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For a little while now I've been trying to get a good sound for these 'bugs'. They look a bit more like moths but they're out and about during the day.

Anyway I don't want a bug sound. It can't have that annoying buzzzz. They have a supernatural aura, they help lead the main character toward a necessary object in her journey. They also show up in a flashback over 50 years earlier doing the same thing to another person.

I've gone through a few designs, none of wich I like. They all still sound too buzzy. I'm thinking of focusing more on the wings. If a butterfly's wings made noise, what would they sound like? So does anyone have any suggestions? Has anyone made an effect like this?

My next plan is to record a note pad's pages being flipped by my thumb. Then maybe reverse that sound. Or use a sound that I can put through a transformer or LFO.

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    Have you thought about adding a slowly-pulsating hum, like they're glowing? Sonically, I think that might help convey that they're positive. – Dave Matney Aug 30 '10 at 1:26
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When I read your thread the other day, I recorded a Tibetan thing similar to this one:

http://www.naturelexotic-deco.fr/images/Image/1801_CB.JPG

but rather the metal ones (although the wood might sound more natural). If you play it backwards it kinda sounds like flapping and has a nice ringing tone to it. I reckon you should try that and if you pitch it up without time correction, make it fit the picture and maybe sound even more cheerful.

If you don't want it to be too high, start with one that naturally has low pitched (bigger) tubes.

EDIT: I also compressed it to tame the percussive attack, couldn't get satisfying results with the expander.

[soundcloud]justin-huss/reversed-pitched-up-percussive-didjeridoo[/soundcloud]

I'll leave the one above in case it decides to work... in the meantime, here it is: Reversed pitched up percussive didjeridoo by Justin Huss (this is me using my palm on my didjeridoo, recording at the other end, reversed and pitched up... sounds funny anyway!)

[soundcloud]justin-huss/floor-tom-pitched-up-high-passed[/soundcloud]

This one is fun too, floor tom this time. I'm pressing with my hand on the drum head and record the air being pushed out of the tom through a little hole on the side. It makes that nice whooshing sound with a slight whine that becomes a whistle when pitched up. It's cute. Check it out: Floor tom pitched up high passed by Justin Huss

  • Hmm... I like where you're going with the didjeridoo, the first half I like alot. Thanks for the idea. Great sounds by the way! – Auddity Aug 29 '10 at 23:37
  • @Auddity I'm glad you like it. The first half is my preferred passage too, the less flappy one. Because it's reversed, it was actually towards the end of the recording that I decided to brush up the hole of the didj' with my palm rather than attacking it percussively and it makes for a more progressive and washed out attack. – Justin Huss Aug 29 '10 at 23:55
  • The second passage on the didge is awesome... so perfect for an old jalopy. – Dave Matney Aug 30 '10 at 1:25
  • @Dave, cheers, the more I listen to it the more it makes me think of somebody on drugs, super speed and jumping around lightning fast, like the gravity would be 100 times higher... :D I need longer sleeps at night... – Justin Huss Aug 30 '10 at 8:47
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Wow, that's pretty wide open. So hard to know without seeing a visual or knowing more about the story. Are they leading your character to something good or bad? Hopeful or evil? This should influence your sound design.

Re. wing sounds, book pages is a good route to go down. Try also things that spin rapidly:

  • Wheels, rotary items
  • Paper pinwheels (those kids toys that blow in the wind)
  • Wooden ratchets (maybe sped up?)
  • Your own voice making a "spinning" effect of some sort, then looped and/or processed in some way.

Let us know how it turns out - or better yet, post a sample on Vimeo.

  • Oh yeah, I shoulda mention they're a positive for a main character. It's one of the reason's I don't want a buzz sound. I like the idea of a spinning object as a start. I'm feeling more of a moving wind sound for them. Thanks Jay – Auddity Aug 28 '10 at 21:57
  • You're welcome. Re. "moving wind sound", remember it's not the wind that makes the sound but rather whatever the wind is resonating on or through. – Jay Jennings Aug 28 '10 at 22:07
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take a look at some of the special features for Pixars "A bugs life",

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrvMO_T32w4

one of the things that stood out for me was for the sound of flapping wings, he took a playing card, and would gently blow on it while flapping it softly. made a nice flapping effect

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It's real tough to say without seeing these bugs in action, but like Jay said a lot of the sound design decisions will depend on whether these creatures are good spirits, bad spirits, foes or enemies, what role they play in terms of the characters and how the audience is supposed to perceive them. However, if you're looking for some bug-style inspiration check out Pan's Labyrinth. It's got a lot of nice sounding bug type animals in it that could help...might be worth a watch / listen!

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There is an awesome FREE vst effect called DFX Skidder (there are probably others that do the same thing but this one is free and has a very intuitive interface). It adds blank spots in your audio by lowering the amplitude at intervals you set, to a depth you set, at a slope (how ramped the fade out/in is) you set, at a width (how long the drop out is) you set, with randomness available for all the settings.

Start with a piece of audio that has a timbre that fits the emotion of the moth (gentle wind? baby cooing?), and then add the flutter using SKidder. Its a go-to effect for me.

David Rovin

  • Sounds interesting, I'll check it out. Thank You! – Auddity Sep 10 '10 at 14:40
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Get a paper bag, blow it up, and let the air out really fast. Thats the rattling for the wings

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