I have some great stories about sounds that I originally used for one thing, then was able to completely change, and re-use as a completely different sound.

For example: I recently did a bunch of high speed (192kHz) recordings of shooting pennies out of a slingshot. I was able to use it as a ricochet sound for a bullet, and then I repurposed it as the sound of an airplane engine (not for an actual project, just to show someone that I could do it).

Anyone else have similar stories? Maybe some funny ones about using very unconventional sounds for something you'd never expect? (Wilhelm scream anyone? ;-) )

11 Answers 11


A good example of repurposing a sound technique ... I was sitting eating dinner in the kitchen one night, which is beside the laundry. I had some clothes in the spin drier & I noticed that all the wine glasses were resonating/rattling (they hang upside down on a rack attached to the wall) I thought hmmmmm..... I was working on a horror film at the time & I wondered, what if every time evil entered the room, everything started to vibrate? Hmmmmm.... So the next morning I got one of my analog synths, made a really subby resonant bass sound on it, got my subwoofer & lay it on its back & then put objects on it eg a tray with glasses & cutlery etc... No matter what object I put on it, by bending the pitch on the analog synth i could find resonance & make it vibrate, and I could easily control the envelope of the vibrations. So I re-recorded lots of different performances with lots of different objects vibrating, and then later edited them in surround & it became one of the signature sounds in the film... I used the same technique recently when recreating an earthquake for a film with a scene set in someones kitchen/lounge... I edited & placed the sounds so you could hear the earthquake pass through the house, resonating different objects as it went...


I recorded the sound of an old barely working clothes washing machine and used it as a ship motor on a short film! Admittedly I recorded it with my contact mic so it sounded huge.... The best bit was when the washing machine had been in spin mode & switched off, so it went from a huge rapid spinning mechanical sound through deceleration.... I doppler processed it & used it when the ship passed by... made me smile to think the ship was powered by my old washing machine!

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    @Tim & @Colin: Would love to hear these. if you have the sound handy and feel like sharing, you can embed sounds using SoundCloud or audioBoo. You can also embed videos. Check here for info on how: socialsounddesign.com/help Commented Mar 3, 2010 at 22:03
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    the washing machine sound can be heard in this post, its the last sound of the 12 contact mic examples: musicofsound.co.nz/blog/fun-with-a-contact-mic
    – user49
    Commented Mar 4, 2010 at 21:38
  • That's awesome! Great rumble and resonance. Washing machines seem very versatile. I recorded a newer one this spring that has a crazy, turbine-like whine and overtones and reversed it for a crashed helicopter wind-down sweetener. The same helo rumbles and creaks when it gets hit by RPG fire -- more washing machine, from an old washer we destroyed in fun ways.
    – Tyler
    Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 20:22
  • Tim, those sounds are incredible! So much clarity in the high end, too, not what I'd expect from a contact mic..
    – lucafusi
    Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 8:44

Great question!

I have one that popped straight into my mind when reading your question. I was at film school, on one of my first films I ever did sound on. We shot a little film set in a skate park. I recorded a skateboarder coasting along slowly from left to right. It sounded very similar to a distant airplane. And with a tiny bit of processing, that's how I got my first clean-ish recording of an airplane. This layer came in handy many times to build backgrounds or as a narrative tool.

This was almost 10 years ago, and was recorded on a Minidisc. I wish I still had that recording.


Awesome question, first thing I thought of was this:

I recorded my dog growling and barking to use as the sound for a monster in a video-game. A few months later I used it again, augmenting it with envelopes and pitch shifting to create agressive sounding, futuristic bike revs.

It was only meant to be used as a temporary sound for a tech demo but ended up staying in the game.


Early in my career, I had to design an effect of a steam train pulling into the station. I had the idea to strip the highs and mids off of a helicopter SFX, then relocated the theater subwoofers under the modular seating. I layered in the helicopter to the existing effect I had built, and when the train pulled in, the seating rattled. Everynight, people turned around to look at where the sound was coming from, as if the train really was pulling in behind them.


Recorded a small outboard motor outside of water and used it for the 'character' of a crappy car idling.

I have to say that I often use a sound for something other than its source/name. To me it's all about the sound itself, not what it's called or even what it actualy is. If it sounds cool and/or supports the narrative, I work it in.



I worked recently on a scifi film and the director was a big fan of "organic" sounds. He pointed out that the lasers in the film couldn't sound like synthesized lasers because they would give the film a "bad feel". I didn't want to steal Ben Burtts amazing sound capture ideas so I was at a loss. I went to a cabin with some friends during winter and the lake there was frozen. One day I went outside looking for my friends, I suddenly heard some of the most craziest loud sounds ever. It was just like a laser but had a very cool texture to it. I found my friends at the lake, throwing rocks at it - to generate the sound that was made out of the tension in the ice. That sound became the laser in the film. And I ended up using the same sound for a cartoon for a fly going into warp speed. It was interesting to see and hear, how a sound previously used to signify danger & death - was suddenly a sound for a comical effect.

I recorded a creaking door once for a body sound for a boat, and ended up using the sound for shuriken dopplers later.


In the mid-90s my company released 4 CDs of sound effects aimed at folks who play RPGs--Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu and so on. The discs included ambience tracks of settings in which gamers might find themselves. While we were editing a wilderness ambience we grabbed a bunch of wind blasts buffeting the mic, the stuff you'd normally bin. We added the wind blasts to a motor sound we'd recorded, called the track "Dirigible" and it became many customers' favorite track on the CD.


Great question Colin!

I recorded the fridge in my flat while at Uni. With a little processing it's become both a noisy air con system and the interior of a flying propeller airplane. Must dig it out from my library again.


A quad recording of an SUV interior on dirt roads (coming back from a shoot) was used for one element of a pickup truck interior steady, pitched down to become the shaky walls of bombed-out metal buildings as the wind blows outside, and pitched wayy down into a subby earthquake element.


High speed trains recorded from a distance sound pretty scary. Look (listen?) into it as an alternative to eerie wind/ breaths.

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