Recreating the Sound Effects

Here are the new sound effect files [in WAV format] :


How about some other sounds?

I've had a few requests for some other sounds from the show. They are also unique to Space:1999 but for various reasons aren't sounds that I am going to try to generate from scratch. There are several reasons for this:

  • The sound is made up of several other complex sounds and would consume too much time to generate accurately.
  • The sound is comprised mostly of noises, like the Eagle taking off.
  • Unable to get a clear enough original for analysis, it has a mixture of speech, sound and background noises.
  • Sound uses High-Q inharmonic filters to get ringing effect, as in the Stun Gun 'spfweeee' sound.

My current process is for these sound effects is:

  • Filtering to remove adjacent background sounds,
  • Trimming them so there is a short silence either side of the sound effect,
  • Amplifying the result so that it is normalized to about 95% max sampled values without clipping the signal.

Here is the filtered sound list:


How I am Developing these Sounds

I have always liked the sounds from Space:1999, especially the Commlock beeping and the sound of the Main Mission computer background. I wondered how many of these sounds were created and on what types of 1970's machinery they were produced. My background in Electronics Technology goes deep in the world of audio and music synthesis, so this is not a land that I am a stranger in.

For several years I had used the "Commlock Beep" that I downloaded [courtesy of Ken Scott - his excellent Sound Files page is located HERE. ] as a tone to alert me when a new email message arrives to my computer, and other various Windows alerts and events.

The problem with the many WAV format files that you download of the sound effects is that they are clips from the episode soundtrack. This means that this sound is also mixed in with the open microphone during filming as well as other sound effects that were being mixed in at that point in the episode. Often there are subtle voices and other ambient sounds that detract from the one you want to have in pure form.


Technobabble in the next paragraphs! Click HERE to jump over this part!

In my home studio, my computer has a program that is able to take a sample waveform and analyze it using something called the Fast Fourier Transform, or FFT. This is a mathmatical method of breaking down any given sound down into its component frequencies and levels. While looking at the "Commlock Beep" wav, I could see the main frequencies peaking above the background rumble and noise. I created a list of these frequencies (albiet, not all of the many harmonics, but the main ones) and their respective dB levels.

Here is a small sample of what an FFT breakdown of the Commlock Beep (original recording) appears like:

Notice it has components of the original sound, but also a myriad of other outlying noises and background sounds. The other complicating factor is that any time you mix two sine waves together, you get many harmonic tones as well that are the result of the frequencies being added and subtracted from each other. Sometimes after I mix in a new sine wave and give it a listen, I find that I have to immediately remove it, as it is clearly not a part of the original effect.

I have taken apart the frequency components and timing of several of the sound effects. Using this information I have generated new tones, which sound pretty close to the previous wav files, but without all the other background sounds.

As I recreate these sounds, I select only the tones that I can tell are audibly associated with the sound effect in question. There were several other in-between tones that were below -36 dB and other higher tones which make the tone too "hissy". I simplified the tones to a shortened list for clarity, and drop some of the harmonics that contribute to noise.

I'm not certain what electronic devices they used during 1974 to create the sound effects for this show, but there are several which, when played in a smoothly repeating loop, sound a lot like a vintage combo organ. Looking at the timing of many of the sounds, there are some precision pulse-groups that signify some early digital timing electronic circuits may have been used. That signature pretty well stands out on the Commlock, Computer and Eagle console beeps and tones. Other sounds, like the Eagle's engines are harder to determine since they are such broad-spectrum sounds, but tend to make me think they are some compressor pump or motor that has been processed thru and audio filter.

To get the meaning of what I mean by a filter, take any explosion sound from Space:1999. They all have this "whoooo-wheeeee-whoooo" sound, during which time someone is diddling the knob on said filter from low to high and back to low again. Many of the sounds, like the Eagle's engine sound have this effect in a rather largely pronounced way, but the knob is being turned much more slowly.

