Themes

New Theme for Spring 2015

 

class

It’s been a while!  A new theme for the new year was long overdue so here goes….the latest theme is chosen by club member Eric Mooney.  His description of the theme is:

Walla of a crowd that’s trying to be quiet. An example of this would be at a library, or someplace similar where people are speaking very quietly and maybe even whispering occasionally. There could also be some fairly quiet and subtle movements taking place in the background. This seems like it would be a great backdrop of audio that could be used in pretty wide variety of scenes. This is something that I don’t have very much (if any) of.

More generally, Eric has provided some pointers for recording ‘walla’, which are worth bearing in mind when recording sounds for this collection:

Most of you are probably already familiar with walla, but if you’re not it’s basically just a recording of a “background” conversation that doesn’t contain any intelligible speech. By not being able to make out what the crowd (large or small) is saying the audience stays focused on the lead actor’s dialogue.

File Types to Submit:

Stereo recordings of walla will give the audience a more immersive experience than mono recordings would. For this reason all of the submissions should preferably be recorded and submitted in either stereo or surround so that they can easily be used in any professional project.

I wasn’t initially keen on this theme idea when Eric suggested it because Echo Collective have just recently released their Quiet Spaces library, and I do try to avoid themes that already exist in the form of independent libraries…though that’s getting harder and harder to manage these days as the indie library scene continues to grow!  However, having spoken to Rene and checked he’s cool for us to use the same idea, I did think it’d be really interesting to do an international version of the Quiet Spaces library, which I believe is all American locations.  Do check out Echo Collective’s Quiet Spaces library and consider grabbing a copy – hopefully the club’s collection will be a useful compliment to it.  I hasten to add, though, that despite my comparison with Echo Collective, I believe their library contains recordings of quiet spaces where people are NOT talking; it is mainly just the sound of subtle movement.  With our collection, the primary sound is intended to be quiet murmur or even whispers, though that element of shuffle and other ‘presence’ is still a vital ingredient in the quiet crowd sound that we’re after.

Final tip:  As I’ve often flagged before with other club themes, bear in mind the acoustics of the space you record in.  Old or unusual spaces that are very quiet and free of ambient noise such as background traffic or air conditioning may be the best spaces for adding character to low level signals such as quiet crowd sounds.  Oh and very importantly, please state location and country in the name or metadata of any shared files!

Hopefully this explains everything but feel free to drop me a line if anything is unclear.


New Theme for Summer 2014:

madewithOver

The club’s latest theme is chosen by club member, Rick Blything:

 

“I’m sure that everyone who has visited different countries and cities and pays attention to the city’s soundscape can re-call the feel and emotion from the city’s backdrop. 

I believe that vehicle horns help define a city’s soundtrack and that is what this month’s theme is all about:

Vehicle Horns: BGs

Sounds differ enormously from the near constant cacophony of horns heard in Delhi, to the slightly more constrained hoots from a tailback in an English town.

Recordings of these such sounds are great for building up scenes and can be used to good effect as both ‘off-screen’ and ‘establishing’ sounds. They can help to shape a location and sonically guide the audience to that space.

Recording techniques could range from mono directional recordings to wide stereo ambiences. Whilst recording locations could range from roof-tops, interiors, exteriors, mics out the window stlyie or straight up street level tracks. 

So next time you visit a city/town take your mics, find any one of a number of locations and pitch up, press the record button and try and capture some evocative tracks.”

 

Thanks for that, Rick – I can only add that, as with the dog barks theme, please bear in mind that this is a theme that is meant to provide sounds for BACKGROUNDS, not close up spot FX.  The horns need to have at least some ‘space’, i.e. echo or reverberation / ambience, around them, otherwise I’ll unfortunately have to reject them.  However, if you get a distant AND close sound then feel free to add the close sound too as sometimes these are useful to keep together.

I would suggest it’s worth getting 2-5 minutes of horns; it’s not that useful just getting one or two ‘toots’  unless they are particularly unusual or distinctive.  

As always, think about how submerged your distant horn sounds are within the roar of traffic – too much traffic noise and the horns won’t be usable because there’ll be a surge of engine roar every time your car horn is used in a tracklay.  

Lastly, as Rick touched upon in his brief, think about the space in which the horns occur – the acoustics of the space that surrounds them is what tends to make vehicle horns evocative rather than the actual horn sound itself.

