Sound Design 101 Part 1: The Anatomy of a Room

by on Mar.14, 2012, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Rotting Flesh Radio | Go to Original Post

by: RFR Casket Crew Maestro Macbre

I’m Baaaaaaaack!  I know it’s been a while since I reared my ugly head, but I was finishing up my new album to be released in April!

With the spring right around the corner, you are no doubt preparing for your design and set up of next years haunt.  What better time to go over the basic resources available to you to achieve a professional sounding haunt!  As I’ve touched before in my previous posts, sound is very important in a haunted attraction.  So I won’t spend as much time on that as I do basic information regarding equipment, set-up, sound creation and planning.  It’s actually easier than you would think to sound like a professional haunt.  If you are a professional haunt, there are always ways to improve your set up!

In this first part I will go over the process of laying out a sound system and location of speakers.

The first principle in laying out a haunt is flow and scares.  With my company we often sit down first and ask the designer to “walk” us through the haunt.  Although it may not be built we can still get a mental picture of space, props and feel.  Some good questions to ask yourself and fellow designers:

Picture the room and imagine the set up with me.

What Kind of Music Calls to this Room?

What kind of sounds would I hear in this type of area?

You are standing in the entrance to the room.  To the left you see bookshelves askew.  They would shake and cave in as you walked by.  The organ would then play blowing smoke and flashing lights as two “Statues” came to life and lunged at you.

What action or cue sounds are needed?

The action started with the organ blaring and vibrating.  This caused the book cases to vibrate and fall.

What will I need?

All of this only used two speakers and one prop controller and one sensor.

The “Bed” of a creaky cavernous room was the preset loop on the controller.  The Speaker Located at the top of the room, angled to hit the entire room with sound. As the props (the Organ and Shelves) would activate the controller hit the cue triggering both controllers.

Where are the sources?

The Cue played the Organ through a Large Powered speaker from behind the organ through the right channel and the book cases through the left. Creating two different sound sources from one controller.

This is just an example of how I broke down this room.  Some are simpler and others may take more thought.  The same questions should be asked though.  Let’s take a closer look at the break down.

What kind of sounds do I expect to hear in this area?  

This is what I like to call a “Bed”.  A bed is an ambient looped track that creates a general overall feeling. For instance:

A Chapel:  Wind howling through the corridors, large room reverb creates the illusion of size and depth.

A Crypt: Closer Cavernous reverb and echo, with dripping sounds.

You get the point, these are often called ambient albums.  For examples of these check out “Gothic Nightmares”.

The bed will often sound distant but the closer sounds should sound as if they are close and crisp, this is where high quality speakers help.  This itself is a little challenging.  Finding the proper space may jump out at you, but often takes adjusting to make sure sound fills the entire space. The best way to plan for this is to look at the room highlight the path of the patrons, and figure that you want to point the sound right at them.  Ideally this is directly above, however that’s not always possible.  But aim high and save a space to roughly work with dialing it in.  Put it on your blueprints.  While you are leaving that space figure out where the source is and leave space to easily access that.  It may be in a neighboring room, control room or other space, but make sure you are able to access it with little exposure to patrons.  I will cover this more in part 2.

What kind of Cue is needed? What will I need and what are the sources?

The Cue needs to surprise your patrons, but also needs to make sense and come from an unobstructed source.  The human ear is very keen, if your prop comes from the left and your sound from the right, it would calculate in the brain correctly, meaning that it will seem cheap and transparent.  Placing a speaker for a scare is even trickier than placing a speaker for a bed.  Small speakers, unless powerful and clear will not come off well, I like to use studio reference monitors for these (I prefer guitar center, because of the pro coverage replacement plan, ask me for more info).  They are clear and precise.

These key elements should be focused on each room and always present in construction and design.

Transient rooms or hallways rely heavily on sound.  The same careful planning should be taken for those as well.  But with on important difference, the volume.  The volume in these go between areas will not only create the illusion of transporting to another area, but it will also mask the sound from the previous and upcoming room, fighting sound with sound.  The sources can often be shared to save money on players.

The needs are typically two monitor speakers, a boobox or mp3 player and a sensor.  The placement of these will be discussed more in depth in the next segment, but spending a little more upfront on good equipment will save you money and frustration in the long run.  Plan early and keep sound in mind with visual effects and props.  With this in mind you can have a haunt that you do not need to turn on and off every night one mp3 player at a time!  More on this in the next segment!

Until then, Sit back, relax and rot away!


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