What is this sound effect I keep hearing?
April 7, 2010 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Is there a name for the "gate opening" sound effect I keep hearing?

In the vein of the Wilhelm scream, I've noticed this one "creaky gate" sound effect that keeps showing up in movies (and other things). Unfortunately, at the moment I can only remember a few examples:

Reign of Fire: near the beginning, when Christian Bale opens up the gate of the compound to come out and greet the American soldiers.

Final Destination (the original): it's been a while since I've seen it, but as I recall we hear it when Ali Larter opens up her garage/workshop to show Devon Sawa her sculpture.

Lego Batman for Wii: all over the place... basically whenever a door opens.

I wish I could remember more. I've heard it so many times but it never occurred to me to keep track of it till now. It sometimes shows up as an actual creaky gate (like in Reign of Fire) but it's been used for a variety of things... access panels, doors of fuse boxes, etc.

Is this a sound design in joke, like the Wilhelm? Does it have a name? Or is it just sound designers being lazy?
posted by brundlefly to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Its not just me then! (assuming we're talking about the same sound effect). I've noticed that pretty much every show I watch uses the same sound effect for everything from big metal doors, dumpsters, gates, of all kinds - it drives me nuts. I just don't understand the reason for it - in most cases the actors are opening a real door or dumpster or whatever so I don't see the need to actually add the sound in there.

Ever since I first noticed it, I can't not notice it any more and it really annoys me, its just so jarring now.
posted by missmagenta at 10:26 AM on April 7, 2010

>>I just don't understand the reason for it - in most cases the actors are opening a real door or dumpster or whatever so I don't see the need to actually add the sound in there.

Most ambient sounds that you hear in a movie are actually added in afterward: foley artists.
posted by heyforfour at 10:54 AM on April 7, 2010

Maybe a slight tangent, but there's another one: a particular noise of a giggling child. Used for the "laugh" sound effect in Trillian (IM client), and I've heard it in many commercials etc. Most of the time it sounds creepy.
posted by jozxyqk at 10:55 AM on April 7, 2010

Response by poster: I think I know what you're talking about, jozxyqk.
posted by brundlefly at 11:19 AM on April 7, 2010

Response by poster: Evidently it was used all the time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
posted by brundlefly at 11:27 AM on April 7, 2010

The worst, to me, are the Doom sounds; the Doom rocket sound is used for basically anything passing by at a high rate of speed, and the Doom door sound occurs with some frequency in surprising contexts.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:34 AM on April 7, 2010

I like it when they Foley in the sound of squealing tires when the car isn't driving on pavement. I've heard tires squeal on sand, gravel, mud... pretty funny stuff!

Someone once told me that there's only one big sound library for all of Hollywood, and the "good" sounds get used over and over again. Why re-record the sound of a creaking door when you've got a perfectly good Sound Effect File #32-A59, "Door Creaking"?
posted by ErikaB at 11:53 AM on April 7, 2010

i hear it in tense moments in reality TV alllllll the time. i just realized i was about to start listing the reality TV shows i'd heard it in and became amazed and ashamed so i'm just going to leave it at "there must be an industry standard sound effects package that they all buy".
posted by radiosilents at 12:41 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it the one at the 45 second mark in this video? I always think of this as the Daggerfall door sound, since that's the first place I remember hearing it. It seems to pop up a lot.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:46 PM on April 7, 2010

I've always figured it was a foley artist 'inside joke', like including the Wilhelm scream. There's the creaky door sound, as well as a certain pottery breaking noise that's used all over... the breaking noise is played like 12 times in 'Wet Hot American Summer', to the point that it's obviously deliberate. I had a previous Ask thread trying to identify the specific noises, there might be some useful links there.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:52 PM on April 7, 2010

Response by poster: That's not it, Lentrohamsanin. You can hear it at 4:25 in this video (Reign of Fire).
posted by brundlefly at 12:56 PM on April 7, 2010

A lot of the time, these sounds are quickly dubbed from the BBC sound effects library; the theatre department had a complete set when I was in college, on vinyl. I don't have the time nor memory to track down those specific sounds, but usually if it's the same sound effect heard everywhere, it's probably from the BBC library.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:47 PM on April 7, 2010

Yeah, it's a pre-recorded effect for sure - just like the bog-standard "cat being stepped on scream" you hear in every frickin' show every time anyone is sneaking through an alley or other dark place. I often wonder why directors allow the use of such generic sounds on shows where they obviously spend so much time and care on every other detail.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:38 PM on April 7, 2010

I've heard that exact sound in the Jersey Devil video game I used to play, a long long time ago.


1:33 here.

No idea what it's called, though.
posted by shesaysgo at 5:21 PM on April 7, 2010

I hear the same baby cry *all* the time.

And I know I've heard the AIM contact sign on sound elsewhere too.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:04 PM on April 7, 2010

My dad is a professional sound designer, mixer and editor.

For a lot of movies, yeah, the sound effects are done by professional foley artists, but they're fairly expensive and require a relatively large amount of time. If you're making a video game or teevee show or car commercial or whathaveyou, most editors go to their sound effects libraries, which are giant collections of CDs available for purchase for audio professionals (I believe there's a yearly licensing fee involved as well). These libraries include many, many variations on various sound effects such as dog barks, footsteps, doors slamming, etc. However, there are only a handful of preferred libraries, meaning that inevitably certain effects are recycled across different programs/spots/games/films/radio shows. The rest is confirmation bias, and that's up to you.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:22 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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