As ever, I’m looking forward to hearing the results!


New Theme for Spring 2014

 

 

 

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Ever since starting the Sound Collectors’ Club, ‘Doors’ has been a frequent request whenever it’s been time to choose a new theme.  To date, I’ve always been reticent to go with it, as I feel Tim Prebble already ticked that box a while back with his epic crowdsourced ‘Doors’ collection that he orchestrated.  Although overlap with other collections is eventually inevitable, I prefer themes that don’t echo well-known independent libraries that already exist out there.

However, the thing is that a lot of people (including myself) missed out on Tim’s collection when it happened, so there is still a lot of demand from club members for new sounds in this department.  I finally caved in when club member Steve Papagiannis’ recently suggested an ‘Open & Close’ theme rather than just specifically doors, so that the theme can include all kinds of different hinged things, big and small, rather than just doors.  I’ll let Steve explain:

“How about opens and closes, building a “new” 9000 series.  Doors, drawers, gates, garages, cabinets, boxes, compartments, trunks, mason jars, etc – anything and everything, if it opens and closes, from the smallest jewelry box or door latch to the largest electrical utility box or hanger door, it’s fair game (would include knocking/pounding, latches, creaks if there are any, associated with said subject matter being recorded.”

The only requirement I’d insist upon is that you must submit the open AND close sounds of the item / object.  After that, any supplementary sounds that are useful bi-products of the opening & closing, such as creaks or the usual interior or exterior versions where relevant, are always very welcome but not essential.  Let me clarify that doors ARE welcome in this collection, but so are any other kinds of interesting-sounding hinged items too.  Oh, and obviously I’ll keep car doors in their separate collection that already exists.

So let’s do it – let’s make this the new 9000!!!

 

Addendums:

Rene Coronado has made a good point on Twitter regarding this theme:

“Cool theme!  I’d add:  What made Tim’s collection so good is the requirement of different performances and perspectives; i.e. soft > hard & near > far.”

& Steve Papagiannis has kindly contributed these thoughts on our subsequent approach towards labelling & metadata for this theme (and all other themes, for that matter):

“If there’s one takeway that was really successful about the 9000 Series, it was the naming choices.  Sure somebody might not care about obscure details like “Big Castle Wood Door” or “General Store Wood Door” at face-value, but these sorts of specifics actually helped search-ability (and memory recall of one’s favorites) immensely.  Hundreds of files just called “Refrigerator door open close” are not very useful in my opinion, and hard to decipher for those adding their own metadata after the fact.  Is it a steel fridge door?  Plastic/steel?  Is it more modern or maybe more of a 60s or 70s with the latches versus a traditional rubber seal?  Is it a household fridge door, or industrial (like medical or morgue)?  Is it clean and tight sounding?  or Old and busted?  Having some sort of unique descriptive “name” in the filename helps. I like to adopt the 9000 Series “Institutional” tag in my own library to mean a metal door which you might find in a commercial or insitutional structure (school, building, etc) which is that traditional, quintessential solid-panel (or maybe glass viewhole) metal door with the latch handle.  Often I like to tag my hearty, solid-sounding tasty wood doors as “Antique”, also borrowed from the 9000 series since well, we don’t make doors like that anymore and those high-quality wood doors of yesteryear have such a particular sound unlike modern household or apartment doors.  If anything, I personally think it should be a requirement that when you submit, regardless of a door or anything else like a box, please note in the filename a) what type of material(s) (or the case of something like a fridge, maybe modern or old) and b) any particular sonic characteristic (tight, heavy, thick, solid, hollow, etc) – but go by what you hear not what you see.  Countless times I run searches for solid steel door, or heavy copper door, or something like that and all I get back are dull, hollow-sounding metal doors which don’t sound like an assertive metal door I want.  I get said results as though I was searching for “hollow”.  But they get tagged as thick, solid, or heavy because of how they looked or felt when recording, not how they sound/translate.  Just some thoughts to possibly add to the page! :)”

 

Definitely worth bearing these thoughts in mind when collecting & labelling your sounds.

