First New Theme for 2013-14


It’s been a long time coming but finally I bring you the first new theme of the 2013-14 season!

I was going to go with a member’s recent suggestion, or a more summer-influenced theme this month but then I got inspired by a new editing / sound design technique I picked up from Douglas Murray on the Designing Sound website the other week, which led me to thinking of applying it to our latest theme.

As you’ll see from the link, the tip shows you how to create endless fill, or tone, from a tiny sample of an original recording.  As a post sound dialogue editor this technique is a lifesaver for when you’re struggling to find clean bits of ‘air’ from sync sound to connect lines of dialogue together in a scene.  However, Douglas also mentions he uses it for sound design tasks too, which got me to thinking how it could be useful to bear this trick in mind as we collect our room tone recordings.

Basically, I primarily want us to build up a standard collection of room tones as you’d expect:  I’d say anything between a minute and a half to five minutes is a sufficient duration.  Recordings need to be neutral, in the same way as was required for the City Skylines collection – this is the indoor equivalent.  No bumps, bangs, voices, car horns, etc – just neutral indoor air to be used as a sound bed in a scene.  There can be a sense of distant traffic but once again, as with the City Skylines collection, it must be a wash rather than contain any specific vehicle details.  Level-wise, bear in mind what volume these recordings will be used at – you don’t want to have to pull the volume down loads on the recording every time you use it, but you also don’t want to have to boost it loads either.  Think about the volume it plays back at when played at unity.  Ideally, when prepping a scene, I like to have to pull atmos beds like room tone down by about 5-10 dB from their recorded level.

Other than that, all I can add is – be as adventurous or as unimaginative as you like!  If you can get recordings of unusual spaces then that is fantastic but even if you just get a recording of your living room, bathroom or kitchen then that’s still really useful – all spaces vary slightly in character plus the particular  way you record it will give it it’s own feel too (e.g. wider or narrower stereo image, closer to the window, etc. plus everyone’s own ‘outside world’ inevitably influences the indoor tone even when it’s very quiet).

I’ll re-emphasize an important point though:  make sure your room tones are quiet!  No-one wants to have to go through tracks editing out bumps and bangs, tap drips, car passes, etc. – make sure these recordings are nice and clean!  I’ll also add that this is not the ideal theme to use handheld recorders or cheaper equipment for, due to the inherent hiss that will be likely to show up in these quieter recordings.

Now for the twist:  many times I’ve been recording in an interesting building (or in underground spaces, or quite busy places, for example) and got all kinds of interesting short sounds but often, for one reason or another (such as you’re not really meant to be recording there!), I’ve simply not been able to get more than about 5-10 seconds of clean room tone, so I end up not bothering because 5-10 seconds of tone is a bit of a pain to try and use as an atmos bed in a scene.  However, Douglas’ great trick opens up the possibility of now making use of these short snippets of sound to create endless tone from them.  Therefore, I’m suggesting, as a subfolder within this collection, that we have a collection pot for any snippets or scraps of room tone from interesting spaces that you’ve recorded in but only managed to get short recordings of clean tone from.  By sharing these, we hopefully will also have a folder of bits ‘n’ bobs that we can create endless other room tones from.  I don’t normally let the club stray into the field of sound design, but this method of room tone creation is so dependant on it’s original source material that I thought it was worth starting a sub-collection of our field recordings to support it’s practice.

Please read Douglas’ article carefully though please – he gives a very thorough description of how to make this technique work best.  Please don’t share tiny 1 frame or 1 second samples – I would say that anything between 5 to 30 seconds is most appropriate.  As Douglas explains, the slightest movement or change in sound  creates a different tone so give enough of the recording to enable others to choose which fraction of it works best.

Important point:  you can only contribute to this ‘snippets pot’ if you’ve contributed a standard, long duration room tone recording to the collection.  This ‘twist’ to the collection is simply a fun add-on, not the main focus of the collection – it may not even really work out, in which case I’ll ditch the idea, but I thought it was worth experimenting with.

