For the next short film I am working there is an old elevator in an apartment building. It's so old that it still have one of those elevator gates on it. Does any one have any ideas on how to design an elevator moving?

  • 1
    you could always grab a mic & find an elevator...
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 21:48

3 Answers 3


My approach to this would be:

  1. Search for appropriate elevator sounds. Maybe you will find the perfect sound with everything you need in a library. If you do, then great. If not...

  2. Consider finding an elevator to record. There are still plenty of elevators like that around (at least here in the UK) if you know where to look. Hotels, restaurants and shops with basement storage are good places to try. If you find one, record it and its component parts. Gates opening and closing, elevator running, buttons etc - you might as well record everything if you are putting the effort in to go there. Edit the sounds together, then add in any extras you think it needs. Pay attention to the small things like creaks and groans from the motor and cables, as that kind of stuff can really add atmosphere to a sequence.

  3. Let's say you don't have any recordings and you can't find an elevator to record. Then you design one from component parts. Break the sound down in layers, stuff like motor running, motor start, gate open and close, button presses, creaks, chimes etc. Find sounds for each element and then get it to work however you can. There is nothing to say your elevator motor sound needs to come from a recording of an elevator. Sometimes this can be the best route to take anyway, it just depends on the style of film, setting etc. If you are working with individual elements, you actually have more freedom to manipulate them than if everything is baked in to one file. For example, weight and size of elements such as the motor can be adjusted to some degree by adjusting pitch or adding in extra pitch layers. What is appropriate will depend on the story, so consider that first.

  • Yes, I agree the story comes first. As the director and I have been talking we discussed we wanted the sound of the film to be movies like, Half Nelson or Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. So, it might be better to give it that real world felling but it also might sound better if I design it that way I have control over it. Would it be a good idea to do both? Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 15:53
  • There's no real right or wrong way to do it, it's just about finding something that works within the time you have to do it. If it's a dialog scene there might be less of a reason to put loads of time into it because the lift might need to be more in the bg. But if it's your main character in the lift and he is tense or anxious for example, then it could be a good opportunity to get the audience to identify with that, so rumbles, creaks, metal groans etc might really work and be time well spent. In that case you really need to craft something more intricate, so individual elements are... Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 19:54
  • ....really beneficial. Composite sound design pieces are just more flexible and easier to make intricate, full sounding and rich. Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 20:00

Experimenting with a small hand fan can work maybe. And layering that with simple mechanical sounds can do the trick!

  • Yes I was thinking of that too. I also found some various old gates and I shook them to get that nice rattle and mechanicle sound :D Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 19:42
  • Create the engine mechanism using industrial motor sounds from a library. Look especially for engine start and engine stop sounds. These type of engine sounds usually come with a nice reverb because of the facility they were recorded in. It may help a natural feeling of a large building space. If the shot is very close for a reverb, you can also combine those with some servo motors recorded closely.

  • Add some electric hum noises to give the idea of an old electric device working.

  • For the door you should use sounds of things dragging, together with some metals clashing to each other blended together with building space reverb.

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