 

 


First Theme of 2014!

metal photo

Happy New Year!  As I’m sure most of you are aware, it’s been a long time since I started a new theme.  It’s been mainly due to simply being so busy over the past few months but on top of that, part of me does also like to put new themes on hold for a while from time to time so that we can give a bit more attention to existing themes that haven’t become that big a collection a yet.  I’d rather have less but bigger collections of sounds than lots of very small collections of different themes.  In this way, when members do get access to a collection it feels more of a bonanza than if you only get a couple of new sounds for your trouble.  Anyway, like I say, it’s been a while and what better time than now to kick off a new theme?  I’ve had a few suggestions for new themes over the past few months (and some of those will be appearing over the coming months) but, for now, I wanted to go with a suggestion by Rene Coronado, who has offered up ‘Metal Impacts’.  In his words, we need:

“clean, thick stereo recordings fit to be twisted into other things.  The idea being that these would be useful in designing big stylized hits and slams.  Natural reverberation is fine, multiple iterations with clean tails would be great.  Good candidates include hits on large garage doors, big metal door slams, even just straight suspended sheets of metal.  Anything big and resonant sounding.”

So I’d say this theme is an ideal candidate for using higher sample rates which lend themselves better towards pitching sounds down.  Some contact mic trickery might be fun as well perhaps?  Just a small add on my part:  If you record lots of hits, please keep them condensed to as few tracks as is appropriate /suitable.  Don’t send me loads of short files of single, similar hits, or the theme folder will get unwieldy and confusing.  Other than that, it is just what it says on the tin (pardon the pun).  As Rene mentioned, I think ‘big’ and ‘resonant’ are the keywords to remember here.

This is always a popular one with sound designers or, for that matter,anyone who likes making loud noises!  So have fun with it – I look forward to hearing the results.

Have a great 2014 everyone!


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.

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.

Best,

Michael

 


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! – http://www.bird-dog-demo.com/stannes/bell-ringing/
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 thescclub@btinternet.com 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!


New Theme – Dog Barks: BGs

The Club’s latest theme comes courtesy of one of the club’s top contributors and ‘word spreaders’ (I was going to say ‘ambassadors’ but it felt a little transparently Jobsian!), Rene Coronado.  He fired a load of great suggestions at me on Twitter last month which I’m more than happy to add to the Club’s collection of themes over the coming months – especially as I’ve been hogging choosing the theme recently.

So, seeing as it’s Rene’s choice, here’s his own description of what he’s looking for:

My primary motivation for recording the dogs in the first place was to have a nice bgfx element that can be layered in with other stuff.  As such, light traffic noise and other suchwhat are fine in the recordings.  
 
Generally its best if the recordings are made in stereo and at least 3 meters from the dog so that we really get a sense of what they sound like in the environment.  I’ve gotten some great stuff from about half a block away.  
 
Often the dogs don’t need to be agitated in any way.  Just standing there with a recorder tends to be enough to get them barking.  
 
Single dogs are more useful than groups of dogs – more editable.
 
I tended to get my recordings just by walking the neighborhood with my D50, and stopping to lean on a tree or pole when one of the dogs started barking.  Best time for recording is after dinner, since the dogs are often out in the yard.
 
Rene has also expanded upon this subject in a post over at his own terrific blog, The Sound My Head Makes.  Do check it out for more info on his theme choice.

Let’s Top Up Floor and Stair Creaks for the Rest of June. Oh, & Potential Creaky Meetup, Anyone?

So, as you’ll have noticed, no new theme this month.  I was away on holiday for the start of the month and so, sitting down to prep the new theme launch last night, I thought better of it in the end and decided that the remainder of the month would be better spent having another bash at an older theme that hasn’t as yet had much love:  Floor & Stair Creaks.

I’m going to merge these two sets into one folder in Sugarsync so, even if you are only able to provide, say, floor creaks, you’ll still get access to any contributed stair creaks too.  This is simply because the two types of creaks are so interlinked that it’s pointless treating them as separate collections.

Have a think if there’s any older buildings you can access to get some good creaks but don’t discount your own homes; creaks from all periods of housing are useful and very welcome.

I’m going to collect some sounds from my house but I’ve also managed to organise an opportunity to get into an 18th Century building in Central London in a couple of weeks time to get some good floor and staircase sounds.  In this way, we can kill two birds with one stone and have our first club meet up in quite a long while too.  We may not risk getting carbon monoxide poisoning this time as well, which is a bonus.

