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.

Sell Stock Music and Sound Effects on Your Own Site

Now you can turn any webpage into your own personal royalty free stock media store, complete with production music, sound effects and audio, stock footage, and stock photos, thanks to our brand new remote store widgets. While setting up your own remote store widget it super simple, we’ve put together a short tutorial of how to get up and running in a matter of minutes.

admin menuStep 1: Log in to your Productiontrax contributor account, and click on the “Remote Store Widget” link in the main menu bar on the left side of the page. Don’t have an account? Create one — it’s simple and it’s free. From there, click the link to create a new widget, or select one from your widget list if you already have one set up.

Step 2: Once you’re in the widget editor, add a catchy title and tag line using the editor options on the right hand side, and select the contributor logo image you want to use on your widget. As soon as you make changes, your changes will save, and the widget will update automatically.

search filtersWe’ve added some display filters to the widgets that make them uber-useful for any contributor. First, you’ll notice a menu that allows you to either show media from just your account or show media from all of Productiontrax. The former will come in useful for those wanting to sell just their own stock audio files, while the latter option is great for leveraging the entire Productiontrax royalty free library, essentially creating a complete copy of the library on your site. You’ll also notice that you can specify which kinds of media to display in your widget – either royalty free music, sound effects, stock photos, or stock footage. You can select one, all, none, or any combination in between.

When designing your widget, remember that you can create as many widgets as you like, and put them on as many websites as you like. So, you might want to create a separate widget for your stock music and sound effects (or one for each), one for your stock footage, and a separate one for your stock photos. Figure out if multiple stores works best for your media, and if so, set your filters accordingly.

darkhive skinStep 3: Select your colors and theme out your widget to match your website. In most cases, you’ll need to use our color pickers or you’ll have to know the hex color codes to match your website’s look. Our editor allows for both, and we have some pre-styled buttons to match. Here’s where you can take a little shortcut, and use one of our pre-set themes (check out the dark hive theme at right). Using these themes are what we like to call inline style overrides — so any changes you make to your widget’s colors will be changed at launch time when a visitor happens on your your site. To use a style override, just scroll to the bottom of the editor, and pick the style you like.

checkoutStep 4: Get your code and paste it in to your website’s HTML. We provide the code you need to display your widget on your website seamlessly. And it’s a single line of simple HTML. Simply copy and paste from the code box at the top of the editor (or from the selected inline style override panel at the bottom, if you’re using one of those. Then launch your website, and bask in the glory that is your remote store widget.

Some features to note:

All credit card processing AND file downloading is done via SSL right in the widget. Your visitor never leave your site for any part of a transaction. The widget is a fully-featured track preview, shopping cart, checkout and download tool. We recommend strongly that you use HTTPS on your site, and an HTTPS connection is required in the widget’s src attribute.
• The widget is stretchy horizonatlly. It will expand to fill the space if you change the widget’s width attribute in the HTML code. The widget will not change height at this time.
• As of this writing, video playback may not work on all browsers due to a browser security restriction. We’re working on this, but the widget plays video on most browsers to a barebones extent.

Professional Use of Sound Effects in Filmmaking

At one time, films were silent. They did not have a score, audible actors or the audio effects that we have come to expect in modern pictures. Back then, the first movies with sound were called “talkies.” This is similar to how motion picture was first shortened to “movie.” Nowadays, it is standard for a film to feature licensed or original music, a score that heightens the drama and intensity of the onscreen action and a plethora of carefully-selected sound effects.

Choosing the right effect can do an amazing job of intensifying onscreen action. Without the screech of the tires and the reverberating sound of the metal, a high-speed car crash would not have the same impact, even if it was depicted using state of the art effects techniques. Properly chosen and filtered ambient noise can make the audience feel like they are physically in the setting of the film. The recorded and processed sounds of crowds, rainstorms and city noise can set the mood and add a great deal of depth to any scene.

With how crucial audio effects are to the overall cohesion of a film, choosing the wrong effects can prove catastrophic. As an example, consider the American film “The Ring.” This picture was based on a Japanese film entitled “Ringu.” In one scene, a mother tosses her daughter into a well. In the American version, this was accomplished using silence from a tape and ambient noise for the scene in which the tape was being played. “Ringu” opted for a cartoon “Thwap” effect. This is a prime case of where it is crucial to avoid cliche effects and unrealistic content in order to keep the audience engaged.

Sound Effects and Cue Sheets

Because of the lack of education in the film production community about cue sheets, we get a constant flow of questions about cue sheet filings. This post’s question is about sound effects.

Question: We purchased some audio sound effects from Productiontrax.com recently, and are filing cue sheets. Do we need to include every sound file we used on the cue sheet? How do we do this?

You can breathe a sigh of relief, because this one has an easy answer: no. Sound effects are not entered on cue sheets (unless it’s a bona fide musical composition).

There’s a technical copyright-law-legalese explanation for why that is, but basically, one can’t stake a claim to the underlying intellectual property of a fart or a honk or a quack or a bark or a… you get the idea. While the actual sound recording is copyrighted, and yes, you need to license it, there is no public performance right associated to it, and therefore, there is no need to track it.

