I tried to pitch down and mix with things like cannon roars... but it's hard to make something really powerfull and convincing at the same time. The fall is not so hard to make as the sound of the wave rising, I guess (the cannon roar has worked reasonably for the first). It's a mad man's job trying to "shape" water, really.


first thing I'd say is - grab hold of some faders if you can, make some room around your big moments by pulling elements back a bit. Along with your cannon roar perhaps you could layer in some eg. earthquake type sounds to fatten out the big ones? Either that or automate some sub harmonizer like Lowender to help give it some caboose.

Again.. dynamics are key, if it all piles up then nothing is big any more. See what you can make smaller without killing the energy


I'd also consider approaching it as a metaphor - maybe try approaching it as though its a huge intake of breath & the wave crash is an exhale... shaping the envelope & energy build of the wave intake/build will be crucial, as will reducing it immediately prior to the crash... I have a wave break i recorded years ago, down south labelled 'Wave Explosion' - its just one wave break taken from about 5 minutes of recording, but just prior to the break it is very quiet (relatively)

  • thank you, tim! by the way, I;m a big fan of hissandroar. I'm using BEACHES and BLOW HOLES for this short as well. – Rodrigo May 23 '13 at 18:24
  • great - fire me an email & i'll send you that Wave Explosion, might be useful as a reference if nothing else – user49 May 23 '13 at 20:07
  • i've just send you the email, tim – Rodrigo May 24 '13 at 21:08

James has given you a good point on dynamics. There's also the issue of creating detail and individual moments. The problem you may be having is that the sound is too uniform. If there's no change in character (a simple volume swell isn't really much of a change), then there's nothing "dynamic" about the sound. It will end up just feeling flat. Try layering smaller waves together and adjusting the balance between them. Little "crashes" in the build-up may give you the sound you're looking for.

Another trick I've found useful making broadband sounds appear "larger" is to layer in some filtered pink noise underneath; using it to fill out the spectrum. It might work well with an automated EQ to give your wave a bit more life.

  • Using smaller waves may be a the path towards precision I'm looking for. Thank you Shaun! – Rodrigo May 23 '13 at 18:26

All responses are great so far. Tim's right, when a wave rises, it doesn't make much noise. That's both your challenge and your opportunity for dynamics. I've been in the maw of some waves that crashed right on top of me, and the only things you can hear before the wave collapses is the environment and maybe a slight high-end hiss of the aerated water as it rises and starts to fall. For the crash, sure, you'll need low end and layering, but don't forget to shape that amplitude envelope. Waves crack then rumble and hiss, but the attack is nowhere near as sharp as a cannon or thunderclap.

  • Thanks, for the input, NoiseJockey. I know the rise doesn't make much noise, but I want to hear it. Reality and cinema sound don't always go together, right? But regarding the attack not being as precise as one of a cannon or a thunder clap, I think you're right; that is something I've already perceived as well. I had to put a fade on my cannon roar sweetner to make it more convincing. – Rodrigo May 23 '13 at 18:30

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