What connects the ‘Snowy Mountains’ Theme, the sound of the Yamino Buki and the opening logo from Battlefield Bad Company 2 (BFBC2)? Well, they all feature, to some degree a note or two of Dave Taylor’s bass trombone.
It’s place in ‘Snowy Mountains’ is where it all started (around 26 seconds in).
Stefan (Strandberg), the Audio Director of Bad Company 2 returned from the orchestral recording session in New York with Mikael (Karlsson) the composer, and one of the first things that he said to me, was that I had to hear the power of this bass trombone player, that literally scared the rest of the orchestra – and yes it was impressive and powerful – a fantastic raw, deep ripping blast.
A few weeks past, and Stefan had to put in a placeholder sound for the Yamino Buki, a (fictitious) Japanese scalar weapon from World War 2, that was on a par with America’s atomic arsenal and Germany’s V2 rockets. When he asked me about it, to me it was obvious; just use the bass trombone note as the basis for it.
A few more weeks past, and now the story for BFBC2 was nearing completion and all the occurrences and uses of the Yamino Buki in-game had been finalized. Now it would require the creation of a whole family of sounds, including distant & close charge up, distant & close activation, being damaged and destruction sounds. Stefan had taken the original bass trombone blast and applied a reverb to this (Waves Renaissance Verb – “The Church”) and this set the tone for the distant charge up sound.
The task for creating the family of sounds was passed over to me – I get all the best jobs!
Starting from this placeholder distant charge up sound it was fairly quick to add a few more sounds to this to give it the feeling of being larger and more mysterious. The use of instrumental sounds as the basis for science fiction sound effects has a long and rich history;
- For example, Akira Ifukube’s original Toho Godzilla roar – a contrabass whose strings had been loosened and then rubbed with a leather glove covered in resin
- Or Brian Hodgson’s Dr. Who Tardis materialisation – the sound of a door key being scraped down piano wire.
And there are similar tonal sounding effects, which may or may not have been based on individual instruments, found in recent films, including;
- The Seismic Charges from Star Wars : Attack of the Clones
- The Tripod Attack Horn from the remake of War of the Worlds
- The Cafe Explosions from Inception (2 Mins 12 Secs In)
So I was in good company (I think).
First off some distant ripping thunder added into the tail of each pulse added more movement and a large rolling feel to the sound. Also around this time I had just finished watching the final series of LOST (42 Secs In).
So the addition of the wapiti elk was a small homage on my part and it sort of fits with the game’s opening chapter – a mysterious force on an island??
So once the distant sound had been created, now I needed to create the close up sound. This came about by “un-muddying” the distant version – what could create such a sound? I tackled this by firstly backing off the reverb and then by processing the original trombone sample more and more to bring it closer and larger, and ensuring that it remained aggressive and powerful. Layering many different lightly distorted versions of the original sample helped a lot to achieve this. Distortion came from using a variety of plugins including Lo-Air, Decapitator and Trash, and also from some Metasonix hardware.
For the rest of the family of sounds, their creation followed a similar process. ProSoniq Morph was used to morph the original trombone blast sample with various animal vocals to use as additional elements.
Then by using everything I had in the project, I found it quick to produce the Yamino Buki activation sounds, that completed the family of sounds.
And that would have been the end of it – until the task for the game’s introduction logo came along. The logo movie shows; EA, DICE and then the Frostbite animated logos, which needed a bespoke sound across its entirety. Initially I looked hard at the visual and all the movement going on, as the inspiration for which sounds to look for, and then edited these to match the feel and temperature of the logo. After 4 hours I had got nowhere, and then it dawned on me, I still had a lot of material from the Yamino Buki session I could use. It also seemed like the perfect way to complete a trinity of sounds, that in their own way would be a ‘sonic thread’ throughout the game. To make it more challenging (actually more fun on my part), I decided that the logo sounds could only be made using the bass trombone blast and lots of editing and plugins.
To give myself a larger pool of source material to use I ran the sample through a range of non-normal plugins, including, amongst others, the GRM Tools, SoundToys, Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch and Crazy Ivan, and also chopped each of the lip smacks out from the sample to use as grains for the DICE part of the logo.
Admittedly the EA and DICE parts of the logo received most of my initially attention as the Frostbite logo hadn’t yet been completed. The EA logo was to be like the final crescendo in the Beatles “A Day in The Life” (4 Mins 5 Secs In)
where a cacophony of sounds comes into focus on one final powerful crashing chord or in this case a note, whilst the DICE logo had individual grains of the original sample attached to each part of the DICE logo, which were then panned, eq’d and attenuated depending on their visual strength and permanence on screen as the logo built up, reminiscent of, to me at least, some of the ‘glitch’ work by Alva Noto or Ryoji Ikeda
When the Frostbite logo had been completed, the flow was very similar (identical?) to the original logo as used in Bad Company 1. So as a homage to the original work completed by Mari (Saastamoinen) and Kim (Creutzer), I recreated their sound for the logo, but again just using parts from my pool of processed trombone blasts.
Looking back on the work, it all came about from having a “perfect storm” of conditions;
- great initially source material, in the form of David’s bass trombone blast, that on its own already had a lot of the characteristics needed.
- a project that required a variety of big, unreal and mysterious sounds creating in line with a compelling fiction.
- and the time and space to think and experiment, and make mistakes, all as part of a very talented team.
Thanks for listening /ben (Ben Minto)