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There’s always a way to go from scratch to finish. It takes a spark to light a fire and we decided to let it burn - so we walked the extra mile.
This is a new story in our category “History Of A Sound” (HOAS) where we accompany the sounds from the very beginning: sketching it from the first thought to the final product and its usage out there in the wide universe of sound.

It takes a spark

One day, our Sound Designer Sebastian Pohle (photo above, 4th from right, holding the Hand Mortar) came up with this idea for a new library: he wanted to get his hands on some real explosion shots - you know - the oldschool kind of shots. It’s no secret anymore: it was all about Black Powder explosions caused by ancient cannons and rifles. So he took action. Axel remembers:

“Our Sound Designer Sebastian Pohle - nowadays at Machine Games in Sweden - organized a session with saluting guns of all sorts, including hand mortars, cannons and custom made shooting stands.”

Into the great wide open

No sooner said than done - we packed our things and literally went into the field on a beautiful day back then in the summer of 2011. The idea of shooting real cannons and rifles needed a special location and setup, of course. We were looking for spacious open country and found something which perfectly met our expectations. Axel (making his way through the yellow ocean on the photo above) recalls:

“We recorded at a beautiful rape field in the German Rothaar mountains. We shot over this field which was surrounded by hilly forest, giving us some awesome echoes. We recorded on 11 channels, one of them was on tape using a Nagra recorder. After Sebastian Pohle, Michael Schwendler and I set up and tested all the mics, the guys came in with some bags full of black powder and a nice arsenal of funny and unusual weapons ”

The recording session was, once more, a unique and fun happening and the crew did its best to assure a successful and high-quality outcome. Not only did we take great (and loud!) recordings, these days always come with special memories. Our lead sound designer Axel tells with a bold smile:

“Here in Germany one must register every single shot if done in public space. The guys with the weapons did that for 5 shots. After 25 shots they got a call from a friend. She was about 5 miles away and was wondering, when we want to stop this. We were amazed by how far the sound was traveling over the hills. The police luckily did not show up and we were able to fire a lot more rounds.”

Well, the fire has ceased and our Black Powder library is cut and dried, ready for use, but this story is not yet at an end…

The fiery protagonist

One sound of the Black Powder library deserves our special attention today: it’s the "Hand Mortar Small Heavy.wav" recording.
This sound has recently been used by Wyatt Sprague (see photo above), a real sound design expert. His project list also includes The Big Lebowski, Aviator, Limitless, The Devil Wears Prada, The Sentinel, Brokeback Mountain and lots more. For the monumental Netflix TV series project called Marco Polo, Wyatt gives us an exclusive insight:

“Marco Polo takes place in the court of Kublai Khan. There was a scene with a hand canon that was giving me trouble. The weapon looked like a large canon, only in miniature. It was a hand held device. It couldn't sound too big but needed a lot of punch considering the damage it could do. I tried some Musket sounds combined with other explos but couldn't get the right amount of punch. I was pointed to the Boom Black Powder library and was able to download it very easily. Within a few minutes I had it downloaded, imported into Soundminer, and was auditioning sounds. I found what I needed and it worked perfectly. Not too big but with a nice solid punch that could be felt as well as heard. Very focused. All of the sounds are recorded very cleanly and there is no extraneous noise at all. Tight, focused, intelligently recorded sounds. A nice addition to my library.”

We’re happy our SFX could help in upgrading this scene and refer you to the TV series Marco Polo, which will start on Dec. 12th on Netflix.

There’s more to come...

We want to say THANK YOU for putting your trust in our SFX. Stay tuned for more “History Of A Sound” specials in the future. Until then: enjoy the Advent season and don’t miss our next surprise!

If you want to take a more detailed look at our BLACK POWDER sounds, click here and don't miss the video from the recording session :-)

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