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Wednesday
May182011

Upcoming SFX Library Reviews

I am about to launch a “column” on this blog that will review commercially available sound effects libraries, but before I publish the first review I want to take a bit of time to set some ground rules and explain where I am coming from with these reviews.  I want to explain how I use royalty free SFX in my work flow, whats important to me besides the actual sounds included and my time lines for the reviews.

There are sound editors on large movies and AAA console games that have the luxury with schedule, and budget, to go out and record from scratch most of what they need for each project and get fresh, great, amazing and unique soundtracks for their efforts. Sadly at this point in my career that is not an option for me.  I mostly work on animated television series, of the mid budget variety, enough to make a nice living off the projects but not enough to fund regular specialized field recording trips.  These programs also have fast turn arounds, sometimes I have to deliver a complete half hour episode (22 minutes of program), including ambience, foley and hard sync in just a few days, built from scratch.  This means I rely heavily on commercial royalty-free libraries in order to meet these dead lines and I need quality sounds in order to keep the clients happy and coming back for more.  Without a vast collection of sounds ready to go I simply can not do my job, so these libraries are extremely important to my ability to generate income.

Some libraries are meant as the basis for getting really imaginative and using them as elements to make other un-worldly sounds when combined and altered creatively.  While some are simply very usable sounds that are not flashy but make my life much easier with them in my toolkit.  

I will also be reviewing more then just the sounds, because great audio recorded expertly is perfectly useless if you can not find it.  So the way the audio files are organized as well as how rich the metadata embedded into the files will also be a major factor in my reviews.

There are lots of different software companies out there that make sound library search engines, and I am sure there are many great ones but I am going refer to Soundminer as my asset manager.  I have been using Soundminer exclusively for almost a decade (m-Tools before that) and I know it well and it seems to be the closest thing to an industry standard that I know of.

I have purchased libraries from the standard major players, Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge and more recently Blastwave, and they serve their purpose well and mostly do great jobs, but I am going to concentrate more on the recent wave of "Independent" or "Boutique" SFX libraries.  These are libraries being made by working Sound Editors/Designers that fill holes in the big boys products or simply offer more variety.  They are located all over the world, (US, Germany, New Zealand) and have varied perspectives and approaches.  Here is a link to a page on DesigningSound that lists many of the indie publishers I have been purchasing from recently.

http://designingsound.org/sfx-independence/

When one of my favourite bands comes out with a new album I read reviews of it from various websites I trust and figure out if I want to get the album the day it comes or not.  Sadly I will not be able to help with quick decisions like that on new SFX libraries, because doing a review immediately after I get my hands on a library would be pointless.  Depending on the size of a library it can take months before you really feel like you have a grasp on it, so I will be reviewing libraries after they have been out for a little while so I can dig into it and get a real idea of its strengths and weaknesses.  I will try to time my reviews to match up with a publishers next release so if you are thinking about getting a brand spankin' new library you can at least see how I felt about the previous release in order to get a gage on the quality level you can expect.

Finally to make sure you know I am not being paid off, everything I plan to review will be something I purchased with my own cash so I have no reason to pull punches, I will give you my honest opinions and you can form your own ideas from there.

Starting next week I will be posting a new review every month along with the other posts on this blog.  I have a couple ready to be reviewed and I am not sure which one will start the party off.  Check back to see........

Reader Comments (2)

I'm really glad you have come forward and said this! There seems to be a huge taboo or a certain amount of snobbery about using library source! I am in the exact same situation as you, I'm a full time professional audio designer for games and without library source I would be stuck due to timing, last minuite design changes, and minimal budget to really get what I need! Recently I've needed lots of impacts and destruction but when I costed this all together, there really wasn't the time or money to go out and do it myself.

Yes I try and do as much recording as possible, especially with foley as it gives me a bit more flexibility working with bespoke animations! But for bread and butter work I use a hell of alot library source. I really do find it a skill using library audio creativley, I always layer tracks, using snippets of a sample, dsp etc.

Recently I have been looking at purchasing some new SFX for my work so I really look forward to your reviews! Thanks for your efforts!

P.s I'm using basehead for my library searching and it's a beast, moved over from sound miner 3 years ago and never looked back! It's all personal preference though!

May 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGameaudionerd

Thanks for the post Gameaudionerd. There are tons of us out there making a living working with library source sounds, but you are right sometimes it feels wrong to use them.

It's great to record specifics when possible but the libraries are a great thing to have.

May 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterMuirhead

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