Synthesize that Whoosh to the max!

As Frank Serafine, one of top hollywood sound engineers used to say when working on the sound of Star Trek : “I learned how to manipulate those synthesizers to the max!” (Source).

I’ve created a preset in Native Instruments’ Massive, that generates the famous windy ‘airplane passing’ whoosh that is so often being used in commercials and promos.

This articles will lead you step by step through the relevant Massive controls, in order to reproduce it. The intensity and length of the sound is controlled with the modulation wheel, that way you can actually look at the video on your project while moving the mod wheel, following the movement of the transition.

Synthesizers are awesome!

Synthesizers give us the flexibility and freedom to create those crazy sounds, that just doesn’t exist when working with sample libraries. There’s a limit to how much you can stretch your audio sample and change its pitch before it completely loses its natural texture.

That’s why it’s important for us, sound designers, to understand the world of synthesis and try to get our own special sound.

There are also other advantages to using synths in your sound design work:

You don’t have to search for it in a library and pull it into your session, and then edit it. You just Record-Enable the track and play it as you go, using the keyboard to generate the sound, and the modulation wheel to control its intensity and texture.

It should sound and look like that:

I’ll go through every step in the process so you can mimic the controls’ positions and achieve the exact same sound.

Fresh start

First of all, open an instrument track with Massive.

Then, go to the File menu, and click ‘New Sound’. It will reset all parameters:

Next, turn off OSC 1. We won’t be needing it:

Now let’s focus on the part that actually generate the sound - The noise section.

The Idea is that you can adapt the ‘whoosh’ sound to the visual movement using the mod wheel.

Let’s assign the mod wheel to one of the Macro Controls. Just right-click on one of them, and choose ‘Midi Learn’. Move the mod wheel and make sure you see the Macro moving accordingly.

The mod wheel will control all the parameters that needs to change in order to produce the sound.

Drag the Macro Control to the modulation slots (the small rectangles below the knobs) in each section: Noise ,Filter 1 and FX 1, as is shown in the image below:

Having made these assignments, let’s go section by section and change the controls and Macro Control ranges (the yellow rings surrounding the knobs are representing the range of influence of the Macro Control over the control. Click and drag up/down the modulation slots under the controls to change the range).

Make sure that your controls look the same as in the images:

Change the type of Filter 1 to ‘Lowpass 2’:

Choose ‘Flanger - ‘ in the FX 1 section:

That’s it! Now you can go through these last few steps to enhance the presence of the sound in the mix:

  • Add some reverb in the FX 2 section, or send it from the instrument track (to an FX track/aux in your DAW).

  • Try adding some compression in your channels inserts.

  • Insert an EQ plugin and add mid-low range frequencies to give a little more thickness to it.