by Bruno Strapko
Any situation is the right situation to record whatever you hear. And sometimes what you don’t.
We all have an emotional response to sound effects. Take footsteps. Are they fast and sharp, like a woman in heels on a hard surface getting away from something? Does your heart beat faster? Or ocean waves crashing on the rocks. Calming?
Good effects evoke emotions.
Good sound effects evoke an emotional response from the listener. When producing effects, keep the resulting feeling in mind.
An example is my recording in Chicago of a busy shopping area in December. What one thing defines the season more than anything? The charity bell ringer on almost every corner. Makes you think of the warmth of a roaring fire and holidays with family. But what if you need everything in your ambience except the bells? For after the holidays? What to do?
I often record with a Soundfield microphone. Soundfield mics record 360 degrees on 4 channels which can be decoded into almost format – mono, stereo, 5.1 and so on. And is steerable. So in making a stereo version on the recording, I steered away from the bells to make a more “generic” track. New software allows for even greater directional control.
Using the many tools available to record and prep thick, dense, interesting backgrounds makes for sound effects that producers, sound designers and editors want to hear and want to use.
by Bruno Strapko
The idea of using sound for branding is not new, but particularly in Europe, is considered an important marketing speciality. Using all of the usual marketing techniques of research, trial and retrial, entire agencies target sonic branding. It is the least used branding method and considered the technique with the most growth potential.
Contributing audio and music to marketing and branding campaigns can be a lucrative source of income for the stock music composer.
At the 2012 Audio Branding Congress at the University of Oxford, virtually every research project and branding development came from Europe. Speaking to other attendees, they were surprised at the lack of American participation when they felt American development was extremely mature. Cases cited included Harley-Davidson’s famous exhaust tuning studio, Intel Inside, and the omnipresent McDonald’s audio logo. New work presented at Oxford included sound design for the atmosphere in Harrod’s famous toy department in London featuring regenerative soundscapes, audio logos for two famous European companies, and an entire suite of sonically different logo-based music for use throughout the Dell Computer organization.
Recent literature that sum up current directions in sonic branding include “Sound Business” by Julian Treasure of The Sound Agency and “Audio Branding”, a compilation of articles and studies representing all issues associated with creating effective audio branding.
While considered a niche, sonic branding can be a differentiating part of the portfolio of a sound designer and/or composer. The unique chances to present their work from typical broadcast and the Internet to prestigious and renowned public spaces can be a fulfilling and challenging opportunity. Presented properly, any sound design student can be introduced to opportunities very closely tied to the main thrust of their education track. With awareness of jingle writers and sound designers in studios for traditional advertising media, adding the potential in sonic branding is worth investigating.
I came across this story the other day talking about how Warner/Chappell Music is being sued for demanding royalty payments for the usage of the song “Happy Birthday,” and it brought to mind some important misconceptions about what it means for a sound effect or stock music track to be in the public domain.
As much as I personally dislike large music publishing conglom-a-corp-a-plunderbunds because I think large companies don’t have artists’ best interests at heart, but the fact remains that the song Happy Birthday is still under copyright. Just because the song is popular and well known doesn’t make the plaintifs case that “the song should be dedicated to public use…” Under that logic, MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” should be public domain because it is both popular and well known. Not true.
With that in mind, the question both video production companies and stock music and sound effects producers alike should ask themselves when considering a piece of stock audio for purhcase or sale is “Is everything in this track legal?” Of course, if it’s 100% originally composed and produced, like most music on Productiontrax, then of course it is legal. Even though the tracks are under copyright, they’re still licensed royalty free. But, if the sound effect or music track has audio in it recorded live, you have to check it for copyrighted sounds before uploading or downloading (uploading content that contains copyrighted sounds to Productiontrax is against the terms of service).
Is there a snippet of copyrighted music in it? Not legal.
Uses sample software or sampled sounds to produce the track? Legal.
Contains a sound of a tv or radio playing a copyrighted song? Not legal.
Contains a human singing Happy Birthday? Not legal.
Contains a piano playing a Chopin Waltz? Legal.
You get the idea. The key here is to double check your work. We triple check at Productiontrax when we can to make absolutely certain that the media you find here will be 100% licensable and not get you into a legal battle with a plunderbund, but keep these tips in mind when looking for sound effects from your favorite sound effects sharing site, or from some other music library that has some hard to find stock audio clips from 1950s television. Your legal budget will thank you.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s true, paying for music and adhering to copyright laws does create jobs, like in this post.
And yet, the “free music economy” persists, as more and more internet surfers demand cheap or free content to use as they please. But I think there is a happy medium between the “free music economy” and prohibitively expensive licensing, and that happy medium is stock music. As computer and mobile devices become increasingly more capable, and barriers to entry in creative tasks fall, more and more people want that soundtrack for their slideshow, presentation, home movie, or viral YouTube hit. I would say most infringers steal because they simply can’t afford to play the music industry’s game, nor is their project worthy of that kind of scrutiny.
Instead of stealing, though, which I think we can all agree stifles creativity and hurts content creators, keeping food off their tables and forcing otherwise talented artists to find work elsewhere, stock music is a reasonable, affordable alternative. Artists should look at ways they can bring their products to market in ways such as this as a more desirable alternative to giving away all their stuff for free. Doing so would counteract the pirate culture. I see stock music as bridging the gap, either to bring out an unknown’s work to the public, or to lengthen the revenue tail of a song that has fallen by the wayside amidst constant musical innovation.
Similarly, multimedia authors need to step back and do things the right way. Afterall, they probably wouldn’t like it if we broke into their home and took their family photos and plastered them online… unless they already do that on Facebook. There are options for affordable projects — and stock media is one of them, which effectively keeps musicians and artists employed and the economy running so that there will be new music for the next project.