Ryan van Eerde
Recording Zombie Horror Sound Effects
For the Aftermath project I am currently undertaking I wanted to have some freaky sounding Zombie noises and seeing as most of the sounds I have created already come from sample libraries I thought it might be a good idea to try my hand at creating and recording these sounds myself. I could have easily gotten Zombie samples from the internet but I wanted to have something in the project that was uniquely mine and that I could say "I produced that all myself", I also thought that the process of making Zombie sounds would be fun so why not give it a try.
So, how does one sound like a Zombie? (By getting really strange to be honest).
I consulted my good friend YouTube to find some examples of people making Zombie sounds to act as a starting point for my own process, and I wasn't disappointing. Below is a video that shows the process of Foley artist/sound designer Matt Davies produces his Zombie sound effects.
I used this video as my main source of inspiration with regards to the recording of my sounds, especially the squishy, gory sounds made by destroying fruit. With this video in mind I went out to the grocery store to pick out the perfect fruits to become my victims.
The produce in the image above is what I used to produce the sound of a Zombie who is busy eating away at someone within the game environment, and instead of me tediously explaining how I made these sounds I created a compilation video of me destroying/eating the produce whilst trying to sound as much like a Zombie as possible. A quick disclaimer I get really weird in this video and make a lot of odd noises but I think it shows in some detail what I did to reach my goal.
The recording of the sounds was just done by a small handheld recording device which did a good job of capturing the sounds with not much background noise. I also did it at my house because honestly it was just a better environment for me to do this type of recording in where I could feel more comfortable with making a mess and making a fool out of myself.
For the actual Zombie grunts and snarls I tried to replicate what Matt Davies was doing in his video but I found it to be a lot harder than I first thought it would be. I do have some video footage of me making those sounds but they are not particularly that good so I refrained from making them into a compilation video as well. The videos are relatively unexciting with me sitting down making odd sounds into the handheld recorder so I wasn't going to bore people with those.
As for the quality of these Zombie grunts and snarls I believe that if I had gone into the studio environment and used proper recording microphones instead of the handheld recorder I might have been able to produce a better sound because the studio mics would have responded to and picked up my voice better. This could have lead me to actually change how I produced the sounds with my voice or picked up on different frequencies or nuances that the handheld couldn't, I also could have gotten other people to try and make Zombie sounds to see if they would have produced something better then what I did.
In saying all of this though I did mange to produce a semi-decent sound in the end with a bit of post processing. What I did was get a few clips that I thought sounded the best duplicated them a couple of times then pitched shift them up and down to create a more monstrous sound ( something that sounded a lot less like me failing to be a Zombie). I had 3 tracks all being pitch shifted different amounts, one was up by 3 semitones, one was down by 1 semi-tone and one was down by 6 semi-tones, I used a little bit of EQ and compression to help shape the sound some more blended the tracks together to get an outcome that I was genuinely happy with. I then recorded these separate sounds down to one track so I could cut them up into smaller sections so I can make a random looping event in my game audio software (FMOD). This would allow me to attach the same event to multiple Zombies and have the all producing relatively different and random sounds rather than having the same constant audio loop that would get obvious and boring after a while.
As for the Zombie eating sound I got some of the best squelchy juicy sounds that I recorded, duplicated some and put the clips one after the other to make them longer and then blended them together to produce a very disturbing sound that could pass as a person being frantically eaten by a crazed Zombie (which is the effect I was going for). That was about it, I think because I produced so many interesting sounds (some of which I didn't put into the compilation video) it was easy for me to pick the best ones to make the sound I wanted. I also pitched shifted a couple of clips up and down by a semi-tone to make them sound a little less human to help the overall sonic characteristics of the sound.
Again I recorded these tracks down to one track that this time could be used as a continuous loop. The above image is from the Pro Tools session where I was doing the sound design for the video of the game level environment with the bottom track in green being the recorded track duplicated a couples of times and the clips being put one after the other to make a track that simulates a loop.
All up I did have a lot of fun with the creation of these sounds and when put into the game level video produce a very effective Zombie feel which is something that I am happy about seeing as I did produce the sounds myself.