So, long story short, I'm working on a video game and I've been asked to make Giant Mech Robot sound effects similar to those of the old Gundam Wing shows. So more synthesized stuff it seems. I've attached a link at the bottom of this for an example video clip I've been given. What I've done so far was to go out and record trucks, machinery, jacks and fork lifts, pitch shifted, added reverb, compressed and added a variety of effects through busses and so forth. (I use Logic Pro usually for my audio editing) Unfortunately my team came back and said it sounded too mechanical, and they're right. My effects have ended up sounding more like realistic mechs than a synthesized cartoon effect as in the link. I'm pretty decent at creating things but I'm sorta stumped at how to go about this and was curious if anyone had any ideas for how I should approach this.
First off, I think it's cool they didn't just ask you to make it sound like Transformers! But I think it's a difficult task because the sound in the clip is very stylised and not actually in very tight sync to the action.
It feels like you hear more swooping/flying around and atmos than actual synchronised movement sounds, so perhaps part of the challenge is how to implement sounds like those into the game. Might be more difficult if your mech is walking most of the time.
The sounds themselves seem like old-school synth and effects, lots of resonant filter sweeps of different material running through effects and reverb. On the synth side you could try different combinations of oscillators and ring modulation both modulated with LFO sweeps. I'd also try starting with the sounds you've got and trying effect them more heavily.
I've been making some interesting sounds by loading in snippets of sounds (music also works well) in as impulse responses into an IR reverb, depending on the sounds and mix it can add a kind of resonance, fusing the two sounds together. I'd try this on some of your mechanical sounds using synth snippets as IR's, then start pitch shifting and layering again with these.
Good luck though, sounds like a fun project!
I would suggest adding some square or sawtooth waveform synthesizers to what you already have. From your description it seems like you were somewhat satisfied with your mech sounds before your feedback but ended up agreeing with it. To me this says that the sounds you created are sufficiently 'Giant Mech Robot'-like but that they are not properly stylized for this particular project.
I would personally accomplish this by recording the synth sounds, line them up against the recorded samples, then determine what the best solution for the mix is. You may be able to just line them up and set the levels but that may be problematic for some more dynamic samples. This could be handled by automation but, depending on how many samples you are working with/creating, that may not be incredibly efficient. Beyond that you could try side-chaining a noise gate to the recorded samples, setting the attack short, so that the synth comes right in, and the release long, so that the synth sound will fade against the more quiet dynamics but still be present. You could mix this so that the synth sound is way on top, giving more of the desired sound for the project but still allowing you to hear the 'natural' sounds that were initially stimulating your 'Giant Mech Robot' vision. By having the synth sounds dynamically controlled by the 'natural' sounds, you can give 'natural' dynamics to your synthetic sound. This approach could also give you a lot of issues but the biggest ones that come to mind are samples that start quiet and end loud (this approach basically wouldn't work with short attack/long release), longer samples with only one dynamic peak triggering the gate and samples that have several dynamic levels, such as each noise within the sample getting louder. I think that automation will yield the best results for dynamics and will allow you more freedom to have the synth not strictly follow the sample dynamics. However, this could be the most time consuming approach.
For the synth sound itself I would have a few ideas as well. You can add a sense of motion to the sound by using the pitch bend. For example, I imagine an arm going outward bending the pitch slightly up. This idea could be used very blatantly by bending the pitch dramatically, like more than a 1/2 step (one note on a keyboard), or very subtly by only slightly bending. The subtle approach could allow the effect to remain subconscious and just be more believable. You can also side-chain different components of the synthesizer to your samples. This will allow the natural dynamics of the sample to make a map for a change in tone. For example, the cutoff frequency of the synth would work well. So when the sample is loud, the filter is more open, allowing more of the noisy harmonics to come through, and when the sample is more quiet, the filter closes itself, quieting the harmonics and rounding out the tone.
Within Logic I would recommend using the EXS24 plug-in. This allows you to create synth sounds using 1, 2 or 3 oscillators, and you can pick which waveform you want for each. You can then blend those as you wish, which can also be controlled by the side-chain. For instance, 1 square wave and 1 sawtooth, mixed with more square; the side-chain will effect the mix of the two oscillators so that the louder the sample, the more sawtooth you hear.
I like the idea of trying to make the synth imitate the samples because it will probably help bring a sense of life and realism to the robots, which is probably why a few of my suggestions involve side-chaining. You can also check out the 'Enveloper' plug-in but I'm not familiar enough with it to say much about it.
If you don't know much about side-chaining or how to do it within Logic, this video is a great tutorial.
If you want some explanation about the ESX24, this video is also great. Part two of this video is more about the layout and how to actually use it.
I highly recommend watching all the SFLogicNinja videos to gain a higher understanding for the resources within Logic but it is formatted somewhat like a blog where he will talk about himself and what he has been up to, sometimes for an entire video. His videos are also only up to Logic 9, so if you have 10, there may be a few slightly different things but the functionality should still be there.
If you had access to Camel Alchemy it could be an interesting direction to take the samples you already have recorded and mould them into the more stylised sounds your after. Import them as Additive/Spectral then you can utilise Alchemy's additive synthesis modules which I think could work for what your after. There is also a whole bank of resonant filters for you to have fun with...
Wow! I was Googling Gundam Wing sounds for article research and did not expect to find such a recent discussion!
Good luck on this. Please let us know some technique you use to replicate these very intersting and iconic sounds!
I also am happy they simply did not ask for transformer sounds (even if that would have made your job easier!)
One thing I have been using a lot of pitch envelopes in Reaper. With pitch envelopes you could take a servo or machine sound and quickly pitch it up or down which would give you the mechanical base but add enough artificiality to possibly achieve some of what they are asking. Logic has pitch envelopes for the beginnning and end of audio reions but you dont have the flexibility to draw in it like you do in Reaper.