This is part of Azimuth's Blog’s ongoing feature of SFX library reviews. Please take a moment to read the Ground Rules, if you have not had a chance to do so yet, to get an idea of what I use the libraries for and what my criteria are.
Chuck Russom is a sound effects editor and a field recordist based out of California and has many major-release console games on his credit list. Last year he started his own SFX company, offering, according to his website, "smaller/focused collections of sounds to serve as elements for sound designers to build their own sonic creations from." This review is going to cover the company's second library release simply named "Rock Sound Library."
There is a good post on Russom's blog covering how this library was made and his motivation for building an effects library out of rocks. Take a minute to read it here.
Before I get to the review, let me explain how I came to pick up this library. I was working on a low budget film starring Cuba Gooding Jr./Christian Slater called "Sacrifice" that featured a car chase on gravel roads. This chase scene took place in a small area with lots of obstacles so the cars were stopping and starting and changing from forward to reverse very rapidly, and with each new direction there were tires spinning, throwing gravel and rocks all over the place. I was hoping to record some new effects on my own to help fill out this scene. Now, there is a problem where I live (Toronto) in that it is very difficult to record anything specific outdoors in the summertime. The city is always quite loud and if you drive out of the urban areas you enter vast stretches of forest which can be even louder than the city, what with the leaves rustling in the wind, the birds chirping and the tireless crickets at it day and night. It’s a real challenge to record detailed sounds outdoors that are clear of environmental noise. It’s possible - but it takes a lot of organization, patience and time (the one thing I haven’t got a lot of these days.) So when I saw this library I grabbed it right away. I was really hoping that this Rocks library could help get me through the gravel and rock debris in this car chase scene.
The collection is easy to download from the Russom FX website; once unzipped it’s 280MB and consists of 388 separate audio files. Recorded at 192kHz and 24 bit means they’re high-resolution files, ready for extreme plug-in manipulation. The metadata is organized with filenames that all start with "rock" and from there are divided into two categories: impacts and debris. Next is listed the kind and size of rock (i.e. concrete, cinderblock, large rock, gravel) then the action (dropped, thrown, sledgehammer) and each filename ends with a track I.D. code: company/library/track#. So a typical filename would be:
Rock Impact Rock Dropped On Dirt CRFX-002_348
Once the collection is loaded into Soundminer the description field is very repetitive, with many of the files having the exact same description. For example, 25 different audio files have the description "Rock: Impact: Dirt: Large rock dropped onto dirt/sand." In many ways this makes perfect sense as there are lots of takes of the same action and there is wide variety among those takes. Having so many options is really great, but I think it would have been helpful to have a different take number in each file’s description to quickly distinguish between them and remember which one you’ve used. There is a different track number for each take in the filename field but those numbers reach into the high 300’s so they are not easily remembered a few days later. With such a focused subject matter and lots of takes of the same actions, I am not really sure how I would vary the descriptions, but given that this collection is not very big this is not too much of a problem. If it was a larger library I would find this metadata issue a bit frustrating. Here is a shot from Soundminer of another search that turned up repetitive metadata:
The files are edited so, for the most part, only one take is in each WAV file, so you can quickly rip through them all in Soundminer. I like this method of delivery better then having multiple takes all in one file but I can see the pros and cons of both styles; this way just works best for me.
In terms of the actual sound quality, this collection delivers really well. All tracks have essentially zero background environmental noise, which is fantastic; it sounds like it was recorded in a studio it is so clean. There is a nice low end to the large rock drops and lots of detail in the quieter debris sounds. The sledgehammer hits are pretty cool, and I have found uses for them as elements in a bunch of contexts outside of rock sounds, like bone snaps and tree falls. The variety of material is great too as the cinderblock sounds are very different from the bricks and rocks. There are not many sounds in here that are ready to simply drop on the timeline and be done, but when you start combining a bunch of sounds in this collection and start pitching down some of the impacts you can end up with some really beefy explosions with lots of great-sounding debris in their wake. I really look forward to the next earthquake or landslide I have to cut SFX for, because this will really come into play on that type of work.
But back to the project for which I specifically purchased this library… The sounds worked great and the chase scene was really cool when I finished cutting it, largely due to this collection. And then when the film hit final picture lock… most of this scene got cut out. Damn it!!! Ain't that always the way.
The price for this library is USD $70.00, which works out to 18 cents per sound. This is about the average price per sound for SFX libraries, so it is not a super deal but not a rip-off either. (Update: Actually this collection is on Sale for the month of June, So it is a super deal now at $50)
As always, in the end I rate a SFX library on whether I can find what I need quickly and if the sounds make my work better. Rocks Sound Library definitely makes my work sound better and although it takes a bit of time to go through all the sounds with identical metadata, the aural variety in the takes makes it time well spent. I use this library a lot and would recommend it to anyone needing rock sounds.
Here is the demo of the collection from SoundCloud: