Tag Archives: sound fx

Using Royalty Free Sound Effects to Create High Quality Location Sound

If you’ve ever filmed a scene on a windy day or outside on a busy street, you know how valuable sound effects are for recreating or even creating ambience and the audio landscape from scratch. If you’re a seasoned sound editing pro, or a beginner looking to get in on the basics, follow these three tips to create a vibrant soundtrack for your film or video using royalty free sound effects.

royalty free sound effects1) Start with variety, avoid looping. It can be tempting to put sound effects on loop. But if you need to create a soundscape of a busy intersection with lots of cars passing by, select several different cars and different “car passing by” sound effects. Why? Think about it: when you’re on the street, does the same care pass you by 30 times in 2 minutes? No, they’re all different. So find as many different drive-by sound effects as you can, and do your best not to loop the same one over and over again. You can vary timing of entrances, stagger multiple, even mess with the eq or tone of individual effects if you only have a couple to work with. This will enhance realism, and give you the most realistic sound.

2) Pick dry sound effects over affected effects. In other words, add your own reverb (echo). No two sound effects are going to have been recorded in the same space, so to make your audience believe their ears, you’ll have to tweak the reverb a bit. In a cave? Add some echo. On a windy mountain top, go as dry as you can. In a tiled room, put just enough reverb on the effect to make it sound like the noises are bouncing off the tiles. When you do this, be sure to take note of your reverb settings, and try to get a consistent sound when you’re creating sounds in the same “room”.

3) Use your ears in real life. Go out to the ocean and listen. Really listen. What do you hear on that shoreline? Is it realistic to put a barge passing by in your soundbed in a beach scene? Not likely. Listening closely to the way rooms and locations sound in real life will help you create better, more realistic sounding atmospheres. It will also get your creative juices flowing. Can you hear construction outside an office window? How about the sound of kids playing in a park — the rub of a slide, or the thud of falling to the ground? Getting a grasp on the individual elements that make up chaos is an important step in the soundtrack creation process.

Pro Tip: Good Sound Effects Evoke Emotion

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.

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.

5 Ways To Record Better Sound Effects

sound effectsRecording sound effects or building a catalog of sounds to sell on some royalty free music or stock audio library sites? Follow these five tips for maximizing your library’s size and overal success. You’ll find that, with just a little careful planning and organization, you’ll be able to curate the sound library that your production business needs to succeed.

1) Make a list in advance. Just as film producers create a list of shots they need to complete a scene or a video, and optimize their lists to minimize shooting time (equipment rental is expensive, man), so should the professional sound designer. Whether your goal is to get a single animal sound, or a collection of city ambiences, know what you’re going for before you get on location. Make a list, and be specific! Do you need footsteps? Howling? Traffic? Once you’ve got your list, you can then optimize your locations — for example, you can get footsteps on a sidewalk, and at the same time get some traffic sounds if you record on a busy street. You can save time, and at the same time, get creative with your catalog. A little pre-planning can go a long way.

2) Invest in a high quality microphone and DAW. While technology is getting better and better, and cheaper quality equipment is becoming increasingly available, it’s still important for sound effects producers to invest in great gear. Do your homework, because just like quality gear is becoming cheaper, cheap gear is becoming more and more prevalent. Find microphones that have excellent reponse at all frequencies, a solid hard disk to store your takes to, and don’t skimp on your editing software. A quality digital audio editor such as ProTools or Logic can save you time and make your audio sound great.

3) Edit, Edit, Edit. Getting rid of extraneous noises is key in creating quality sound effects that are ready to use in production. No one wants footstep sounds with dogs barking in the background when they’re searching for footstep sound effects. Cut the extra sounds, and your clients will thank you for it. Reduce the ambient noise as much as you can, as this will allow your sound effects to be used in as many different projects as possible without much editing. Separating your sounds this way will also pay off big in the size of your catalog.

4) Master your recordings and create high-resolution mixes. Invest in some quality mastering plug-ins. This will make your recordings have the loudness they need, along with the equalization required to make them sound their best. But remember, don’t over-master. Chances are that whoever is purchasing your audio is likely to edit the effects to suit their specific needs. You can coun’t on them adjusting volume, changing reverb, or mixing with other sounds. The key is to give them the best base material possible. Along these lines, don’t forget to bounce to uncompressed formats like WAV or AIFF, which have far superior sound quality than a highly compressed MP3.

5) Tag and Describe your Sound Effects accurately. When you’ve completed your mixes, don’t just label your files Car 1, Car 2, Car 3. That doesn’t tell your customer anything about the sound they’re looking at, and wastes their time. If you’ve recorded a Ferrari Testarosa revving up it’s engine, label the file that way. People searching sound effects libraries have tons of material to go through, and need help finding things quickly. Similarly, you can save yourself numerous headaches when you need to dig up a file from your archives a year from now. With a little forethought and organization, you can build a better sound effects library with minimal effort.

Sonic Branding – Using Music and Sound Effects to Create a Brand

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.

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.