Demonstrating how found sound can be used to create musical cues and atmosphere in the short horror film, Slake.
Synopsis In a world where vampires are all but extinct, a few wanderers remain. Moving from place to place, they attempt to evade the clutches of a mysterious organisation looking to investigate these remnants of a failing species—for they have begun to exhibit signs of weakness akin to the fragile humans on which they prey. Meanwhile, Slake—after finding himself in the right place but for too long a time—does his best to balance his new-found thirst with his old habits.
Sound Design Concept In keeping with the horror tradition of using unusual sounds and instrumentation, it was decided that the score for Slake would be designed from scratch using found sound sources. By definition, found sound offers practically limitless opportunities for unconventional timbres and textures through exploratory interaction with found objects—the scope of which can be further expanded upon with the multitude of editing and manipulation techniques afforded by digital audio processing.
Characterisation The antagonist’s presence was heralded by a stinger created from the low, resonant tones of a metal lampshade that became affectionately known as the “chrome dome.” Striking the dome resulted in a satisfyingly ominous sound that was further enhanced using granular sample manipulation—which added interesting texture and harmony to the original recording.
There was a desire to incorporate the narrative’s themes of addiction and inebriation into the very fabric of the protagonist’s motif. Experimentation with a cocktail shaker (a vessel of intoxication) led to the creation of an instrument that could be tuned and manipulated into a musical performance using MIDI sequencing and was thus used as the basis for the character’s accompanying melodic cues.
Sound effects created using Foley recordings and some sound library content. Also performed vocalisations, added ambience and spatialisation with field recordings and reverb/delay effects.
Among the various sound effects recorded for this project, the decimation of fruit and vegetables was one of the most effective—and fun. This classic Foley technique provided the gut-wrenching gore sounds consisting not only of lettuce but capsicum and melon-hacking. These sounds were layered together for added texture and effect. After an initial whoosh-sound to indicate the incoming blade, the chopped lettuce and capsicum provided the visceral slice, followed by some melon-flesh spatter on a stone floor to simulate blood and guts dripping in the game environment. As the vanquished drops to the floor, so too did half a dissected melon, providing an impactful closure to the melee.
Voicing the Undead
Using my own voice, I recorded vocalisations for the undead enemies. Some were sighs of exertion as they swung their weapons, while most others were death rattles. Pitching the final recordings down a little helped to make the vocalisations sound more monstrous and gritty. By automating the volume while sending (pre-fader) to an auxiliary reverb bus, the undead groans could be spatialised within the context of the game environment as well as reflecting the changing distance from the player-character.