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We all know and love the LFE and we can feel it in our bones when it shows itself. Does anybody have some tips on making Low Frequency Effects?

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Main techniques I use are:

  1. choosing the right source material
  2. worldising
  3. using subharmonic synth
  4. varying frequency

re worldising, on a couple of films I've made seriously freaky sub sounds for earthquakes etc by playing pure bass tones on one of my analog synths and lieing my subwoofer on its back and putting objects on top of it (eg wood, metal, glass etc) By doing pitch bends & varying the frequency you can pass through the resonance of any object! For a film last year I did this with a lot of different objects and made the earthquake appear to pass through different parts of the house (eg lounge -> kitchen -> hallway -> bedroom) by rattling objects/walls/wood etc from each room.... Funnily enough I tried the same process with my bass guitar amp and it wasn't half an effective - must be too much distortion, my JBL LSR sub is a far cleaner beast than my Trace Elliot bass rig...

re subharmonic synths I use a dbx120 outboard and sometimes the lowender plugin.. the dbx is the best I've used by far - if you havent used one, it models sub bass sine waves an octave below your source material & you then have control over filling in the spectrum between -1octave & zero with harmonics - too much and it sounds like playing 5ths on bass guitar! The important part is that its generating sub, not just filtering or boosting EQ etc! I've used it on pitch shifted breathing to make large creature breaths too. The dbx is a VERY good affordable bit of outboard that any sound designer should own, if you can find one.. Many dub stages have them in the rack, but I like to print them on to split tracks so I can can cut them in sync with the source material...

Like all sounds, moving/shifting frequencies where appropriate rates best as we notice change, whereas a constant rumble stops contributing fairly rapidly & just takes up headroom/energy...

A note of caution: like any effect, overuse or inappropriate use is a real danger eg "here goes another boys movie with loud overt sound effects... boooom...."

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Sub-Harmonizers are good fun eg. BigBottom. They're good because you're creating harmonically related material as well. Pretty much any Impulse Response can be manipulated to give you weight too. Something to try is a Big IR (eg. a metallic space) but with a reduced reverb time, giving you something big and heavy but restrained at the same time. J

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It is obvious but I'll share it: I once read that making LFE's is as simple as low-passing a regular SFX. For the Dynamic Interference first challenge, I did just this with crashing waves for the building falling down.

I also find that more radical (than usual) compression makes this nastier in the low end.

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Contact mics and hydrophones have excellent low end response. I've done some impact recording with them buried under the sand / dirt and gotten great sub sweeteners.

  • can you reccomend a contact mic? – Chris Sep 2 '10 at 5:48
  • Two companies that are making amazing, affordable mics: Trance Audio and Aquarian Audio. – Jay Jennings Sep 2 '10 at 6:29

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