MAKING AN ANIME SOUND EFFECTS LIBRARY
Making Anime Studio was tons of fun. It took a lot of research, experimenting and trial and error to hone in on the anime sound we were looking for, and after all that hard work, we think it’s pretty special. There’s 1103 sounds in Anime Studio which gives sound designers and editors a really versatile base library for working on anime inspired games and animations. Inside the library you’ll find the perfect arsenal of charge ups, charge downs, lasers, punches, explosions, pings, mecha sounds, cute creature sounds, swishes and whooshes. Here’s a little insight into how we did it.
Growing up in the 90s, we were surrounded by anime and the sounds of that period ended up being touchstone sounds in the sonic landscape of our youth.
We were inspired by the classic sound effects work of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam, Pokemon, Dragon Ball, Akira as well as more modern anime like Gurren Lagaan and Little Witch Academia. On the video games front Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and the Super Smash Brothers series were huge influences when making the library.
Researching sounds for Anime Studio was fun, we got to go back and watch a lot of those old shows, dissect the sounds and try and home in on what makes them sound the way they do.
A Brief History of Anime Sound Effects
In the 60s, Matsou Ono pioneered early anime sound effects, using abstract tape experimentation and electronic elements to establish anime’s electronic and sci-fi roots. Later, Fizz Sound Creation, led by Hidenori Ishida, contributed iconic sounds to classics like Gundam and Dragon Ball. Other companies started by former Fizz members, such as Anime Sound Production (founded by Shoji Kato) and Swara Productions (founded by Katsumi Itō), created the sound effects for renowned series like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, Pokémon, and Sailor Moon. Contemporary anime sound effects continue to build upon these established tropes, remaining abstract and larger than life.
What Makes it Sound Like Anime? - The Defining Characteristics
Abstraction: Anime sound primarily relies on synthesised electronic sounds, favouring abstraction over field recordings and layering. This approach allows for creative interpretations - eg - using a synth to make a sound that conveys bright/shiny for a raised sword instead of a literal foley/field recording of sword movement.
Modulation: Modulation of basic waveforms and noise through the use of envelopes, LFOs and envelope followers.
Filters: Anime sound usually doesn't have a lot of high end frequencies and often make use of low pass filtering to remove harshness.
Effects: Anime wouldn’t sound like anime without effects. It makes extensive use of frequency shifters, ring modulators, delay, and reverb effects to produce exaggerated, over the top sounds.
Distortion: Stylistically, distortion plays an important role in anime sounds, especially in explosions and impact effects.
Tape: Older, vintage anime sound has a distinct tape sound (saturation and compression), and often made use of tape effects and playback speed to manipulate sounds.
Anime sound effects were originally created using analog hardware so we plugged in our analog synths to capture some of that sonic character. We used a Doepfer Dark Energy to create some of the wilder sounds in the library, utilising LFOs at various rates, self oscillation, and Filter FM. An additional LFO from an MFB Nanozwerg was used to extend the modulation possibilities with additional waveforms.
We got some very cool sounds out of a DSI Tempest functioning as an analog synth. The Tempest provided lots of modulation routing options, envelopes, LFOs and a built in distortion for shaping sounds. It was also used for creating some of the punchy retro fight sounds.
On the digital synth side we used one of our favourite synths, the Teenage Engineering OP-1. The plethora of synth engines available and in particular the CWO frequency shifter / delay were used to make over the top cute and kawaii sounds. CWO can get some wild results, for a plugin equivalent there’s Echobode from Sonic Charge.
We even got some interesting sounds from an Elektron Machine Drum using GND and EFM machines. You have access to 16 LFOs on the Machine Drum and it can make some unique tonal and atonal sounds.
In terms of synth plugins, we made heavy use of Kilo Heartz Phase Plant. Phase Plant basically offered a very controllable modular synth in plugin form. We used a lot of modulators on basic waveforms and pink noise sources. Envelopes and LFOs worked in tandem to shape the sounds. Often we’d modulate pitch, filter, frequency shifter and ring mod parameters to create complex sounds.
Phase Plant's nonlinear filters were really useful for achieving some more gritty characteristics and its notch filters were used to hollow out and accent parts of a sound.
Ring modulators and frequency shifters were employed on most sounds and played a crucial role in replicating the anime sound. One technique we regularly used was to put the sound through a reverb or delay first and then through a frequency shifter which leads to a very distinct anime flavour.
Some of the great pings in Anime studio came from running sounds into Driver and Raum from Native Instruments. This helped in achieving the wild distortion and reverb found in anime and was perfect for “blasting off” style sounds.
Tape Emulation and Audiosuite
We took a pseudo-tape based approach with Anime Studio. Rather than having a long chain of effects plugins and endlessly tweaking their settings, we used audiosuite and forced ourselves to commit changes as if we were printing to a master tape. Not only does working like this encourage you to be decisive and efficient, it also allows for some interesting creative approaches that aren’t always possible with real-time processing. Often we would speed or slow down sounds using a timeshifter with varispeed settings. We used verify and tape stop effects. We made use of tape emulation plugins like Waves J37 for saturation and tape compression. Some of the wow and flutter controls were a great way of processing basic waveforms into cute warbling sounds.
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Anime Studio was one of the most fun libraries that we’ve made and one we had been planning for years. We’re already using it in our own projects and we’re looking forward to hearing how you'll incorporate it into yours!