Today most action games and films require extensive weapons sound design, so let’s talk a bit on how to approach to its “science”.
Firstly, 90% of it comes down to great source. It really does. Like all sound design, if you have a good starting place then it isn’t hard to make it sound great.
Depending on the approach and aesthetic, I think the most successful methods are to break the gun down into simple components. The sub, bass, aggressive mid range and mechanical layer. They key to this is to not over design elements, rather pick source that works well together and just allow it to shine with as minimal processing as possible. Steer clear of distortion fx and saturators as they have a very obvious sound and colour the gun in the wrong way as they muddy the bass and you lose a lot of the snap, instead it bleeds further into the sound making it quite mushy. Transient modulators are great, you want to find the exaggerated attack using them without overdoing it.
The bass layer can be tricky, try to find that punchy and short attack that sits around 70-90hz, saving the sub for just that. The sub layer can be fairly simple, it doesn’t need to be over thought or drawn out. The bass and sub layer should work together. When picking these elements – don’t filter out the rest of the sound, if you have a nice bass layer, don’t do a harsh LP on the sound that removes everything but that frequency band. You’ll find that the sounds won’t sit as well – and also you’ll lose a lot of character. Same goes for the mechanical layer, you’ll want to rolloff the deep low end on those, but depending on the weapon, you might still want it to sound chunky. The key is to pick the content where the frequencies pop in those areas more so than the other frequencies, so you don’t have to do heavy editing and ruin the sound.
The hardest part is by far finding a good mid range sound that can make the gun be perceived as loud. The bass and sub reinforce that, but without the meaty mid the gun won’t stand the test of aggression. This should be the crack of the environment, the weapon exploding to life in the world, find great reference that will help you. Fantastic crack of energy followed by the bloom in the environment which really gives it the size it needs. If you can get these layers right, then you’ll have some powerful sounding guns. Play your sound on a crappy old TV or some crappy speakers, if it doesn’t sound powerful, then it likely isn’t.
A lot of it comes down to what you’re designing the gun for as well, have a game that has 100 guns? Well if all 100 sound super powerful, then none of them sound powerful. Work out the hierarchy of importance as to which guns you want to sound the biggest, and which guns can compliment the big ones by not being quite as bold.
Chase Steele – Sound Spark Chase
How to use of a single soda can crack sound through an audio processing pipeline to transform it into 1000’s of useful sci-fi sounds.
GDC Weapon Sound Design – Chris Sweetman – Splash Damage Ltd.
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