While stumbling around the internet looking for some guides on piecing together a nicer field recording setup, I came across a great article on synthesizing sounds on AudioTuts by designer Westlee “West” Latta on vehicles. I think it’s relevant to discuss synthesized, versus recorded, vehicle sounds for a multitude of reasons; first that synthing enables us to create vehicles’ sounds that don’t actually exist, second that synthing if approached in a procedural audio in video games is a unique way to free up some memory space at the cost of some processor space, and third because synthing forces us designers to step back and really think about what it is that makes a recognizable sound recognizable. West does a great job breaking down the core elements of sounds that vehicles make and how we think about them:
-Combustion, electric, jet propulsion, or something entirely new?
-Wheels, rotors, propellers wings, treads, skim/skiff, or something entirely new?
-Engine turbo (if applicable)
-Engine at speed/under load
-Vehicle turn (if turning the vehicle causes some other additional sounds, such as wing-flap movement, etc.)
-Engine brake (if braking is a unique event separate from deceleration – such as with an automobile)
-Environmental noise (e.g. rumble, road noise, wind noise, water noise)
-Cabin noise (if we’re listening from inside the vehicle)
-Self-noise (if the vehicle is large, heavy, clunky, perhaps it has creaks, clanks or groans while moving)
This is, of course, a short list of just how many different considerations we can apply to the idea of the sound of a vehicle.
West has a handful of other great articles on Tuts+ so I recommend you check them out.