How I made Sci-Fi Metal Elements HD in just 8 days


When I was starting this library I had in mind some CG scenes from good old sci-fi flicks like Terminator-2. Liquid terminator was a major visual reference here while mood was inspired by unavoidable freaky stuff like Cremaster, Dune and Holy Mountain.

First I gathered a large collection of odd metal objects like sheet metal, chains, clockwork razor, magnets, dry ice, a bunch of kitchen knives, anti-aircraft automatic cannon cartridge shell, metallic brush, needles, cow bells and so on.

The mics used were contact C-ducer stereo set, Nevaton MC-50, AKG c414-XLS. Objects were recorded up close with slight proximity effect for extra sweetness. The most difficult job was micing the magnets I hurled into the air to make them this unearthly zzzzzzzip sound when they vibrated in mid-air. It’s pretty hard to keep them in close proximity when you use an ORTF pair of AKG c414’s, you know. With Sound Devices 722 attached to them. I tried it with two shotguns and one assistant, but 414’s sound better. Then I started to feed the best takes into my hardware. Some bits were sampled for convenience into my 1990’s Ensoniq ASR-10, keyboard version. The output of which was connected to the following gear, most of it usually did something, and rarely was bypassed.


1) BBE Sonic Maximizer 882i, modern unit
2) Dolby 740 spectral processor, which in fact is dynamic ‘parallel’ EQ
3) Aphex Aural Exciter Type C, Model 104, vintage stuff
4) Aphex Aural Exciter 204, modern box
5) Sony DPS-V55, obscure 1990’s multi-effect processor
6) Eventide Eclipse, smaller unit
7) Eventide DSP4500 Sampling Limited Edition
8) Eventide H7600, the latest 2-channel harmonizer


I recorded into Sony Vegas and did some editing in it, while additional processing was done in Adobe Audition and even Cool Edit Pro, for that old late 90’s version had custom written filters for spectral transform called Aurora. It seems to me that Cool Edit did time-stretching with some attitude, the result was somehow tastier.

Some of the individual metal rings and impacts were stretched with ‘constant vowels’ parameter. It takes a good dozen of seconds to process a 1-sec clip even on my decent 2012 Mac Pro, but the result is this psychedelic ringing artifact which reminds me of some evil things like those harmonizers every pop singer stopped using just several years ago. The artifact gives this ‘liquid’ colour, which is cool for making sfx for metal transformations, dissolutions in acid and all the unnatural pungent and corrosive flavours, though it pretty much stays the same no matter what sound you process.


That narrows the spectre of the output to a cross between, say, ‘Terminator-2’ and ‘Upstream Colour’. If you can imagine such a thing. That seems to be pretty accurate description in terms of flavour/mood. But the stretched stuff with preserved vowels always sounds acidic, corrosive and piercing, like any Muslimgauze track.

The final touches were done with variety of my favourite UAD plugins like Fairchild, Manley Massive Passive, Neve 1073, Pultec, Neve 33609, Studer.

So after all the editing and choosing of most colourful takes I ended up with a delightful collection of servo-robotic-molten-metal-frozen-mercury futuristic and slightly dark textures and accents which will serve you well for making sound design of weirdest possible transformations, alien mechanisms, spaceship destruction scenes, secret lab environments, as well as crawling geometrical hallucinations a-la Terence MacKenna DMT trips, robot’s wet dream scenes and hi tech torture chambers sequences.

24 bit/48 kHz, guys. Sorry, my DSP4500 can’t do no 96 kHz. You can check out the library here.


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