Term 2 Work, Pt. 2 – Bowling Ball Physics Impacts

Intro to Game Audio


Definitely the longest assignment of the term – each student was given a pair of objects (not literally, just assigned in name) to design 20 impact sounds for at different forces. Five lights (10″), five mediums (10′), five heavys (100′), five supers (100’+, hurled). Impact surface was concrete, with some flexibility here. We had a few weeks for this one and were encouraged to record as much original source material from our Foley/props room as possible.

Much of the below taken from my project post-mortem. Enjoy!

Bowling Ball

The first thing I did when you assigned this to us was to start conceptualizing all the different layers that’d be involved in each of my objects’ impacts, so I had a checklist to work from when it came time to record.

Early impacts planning for the bowling ball recording.
Early impacts planning for the bowling ball recording.

Approach here was to really imagine what was going to happen to the surface itself at the higher impacts, since the ball itself is a pretty one-dimensional sound source. Other than that, I just knew I’d want to record the ball dropping on multiple surfaces so that I could stack and vary the balance of those impacts to fatten up or thin the ball drop sound.

[Light Impacts]

The biggest challenge was trying to get the really impactful, transient crack I wanted for the higher impacts (as the ball would literally split the concrete), while still keeping the hollow thud of the ball sound there as well. I mixed the three different surface drops with some short LFE accents gave me the roundness of the ball, and then tried to use some snappy sweeteners like walnut cracks to give the impression of the concrete breaking. I couldn’t find anything nicer than this in our library to fit the task; with a little more time I might’ve gotten luckier.

[Medium Impacts]

I focused on making sure that the listener was able to tell that this was, in fact, a bowling ball – and not just some solid heavy object – at all velocities. Structuring each fall as a series of bounces helped this a bunch, as did the tail-end rolls I had recorded.

[Heavy Impacts]

I started work on this guy before the train car to try to get my chops up before moving onto the more complicated sounds. Unfortunately, this meant that I was designing these without the aid of a ton of the tricks we’d later learn in Intro to Post Audio Editing, so making variations was slow.

[Super Impacts]

With some extra time, I would’ve put more effort into varying up the supers – I left off after the first one to get onto to other projects, and by the time I returned I was totally sapped for inspiration, so they’re not *quite* at the imaginative level of my train car supers.

My other object was a train car – I’ll have those recordings and a little retrospective up in a few days.


MB March 5, 2011 Reply

Hey Dude,

Very interesting. I’m looking forward to hearing the train car as well. How much of this is original sound vs. archived sound? I’d be curious also to hear more about what went into the actual mixing of the effect, specifically how much the time gets split, or might get split between the sound sourcing and then the actual tweaking and such. Keep it up, ytmnd, etc. etc.

Luca March 7, 2011 Reply

Hey Matt,

Thanks for the comment! Most of the sound in the Light/Medium/Heavies was stuff I recorded in one of our Foley rooms using a real-deal bowling ball on a variety of surfaces, as well as some rocks. I used a couple of microphones, more because I figured I should than for any particular reason, and dropped the thing a few times on concrete, wood, and wood with a towel on top until I had a good amount of thunks and thuds to layer up, then got some perspectivey rolls on the wood surface for the tail-end roll you hear all over the place.

In the supers, most of the sound was from the library. Some of it was just played straight up in layers (the low rumble, the bowling pin impact) but a lot of it was chopped up or pitched down to try to make it a little more indistinguishable.. especially in the “wind-ups” to each super. The second one is some over-stretched clip of a cymbal, reversed and then sped up alongside a tempo envelope I drew.

The train car impacts are definitely a little more creative, even if they’re mostly library recordings. I’ll definitely go into the mixing/layering a bit more, since you’re interested. It was a fun one. Expect it up sometime this week, just need to master the SFX a bit.


Nazer March 9, 2011 Reply

This is great. I love how you broke everything down and explained your process in your previous comment, looking forward to seeing and hearing more, nice work!

Luca March 9, 2011 Reply

Thanks Nazer! Prepping a couple of new posts, appreciate the patronage. Should be fun to look back on this stuff in several months.

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