Obviously, they had some tone generators and timing generators in use to create the console beeps and tones. As I evaluated more of the original recordings I noticed that some of the sounds that have two tones in them (like the Open Beep or Close Beep or Video Beep) had pulse intervals that were exactly the same in both tones, and many of the different tones have common exact frequencies between them (as thought it were a vintage organ circuit or something that they had hot-rodded with TTL timers or something). They were a little too precise to be done "by hand", (e.g. - 0.083 seconds each tone).

The Video Beep tone provided some interesting challenges in that they have the same frequencies, but at different levels, so the 2nd tone overall appears to drop an octave lower than the first tone. Components of both are actually present in both the 1st and 2nd tones. At the same time, it also contains some in-harmonic overtones that give it it's "airy" quality. I used some enhanced sound level envelopes to more accurately portray the sound I heard in the original recording, and I think it came out rather well. Comparing it to the original recording, you will notice it is missing both a good deal of background noise and a rather loud hum; it is quite a bit cleaner.

This same hum appears in all of the Main Mission original recordings. As you go back and review many of the episodes with decent speakers on your system, you will hear the background hum in most shots involving Main Mission. I am just guessing here, since it is not a typical 50Hz, 60Hz, 100Hz, or 120Hz hum (based on electrical power systems - that hum is what you hear on a lot of PA's and other poorly shielded sound systems) that it may have been deliberately injected into the soundtrack to augment the "Ambient" computer sounds.

Many times it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a recording off the DVDs that doesn't have other sounds or speech overlaying the desired sound effect.

This has pretty much been the premise of why I started this little audio project in the first place. I prefer audio files that are clean and free from artifacts. After experimenting with multiple audio filtering techniques, I realized there was no true way to completely filter out all of the artifacts; the only way I could see to get a pure sound effect file was to generate them from scratch and use only the primary tones that stand out from the background sounds before or after the actual tone I wanted to get.


Complex Sounds: Main Mission's Computer

There is one sound that I know everyone would love to have in its pure form, and that is the computer background sound made in Main Mission. As I have been listening to the complete episode audio files I've been recording for this website, it's hard to ever encounter one of those that isn't heavily laden with background noises and even footstep sounds. Also complicating this is the fact that when you are hearing this sound, it is usually at a very low audio level. When it's amplified to a normal dB level, it usually then reveals a great deal of rumble and hiss from the original recording as well as sounds of the actors' walking, chairs moving, etc.

Here's the sound I'm talking about:Main Mission 01

This sound is somewhat filtered for background noise, but only lightly.

Taking this filtered sound and copying it and pasting a reversed before the original sound you get the full sweep up/sweep down sound that we remember hearing on the show:
Main Mission 02

You can see at about 160000 samples where the 'middle' of the sound is, where it mirrors back on itself.

Filtering this sound to the point where I can determine what components make it up is very difficult. Almost every time you hear it throughout the series it is very low in volume and usually interrupted by speech, and interrupted by other mixed computer sounds. As my best filtering has revealed, it seems to be groups of 3 and 4 bursts of approximately 2000 - 2028Hz pulsed at an irregular rate of around 9 to 11 Hz.

To date, this is an approximate of what I believe to be the fundamental tone of the "Main Mission" sound. This is developed at the point where the filter is in its "wide open" condition. I am currently experimenting with different burst groups and filter settings to get the low-to-high-to-low quality associated with this sound. For now, here's the root sound:
Experimental Sound

I have taken multiple samples of this sound from various episodes, of course the best and longest was from Guardian of Piri where Koenig and the Guardian are talking. I have filtered this sound radically to obtain a decent product. The first is the original wav, the second one that I edited and folded over after itself again so you get the low-to-high, high-to-low as in the previous Main Mission 02 sound.

These highly filtered sounds are about as close as I can get to the original sound.