Any thoughts or suggestions below – now, let’s get back to collecting!  Thank you all for your patience while new themes have been put on hold while I’ve been digging myself out of the admin hell that was switching cloud servers from Sugarsync to Google Drive – hopefully that hard work will be worth it in the long run.

All the best,


Field Notes: Uncertain, TX

Wind Howling Through Swampland, Uncertain, TX_KyleHughes

I received a contribution to the ‘Wind’ collection recently from club member, Kyle Hughes.  It was called ‘Wind Howling Through Swampland, Uncertain, TX.  Now, to Americans this is perhaps not that out of the ordinary, but as an Englishman, I was fascinated by the name of this place and that it seemed very remote – and a little eerie!  Anyway, something I want to do more of this year is try and get members to write a little bit about their recordings when something out of the ordinary catches my ear or eye – Field Notes, if you will.  In this case, Kyle kindly agreed to tell us a bit more about Uncertain, TX.

Hi, Michael asked me to follow up on a recent upload to the ‘Wind’ collection. The reason is that it was recorded in such a remote location; i.e., the swampland of Uncertain, TX, USA.

I went out there to record for a short film in Winter/Spring of 2011, and visited a state park, as well as some local fishing holes. I am from Dallas, TX, and travelled out to Uncertain to shoot on Caddo Lake, at the border of Texas and Louisiana. The swampland is full of cypress trees and the infamous American alligator.

It’s funny- on the drive East, there is a point at which the landscape changes- the trees are all tall pines; it’s like a dividing line.

One night, a few crew members and myself ventured out to a dock on a small pond surrounded by a thick forest of trees. The trees are always covered in a great deal of moss that hangs from the branches, and in the winter it’s all brown and dry. I decided to record because of the howl that the wind made- we were surrounded by trees, but there was open air over our heads. In the distance, I could hear some strange sounds- cars driving over cattle guards, maybe, as well as a distant train blast.

The DP for the film compiled some extra footage into a short web video, which can be seen at the link below. None of the locations depicted are exactly where the wind track was recorded, but you can imagine what it looks like, based on what is seen:

If anyone is interested in seeing the actual short film, you can contact me and I’ll share a private link. It was a student film, but it did have some moderate success, traveling around the world. As far as equipment, it was shot with an ARRI SR3 on Super 16mm film, and all audio was recorded into Sound Devices 702′s, primarily using the Sennheiser ME66.

It is a fascinating place. I find it as intimidating as it is relaxing- welcoming, yet unwelcoming by the twisted natural beauty that comprises it. There are no tourist attractions besides the humble, local diner and twice-a-month flea market. In spring, the colors turn to green and the birds and gators come out. I’ve heard that the town “Uncertain” was given its name because the line dividing Texas and Louisiana was unclear, due to the widespread swamp-lake.

That’s about it- if you’re from the states it may be nothing new, but it’s even quite different from where I live, just a couple hundred miles away. Worth a visit, I’d say.
Kyle Hughes

