Creating a sound effects library is a task that combines creative thinking, technical execution and project management skills. At 344 Audio we have developed an efficient and effective process that has been honed over countless releases and allows us to consistently generate new content over time.
In this article, we will share this process with you step by step, and give you all the tools you need to start creating your own sound effects libraries.
Step 1 - Concept
The first thing you need to figure out when creating a sound effects library is the concept. This can be anything you want, but it helps to focus on a certain theme, aesthetic or type of sounds that work together.
Some previous examples of our library concepts include: Practical Doors - Practical Doors contains a range of interior and exterior door sound effects with common uses: open, close, creak, slam, keys, locks, latches, knocks and many more! Trailer instruments Designed - Trailer Instruments Designed contains a variety of effects captured from instruments and manipulated into impacts, drones, stingers, risers and more. The Burger Kitchen - The Burger Kitchen contains a wide variety of food preparation, eating and handling sounds captured in our foley suite.
As we can see, these libraries each have a unique theme and focus on different kinds of sounds, and would be useful in different contexts. Having a solid concept is key as it not only gives you boundaries to work within, but will help add some personality to your library and help it stand out in the marketplace.
Step 2 - Structure
Once you have your concept nailed down the next step is to decide on the structure of your library. This means how many sounds will there be in total? How will you organise the sounds within the library and how many subfolders will your library contain? Let's use an "Impacts Library" as an example 80 files in total Folder 1 - Electronic Impacts - 20 Sounds
Folder 2 - Organic Impacts - 20 Sounds
Folder 3 - Designed Impacts - 20 Sounds
Folder 4 - Crazy Metallic Impacts - 10 Sounds
Folder 5 - Sub Impacts - 10 Sounds
Using this structure as a reference, you can make a list of sounds that you will need to record to build the library.
Structuring your library in this way breaks up the content and makes it easier for the user to find the sounds they are looking for. It also helps you during the recording and editing phase as you know exactly what you are working towards in terms of the number of sounds and what is in each subfolder.
Step 3 - Recording
Now we are getting to the fun stuff. The recording phase is where the magic happens, so it's crucial that you get this stage of the process absolutely spot on! A few things to consider before you begin recording are: What kind of sounds are you recording? Are they more external "field recording" sounds or are you able to capture them in a controlled studio environment?
Do the sounds need to be in mono or stereo? Mono is most common for "spot fx" and stereo is more commonly used for atmos, or sounds with an inherent spacial element to them such as a car passing left to right, trains going past etc. What kind of microphones and pickup patterns will you be using? Dynamic, Condenser, Shotgun, Cardioid mic etc. Are the sounds being processed heavily during the editing & design stage? Once you have given this some thought and have decided on your approach, it's time to start making some noise. Whilst the recording stage can most definitely be completed by one person, it is much easier when there are 2 people doing it, as one of you can take charge of recording whilst the other can "perform" the sounds. We recommend working in a team of 2 for maximum speed and efficiency during this stage of the process.
Operating as a pair, work through the list of sounds that you wrote during the structure phase until you have captured all of the source material that you need in order to build the library. As a general rule it's always more favourable to have too much source material over not enough, so make an effort to capture as much as possible. By taking a little extra time and capturing as many sounds as you can you will be giving yourself the most amount of content to work within the editing & design phase.
Step 4 - Editing & Additional Design
With the recording complete it's now time to move into the editing and design phase. This is where you will take your raw source material and start bringing them to life, either through editing or additional design and effects processing.
When editing your sounds, it's important to consider the end-user and in what context they will be using the sounds. For example, when editing our Practical Doors library, we specifically made all of the doors have a consistent level and frequency content, so that they would all feel right when placed in a scene together. You should edit your sounds in a way that makes things easy for the sound editor so that they can drop sounds into their project timeline and work within the scene with minimal fuss. There is a lot more to editing than just chopping files, making fades and stripping silences. The editing phase is your chance to be really creative, and give your sounds that bold, dramatic feel that will make them stand out. Some techniques to implement during editing include: Play with extremes - Don't play it safe. Embrace large dynamics and make use of contrast between quiet and loud sounds to maximise their impact.
Heighten the drama - Try and edit your sounds in a way that conjures up an image, indicates some real-world physicality and motion or has a visceral effect on you when you hear it. For example, in our gore library "Slaughter" we were editing sounds for a human body being crushed. We spend a lot of time thinking about how this would actually play out in reality, and the different phase's of the body being broken down, skin, bones, blood, guts etc. Approach editing like this took our sound from "decent" to genuinely stomach-churning, which is exactly the effect a gore library needs to have.
Fill out the frequency content - Combine and layer different recordings together so that you can fill up the frequency spectrum and give each sound that big, bold weightiness that is so characteristic of modern movie sound effects. There may be instances where editing isn't enough and you must use effects processing to create the sounds required for your library. This is something we do quite often, especially on libraries with an otherworldly or Sci-Fi concept to them, or when we are constructing drones and atmospheres from everyday sound sources.
Some go-to processing methods that we love to use are: Reverbs with long decay times.
Modulation effects - Flangers, phasers, chorus. Crazy comb filters, LFOs and modulation delays. Pitch and formant shifting. Once you have completed the editing and design and have your effects sounding just as you want them it's time to move forward to the quality control phase.
Step 5 - Quality Control
The quality control phase is super important, as it is your last chance to address any errors in your library before release and make sure that everything is sounding perfect. Firstly, you can export all of your edited and designed sounds out from your DAW and organise them into separate folders using the structure you came up with earlier. Once you have this done, listen through all of your sounds from start to finish and be attentive to any technical or aesthetic issues as you go. These may be things such as excess silence in the file, unwanted clicks and pops and sounds being cut off from improper fade ins/outs. Make notes as you listen through and then make any adjustments needed to the sounds which have unwanted elements or errors in them.
