“Just Like Magic” Sound Design

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Videos | 0 comments

I always enjoy working with Salman so when he asked if I could have helped him with a new kind of animation I immediately accepted, even though the unconventional nature of the project kept us in pre production for longer than expected the results were extremely rewarding. We started with some back and forth to define the BPMs of the music. I then started working on a simple drum and bass loop that became the core over which everything else got designed, tweaked, tuned and mastered.

Here’s a quick breakdown on some of the elements I really enjoyed working on:


The kick sound is made up by bouncing balls of different sizes and a “spaghetti” impact recording that seemed to represent well the rubber bands nature.

The snare is composed by stamps and small gears’ sounds that represent its hit as well as all of the other movements performed by the object.

After the base got created I tackled the visual element that attracted me the most, the paper plane. I edited plane take off and landing together, liked the result and proceeded with tuning the sound in Melodyne to bring a new, slightly musical element to the soundscape.

Most of the sounds ended up being processed in the same way, an extreme example is the helicopter sound emitting from one of the monitors at the end of the video. What you hear is a tuned, filtered, formant shifted and futzed version of a normal helicopter recording.

The track that plays at the very beginning of the video is made up by two recordings: a old radio show of magic (yes, a radio show of magic) and a looping music track. After editing the two elements together I simply recorded the sound coming out of my laptop from camera’s distance to easily sell the source of the music.

Towards the end of the edit/composition I went back to the main track and added some layers to create a stronger connection in between the visual and the audio elements (e.g. paper folding and crunching for plane taking off and landing), then proceeded to mixing the track.


In the close shots, elements are introduced one at a time, giving the mix a chance to focus on the single components, while on wide shots the same items rely on panning to poke through the mix.

One of the very last shots of the clip is a bird’s-eye view of the desk that presents all visual elements horizontally inverted. For that particular view I routed all sounds that were attached to visuals to a bus and swapped the left with the right channel in the duration of a frame, double checked the effect in mono and liked surprisingly light change.


This project has been a great chance to explore music with the ears of a sound designer, I am particularly happy with the sound of the wooden stamp, probably the best snare sound I created so far, which is sad as I worked in a music records studio for three years!

Creating music with non-musical elements by forcing them into the track with editing, tuning and mixing has been great, I can’t wait to repeat the experience!

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