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How to turn a weak explosion into a big one

If you have a thin, weak explosion but need a big, heavy, earth-shattering one, here’s a quick method. For now, let’s assume that you have access to other high quality library, don’t have the time and means to arrange a field recording session. Just sitting in the edit or mix room with limited material at your disposal and the director want a huge blast instead of the weak, thin one you have there.

You can create it within a minute, here’s how. This is only one fast and dirty approach, these techniques can be mixed or you can change the order of them, even leave out what you feel inappropriate. I used tools which are either part of the Pro Tools package or you can freely download them. The only exception is Lowender by Refuse, which is a great and cheap plugin.

Let’s see what we have now

This is a stock explosion which is not so bad, but not good either and the director wants something much more powerful. The first thing to do is to duplicate the track (alt+shift+d) and filter out even more low-end from the sound. Then put a “analogue” distorsion plugin onto the duplicated track. I used the Softube Saturation knob.

You can experiment with the amount and type of the distorsion, but do not stuck here, remember, we are in a hurry. You can quickly blend the original and the distorted one together. The enhanced distorsion will help to elevate the percieved power of the explosion without using too much volume.

So far, we have this:

Great, but where’s my low-end?

It’s missing. But now our next step is to enhance that part. We are not far from the finished, beefed up explosion. Now I used the Lowender plugin to give more low-end to the original explosion.

If you happen to use the same, I recommend to audition the three different ranges (classic, guitar, bass) because they can give you very different results. Choose what you consider the best.

After this, we have and almost finished big explosion:

The last ingredient

Obviously, as all the steps, this is optional too. Sometimes this step is a miracle, a really powerful addition. Other times simply mute it, if it happen to be the opposite.

Make a new mono track, and select and area, about 1–4 seconds. Initiate the signal generator from the Audiosuite plugins and make some low freq sine wave tone. I chose 80Hz, but it can be almost anything. The only thing you have to avoid is to choose a tone which is too high because we want more low end. This is a very old trick, which is basically a downward sweep.

When we have our tone, use the Vari-fi plugin to make our downward sweep. We need Vari-fi to slow down, fades on (at least I prefer it on) and now you can choose to options: Fit to or Extend. Personally I love the extend mode, but it is so situation dependent that you have to try which fits better. Just render it, try it and if you don’t like the result, make an undo and re-render it with the other method.

The last step is to mix it all together with downward sweep, the original one and the distorted one. For the sake of this example I mixed the sweep a little high into this last audio clip, but I think you already grabbed the point here, it should only enhance the explosion.

If you have more than a minute

As I told you this is a really fast and easy method. If you have just a few minutes more, you can try different things like duplicating the original and use pitch shifting, use some other effect which has ample low-end and mix that with your explosion, play with some modulation plugins, etc.

The possibilities are endless, but remember, the patience of the director might run out sooner than you would like, so if you’re in trouble, use this really fast method. Enjoy!