Most common issues can be avoided by paying close attention during the recording and editing phases, but it's always worth double and triple-checking in case any unwanted sounds have slipped through the cracks and made it all the way to this stage without being flagged up and corrected.
Once you have checked through all of your sounds and are happy with everything it's time to embed metadata into the files. Metadata are additional tags that you can attach to a file that makes it easier for people to find when they are searching through their sound libraries.
For example, we may have a bone-breaking sound called "Bone Break 01.Wav" but we would like to give it additional tags so that it appears in searches relating to "horror" and "gore".
There are several programs that will allow you to achieve this but we use the sound effects platform Soundly, as it has a great interface and is really helpful for organising your sound effects. Within Soundly, select the sound you want to add metadata, right-click and go "edit metadata". This will then bring up a window where you can edit both the file metadata and file originator (Author of the file, in our case 344 Audio). In the metadata section simply type your additional search tags each separated by a comma. File Name: Bone Break 01
Originator: 344 Audio (In your case it might be "Johns Samples" etc.) Metadata: Bone, Break, Snap, Injury, Gore, Horror, Violent, Fall, Fracture
By adding the metadata it makes it much easier for the user to find your sounds and gives them a little bit more information about the context in which to use them.
Step 6 - Artwork, Description, Demo Track
The final stage before releasing your library is to create some killer artwork, write up an enticing description for use on online stores, and make a demo track to show off your library and get people hyped up. Artwork - We think its best to keep things simple and consistent when it comes to artwork. Use an online tool to create some custom graphics that can be saved as a template for use across your future library releases. There is a range of awesome websites that allow you to make custom graphics. We use Adobe Spark as it has a large range of stock images to choose from and a user-friendly interface.
Choose a background image that links to the concept of your library and then overlay some text with the name of the library. You can then finish it off with your company or brand logo in the corner to let your users know who the library is from. Descriptor - This covers all of the text that will be used to help sell the library and is broken down into product tagline and product description. Your tagline should be short, sweet and enticing. Try and write something that will whet the appetite of a potential customer and get them intrigued about the sounds in the library. Our tagline for "British Soldier Voices" - "British Soldier Voices contains 800+ soldier vocalisations including orders, commands, shouts, grunts and more performed at different intensities. All recorded up close and personal for use in video games, film and other media content. Recorded in 24Bit 96kHz, allowing for further sonic manipulation."
Your product description goes into more detail and explains to the customer exactly what is contained within the library, and some specific technical information such as the number of files and sample rate etc.
Our product description for "British Soldier Voices" - Phrases include genuine language used by SAS, Army, Royal Navy and Paratroopers as well as exaggerated script elements. We consulted real British Armed Forces Personnel to ensure that our scripts were accurate and performed correctly by our voice talent. Both modern phrases and historical phrases are included, extending the libraries use beyond modern warzones.
Whether you are making an FPS game featuring the SAS, a film featuring the armed forces or need voice effects for training purposes, this library covers both real-life commands as well as phrases included for dramatic effect. All lines are included clean along with a processed version to add quick army radio comms to any project, perfect for video game implementation!
If you think your sound collection is in need of some reinforcements then this is the library for you!
Here are the included folders:
Whispering: Perfect for stealth mission and special forces operations, using the element of surprise.
Talking: Soldiers speaking at normal levels, perfect for instructing commands or for training exercises.
Shouting: Perfect intonation for heavy battle in close proximity with the enemy, lock and load!
Grunts: A collection of grunts and efforts perfect for close-quarters combat or when a soldier is hit. Specs: 1600+ files • 1600+ sounds • 24 Bit / 96 kHz | 16 Bit / 44.1 kHz • 435 MB • Includes metadata Demo Track - Most people are going to want to listen to some examples of the library before making a purchase, so here is where the demo track comes in. The demo track should be about a minute in length and show off the full range of sounds within your library in an interesting and exciting way. Be creative and try and create something that is fun to listen to and links back to the concept of the library. Try and give your demo track a sense of rhythm and that it is building towards a climax. Even if the sounds in your library don't have a musical quality to them, injecting a bit of rhythm and bounce to your demo track will help your library stand out and give the potential customer a positive impression.
Keys To Success
Whilst we have given you our step by step process in a general sense, below are a few extra tips that will help you turbocharge your workflow and generate consistent results over time. Teamwork is king - There's nothing that you can do alone that wouldn't have been done in less time and to a better standard than in a team. Develop a team of people to work on your libraries and you can complete a more diverse range of projects in less time than alone. Break up the workload - Split the different stages of the process amongst the different members of your team. Whilst one person is recording someone else can be preparing the pro tools session for editing. Or if one person is editing someone else can be writing the descriptions and creating the artwork.
Develop a repeatable process - It sounds like a no-brainer but develop a process for creating sound effects libraries that you can repeat time and time again. This way no matter what the concept or content of the library is, everyone will be on the same page and know where they are up to in the process, and what stage comes next.
Be consistent - By keeping things consistent you will be able to produce content as faster speeds. By working in the same studio, following the same step by step process with the same team of people and equipment you are eliminating unknown variables and will over time become a well-drilled and efficient unit.
We hope you enjoyed this article!
If you enjoyed this post please check out our ultimate guide to audio post-production: https://www.344audio.com/post/the-ultimate-guide-to-audio-post-production-sound-design
344 Audio is an Audio Post Production studio in Manchester.
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