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My friend and I are finishing up our first game right now and I have just discovered that even though he can make some decent music tracks, he has no idea how to make a sound effect. An explosion, for example.

How are sound effects made?

share|improve this question has a great free sound editing program. – Dave Swersky Jul 23 '10 at 15:56

13 Answers 13

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Do some research on what a Foley Artist does:

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I was going to answer this, but the article is pretty clear on what needs doing. Some of the examples look incorrect though, I could have sworn the Star Trek sliding door sound was just from the set brushing as the pieces moved. A sort of happy-mistake. – Noctrine Jul 23 '10 at 16:54
Also, this: – michael.bartnett Dec 8 '11 at 8:42
Lame. -1,000,000 – bobobobo Dec 8 '11 at 13:26
Instead of just saying "read about foley artists", you should actually say what a foley artist does. – jhocking May 29 '12 at 16:12

They can be everything. This is one of my favorite things to experiment with. I don't worry about "This could be a --- sound" I only worry that "this sounds interesting" at all times. For example Overgrowth has blood squirts from only slightly modified recordings of them squeezing a pineapple's insides by hand.

My bone cracking sound in my game is from celery and onions being broken and cut. Vegetables and strange gooey substances work great. I've used a VERY modified version of my local TRAX station recording (sounds of a train taking off) close to the ground as a gun boom. It works great too. Experiment it's fun. If you want explosions it would be things like that, things that have lots of changing over time, that isn't very abrupt or necessarily loud. Anything can be altered. Use the train as an explosion. You could just as easily use some old tile from your neighbors alley, or a cardboard box with rocks in it and drop them on concrete.

And yes, this is how it's done professionally too. An example is that a lot of the sounds of Zerg units in Starcraft II are from the sound designers squeezing hand soap in a bucket.

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Very good answer. – bobobobo Dec 8 '11 at 15:56
A bit late, but that's some excellent advice! – jmegaffin Jun 5 '12 at 20:12

If you want old-school 8-bit-era sounds sfxr is a great little tool (Mac OS X and Windows). There's even an explosion preset.

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SFXR by Dr Petter is a great free tool. – Kimau Jul 23 '10 at 18:04
+1 BFXR is even better than SFXR. – ashes999 Dec 8 '11 at 11:35
nice link and cool tool, but use is limited to very specific types (retro-style) games. Also, while neat to expt with, it's extremely space inefficient to save a generated file in a 44100 Hz 16 bit wave file when sounds like this are traditionally generated by the game. – bobobobo Dec 8 '11 at 15:57

I think the real answer is that most aren't, people just buy and use banks of existing effects.

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-1 Okay, so where do existing effects come from? – Anko Jan 8 '13 at 15:26

Foley sounds.

There is a video here which is a live recording of some guys from Dark Sector making sound effects for the game. In the clip they use:

  • back of hammer on watermelon (splat)
  • back of hammer on catelope (thud)
  • ripping open watermelon (dismemberment)
  • green onions, celery, cabbage (neck snap). Note how the sound they use is the one generated by the weak guy, so his shoulder muscles can barely pull the celery apart, which gives the effect of pulling apart something tough
  • sticking fingers inside of a cucumber (squish)
  • breaking open an orange (squishy)
  • back of hammer inside orange (light thud)
  • pulling apart orange pieces (squishy)

Note the tarp floor, which gives a special "scattery" sound when the seeds hit the floor on the first watermelon hit.

An alternative youtube link here

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Downvoter, care to explain? – bobobobo Dec 9 '11 at 0:32
This "answer" doesn't say anything, not even what that is a link to. – jhocking May 29 '12 at 16:09
It says "Like this (scroll to end)", with a great link to a "vegetable abuse" clip, which shows how real game sfx are made. What the hell more do you want? – bobobobo May 30 '12 at 1:47
Don't just post a link without any explanation; explain what that link is and put the answer text here (that is, copy/paste the relevant excerpt at the end). These explanations are especially necessary when it's not like either the name of the blog or the title of the article makes it clear this "answer" is anything other than trolling. – jhocking May 30 '12 at 12:08
Ok, I have improved it. – bobobobo Aug 22 '12 at 16:26

If you are willing to spend some money, the Sound Ideas 6000 Series is a good place to start for a big bank of sounds.

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You might find free sound effects online has lots of sound effects, but they're under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 license meaning you have to attribute the author for each and every one you use.

Alternatively, you could record sounds yourself and mix/edit them in a free program like Audacity.

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How do you record an explosion? – Mason Wheeler Jul 23 '10 at 14:57
From a distance... – Cyclops Jul 23 '10 at 16:05
By starting with something that's not an explosion, and editing. For example, make an explosion-like sound with your own voice. For wind sounds, blow into the microphone. Stuff like that. – Ian Schreiber Jul 23 '10 at 18:56
Here's an explosion. Not too bad. – bobobobo Dec 8 '11 at 16:02

The websites and programs answered so far are definitely the way to go. Recording your own explosions is no good. Most likely, any level of explosion you create will not sound much like what you're looking for anyway.

Not to mention, programming with a few less fingers would be tough.

Edit: However, as I'm thinking about this, one practical effect that could be pretty well recorded is that of gunshots. There's most likely a shooting range that rents out pistols and, as long as you call beforehand and make sure the range owner is alright with it, you could probably bring in a microphone for, at the very least, a trial run of how the recordings could sound. It's worth noting that, depending on the range, an indoor setup could likely make for some undesired echo if their sound dampening isn't well done. And, of course, have one of the employees supervise if you're not experienced with firearms.

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Gunshots never sound the same when recorded. Microphones just don't have the dynamic range needed to record properly. Most games with gunshot sounds have been digitally edited to sound more like what people think a gun should sound like. Explosions are the same way, recording them will give you part of the sound but it will still take some work to make it sound right in your game. – kevin42 Jul 24 '10 at 2:44
I don't agree. Both gunshots and explosions can be recorded and used. You just need to place the microphone further away from the source than you would think. For a gunshot 10-50 meters. – Mikael Högström Aug 22 '12 at 16:27
Due to the coconut effect, gunshots and explosions in reality don't sound like people expect them to sound in fiction. – Philipp Nov 6 '13 at 14:44

You could try some dynamic sound effects generation where sound parameters would depend on your game action. For example, try Little Endian sound mangling SDKs.

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Have fun making your own sounds.

If you are making a retro game I recommend trying out cfxr. It is a random sound generator and the sound effects sound like they would work well in a retro arcade game.

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@Bachus already mentioned cfxr. – bobobobo Aug 22 '12 at 16:27

It is possible to create your own sounds with Software, a free software is for example Pure Data, but also any Software Synthesizer with enought variability will do it.

Here are some sources for sources of sounds i found and use



Non free

Search machines

share|improve this answer has a lot of free sounds with different licenses for whatever you are using them for. is a new version of the popular sfxr program. This version has some new features for better sounds like new waveforms and filters.

The people who do these sound effects are called Foley Artists. They do things like throwing pots and pans and squishing fruit for different sound effects in video games and movies.

If you want to you can try and make your own sound effects like squishing hand soap or boiling water to make lava bubbling sounds. Then you can digitally change the sounds for even more effects! Their are many different options to make cool sounds!

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Actually this is a self discipline, called "sound engineering".

There's a guys in a movie industry for example, even whole compamies, which work is to create sound effects for movies, series, video games.

If you're writing a simple game, you can pick some open source sound library, which contains sfx'es for blows, explosions, whatever you need, or to buy a licensed one and use it.

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