In a previous blog, we learned how to design realistic sound effects for medieval weapons, from swords to flails, and from bows to catapults. Now, let’s fast-forward to a couple of millennia later. Indeed, there are few things more gratifying in sound design than creating overpowered, futuristic weapons, with all the impact and creative freedom that comes with it. The modular synthesizer of GameSynth is especially well suited for this, thanks to some very unique generators and processors that we will describe in this post.
Do not set your phaser to stun, we are not coming in peace. Behold our arsenal from the future!
Lasers, Beams and Plasma
Energy-emitting weapons rely heavily on synthetic sounds. The Beam module is the go-to module when it comes to sci-fi weapons, its small number of parameters allowing for the generation of a surprisingly large range of sounds. Without any modulation, it will produce the humming sound characteristic of the emission of an energy beam. Add some Envelopes to control the pitch or the width parameters, and it becomes possible to generate aggressive sweeps that will simulate anything from a simple blaster to a planet-destroying ray of death.
From FM-like tones to harsh noisy sounds, when a weapon needs to sound dirtier, the Chaos module will provide everything needed to create full digital mayhem.
For the iconic “pew-pew” of blasters, the Blip module should not be forgotten. Thanks to its polyphonic capabilities it is also a great candidate for weapons with high firing rates.
Other type of beam sounds can also be designed with the Sine Bank module. Using additive synthesis, it is easy to shape and customize the sound to our liking. Since its sound is more stable than that of the Beam module for instance, it is probably best to modulate it and route it through some processors.
By adding some realistic elements to the synthetic ones, we can modernize the weapon sound. The Gun Foley module can produce the sounds of various mechanical interactions, from clicks to reload. The Gear module is well adapted to the generation of steady mechanical sounds. In addition, if the weapon uses some kind of servo or motor (e.g., for an automatic aiming system), the Machine and Motor modules can be advantageously used.
As for the explosive component, the Gunshot module will add realism to firearms. When combined with a Blip module, it can for example add some weight to a blaster sound. When more destructive power is needed however, nothing beats the powerful Thunder module. Triggered after a sweep or a beam, it will instantly create impactful sounds. Add an extra Chaos module for some real action!
Following the generation stage, some processing will help sci-fi weapons sound louder and less static. In the modulation category, the Ring Modulator, Chorus and Flanger are especially useful. While the Ring Modulator is probably the harsher one, Chorus and Flanger will help making the sound more organic, especially with higher LFO rate and Depth value. Simply having a Gain controlled by a LFO in the processing chain can also make a huge difference, and is particularly effective on long sweeps.
Using time-based effects – such as a Delay module – on a short sound, will make it smoother and give it a more natural release. The Spectral Delay module has many usages, from creating a more resonant sound to making it more granular by randomizing each delay band. This is a great complement to the Chaos module, especially in stereo!
Finally, louder and harsher sounds can be produced by inserting a Saturator module, whose range of waveshaping functions will affect the sound in various ways. For tonal patches, the Wavefolder module is a good way to add harmonics, and have a fuller sound. A Clipper module at the end of the processing chain will crank the loudness even further, ensuring that no alien could have survived the blast.
The futuristic weapons presented above come directly or are derived from patches in the GameSynth repository. For convenience, you can download them as a set below, including the modified versions.