We’ve only got half an hour in there but it’s only a small building anyway so we should be ok for time.  The bad news is that, because it’s a small building, it’s impractical to have loads of us traipsing around in there so I’ll have to limit it to two members coming along with me.  However, if I try and schedule the record towards the end of the afternoon then, if you’re in town, we could maybe join you for a drink somewhere nearby after we’re done creaking.  Remember, as long as you contribute to the club’s creaks collection then you’ll get a copy of our results anyway.

Best bet is, if you’re likely to be in the vicinity and fancy meeting up in a couple of weeks, drop me a line at thescclub@btinternet.com, I’ll give you more info and we’ll take it from there!

Cheers,

Michael


New Theme – Reactions: Small Crowd

A wide variety of different crowd reactions are always useful.  I think it’s great to be able to shape your FX tracklay for a crowd scene so that the sound doesn’t solely depend on the crowd ADR for energy, dynamics and narrative.  Sure, you do often need to lay a more generic ‘bed’ for the crowd presence but when you add any necessary ‘ooh’s!’, ‘aah’s!’ and cheers, etc. on top of that the scene can really come to life – and also helps any crowd ADR that you do shoot to sit into the mix more naturally.

Bearing in mind that I may run a theme for large crowd reactions in the future, I’ll describe how I’m going to distinguish between the two sizes of crowd.  For now (I can always adapt the collections in the future if necessary), consider this small crowd collection to be for groups of, say, 5 people (e.g. watching sport in a bar) to 200 people (e.g. cheering at a concert in a small church hall).  Less than 5 people may be getting a bit to close to the realms of crowd ADR and start requiring the use of release forms, so we’ll steer clear.  I may need to eventually cater for a ‘medium’ category but, for now, I’m imagining the other ‘large crowd’ collection to cover small concert halls to stadiums.  Despite all my examples being interior, the crowd reactions that you share can be interior or exterior recordings.

I must emphasise that this theme is for crowd REACTIONS!  General chat tracks won’t be accepted unless they contain the reactions within, in which case it’s obviously counter-productive to remove the ‘vibe’ that surrounds the important boos, cheers, gasps, etc.

That’s it!  I really can’t think of any other conditions that need to be spelled out.  Oh, apart from please state your location / language in your track name or metadata.  This is always important for recordings shared with the Club but especially so when voices are involved.

Lastly, the more the better.  If possible, it’s great to have a few reactions in a recording in case the scene calls for it.  Otherwise, you end up searching for other recordings that match in terms of crowd size and acoustics, which is a bit dull.

Happy sound collecting!


2012-13 Season Starts Here!

Here we go with the 2012-13 Season! Before I talk about the latest theme I’d just like to chat a bit about the new membership year.

The Club’s top contributors have already been given free membership for another year. For everyone else, and as a kind of rally call to get as many people on board as possible from the start of the season, I’m offering membership at half price until the end of May. After that, the membership fee will go back to the usual £20 for the rest of the 2012-13 season.

If you’ve contributed to the Club over the past year then you’ll need to renew your membership if you want to continue to have access to those themes. I’ll be making these adjustments over the next week or so, so please act now whether you want to renew your membership (and don’t want the hassle of downloading everything again) or whether you don’t (and want to download everything before you’re excluded).

If you’re new to the Club then now’s the perfect time to get involved. For the next couple of months, a tenner and a few of your own recordings can currently get you access to over 20 gigs of sound fx recordings made by sound professionals from all over the world.

Please bear with me over the next couple of weeks as the new membership year has coincided with me being in the depths of simultaneous temp, pre- and final mixing (don’t ask!) so chances to focus on the Club are few and far between for the next couple of weeks.  Once that’s done, I’ll complete the transition from Soundcloud to Sugarsync which has dragged on over the last few months, focus on a bit more Club promotion and also I’d like to use the start of this new season to talk a bit about what the Club’s achieved over the past year and what goals I have for the 2012-13 season.  Coming soon.

Right, back to the latest theme:  Car Doors.

In any scene, film or tv, a car door open or close  is one sound that is nearly always worth checking the production rushes for.  Whenever possible, I use these real sounds from the location recordings as they sound more natural than using recordings from another time and place (ditto with any doors that aren’t part of a set).  If necessary, I might beef them up or tighten them by means of parallel compression.

