Robot Will Protect You: SOUND DESIGN

For the last few months I was busy working on an amazing project called ROBOT WILL PROTECT YOU by Nicola Piovesan.
In this blog entry I would like to tell you how did I go about creating sound design for this animation.

STORY:
The story is set in the year 2062: Cyberspace has become indistinguishable from reality and people can now get complete emotional satisfaction online, without having to interact with other humans. Many end up addicted to cyberspace, increasingly separated from the real world. To maintain the population, the government encourages people to procreate by offering the incentive of a free robot to help with the children. One rainy night in futuristic Neo Berlin, nine year old Tina and her guardian robot, SAM-53, set off on a quest that asks: if cyberspace has made romantic love obsolete, do we still need love in the real world?

SAM-53 (Robot) SOUND DESIGN

Creating sound design for SAM-53 was probably one of the biggest challenges. Firstly, as one of the main characters he occupies a lot of of screen time and secondly his sound changes over the course of time, as he shuts down certain components and functions due to rapidly discharging battery.

Hi TECH SAM vs LO TECH SAM

The very first batch of sounds I designed for the animations were of SAM operating at full capacity. The idea was to make it simple, hi-techy and slightly subdued. Final sound design consisted of following layers:
Steps, leg servos, arm servos, hydraulic pistons/air pumps and a bunch of smaller sounds like eye lids, beeps etc.
I spent some time looking for a simple hi-techy sounds I could use for air pumps.
I ended up recording a deodorant spray with a damaged cap. Next, I reversed it, processed it with Zynaptiq’s Wormhole, edited volume automation and that was it. Welcome to the future!

When it comes to footsteps or any other impact sounds for that matter, I recorded a lot of different things. I had a lot of metallic source sounds that I used for my sound effects libraries INDUSTRIAL TERROR SERIES. On top of that I decided to record some new sounds. When I first started imagining sound design for SAM, I tried thinking of a real world object that is heavy but it’s heaviness is kind of disguised with some pretty frame or packaging.
After some time, I realized that a modern washing machine is exactly that.
I spent few hours recording my washing machine: impacts, creaks, hits, opens, closes, movement etc. I ended up with a lot great recordings that I ended up using for a lot of things.

Servos are pretty straightforward sounds. I ended up recording hair clippers servos, toy servos, electric toothbrush servos etc. I used Pro Tools Vari-Fi Plugin to created starts and stops.

As I mentioned before, SAM’s sound changes over the course of time. As SAM slowly shuts down some of his functions and components, he begins to sound more on a lo-techy side. I didn’t want to just pitch/slow down sounds - that wouldn’t work at all. Instead, I tried to imagine how would a heavy, futuristic robot sound like if we started stripping it of all the fancy hi-tech stuff.
Again, I used a lot of washing machine creaks for main body (torso) and recording tons of additional creaks, squeaks and groans. Turns out my extendable kitchen range hood produces amazing metallic creaks. I recorded quite a few squeaking hinges, pair of them being drying rack hinges.

There are some other sounds like umbrella deployment which was made by inserting a ground coffee container into a coffee grinder and some other bits from my sound libraries Foundation Series: SCI-FI and Forgotten Neons.
There’s a UI/HUD sound (SAM’s point of view) that was made with source recordings from my packs Obscure Frequencies and Cybersphere.

FLYING BOTS SOUND DESIGN

There are a bunch of flying bots in the animation.
Ones that occupy most of screen time are police bots. The consist of few layers: droney engine sound which I made with Monark and processed it Zynaptiq’s Wormhole and H3000, propeller sounds I designed with analog synth source sounds and Waves Doppler. I kind of wish I had Traveler plugin when I was designing propeller sounds for flying bots, but Doppler and a bit of time shifting did just fine.
Two other flying bots were made exactly the same, I think I only used different synths for engine sounds like Wavetable and Modular.

CYBERSPACE SOUND DESIGN

This sound was extremely important for the animation, even though it was used only in two scenes. This one was a bit challenging. Cyberspace promises to be fun, to be better that reality and initially it offers you a lot of time until it burns you out and turn you into a cyberspace junkie.
I designed 8 different cyberspace helmets and we decided to use 3 of them.
2 of them feature consist of 8 bit arcade sound, fun, happy chatter, they are intense and dynamic, whereas the last one is kind of dramatic. For cyberspace chatter I ended up recording police scanner, reversing it, drawing pitch and time envelopes and running everything through Wormhole and Futzbox.
I added a lot of background sound from my packs Obscure Frequencies and Cybersphere.

ADS SOUND DESIGN

There are a lot of ads, propaganda recordings and police warnings in the animation. I wanted to create a distinct sound for futuristic Voice Over recordings. I processed all the VO field with Reel ADT so the would have this tape-is doubler mixed with a bit of Wormhole.

That’s it :)

GEAR USED:

RECORDING:
Sound Devices MixPre-6, DPA4060 x2, Sennheiser MKH8060, Aquarian H2A, JRF C Series
DAW: Pro Tools, Live 10
Plugins: Wormhole, Sound Toys v5, Futzbox, Wavetable, Reel ADT, Monark, H3000, Envy, Waves Doppler + tons of other plugins by Avid, Waves, PSP, Fabfilter, McDSP and iZotope.

Massive Thanks to Nicola Piovesan and Dimitri Natalevich (re-recording mixer + sound design)


Final timeline in Pro Tools

Phil MichalskiSound Design