The Drawing Board Part 4 - Sound Design

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Name:  sound design.PNG
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Size:  988.8 KBBy now, you've decided on your haunt's setting, characters, and situation. Maybe you even used the Theme Generator to help. You've developed a story to guide you and provide some depth for your more astute patrons. You've decided on the scenes that guests will be travelling through.

What will your haunt SOUND like? This is something I often mention, partly because it's so important, and partly because it's frequently ignored or done poorly.

You've probably heard the storytelling axiom, "Show, don't tell". This basically means that instead of telling your audience who the bad guy is, show him being bad. In my opinion, in a well designed haunt, a deaf person and a blind person should be able to walk through your haunt side by side and each would enjoy it and even follow the story. Haunters typically get the visuals, so let's not forget the audio.

Figure out what the ambient sound of the haunt should be. Haunt designer Scott Swenson suggests having a couple of large speakers playing the baseline ambiance which can be heard throughout the haunt. It need not be loud and overwhelming, just something to "fill in the cracks". These are supplemented by smaller speakers in each specific scene. Is there a clock in one room? A radio? A phone off the hook? Are those footsteps? What is scratching on the floor and walls? Things to think about.

Is it a haunted cave? Maybe throughout the haunt there should always be just the suggestion of wind, echoes and dripping water. In one room the wind could be louder, coming from the small speakers playing just that room's soundtrack. In others there might be whispers, the chittering of bugs, the rustling and flapping of bat wings.

Every space has a sound. Maybe right now you hear but do not notice the hum of fluorescent lights, the AC, the computer fan. If they all stopped, you'd suddenly notice. That, too, can be useful. If EVERY room has a baseline sound, and suddenly that stops or is blocked out, you'll become aware.

The point is to design the sound intentionally. You put a lot of thought and effort into the theme, character, and story. Does your soundtrack tell the story? Would blind patrons know when they stepped into the nursery or the butcher shop? Try to guide, entertain and scare using ONLY the sounds. If you do, adding the visuals will be that much more powerful.

Added benefit - you can turn off ALL the lights and your haunt will still be effective. Nice if you are open for multiple nights or just want to offer a "blackout" tour.

Just about anyone can download and use free audio software like Audacity. You can do a search for public domain sound effects and stitch together just about any combination of sounds you like. It doesn't take much practice. Sure, there are pros who do this and they are amazing, but don't hesitate just because you are not at that level (yet). Creating and recording your own sounds can be fascinating and rewarding. To do it well does require an investment in some good equipment, so I'll leave it to you to decide whether to go down that particular rabbit hole.

Something fun you can do in a room is to put the left and right speakers in opposite corners. Then you can create the illusion of movement by changing the volume of each track. find some "3-D sound effects" and look at them in your audio software. By mimicking the design with your own SFX, you can some up with some cool stuff.

You can also use the separate tracks to create additional layers in your scene. Maybe left channel is above or in front of your patrons, and it includes the sound of digging. Right channel is off to the side, with the sound of weeping, maybe some thunder in the background. It adds depth and tells a story.

If you are the regular reader of this blog, or are willing to look through some of the archives, you'll find I've written a number of entries tied to sound. You might just find something you like, or which will at least inspire you.
Gong of DOOM!
The Yaybahar
The Apprehension Engine
FREE sounds
Haunted Nursery
Dark Ambience by Svarte Greiner

Happy haunting!