However, although this method offers authenticity and naturalism, sometimes it is necessary to add one more layer to infer more meaning in the sound than is inherent in it’s original state.  Perhaps the car door needs to sound like more of a solid ‘thunk’ to suggest quality (and therefore wealth) or more of a hollow ‘clang’ and rattle to declare the vehicle as a complete and utter rust bucket.

So, in other words, what I’m after for this collection is car door sounds with character and meaning.  Don’t share your bog standard clunks and slams; I’ll get those from the rushes and they’ll fit the picture better.  Instead, please share interesting car door sounds that are descriptive of the vehicle and, by association, it’s owner.

Truck, lorry, van, etc doors are all allowed too.  As I often mention, please try and get the door from different angles and intensities – namely harder and gentler opens and closes shot from exterior close,  exterior wide and interior.  Also, getting the boot / trunk sound is useful to complete the set.  Please let me know what vehicle the door belongs to and provide a photo if possible.

Here’s to the next 20 gig!  Speak again soon,

Michael

 


A Double Bill of Creaks To End The 2011-12 Season

I thought it might be a good idea to double up this month as it seemed silly to stretch out two such similar themes over two months.    This theme brings us the closest we have been so far to the world of foley recording.

Good floor and stair creaks, recorded from head height in order to mirror location recording, can be useful for sweetening foley or production footsteps.  However, if you think a particular floor creak has potential for manipulation or as an element in a layered design then it may well be worth recording much closer – you be the judge.

If you do record some floor creaks with the intention of them being sweeteners then please record a decent amount of them.  Bear in mind  that, with longer scenes in particular, it’s handy to have a generous length of track available from which you can cherry-pick the creaks that suit each particular moment.  Try and get a variety of intensities of creak out of your chosen surface; the shorter, subtler creaks are sometimes more useful than the big ol’ horror movie ones.  Record yourself or a volunteer making the floor or stairs creak; don’t record an ambient track of the general public passing by because this will also carry extraneous noise (movement, voices, etc.) with it, which we don’t want.  Perhaps remove your shoes so that your creaks aren’t spoiled by being tied to actual footfalls.

Be careful with the room acoustic:  Decide whether this is useful to have in your recording or not.  Remember that it is a lot easier to add reverb than remove it. Having said that, if a room has a nice acoustic, perhaps consider recording two-track mono – one closer boom and one more distant room mic.  Don’t contribute stereo files; it’s just a waste of drive space.  Include photos and thorough meta descriptions with your recordings whenever possible too.

Although, the images above would suggest otherwise – the surfaces do not have to be wood, they just have to creak in some way.  If your floor and stair recording are from the same location and ‘match’ then please reflect this with appropriate naming but make them separate files (because they will go in separate folders – you still need to contribute to both in order to get access to both sets).

Well, that’s about as thorough a set of instructions as I can muster at 12:30 am!  If I think of anything else worth mentioning I’ll add it (or tweet it) but I think that’s everything.  If anyone else wants to add anything useful to this guide then please feel free to comment below.

 

 


First New Theme of 2012: Church Bells

Happy New Year all sound collectors!  The first theme of 2012 is inspired by a question posed by Rene Coronado on the Social Sound Design forum just before Christmas, and very well answered by Paul Virostek.

Church Bells has been a popular suggestion on the poll I set up a while back too so I thought I’d finally select it as a new theme.  All different kinds of church bell sounds are welcome:  Close recordings from within bell towers to ambient distant tolls (with the usual proviso that the subject must not be swamped by other ambient noise such as traffic).

A couple of stipulations though:  No handbells.  All bells must be operated by some kind of mechanism rather than being handheld.  Secondly, although I’ve specified church bells as the theme title, recordings of bells attached to any religious building are acceptable.

Oh, and one last thing; whether you record one toll or a dozen, you must get the entire series, i.e. don’t miss the first bell toll or cut off the decay of the last, otherwise the recording can be impractical to use.

Good luck!


Last New Theme of 2011!

I thought it might be good to do our first proper ‘background chat’ theme this month.  I know we have Echo Space but that is more about the space than the human activity within it; in fact, that doesn’t even need to be the sound of people at all. 

I like doing vocal themes because they tend to best exploit the international nature of The Sound Collectors’ Club.  However, this theme doesn’t necessarily have to be all about the chat.  You can also contribute ambient cutlery / glass / crockery tracks recorded in cafes too which are often actually preferable to have separate from chatting customers if possible.  If plates and cutlery are clinking away too predominantly on a chat track, the recording can become a pain to edit for film or TV when you need to avoid such noises clashing with a character’s dialogue.

