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Creating a powerful magic spell sound effect

Following Randy Thom's instructions.

Hey there,I’d like to talk to you about 2 things - Power and magic in films and video games.

I came across an interesting question in the sound design group on FB:

So what’s interesting here is that Randy Thom replied.

Randy Thom is the director of Sound design at Skywalker Sound.

Skywalker Sound is one of the leading audio post production studios in the world.

Randy thom has started his career working on ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’, which is pretty amazing, and later worked on blockbusters like ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’, ‘Cast Away’, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, and lots of other hollywood movies we’ve all seen.

So, you can be sure he really knows what he is talking about.

I’m not a millennial, and I didn’t reach my 30’s either, but I really think it is mind blowing that you can just post a question and someone at the level of Randy Thom replies and gives you advice on how you can improve your work.

So let’s read his answer:

So what we are going to do is to try and create a sound of a powerful magic spell, following Randy’s instructions.

The first thing would be to create the sound of a big transformer hum.

I started by recording my guitar amp, and just by touching the PL plug with my finger, it gave me this nice buzz sound that I can use as a basic layer for my transformer hum sound.

I used an Orange amp and a Rode Ntg4+ mic, but you can really use any amp and mic you want.

Then I duplicated the sound, and by layering it and changing the layers Eq , and adding Distortion, and Reverb, I managed to have a more full and rich sound.

It was quite good but I was missing the sound of electricity sparkles, like a big transformer would have (I guess). So I used Massive for that.

But this still wasn’t electrical enough. So I researched online and found that you can also make the sound of electricity with a duct tape.

I didn’t really know what to do with it so I started using tools that I would usually use to make a sound more electrical like ‘Voice Designer’ and ‘Distroyer’, Which are Nuendo Plugins.

Then, I used a high pass filter and a very high notch to make the highs stand out. This is the result:

Now, it sounds like a nice electrical hum.

When Randy talked about power, he mentioned Thunder rumble, to add a feeling of power in the sound.

I could just go into my soundly application, write “Thunder” and just drag it into my session but I wanted something original

I didn’t want to waste precious time trying to create a thunder rumble sound from scratch or waiting for the next thunderstorm to record it, so I just tried to use what I’ve just recorded to create a low rumble sound.

I took the duct tape recording, changed its algorithm, and stretched it drastically.

And that was it. I had a nice low rumble that I can use as an additional layer.

Let’s continue to the next part, the magical sound.

Randy suggested using a glass wind chime sound. I searched online for this and I wasn’t really able to find this specific item easily and quickly, so I decided to use synthesis instead.

Nuendo and cubase have this amazing media searching tool where you can just write a term and it will give you all the relevant presets of different instruments and samples that are related to your search tags.

So I searched for wind bells and found two presets that was quite good for a magical sound layer:

There was still something missing. I needed that power filling that an Impact could give me.

So I went to my library of impact sounds that I created for (Link in the description), and added 2 impacts sounds.

With those two additional layers, it suddenly had the right feel, the sound I wanted all along.

So let’s play all the layers together:


Using your imagination is always useful when trying to create a new sound from scratch. Try using regular items and tools that you have around the house, record them and test different plugins you've never used before.

Using DAW plugins can be an excellent way of getting familiar with new plugin effects you've never used before.

remember, you don't need expensive high end equipment to create some really cool and interesting sounds. You just need a basic equipment (I used my Rode NTG4+, which costs around 370$), imagination, and lots of trial and error till you get the right sound.



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