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Naughty Dog Sound Designer Breaks Down The Shamblers

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After breaking down the sound design of the glass in The Last Of Us Part 2, Sound Designer for Naughty Dog, Beau Anthony Jimenez has now broken down exactly how the game’s Shamblers were brought to life with their disgusting noises.

The most important thing that Jimenez tells us is that this was a brand new infected venture for the series. Of course, we know this, but it reaffirms the creative freedom that he had with putting how they sound together. Before any sounds were even made though, he spent a lot of time just taking in exactly what this evolution of the Infected looks like. He did this through the models the team were making, as well as the concept art for them.

After he’d absorbed as much as he could, he started recording as many sounds as he could that matched just how bizarre these Shamblers look. For the clicks and bark, new variants needed to be created because the Shambler is so very different from the previous evolution chain we’ve come to know from the Infected. He re-recorded clicks by using a vinyl tube and placing the microphone in a bucket, which apparently gave the sound a tubby sort of quality. Working on the clicks, these were actually made by Jimenez himself, slowed, and then mixed in with the bark noise he also made to create this completely new Infected’s voice.

Moving onto the Shambler’s explosive AOE attack, in which they pop out a spray of acidic spores, Jimenez needed to concentrate on what that should sound like in reality. He actually worked with the animation team on this, because he felt that with such an organic attack there should be some pre-fire pops, since no organism is as perfect as a game’s attack could be. This, in a way, informed how the Shamblers do this attack. The zit-bursting sounds came from grapefruits, and the bass on the explosion is from a CO2 canister blowing up a life jacket. However, the sound needed some texture to make it feel more organic. For this, Jimenez took a set of bellows, filled it with milky oatmeal, and created as nasty a sound as possible to meld with the rest and make that explosion.

Okay, so the explosion is done, but what about the sound of stuff burning as the acid spores hit it? The core of that sound is actually ice being heated. The sizzle is actually from taking boiling water and dripping it onto a pilot light. When combined, this is the sound of your body being burned by an organic acid.

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This wouldn’t be an Infected without some sort of voice mixed in there, every single Infected was once human after all. The pathetic sounds of the Shambler are what Jimenez calls his old man voice, but wetter. He mixed in some choking sounds for the non-combat state of these Infected, which is meant to reinforce the idea that the Shambler’s lungs are clogged up with all sorts of spores.

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This wasn’t the end though, and the team hired two voice actors to come in and make this feel like a tortured human, Raul Ceballos and Steve Blum. Raul managed to make the sounds that created the feel of this human being in pain, agony even, and straining all the time. Apparently he has a unique fluttery inhale that sounds like a pigeon from hell. Steve worked on the sickly grunts for the Shambler, and these brought the whole sound together. Jimenez says that the human elements of the Shambler’s sounds are what make it fit in with the lore of The Last Of Us, and I’m inclined to agree.

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