Coffee machine and hot water blasts are ok to contribute too, for now – as the set grows over time, I may end up dividing it into separate collections but, for the time being, it’s quite useful to keep these elements together.  Especially if, say, a chat, cutlery and coffee machine recording all derive from the same cafe and therefore have matching acoustics.

Also, bear in mind that in the future I may well introduce ‘pub’ or ‘restaurant’ (etc.) themes as well so please pick your locations carefully so that recordings from these separate themes don’t all just blur into one.  I’m thinking of focussing on getting some nice gentle murmur tracks from various greasy spoons in London but there is obviously a wide variety of types (more continental style or street cafes, for example) that you could choose from – simply make sure your choice is distinct from a restaurant or bar / pub.

Lastly, background music or TV / radio in the cafe is a definite no-no!  Sure, sometimes you can barely hear it so could get away with using a recording anyway but, for this occasion, let’s not go there.

Good luck!  No tea slurping once you hit record!



‘Night and Day’ Reopens – Right On Your Desktop!

The Night and Day collection is back in action, which means that all Club themes are now back online for members to start contributing to again – but this time with a bit of a difference.  

As 2011 has passed by and the collection has grown, I’ve already begun to think that The Sound Collectors’ Club needs to find a more suitable location to store it’s collections in than Soundcloud.  Soundcloud is great aesthetically and perfect for linking to other social networks and blogs, and I’ll definitely continue to use it for the mp3 samples that can be auditioned in the Browse The Collection page.  However, as a means of cloud storage for an ever-growing sound fx library, it isn’t ideal – the more themes we amass, the larger the amount of ‘secret links’ we’ll have to keep hold of and keep handy for whenever we want to access the collections.  Downloading and then re-loading file metadata is also cumbersome via Soundcloud.  What I feel we need is a form of cloud storage which more closely mirrors the way we store our own sound fx libraries on our work computers.

In my opinion, the application that currently fulfills this brief the best is Sugarsync.  There are many other similar applications but they all seem to fall down on one or more particular function that is essential for the Club to work well by this method.  For example, Dropbox is great, but it requires everyone sharing a folder to have the capacity for the full size of the shared folder in their personal account, which is impractical.  You can get around this by signing up for one of their Team accounts but that costs about £700 which is obviously far too expensive.  

With Sugarsync,  only I need to buy the amount of storage needed to hold the Club’s collections.  I can then share it with all contributors, who only need sign up for the free account.  You will receive an e-mail from me saying that I’ve shared a folder with you;  if you’ve already signed up to Sugarsync you can access it straight away.  If not, you can click on the ‘Sign Up’ link on the e-mail and then let their website lead you through the registering process before returning to the e-mail to access the shared folder.

As soon as you access the shared folder, it will be synced to your desktop  – if you’re on a Mac, it will sync to a new folder in your ‘Documents’ folder.  It isn’t ideal but this folder has to stay in this location in which it is created AND MUST NOT BE EDITED OR ADDED TO!!!  This is because in order for you to be able to sync the folder to your desktop I have to enable you to access AND modify it.  I’m pretty sure better permission controls will come along before long so that I’ll be able to let you access but not modify folders but, for now, please don’t change, move, delete or add to this folder, as it will change the folder for everyone else as well and will get very confusing.  For this reason, please install Sugarsync on your personal computer rather than any shared work one that you might use, in order to minimize this risk (you can still access Club sounds via the internet on shared computers).  However, having said that, I do have backups should any accidents happen and Sugarsync has quite a good ‘undo delete’ system, so it’s not quite as precarious as it sounds.

As is often the way, there are workarounds to these slight flaws:  If it’s a bit of a pain having to go into your ‘Documents’ folder to access the sounds then you can, of course, create an alias of the folder in a more easily accessible location.  However, for now, it’s probably a good thing that the sync folder is tucked out of the way because you’re then perhaps less likely to accidentally edit it.  In my opinion, it’s maybe best to create a new ‘The Sound Collectors’ Club’ folder in your sound fx library then create new folders within that for all the sets that you have access to.  Once you’ve done that you can just use the sync folder in ‘Documents’ to copy new audio to your sound fx library from whenever I tweet that new sounds have been added to the collection.  Please let me know of any other non-destructive workflows you devise to incorporate the Club’s collection into your sound fx library.