Last Theme of 2012-13 Season

tools logo

The last theme for this season has been chosen by Jennifer Lewis, from Vancouver, who joined the club recently.  When Jenn joined, she suggested starting a page within The Knowledge where members can make suggestions for future themes.  She immediately added a few of her own ideas to this page, so I was more than happy to let her pick one of them this month.  Over to Jenn, to introduce herself and her theme:
“Greetings all, I’ve been working with sound for 30+ years.  My experiences range from linear to non-linear; sound design, dialog and music, production thru post.  The last 18 years have been focussed on audio for games and I’ve been fortunate to be involved with some amazing projects and people.  I recently bought a bunch of field gear and am re-broadening my explorations with recording adventuring.  A ‘back to roots’ of sorts.
Theme blurb:
Tools – an Unexpected Journey.
My dad was a carpenter. As a kid, I’d hang out in the shed and would play with vices, hammers, jars of nails, screwdrivers and chunks of wood, etc.  Fascination, for all the senses.  I don’t know about you but I have always wanted to schmooze my (and my recording gear’s) way into a big hardware store, while it’s closed. 
While the club’s theme descriptions tend to be quite specific, I invite you to explore the most unusual sounds that can be found in your tool drawer.  For me, it’ll be about the curious use of a given tool, as well as a unique space and recording perspective.  “Play” with the object and hone in on the unexpected.  Perhaps: use a vice clamp under water in your sink.  Or, roll a screw around in a bottle.  You could, turn a screw into a turnip with contact mics on it!  Why not? Who knows what you’ll end up with!”
So, rather than simply collecting literal sounds, we need to use tools as a starting point for interesting sound creation.  A wide variety of outcomes are possible, though I’d imagine an element of friction or impact will be common to most of them.  Rhythmic?  Mechanical?  Organic?  See what you can come up with – it’ll be interesting to see how many tools are actually recognisable in the sounds.  Do mention the name of the tool that you use and include a picture whenever possible; that might be particularly handy for this theme.
Just to be clear – no signal processing should take place.  This is about imaginative use of props, locations, mics and recording techniques to get interesting new sounds.  This is a bit more of an open-ended brief this month, so do shout out below or e-mail me if you aren’t sure of anything or have any questions.

Changing to Read-Only Access in 2013-14: A Road Test

sugarsyncLook out for a new Sugarsync invite appearing in your inboxes soon; I’m sending out invites to all members to a new folder with a few random sample files in of various lengths. The difference is that I’ve only given you read-only access to this folder.

Recent changes in the latest update of Sugarsync mean that I can now give you all read-only permission but you’ll still be able to see your Club folders as a drive in your Finder window on your desktop (see pic below). The only difference will be that that ‘drive’ won’t be an actual hard copy taking up space on your hard drive – it’ll be in the cloud but accessible / visible directly from your desktop so you won’t have to open Safari, Firefox, etc. in order to grab a sound from them.


I’m planning on changing all the theme folders to read-only when we start the new membership year on 1st May, so the plan is to use this ‘sample folder’ to road-test whether this change throws up any significant or insurmountable obstacles or objections before then. If not, we’ll change to this read-only setting for 2013-14.

This will instantly eradicate a chunk of maintenance work I currently have to do as a result of the inevitable accidents that happen due to everyone having read and write access to the folders.

You know the drill by now – give me a shout if anything doesn’t make sense or if you have any issues with this change; I’m happy to explain things further where needed. I get the impression that members access their folders in many different ways – some go online, some sync to their computer, some make copies onto their FX drives, and so on – so any feedback on how this changes your user experience of the Club is very welcome.


Important Notice: 2013-14 Membership Year Changes

So, just a quick announcement to explain my plan for the start of the 2013-14 season.

Firstly, I’ve decided to change the positioning of the membership year within the calendar so that it will run from January 1st through to December 31st. Mainly, this just feels like it’ll be a more logical time to start rather than a few months into the year but it will also help me in terms of giving me more time to get all the admin side of things sorted out for the start of a new year. From my experience of the last couple of years, March always seems to be crazy busy for me so it’ll always tend to be a bit of a nightmare organising the start of the new membership year for April. Generally, I tend to get a week or two’s break from work around Christmas, so I think shifting the start date to New Year’s Day will hopefully provide a more reliable opportunity to get this prep work done in time.

I don’t want to feel like I’m shortchanging anyone by making 2013 a short membership year, so my plan is to continue the 2012-13 season up until the end of April then the 2013-14 season will start on May 1st and continue through to December 31st 2014. After that, the membership years will run from January 1st – December 31st as I’ve explained.

Sorry if this causes any confusion, but I feel the change will sync the demands of the Club better with my work commitments, which ultimately means the Club will run more efficiently through getting my undivided attention at the important moments when it needs it.

