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I'm trying to create a kind of "swarming" sound. It is a multimedia installation that shows an animated flock of "birds", not real birds but abstract forms that look and behave like birds. I'm trying to create a sound that is a mix between real wing flapping sounds and a more synthetic sound.

Does anybody have any suggestions? Or maybe knows film scenes with a similar sound? Any inspirational creative ideas highly appreciated.

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I consider using granular synthesis for this purpose as it's ideal here. Create one wing flap (use scheme as making synthetic kick drum in synthesizer - firstly, HF-component and then it gradually decreases to LF, but the range is more to HF part and envelopes are not so punchy).
Then, put this to granular synth, try different grain time and amount of grains to complement amount of birds. Add reverb to taste to make scene closer/farther.

  • Hi Richard, thanks a lot. That's a good tip and I will try that. – Ben Jun 12 '14 at 1:40
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Record continuous wingflaps using pair of gloves, big softcover books and whatever you like for wingflap sounds. Layer them to multiple channels and stretch and pitch shift the layers with different settings. Try using low quality algorithms or plugins to archieve more fake sound.

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If it's me I will setup a microphone with windshield, in the DAW place an Auto Pan > Delay effect with long delay time and high feedback.

After that I would find some clothes or books and flap into the mic. When the delayed sound became interesting/more dense, press record to capture the mess.

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There's a max patch-standalone app that's called the swarm. You can find it in google. Not sure that I'm allowed to post a link here about it (spam alert maybe).

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For the synthetic sound, you could consider sweeping a filter over a (pink) noise source, in sync with the real flapping. This gives you an extra 'woosh' of which you can control a lot of its characteristics by playing around with the filter's bandwidth and resonance.

An other thing you could do is to record ripping a piece of paper apart and then pitching that sound down. Add filtering and FX (slight bitcrush?) to taste.

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Alfred Hitchcock's film 'The Birds' is a good reference. I think it used a lot of synthesis for the bird sounds.

I would try;

  • Shaking a tree branch with lots of dryish leaves
  • Filling a large container with sand or pebbles and shaking it back & forth
  • & for individual wing flaps shaking a leather jacket

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