Sound Design case study : How to make a kung fu classic

Updated: Jul 29

Nik Vaughn AKA Mr Frisbee in the studio

"My Style? my style Is the art of sound design without sound design."

This week we talked to sound designer/producer & musician Nik Vaughn AKA Mr Frisbee about his creative process and how he created the "Kung Fu Hits ” sample pack series which has notched up an impressive 20,000 downloads.

Nik invited us to his audio dojo in Essex, and showed us how he created the chops, hits, punches, slaps, whips, swords, knives, fight scenes & dialogue for this golden era project.

LHS: So Nik what was your process for creating "Kung Fu Hits”?

Nik: For this project I wanted to focus on authenticity, Im a massive fan of the genre and really loved the Shaw Bros and Golden Harvest era of kung fu movies.

I had done a lot of research to find out what was available from foley, sound effect and sample libraries and found there were some great packs available but none with the dirt and vintage feel I was looking for.

I also spent many hours studying how the original films sound effects were recorded and decided to use these techniques again, as many sound designers today rely on digital processing to achieve their sounds I went old school.

The term Foley goes back to the days of vaudeville, invented by a man named Jack Foley, the fun is in finding materials & techniques to re-create the sound on screen.

For the hits and punches I experimented with impacts on a variety of surfaces my favourite being the traditional bamboo on wood, for punches in film we use everything from baseball bats on mud to smashing watermelons, the sound of a punch that we're familiar with today is not made with any punching, it's a wet towel slapping on a wall, sometimes with breakable items such as pencils or walnuts added in.

The swords & knives were indeed real, sometimes scraped with a metal kitchen utensil to produce the zing!

The slashes & whipping noises were created by mounting a large capsule dynamic mic horizontally, facing upwards and whipping differing diameter bamboo canes over the top at speed.

The fight scenes & dialogue involved voice actors channelling Sonny Cheba, Lieh Lo & Buce Lee, which was huge fun as you can imagine.

LHS: What post processing did you use?

NV: My secret weapon was an old VHS recorder that I used to resample the pristine audio I had lovingly recorded, degrading the signal until it reached the early 70’s and generally warping the FX to hit that period vibe, this attention to detail was the key element in distinguishing this pack from the others out there.