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Experiments from the fx lab #1

Electronic door effect from a shoebox.

This whole thing happened as an accident. I recorded some foley while a regular shoebox was at the wrong place and as I moved it from my way, accidentally I ran my hand over the box in a way it produced an interesting sound. Fortunately it happened almost right before the microphone. I didn’t even thought about it for a long time, but suddenly when I edited those recorded tracks I stumbled across the “shoebox” fx and it somehow reminded me to the old Star Trek door fx which was made with paper and envelope. And I thought, why not, let’s make some electronic door from this too.

It is not a re-creation nor some imitation, simply some experiment with a happy accident.

The process

I quickly made a new session with a few audio tracks, a master bus and a re-record track. I prefer to re-record stuff to a new track instead of bounce to disk, but that’s entirely another post. So after I set up the little session let’s the fun start.

I simply trimmed the original to a short length, made a little fade in and out. This is our door’s main ingredient.

Then quickly throw-in some other effects for fun: steam, gas, wind, hisses, etc. Really anything is good, remember, this is an experiment, so there’s no wrong choices here. If there is something you won’t like, you can throw it out anytime during the process.

Search your effects library for keywords that are reminiscent of an electronic door, or simply quickly audition different sounds, and whenever your brain unconsciously pick a sound, put that into your session. The point is, do not over think this. If you find 1 or 2 effects that is enough. If you find 8 or 10, good for you.

Now we have all the ingredients let’s start doing something. I tell you how I did this, but don’t take it as the right way, if you have other workflow that’s completely fine. I quickly counted how many sweetener fx I’ve found, and made a quick copy of the shoebox fx with with alt+drag the original clip.

Then place the sweeteners right under the shoebox effects. I prefer to have every additional fx on its own track as this way I can process them separately without harming any other sweetener.

Now one by one nudge and trim the sweeteners so they start where they should and their length is appropriate for the original. If you’re confident enough, at this point you can make the fade ins and outs too, but if you would like to play with it later, that’s fine too.

Now add some eq to both the original and the sweetener tracks. It is a good idea to process them separately, this way you can have even more variation from the same thing. At this point anything can happen. Throw in some other plugins and have fun!

With only some eq and a touch of reverb you can have many doors from this accidentally recorded shoebox. The following examples are all in a very close perspective, you can add reverb to make them fit into the scene. Here’s the result of a five minute fun session:

The sweeteners are:

  • steam engine
  • steam machinery
  • servo motor
  • boa snake hiss