For anyone wanting to join the club now, don’t worry, I won’t void your membership after just a few weeks! New members who’ve joined recently are now being given 2013-14 membership. Feels a bit tight otherwise, especially as so many of the new members have uploaded so much great stuff recently.

As per usual, feel free to give me a shout if any of this is confusing or if you have any questions.  Oh, and a new theme will be coming at the start of April.

New Theme: Child’s Play

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 20.52.06

AKA ‘Junior Street Voices’!

The easiest path to take for this theme would be to get recordings near schools or play parks.  However, as well as it being a tad creepy hanging around these places, I would argue that these will not be the most useful sounds to have in the collection.  As with the Street Voices theme, I think the most useful recordings will be of small groups or couples of kids in the street (or any exterior space for that matter) playing or simply shouting to each other.

Obviously, playground chatter is useful if you’re working on a scene in a school.  However, isolated kids’ shouts aren’t site-specific.  They are very evocative and are therefore a go-to sonic effect to describe a location, e.g. Broadly speaking, yobby shouts suggest feral kids and therefore a rough area.  Cutesy voices of kids playing games suggests a more idyllic, ‘safe’ setting.  A variety of different recordings such as these are invaluable in any FX library.

I will accept recordings of larger groups of kids too, as it will become a pain differentiating between group sizes otherwise.  I’m just emphasizing that recordings of smaller groups of kids are the most useful in my opinion.  Interior recordings will be accepted too (mainly because I can’t really imagine ‘Interior Kids’ being a future theme in it’s own right) and kept within a subfolder of the collection.

I’m also presuming that your recordings will be made with at least a little bit of distance between you and the subject, otherwise this enters the realm of crowd ADR.  However, this is not a rule and closer recordings will, on the whole, be considered acceptable too.  Oh – one last thing – let’s agree an approximate upper age limit of about 10-12 years old?  Otherwise, I think it’ll get tricky deciding whether a recording should go in this collection or ‘Street Voices’.

As always, anyone else’s thoughts on what you think this theme should consist of are welcome in the comments below.

First Theme of 2013!

sirens titled


Happy New Year!  I thought we’d start 2013 off with a classic  – you can never have too many siren recordings!  They are so evocative and loaded with meaning.

The theme really lends itself well to the multinational nature of our crowdsourcing group as well because sirens obviously sound different all around the world.  Plus, the location in which they are recorded makes such a difference too, e.g. surrounded by skyscrapers as opposed to passing through suburban streets or the countryside.  I believe that police sirens are actually the same in New York and London nowadays but I bet you could still often tell them apart in a recording simply from the differing acoustics.

Feel free to record close or distant sirens or passbys – I’m going to create 3 subfolders to cover these different perspectives but if you contribute a recording of just one you do still get access to them all within the main ‘Sirens’ folder.

My only pointers for this theme are:  if you submit passbys, try to get the whole approach and fade away.  If you submit distant recordings, make sure the sirens aren’t swamped with traffic noise and if you submit close recordings, try and get a decent length of recording to avoid having to do loads of looping.  As per usual, if anyone else has any useful advice that they think is worth adding then feel free to comment below.

Let’s get the year off to a good start!  Thank you to all club members for your support last year – we’re now 50 strong and rising and the collection is now over 35 gigs in size.  Remember that the new 2013 season starts in April and I always give free membership to the top contributors (generally the top 8 to 10) from the past year, so now’s the time to get your tally up!

All the best for 2013!  Here’s to another great year of sound collecting and sharing.




New Theme!

Screen Shot 2012-12-01 at 21.11.27Big thanks to all members for their patience over the past couple of months while I’ve been snowed under with a sound supervising gig on a film project in Budapest.  I am actually a fan of occasionally skipping a month here and there so that we can try and stock up our existing themes rather than having lots of smaller or untouched collections.  However, I’m not going to pretend my radio silence was a deliberate strategy!  Workload combined with the foreign travel has consumed all my spare time these past few weeks so that even managing to upload new contributions has been a bit of a struggle.  I don’t see this being a regular problem – it was quite an unusual set of circumstances – but I have decided to set up a contingency plan to avoid disruption of the club’s momentum should a similar scenario occur again in the future.  More news as and when………

Right, back to the theme:

‘City Skylines’ has been chosen by London-based Sound FX Editor / Designer, Tony Gibson, who I was happy to welcome to the club for the first time earlier this year.

