A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, and music.

Heavy Metal Pie

Posted: December 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design

Exterminate! Exterminate!

In North America, the end of the Western calendar year brings Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas…lots of holidays, most of which revolve around eating. In our household, that means one thing above all else: PIE SEASON.

My wife loves making pies and tarts, and one of the baker’s secret weapons for such endeavors are pie weights. They’re simply large, heavy versions of the more common metal-ball-style keychain. Ours is about four feet in length.

While washing dishes after a piemaking bonanza, I noticed the sound it made as I dragged it over the lip of our stainless steel sink. Finally, on a rainy winter day, I decided to do some recording and processing.

I grabbed three things for this session: The pie weights, a really beat-up baking sheet, and a small model of a Dalek made from spare parts (a gift from a dear friend). I simply moved the pie weights across each of these objects in different ways. Hot metal-on-metal action!

The balls on the pie weights made a great ratcheting sound that instantly made me think of a castle portcullis being raised and lowered, or a ship’s winch retracting an anchor. Of course, the size of these weights made pretty bright sounds, but that’s what pitch shifting is for…

So, today’s sound is a mix of these sounds, some raw, and some pitched down significantly. I didn’t do anything besides pitch shifting and EQ, just to show how flexible these high-frequency, detailed sounds can be when recorded at 192kHz. These sounds were recorded with a large-diaphragm condenser mic, because I found that proximity effect from close-miking with a small-diaphragm condenser produced too much bass to provide the balanced, bright sounds that I was going after.


[Røde NT1a microphone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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5 Comments on “Heavy Metal Pie”

  1. 1 Ryan said at 4:39 pm on December 21st, 2010:

    Dear Nathan,

    Great sounds! This would have been a good layer to use for the reed-man in Transformers 2.

    One question, though: What is a Dalek? I searched everywhere for it… Sorry I have to ask you… Google failed.

  2. 2 Nathan said at 5:21 pm on December 21st, 2010:

    Thanks, Ryan. Regarding the Dalek: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalek

  3. 3 Ryan said at 5:59 pm on December 21st, 2010:

    Hey Nathan, Thanks for the link. Hah! I read your post thinking a Dalek was some kind of cooking tool or utensil – I did see that wiki article and thought for sure it couldn’t be it! Thanks!

    Another question: The pitching you did sounded good. Was it varispeeded or did you use a plug-in with a high quality algorithm?

  4. 4 Nathan said at 6:29 pm on December 21st, 2010:

    Hearing it on SoundCloud, I’m a little embarassed about the “sizzle” from the data compression… :-( The pitch-down was simply accomplished in BIAS Peak Pro from the standard 24-bit, 192kHz sound file. Nothing special there, really!

  5. 5 Ryan said at 12:55 pm on December 22nd, 2010:

    Hey – no problem! I know it was soundcloud, but I was more thinking of the fact that the last pitch sounded like a gigantic chain being hoisted from the depths of the Pacific, or a 6-ton chain link leash on one of those Star Wars monsters!

    p.s. In my first post, so you know, I was not pointing out that the Reedman in Transformers wasn’t especially a perfect design of sound, it was just the first thing I thought of when hearing your recording of the metal balls being pulled over different surfaces ;-)


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