Audio In Pictures: Sounds Of The Deep Ocean
Updated: May 25
When working in the creative industries, it's important to find out what inspires you. Be it a song, a word, a video, or even an image, inspiration is as boundless as art, you can find it anywhere, even when you're least expecting it. This week, we are going to explain how we created a soundscape that was inspired simply by the image above.
Peering Into The Abyss
When thinking about the deepest depths of the ocean, you may only picture a dark and desolate landscape devoid of sunlight and life. While you may be correct about the sunlight, the darkness holds an assortment of unimaginable creatures, living in a world that is as equally fascinating as Outer-Space. In this environment, many small creatures use a form of light emission called 'bioluminescence', where a chemical reaction in their bodies allow them to emit light, such as with the Jellyfish above.
The soundscape began with the idea of representing the contrast between the bioluminescent creatures and their pitch black surroundings. For the ocean, we decided to use a droning pad sound created through the use of sampling, looping and tuning so that any note played could be sustained for as long as desired. For the entire duration of the track, only 3 notes were held with this specific sound, however only the lowest note is heard always, the second note an octave above and the third note two octaves above were automated so that their levels would modulate over time, independent of each other.
This gives the soundscape an almost ethereal and otherworldly feel, with brighter textures flowing in and out like slow waves. Keeping the lowest note audible persistently may cause the listener to perceive a small, constant pressure in their ears, as if they were underwater. This sound was bandpass filtered quite heavily with an EQ to eliminate any frequency content past the high-mids, we wanted the pad to represent the lower end of the frequency spectrum so we cut out higher frequencies to make room for other sounds.
For the bioluminescent creatures, we wanted to use sounds that would occupy the higher end of the frequency spectrum, this was achieved by pitch-bending several shimmering chime samples. This, combined with convolution reverb created a nebulous and somewhat wispy sound effect, we believed this represented an entity floating in a vast open space, which fit perfectly for the small creatures. These sounds were panned to give the effect of the creatures having different positions within the stereo space of the listener.
To increase the level of immersion within this piece, some semblance of realism had to be present. This was done with the inclusion of bubbling sounds, to give the effect of creatures swimming near the listener, these samples were processed with an EQ to remove higher frequencies, and the lower frequencies on the samples were given a lower amount of stereo separation, as humans naturally are less able to perceive the direction of lower frequencies coming from a source. Convolution reverb and a delay was used to extend the length of the sound's tails, this also added to the underwater effect.
Finally, we wanted to create a sound that was both semi-realistic and artificial, so we recreated the haunting sound of a whale song. This sound was very simple to create as it only required a sine wave and an envelope, a long attack into a note which then uses legato to slide into another note. This, combined with a significant amount of convolution reverb resulted in a close approximation of the sound of a whale communicating, and when fit into the soundscape added an indescribable kind of uneasiness.
To conclude, we wanted to show how a simple image could give enough inspiration to put together a completely original soundscape based on its connotations as well as ideas related closely to it.
Take a listen to the soundscape below, we hope you enjoy!
If you enjoyed this article please check out our ultimate guide to audio post- production: https://www.344audio.com/post/the-ultimate-guide-to-audio-post-production-sound-design