It’s been a little while since the last blog post (sorry!), but today I want to show you a technique that I’ve personally found really useful when creating vehicle engines. This technique is probably most useful for sci-fi vehicles like spaceships and such, but if you’re creative enough with it, you can take it very far! Let’s get started!

What we’re basically going to be doing in Massive, is using a macro to act as the RPM parameter from the game. Try following along and see what you can come up with by the end of this post.

Here We Go! Vroom!

The first thing I do, is assign the macro to modulate the pitches of the three different oscillators upwards. Modulate them in different amounts, to make it sound more realistic and less tonal. Which wavetable you use doesn’t matter, it all depends on taste, so pick some that you like. Now try playing a note, and move the macro. You’ll hear the pitch go up and down.

Now that you have a basic sound down that pitches up and down, it’s time to use the macro to modulate all sorts of other things in Massive. Remember, you want to convey how the engines and mechanics of the vehicle change, depending on how fast you drive. Here’s a list of things that you can potentially modulate!

Different Things To Modulate

Modulating filter and effects

You can modulate filters and effects. Remember that you can modulate each of the knobs, not just the ones I’ve chosen in this picture. Filters are a great choice, because they add some life to the sound over time that you wouldn’t otherwise get. The same goes with effects. You can smoothen some transitions, make it sound more sci-fi, rough, whatever you want with effects.

Modulating Insert Effects

Same goes with the insert effects in massive. Especially the saturation and distortion inserts are really great when trying to convey speed and aggressiveness in your engine/vehicle.

Modulating Noise

Modulating the noise is always great to fill out the sound and give it some subtle character. Again, you can really make an engine sound aggressive by using more noise, the higher the RPM gets. Also, try modulating the feedback!

Another very crucial step to adding life and getting your engine to sound more realistic, is playing around with the voicing of the sound. Raising the “Unisono”, “Pitch Cutoff” and “Wavetable Position”, will help fill out the sound and again, make it less tonal. It will also add a lot of complexity to the sound, which is something we usually want when creating engines, just to make them sound more like real mechanical structures.

Another thing you can do to change the sound drastically, is to change the oscillator mode (no idea if that what it’s actually called). Especially changing an oscillator’s mode to formant can give some much needed high end and intensity to a sound, and can be really powerful when it’s modulated.

It’s of course also worth mentioning that you can also put effects on the track itself, although you can’t control these with the macro. You might want to put on some reverb or tremolo, control the sound with a compressor and some EQ’s, and so forth.

Example Time!

Here’s a quick engine sound that I threw together in 5 minutes, just to demonstrate how quick and powerful this method can be when you get a hang of it.

Quick Engine Sound Example

Here’s how that engine sound looked it massive;

Getting Loops Ready For Implementation

The downside with this method is that you can’t directly take the sound you created into something like Wwise and FMOD, so we have to be a little creative with things. The best way I’ve found to implement this, is to render several loops at different macro percentages. It all depends on your needs.

Rendering loops at different macro percentages

In the picture above I’ve simply used automation on the macro, to let it render at different percentages. After that, you have to take those files and make seamless loops out of them. I recommend going with either 10% or 20% increments when rendering.

What you would now do on the middleware side of things, is to crossfade between all these loops with an RPM parameter and use some pitching, EQ and maybe tremolo so make the transitions smoother. You get almost the exact same sound at you would in Massive, with some slight differences of course, but you still retain that sense of complexity that your engine inside of Massive had.

That’s it for today! Hope you all enjoyed it, and be sure to let me know if it was useful!

Exercises

  1. Make 5 different engines using the method shown above.
  2. Make an engine while modulating every single thing you can think of, inside of Massive.
  3. Try the process of exporting an engine with automation increments a couple of different times.
  4. Try implementing the engine in your favourite middleware and make it work.
  5. Make a little scene in Unity, Unreal (or whatever you like) where you can drive a car, and then make a RPM parameter that you can hook your engine sound up to.

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