The Design Process
After much research on the Japanese RPG, we came out with an extensive magic sound effect list that we could design.
[ Magic Sound Idea List ]
Elemental Spells: Fire – Fire, Fira, Firaga, Water, Aero, Tornado, Holy Light, Dark, Mega, Omega, Giga, Tera
Long Spells: Meteor / Heavenstrike / Apocalypse / Ultimate
Heal: Small to Large, Revive, Drain – Party Heal/Single Heal – Looping Heal – Cure / Cura
Buff: Haste, Berserk, Strength, Cleanse, Protect, Shield, Reflect, Spell charge
Misc Spells: Scan, Steal, Detect, Use HP Potion, Mana Potion, Evolve, Love spells, Charm, Equip, Equipment Enhance
Debuff: Dispel, Silence, Sleep, Slow, Poison, Rooted
Environment Impacts: impact sounds, sand impact, debris impact, fall on ground impact
Character Impacts: shield on, critical, sword, attack, fist, shield breaks
Punches: – Epic punches, Finishing moves or combos
Once we have a list of sounds in mind, we started generating new synth sounds using our favorite synthesizer, Arturia, to design generic spells! We managed to create fireball sounds without the need to record real fire. Electric spells can also be designed using white or pink noise generator! (Similar to what we mentioned in the first blog post.)
After this stage, we started brainstorming what was lacking and was necessary to record. Our friend, Daniel Yup has graciously lent us his recording equipment. As usual, after recording, comes editing and bouncing all good sounds to form a mini sound library.
Time to design even more sounds according to video game footages! At this point, we reached out to game visual effects artists to get their permission to use their showreel to showcase our sounds.
[ProTools: Session for one of the ‘Long’ Spell]
We often used chimes for the retro type of magic spells. Most of our retro magic spells have at least 3 – 8 layers of sound. From the image above, you can see that we have four layers of chimes and four layers of synth for just one magic spell.
[Overview of the session for the VFX Video Inspired Spells]
Our Pro Tools session is pretty messy – we hope to have a neater work session in future 😛
For our VFX Video inspired spells and the modern style of magic spells, we have even more layers. On top of the synth layers and chimes layers, there is elemental, sword and impact sound all layered together.
We used game footages as a visual guide on pro tools, and design accordingly. We then proceed to bounce the sounds in parts such as ‘Cast’, ‘Impact’ and any label depending on the nature of the spell.
On a side note, anyone knows how to record video with audio on your DAW? Please suggest to us, and it would be best if it is free as well! We wanted to show our design processes on Pro tools but could not find an easy way to have both video and audio. (*Update* – We got a few recommendations to use OBS, thank you! We will try it out!)
What we recorded
Equipment used: MixPre-6, Sennheiser MKE 600, Audio-Technica AT2050.
[ Indoor ]
Knives: scraping and impacts.
Punches: punching of cushions, meat. The slapping and hitting of bare skin. Hitting and punching duct taped thick book with a drumstick and bare hands. (It gets painful. Ouch.)
Water: finding random objects to create water sounds.
Plants foley: smacking fake plants.
Ice: punching and breaking them.
Jacket: cloth foley to layer with fast punching and slashing.
[ Short video of some of the stuff we recorded – we did not manage to video down all the sounds we recorded]
[ Outdoor Pulau Ubin ]
We went on an outdoor recording trip suggested by Aik Ming to record ambiances, sea waves, rock debris and whatever a forest area could offer. Bring along large plastic bags in case it rains. It helps to keep all the equipment dry and safe! If possible, bring along a trolley to lug your gears around. Save your energy to record more sounds!
What challenges did we face?
We struggled to record outdoors at Pulau Ubin as there are too many birds, insects, people, traffic noises there. As for indoor recordings, we struggled to record subtle small sounds such as breaking of celery, plant foley as the room we recorded in was not quiet enough.
However, you will never know what could work! Listen to this ambient recording of crickets at Pulau Ubin that was used for a magic loop SFX. Only added delay to the sound and a layer of wind chimes over it! (Filename:S2_Shimmer_Loop_2)
It was challenging to design generic impact sounds heard in JRPGs as there is no relevance in the material in which you are hitting. Sound effects we created tend to be bright, sharp and high in frequency. Needed to cut the high frequencies for most of the sounds.
It was also difficult to edit the synth sounds we generated beforehand. Many times the generated synth sounds do not sync well to fit the intended magic spell. As we do not keep track of the synths we used, it was difficult to get back similar synth sounds. We need to find an alternative to this workflow.
Make sure there is a right balance in the all frequency range, from the lows to the highs. Also, designing spells only in the middle and low frequencies creates diversity in the sound and character!
What are some plugins that we use?
WaveWarper: Create unique magical whooshes. Used the manual option and moved the mouse to swipe left and right to control the speed of whooshes in the XY box. Having the dice option is a plus point!
Timeflux: Create new ambient and tone down generated white and pink noise for electricity.
Enforcer: Add weight into punches.
Soundtoys: Top 3 plugins used are Phase Mistress, Tremolator (we love this, it gives energy and dynamics to sound) and Radiator (brightens and thickens sound) – Thank you, Aik Ming, for introducing Soundtoys to us when it was on sale!
Movement: Modulate and layer sound with the existing layer.
H-Delay: Gives magic spell a delayed tail, so it does not end abruptly. (Often add it to the chimes for that extra magical feeling)
Compression: We used several types of Compressor as each compressor gives a different effect.
– How we use gameplay footages as an inspiration for our sound design
Useful tips, audio samples, and links
Creating and recording punch sounds. (Video Links):
We provided some audio samples for you guys to design magic spells yourself!
Click here to download audio samples!
It is always a trial and error to know which plugin works as there are many ways to design a sound. Take time to experiment with all the plugins you have! It is essential to take a break and let your ears rest after one to two hours of work. Getting feedback from fellow sound designers or even your friends might beneficial for you to help see your blind spots. You can also ask for feedback online on Reddit and Facebook groups as well.
The Final Product
Is there anything else you’ll like to know? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll add it in!
W.O.W Sound Team 🙂
P.S – Interested to know what’s the difference between RPG Magic SFX Pack and our new RPG Magic SFX Pack 2? Click here!
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