The Fleischer 100: Pi-powered sound effects

If there’s one thing we like more than a project video, it’s a project video that has style. And that’s exactly what we got for the Fleischer 100, a Raspberry Pi-powered cartoon sound effects typewriter created by James McCullen.

The Fleischer 100 | Cartoon Sound Effects Toy

The goal of this practical project was to design and make a hardware device that could play numerous sound effects by pressing buttons and tweaking knobs and dials. Taking inspiration from old cartoons of the 1930s in particular – the sound effects would be in the form of mostly conventional musical instruments that were often used to create sound effects in this period of animation history.

The golden age of Foley

Long before the days of the drag-and-drop sound effects of modern video editing software, there were Foley artists. These artists would create sound effects for cartoons, films, and even live performances, often using everyday objects. Here are Orson Welles and the King of Cool himself, Dean Martin, with a demonstration:

Dean Martin & Orson Welles – Early Radio/Sound Effects

Uploaded by dino4ever on 2014-05-26.

The Fleischer 100

“The goal of this practical project was to design and make a hardware device that could be used to play numerous sound effects by pressing buttons and tweaking knobs and dials,” James says, and explains that he has been “taking inspiration from old cartoons of the 1930s in particular”.

The Fleischer 100

Images on the buttons complete the ‘classic cartoon era’ look

With the Fleischer 100, James has captured that era’s look and feel. Having recorded the majority of the sound effects using a Rode NT2-A microphone, he copied the sound files to a Raspberry Pi. The physical computing side of building the typewriter involved connecting the Pi to multiple buttons and switches via a breadboard. The buttons are used to play back the files, and both a toggle and a rotary switch control access to the sound effects – there are one hundred in total! James also made the costumized housing to achieve an appearance in line with the period of early cartoon animation.

The Fleischer 100

Turning the typewriter roller selects a new collection of sound effects

Regarding the design of his device, James was particularly inspired by the typewriter in the 1930s Looney Tunes short Hold Anything – and to our delight, he decided to style the final project video to match its look.

Hold Anything – Looney Tunes (HD)

Release date 1930 Directed by Hugh Harman Rudolf Ising Produced by Hugh Harman Rudolf Ising Leon Schlesinger(Associate Producer) Voices by Carman Maxwell Rochelle Hudson (both uncredited) Music by Frank Marsales Animation by Isadore Freleng Norm Blackburn Distributed by Warner Bros.

We wish we had a Fleischer 100 hidden under a desk at Pi Towers with which to score office goings-on…