Tony has won an RTS award in 2009-10 & a Music and Sound award in 2011 for his work on the popular TV series, Misfits.  He also picked up ‘TV Sound Editor of the Year’ award at this year’s Conch Awards in the UK.  He currently works for the post facility, Molinare in London.

Here’s Tony’s brief for our latest theme:

“Underneath every great audio tracklay is something that to most people goes unnoticed.  But to the people who work in our field they are the bed that everything is built up from.City Skylines are very important to the our work, they help to create a base for all of our dialogue, effects and sound design to blend together and create our overall sound track.These are none specific in nature but are very indispensable to what we do.”


I’ll second the importance that these recordings are non-specific atmos beds rather than a collection of traffic passes.  My personal view is that different senses of space are useful so perhaps we can experiment with different stereo or quad, etc. recordings.  On the flip side of that, corresponding mono recordings are also useful for helping fill the centre speaker on occasion – but maybe that’s the dialogue editor in me talking!

My experience of collecting this type of recording is that it’s best to go high:  Tops of buildings or other raised viewpoints over an area of the city gives you the necessary distance from the urban melee of traffic and people so that you get that generic ‘roar’ rather than any sense of specific details.  If you simply stand on a street corner, you’ll pick up too many close sounds like footfalls and car passes.

Any further input from fellow sound collectors is more than welcome in the comments below.  Good to be back and thanks again to all of you for your patience!




New Theme – Burps ‘N’ Farts!

But sir! Sir!  It wasn’t me, it was Coronado!

What can I say?  Don’t blame me, talk to Rene, it was his idea.  BUT, all jokes aside, this could be a very useful collection.  Many a film depends on a good old-fashioned fart gag, and as far as I’m aware, there’s only one or two ‘body wind’ libraries out there currently.

Feels a bit weird to give you guidelines – bit of an invasion of privacy ‘n’ all – so use your own judgement on this occasion!

One request:  This is one occasion when editing is necessary; if you’re providing a recording of several burps or farts, please edit your track down to the important bits, in an easily auditionable series.  Other than that, let rip! :)



Church Bells Meetup, Anyone?

Picture courtesy of St. Anne’s Church, Highgate

In line with my intentions to had more meetups organised, I’m happy to say that Raoul Brand got in touch with me recently, with a great idea for the next recording trip.  I’ll let him explain:

“Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time in Hampstead Heath, North London, where I am currently recording sounds for my dissertation. 
This involves going up to the same location in the park at different times of the day and at night to record the soundscape with a pair of omni mics rigged in the canopy of a tree. 
At night especially when it’s quiet but also on Sunday mornings I noticed that I was able to hear the distant bells from St Anne’s church in Highgate, which is about half a mile away. 
I went up to the church to check out the exact times when the bells are ringing and found out that the church offers a drop in class for their bell ringing practice! –
I always thought it would be great to be able to record church bells with some degree of creative input and to spend some time thinking about the best mic placement without disturbing the sunday service, so I spoke to the person in charge and he was very welcoming and supportive of the idea. 
As it would be useful to cover a recording session like this from different microphone perspectives, I thought it would be a  perfect opportunity to have another soundcollectors club meet up. 
It looks pretty certain that we could record the practice session there [in early September]. Apparently access to the tower is a bit tricky and tight so it would definitely be worth setting up before the ringing starts. I think this would suit about 4-5 recordists and I think it would be cool to cover interior as well as exterior perspectives. 
That’s about it – except that there is a nice pub down the road to grab a pint after.”
Drop us a line at or comment below if you fancy getting involved and I’ll let you know the exact date, time and location.  Remember, it’s first come, first serve!


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