Great Sounding Gun Fights
You’ve just spent hours perfecting the look of your gun fight to make it as realistic as possible. But if your gun fight doesn’t sound good, it’ll never feel right now matter how much time you put into the visuals. That’s why we’re here to teach you how to create a great sounding gun fight to match your visuals in Audio Design Desk.
Before we go into detail, let’s review the outline you should be focusing on whenever you’re sound designing a gun fight.
- Gun Movement
- Grab, pick up, handling, and cocking the gun
- The gun shot and bullet “whiz”
- Bullet “whiz” into object and splatter of the object whether it’s wood, concrete, water, flesh, or anything else
These three parts are the main focus you should keep in mind throughout the process of creating your realistic sounding gun fight.
Now that we know what we’re focusing on, it’s time to create the sound. In order of our outline, we’ll start with the Gun Movement.
With Audio Design Desk and the expansive library made available it’s easy to find “gun handling” sounds for all types of guns. Drop them into your timeline after a quick search. We’ll most likely start with “grabbing” the gun which is a simple metal-grab sound. It’s important that we find a sound similar to the sound of moving metal. The size of the sound should match the size of the gun in the visuals. Don’t be afraid to use non-traditional sounds to create your gun. In our video I use the jiggling of a door handle as part of my gun sound. This is the perfect sound of a small metal object with tight parts moving to replicate a Pistol.
You should also layer sounds. Often I find the beginning of one sound and the ending of another create the perfect conjoined sound. And layering sounds creates a sense of realism as you rarely ever hear a single sound. Sound is all around us! Then we need to go through the scene and add the gun movement sounds for the entirety of its on screen presence. The character is most likely running around or whipping the gun back and forth, the metal parts of the gun would make a subtle sound with every step and whip. Keep it subtle and low in the mix unless the character drops the gun, in which case you’ll want it to be noticeably louder. Typically, I find a full stem of gun handling sounds that can be placed across the whole scene. Another trick I like to use is the power of perception. A gun may not visually be cocked in a scene, but adding a subtle cocking sound gives the audience the perception that the character has a loaded gun and plans to use it.
For gun shots we can usually find a recording of all types of guns to match the one on screen. What’s important is that you again need to match the size of the sound with the size of the on-screen gun. You’ll also want to match the distance from the camera when the gunshot happens. If the gun is closer to the screen, you don’t want to use a gunshot sound that has a lot of ambience, reverb, or basically sounds like it was recorded from the other side of a field. And vice versa is true, you don’t want a tight, dry recording if the gun is at distance on screen.
Placing and Layering the Sounds
Once we find our gunshot sounds, again very easy to find and audition hundreds of sounds with Audio Design Desk, place the pop of the gunshot right at the moment of the gun flash. Error on the side of just before the gun flash. Light moves faster than sound. Now we’re going to add another layer of gunshots. Yes, we’re doubling or maybe even tripling the sounds. Remember, layering sounds is always more realistic! You can add any sound you prefer. In Terminator 2 the sound designers added cannon fire to the shotgun sounds to give them an extra bang. It’s important to think of your characters in this situation. Villains tend to get darker, deeper sounds layered in and heroes get cleaner, tighter, and lighter sounds layered. In the case of our video, I wanted to add a little more weight to the shot. I searched for a “heavier” version of the same gun sounds. Once found, I placed them in the timeline in sync with my other gunshots and brought them down in the mix to fold them in with original gunshots. You’ll notice a big change in the way it sounds and this gives you the ability to create a character out of every gun on screen.
Finally we need to sell the gun shot with a subtle gun “whiz” sound. We all know the sound of a bullet flying through the air. Generally, this can be a little cartoonish. However, if right “whiz” is found and subtly brought into the mix, it’ll bring a whole depth of field to your gun fight. The effect will be especially great if your character is shooting from one side of the screen to the other. These sounds are usually recorded or created in stereo so make sure that it follows from left to right or right to left the way the shot moves and you’ll give the bullet a desired sense of movement.
The first two parts are about establishing the character of the gun and its actions. The Impact is about how the gun affects the scene. Is it a stealth kill? Is it destroying an entire wall? This is important to distinguish and as long as the visuals are great, you’ll know exactly what to do.
In the case of our video tutorial, the gunshot is killing guys in an open gun fight. I don’t want a subtle impact like if it was stealth, but I also don’t want the impact to sound like it’s blowing entire body parts off. Since the bullets are hitting with perfect accuracy, I want to stick to Flesh Impacts. We want to find flesh impact sounds, and normally they’ll have just a little bit of “bullet whiz” with them. That means they might be in stereo, so again it’s important to make sure the stereo sound is traveling in the same direction as the visuals. When searching through impact sounds we need to keep the weight and type of gun in mind. A shotgun is going to make a bigger impact than a small pistol. If layering is needed, it’s always better. Once we find the perfect impact sound and place it in the timeline, sync it to the exact frame the bullet makes contact. This may feel a little flat at first, but we have one more import sound to add, the Splatter.
Whether it’s wood, concrete, flesh, water, or whatever else, there’s always going to be some sort of splatter from the gunshot. Again it depends on the size and force of the gun and the visuals should give you a good clue of wood splintering, concrete crumbling, or blood spraying. Adding in these splattering and splintering sounds will finish the impact and create a lush and wet gunshot. In our video we have an excess of blood spraying from the shot henchmen so we need to find blood splatter. Since it is an excess of blood we want a really juicy blood sound. Most likely layering multiple blood sounds together. These sounds should sync video just before the blood is seen and last just after the blood is gone. This will sell your blood because it makes the bullet feel like it caused the splatter and it makes the audience think the blood is still dripping afterwards. This is one sound you can always push and go crazier with than what is visually being shown. It’s often the audience’s favorite part of the gun fight, so don’t be afraid to make it big!
Get to Work
Those are the basics to making realistic and great sounding gun fights! Follow the outline at the top while keeping in mind the weight, distance, and the directional movement of the gunfight and you’ll be able to create deeply layered and realist gun fight sounds to perfectly match your visuals.
Recreate the sound from some of the most famous gun fight clips. Here is some inspiration.