Last month Tim Prebble posted a little sound design challenge on his blog with a few simple rules: one take, a cardboard box and no processing.
When dealing with common objects in sound design it's often hard to get something unique or fun out because it's easy to go for the most obvious ways to create sound. Tearing, ripping, hitting, scratching are all great but all too often we're also very familiar with those sounds and they don't attract much attention.
In order to get something unique out of ordinary objects without altering the defining tone that lets us recognize the object for what it is, I like to change it up a bit by using exotic microphones or contact mics, mic + parabolic screens, mics behind differently thick pieces of fabric or by creating other types of occlusion and reflections, coating the object in thick elastic lacquer or glueing parts of it ... the possibilities are endless.
And yes you can get a lot of that in post processing but I sometimes prefer to get creative in the field so for this challenge I decided I would drop half the box into water and keep half dry and then tear from top to bottom and squish it.
The resulting sound was very alive sounding, great for possibly a monster based effect if processed further (but of course for the challenge no processing was allowed so I kept it as it is) but the sound that really caught my attention was when I put the box back in the water. What I heard then was an unbelievably rich sound that is really hard to describe so I embedded it below and it proves once again that you just have to keep listening and keep an open ear for the unexpected for the really awesome stuff. It's true for everything one does but especially so in the creative arts.
So yes it may have been a simple object but even then it's been another eye opener and a lot of fun and I hope to revisit this type of sound another time with a whole lot more mics and boxes!