As briefly mentioned, however, the one exception is when a sound effect contains a musical composition. For example, a sound effect of someone playing or singing Happy Birthday would need to be reported on a cue sheet. Why? Because the song Happy Birthday is under copyright (yes it is) and has public performance rights and royalties attached to it.

Hopefully, this should come as a relief to all of you out there who like to throw a million sound effects into a single production project — like we did in our YouTube video. Leave the sound effects off your cue sheets (in fact, our automated cue sheet tool will not even let them be entered) — and sit back and enjoy the fruits of you labor for once.

Free Sound Effects Exchange Sites – Are They Good For The Sound Designer?

It’s not new — there are tons of free sound effects sites out there that give away sound files. The idea is simple, sound designers can upload their collections to these massive libraries, and then the masses flock to the site to download them. Perfectly legal, and perfectly free.

It seems like a win for the consumers, and the average joe looking for a quick booooiinng, but where is the sound designer in all of this? It’s quite surprising to see several big name sound designers giving away their product for free because it’s “good advertising.” Sites that database and archive sounds and allow free downloads by the masses seem to think that they are doing the world a huge favor, when in fact, they are merely hurting the artists and creative production professionals that they’re building their audio file archives upon (leaving sound effects pirates out of the mix here, no pun intended).

Sound designers invest a lot of money into buying expensive audio recording equipment. They spend years training, and more years perfecting recording and editing techniques. If a user is not willing to shell out a few cents for a sound effect, or even a couple of dollars to use royalty free sound effects in their projects, they should have to record the sounds themselves. They’ll quickly realize the hard work it takes to create a sound.

Productiontrax.com Expands Royalty Free Music and Sound Effects Offerings With Pro Sound Effects

Phoenix, Arizona – Productiontrax.com (Royalty Free Music at Productiontrax.com), a global leader in royalty free music and media distribution, today announced an expanded partnership with Pro Sound Effects. The expanded partnership will make over 30,000 new royalty free sound effects and royalty free music files available for download on the Productiontrax.com website.

The addition of the new sound libraries from Pro Sound Effects will push Productiontrax.com’s overall offerings above a quarter-million total files, making Productiontrax.com one of the most comprehensive royalty free media sites on the web. “We are very excited to welcome these new libraries from Pro Sound Effects to the Productiontrax.com family. The huge diversity of high-quality professional sound effects and music tracks truly sets Productiontrax.com apart from it’s competition. We’re pleased to be able to continue to grow our library to serve the production needs of our clients, says David Negron, founder and CEO of Productiontrax.com.

The new content from Pro Sound Effects is available immediately, and more is being added to the site in stages. “Adding such a large amount of content is a huge undertaking, so we are taking our time to make sure that the content is accurate and complete when we present it to our customers,” says Negron. The new sounds and music files are available in MP3, WAV, and FLAC formats for immediate download and royalty-free use in any multimedia project, including video games, television, movies, presentations, and more.

Productiontrax (www.productiontrax.com), a leader in online distribution and licensing of royalty free music and sound effects, enables customers to license superior-quality royalty free music, sound effects, stock photos and stock video footage for use in film, television, and interactive media on an on-demand basis. As an innovator in online stock media, Productiontrax.com is the first site to allow creators of royalty free production music, sound effects, stock images and video to take an active role in licensing their work to the public. Productiontrax.com is dedicated to providing its customers with high-quality, yet affordable resources for multimedia productions. The music and images are 100% original, with new composers, new tracks and new images added everyday. Productiontrax.com is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona and is a subsidiary of One Light Music Productions.

Huh, huh, huh, fire, huh, huh.

New royalty free music on Productiontrax.com this week:
Be sure to check out our featured contributor of the day on Twitter for even more great tracks!

Royalty Free Music
New Royalty Free Background Music
Need something energetic, yet unobtrusive to sit behind a narration on a podcast or business powerpoint presentation? Or maybe you need a music bed for your next advertisement? Check out these specially crafted background tracks.

Arabian/Middle-Eastern Tracks – More Affordable Than Gas
The turmoil in the Middle East is on everyone’s mind, so we’re making it easier for you to produce projects about out of control oil prices. Fill up your tank with fresh Arabian/ Middle-Eastern World grooves without having to give up a kidney.

Sound Effects
Royalty Free Comedy Sound Effects
If your jokes just aren’t as funny as our marketing people think they are, nothing says “laugh now” better than one of our thousands of comedy sound effects. From laugh tracks to boings and arruuuuuuugggaaahs, we’ve got your stand-up arsenal covered.

Stock Footage

Stock Footage: Fire

We’ve got a collection of fire video footage that will leave even Beavis and Butthead drooling. Huh, huh huh huh, huh. Add some heat to your next project with these shots in HD and SD. Fire video also makes for awesome background projections for concerts and happy hour.

Stock Photos
Get Outdoors with Naturescapes Stock Photos
Whether you’re working on a print project for nature activists, or designing a vacation activity website, these stunning hi-resolution stock photos from professional photographers around the globe will add that natural outdoorsy feel with ease. No credits, no hassles — the best stock photo deal on the planet!

DJ Elements
New DJ Elements: Loops & Beats
Keep those turntables turning with awesome new beats and loops in the Productiontrax.com DJ Elements section. Perfect for mash-ups, live events, and anything else you can think of.