As if this weren't enough trouble, on Ring Around the Moon, there is a different ambient sound used there that has some similar components, but a totally different sound. Perhaps the best way I can describe this sound is what I would think a toilet flushing in the year 2040 is going to sound like.

Here is the file, but it is in WMA format for Windows Media Player, since it is long and I'm not concerned about posting a "pure" sound wave in this instance:
Ambient Sound

That's about all I've done for now. I will work on this more as time permits, hopefully one day I'll come out with a complete and purified Main Mission sound that will be as close to the original as it can be. Best wishes, and thanks for dropping by the site! Continue to read more below...

What People Are Saying:

"Joel, your work is more than spot on! I think it's kool. I took the recording of the Eagle take off, on a micro 10 sec. recorder toy. I put it on the bottom of the mattel eagle one playset and mailed it to my nephew. He just started to see the dvd's of Space:1999 and he is hooked on them. Mind you he is only 10. He loves the toy. But your recording makes it better! Thanks man." -
- Felix Benvenutty

"Hi: Do you think I could use some of your sounds in my phone? WAV files are the only kind I can use with it. Do you sell the files? Thank you in advance.
- Isaac Cavazos
No, I don't sell them - They are FREE! Just right-click on the links and download them!

"Joel, these sounds are pure and amazing. I have FFT experience in sound system analysis, and using it to find freq and amplitude... cool. I have loved Space:1999 since I was 15, and greatly appreciate the use of the decal jpgs to redo my AMT model... Thanks and keep up the work, you obviously have more time on your hands than me!"
- Kevin Beckham

"Very good!"
- Jon Withers

"As a lifelong Space:1999 fan, I was a little stunned to come across these sounds, you have done a remarkable job! Hoping to see what other great sounds you are able to extract! Best - mh"
- Matt Haley
ALERT: Matt Haley is a pro comic artist - Has a really great site at www.matthaley.com!

"Unbelievable job you have done! I like very much to hear sounds in general. Now I have the Space:1999 sounds! Thank you very much! I just put the commlock_hail in my cellular phone and when someone call me that sound is heard loud and in very good quality. When someone near my age near me listens this they look strange to me, maybe thinking: ”Hummm, where did I listen that sound before?”.
- Helder Hugo

"I thought you did a good job of it, Do you have other sci-fi tv shows/movie sound effects spanning the popular or not?"
- Gary
I have done a few sounds from some games, Mechwarrior 2 in particular, but no other SciFi series as of this writing.

"Hi..Spectacular show. I loved it,especially the first season episodes. They should do an episode where they, after all these years, finally return home for good. Super cool...this has always been one of my favorite shows on t.v.,never missed a single episode.Love the Eagles. NASA should build them for our Lunar Colony in 2020!!!"
- Clifton Toney

"I think the sounds are great! Thank you for your time and effort. I use the Orbiter simulator to fly Eagles and hope to include your work to enhance the effect. Thanks again!"
- Doug Keenan

"Fabulous job and really a blast from the past! Well done!"
- Ian Sharpe

"You did an excellent job my friend."
- 'Agamemnon'
Hmm, wasn't Agamemnon murdered by his own wife? ;-)

"I just came across your site and it’s fantastic. These sounds are so clean. I’m using them as various alerts for cell phone (every editable sound is now from Space:1999). I too have always like the comlock “ring” sound but I also have always like the subtle beeps, dings and tones of the Space: 1999 soundscape. Great work! Thanks for taking the time to do it."
- Steven Bridges


My humble thanks to all of you for your kind words. Keep them coming!

As time permits, I am continuing in my work (usually late at night after the kiddos have dropped off to sleep). As I find more of these sounds, analyze them and recreate them for clarity, I will continue to post them here. Be sure to visit often! Please drop me a line and tell me what you think of my work!

I have granted permission for the use of these sounds, because - hey, I'm a nice guy. But please let me know if you are using them with your website, I'd like to take a look at it, so just drop me a line in the feedback area, or email me! Thanks!

Joel

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