Disclaimer: Fire is dangerous. Whenever working with fire keep appropriate safety measures around including, but not limited to, a fire extinguisher, gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants. Call your local Fire Marshall or department if you have any questions.

Everybody loves fire. It cooks our food, warms our homes, and melts our delicious, delicious smores. My mom always told me, “not to play with fire.” Apparently the lesson never stuck.
Fire & Flame Sound Effects Bonfire

I’ve tried a number of times to record fire, flame, flame whooshes, sizzling, popping, snapping and all other sorts of fire sounds. I’ve had the fortune of being pretty successful too. (The hard part with fire is getting it to cut through a dense video game mix.)

My first attempt was straightforward and basic: I set up my charcoal grill & got a group of coals nice and hot. Taking an empty can from the kitchen, I filled it with lighter fluid and dumped it on the fire. The trick with this method is to get a good dump so the fluid doesn’t splatter but all goes up in one big POOF! Eventually (and wholly on accident), I set the can aflame, for one of my favorite searing sounds ever.

CansOfLighterFluid by dsteinwedel

That same night I figured out that moving flame sounds way better than static flame. Being in the zone I improvised. An old rag wrapped around a broomstick and doused in lighter fluid turned into a torch. The following set of whooshes has been turned into a number of weapons (both guns and melee pieces), stand in well for a flame up, and are great as transition and bumper elements.

TorchFlameWhooshes by dsteinwedel

I’m going to skip over the flares, bacon, gas heater, cooking, and a few other “boring” sessions in the middle.

Which brings us to the big day of Giant Flamethrower Man! Working on RPGs means I was becoming overloaded with weapons that continuously spray fire, monsters breathing fire, and magic attacks based in fire. Getting a collection of big fire became
Fire & Flame Sound Effects Flamethrower
useful enough to warrant spending the money on a proper session. This is one of the larger and more complicated sessions I have orchestrated. First, I had to find a location with enough open space to keep from starting a wildfire. It also had to be on the quiet side of quiet as fire isn’t loud. I had to get permits from the county Fire Marshall, book insurance, and jump through a number of other hoops. (On top of finding a dude (Justin) to *safely* supply us with and operate flamethrowers.)

We used a number of fuels which gave different aural characteristics. Methanol, gasoline, and propane (and mixes of the latter two) were all used through modified paint sprayer. The methanol had a more shooshy quality to it while the gasoline and propane packed more of a punch. We recorded a whole cadre of effects: Short bursts, medium shots, long steadies, short/medium/long takes of controlled flame movements (these translated well as sound), and running out of fuel.

MethanolGasoyourneOutOfFuel by dsteinwedel

Justin also brought along a pair of flame cannons. While these sound more like huge air releases they do pack a big punch and are one of the loudest things I’ve ever heard (including weapon shoots & the F/A18 which buzzed me a few posts back).

FlameCannon by dsteinwedel

As the day drew to a close, we created a little bonfire to try burning different objects. One chemical compound in particular provided a very nice, sizzly fire sound. The wind picked up and buffeted our fire, adding quality ripping sounds to our take for the day.

Bonfire by dsteinwedel

Fire & Flame Sound Effects Recorder Setup
Recording & Library Geek Notes: We recorded to two FR-2s and two Sound Devices 744s @ 24/96. Mics used included a 191, SASS, SM57, MD421, DPAs, AKG 112, Sony Lav, KMR82, & MKH40. (We also tried some PZMs but they just weren’t picking up much of anything.) The final, mastered material takes 6.66 gigabytes of disk space (seriously).