So that’s the downloading taken care of!  As for the uploading, we’ll stick with the existing system via Soundcloud for now – I don’t want to throw too many new systems at you all at once so I’ll probably hold fire with any new uploading instructions until the New Year.  I’ll gradually start adding step-by-step instructions or even a tutorial vid to the website to explain the new process (as well as gradually sharing all the other collections) but hopefully, for now, this post will suffice in pointing you in the right direction towards setting up your Sugarsync account then syncing collections to your desktop.  Obviously give me a shout if you have any problems.  

However this system ends up being adapted to suit our needs, I really feel this type of cloud sharing is the future for the Club so do please give it a go.  I think the ideal scenario would be for all Club members to have a dedicated folder (which they can’t erase) somewhere useful on their computer (such as in their fx library or in their menu bar like Dropbox) which auto-syncs whenever new sounds are added to the collection so that you only need to drag and drop them into Soundminer / Audiofinder / etc. from time to time.  Sugarsync may just be the first but vital stepping stone towards that goal – please let me know how you get on with it.


New Theme: Protest!

After the last few crazy months, this theme has become a necessity.  Demos, riots, revolutions and protests are going on all over the world but good quality, and commercially usable, sound recordings of these events are currently thin on the ground.

‘Protest’ sounds needn’t be solely vocal.  Sounds of destruction, crowd movement, police activity and general ambiances of areas of unrest are as equally valid as the usual chants and megaphone shouts that we tend to associate with the idea of protests.

@rene_coronado kicks off this collection with a very generous donation of an excerpt of his recording of the Occupy Dallas protest which I’m sure you’ve all read about and listened to over at his excellent blog, the sound my head makes.

Last bit of humble advice – stay safe, and keep what we do in perspective.  Most demos are perfectly safe to go out and record but some, such as the recent London riots, for instance, are way too unpredictable and simply not worth risking your neck for for one lousy sound recording.  I, for one, never had the slightest inclination to go out recording during the riots.

This set’s bound to be quite a slow grower as it can be hard to get good recordings of these events but, over time, I’m hopeful this could become a really unique collection of sounds which are useful for all sorts of different projects.


‘Rain’ Theme Reopens!

The Club’s very first theme (from back in November) is now back online for members to start contributing to again.

I’ve re-uploaded any tracks from the old collection that qualify under the current requirements – in other words all those that have some form of vocal ident on.  The contributors of these qualifying tracks have been e-mailed new secret links to the reactivated set and so can gain access immediately.  

Unfortunately, if you originally contributed a track but it hasn’t been re-uploaded then you will need to contribute a new track which meets the current requirements in order to regain access to the set.  If your old track does qualify but you aren’t currently a member of the Club then I’ve got your track on standby ready to add to the set should you join the Club in future.

For those who don’t remember the original brief regarding what sort of rain recordings we’re after, here’s what I originally wrote:

Rather than just ‘rain’, I should perhaps say rain on surfaces, i.e. rain on windows, roofs, pavements, etc. – whatever sounds interesting. Rain on surfaces such as corrugated iron or greenhouses can sound great but in some ways I think it’s a bigger achievement to simply get a great recording of the sound of rain on a window which doesn’t just sound like white noise.

Next up is the old Night and Day set which I’ll try and get re-uploaded as soon as possible too.  Watch this space….


September’s Theme

The companion collection to June’s theme!  

I must give credit for the inspiration to @EnosDesjardins and @rene_coronado who were discussing on Twitter the other day how train sounds were amongst their favourite background atmos FX.  I wholeheartedly agree so have decided to make it this month’s theme.

This time around, instead of the close, clean detail that was required for June’s ‘Trains: Design’ collection, we need more distant train sounds that are suitable for use in background atmospheres.  Similarly to the requirements I described for the Street Voices’ collection in July, these train sounds need to exhibit more of the acoustic characteristics of their surroundings but cannot be so distant that they are swallowed up by, for example, urban roar.  

The litmus test with these type of FX is whether they still sound good played at low level (as they will be when used in atmospheres).  If there’s a surge of skyline noise when you fade the train sounds in and out then your chosen location is too noisy or the train is too distant.  

Also, does it still sound like a train when played at low level?  I guess you could call this the ‘What the f*%k is that?’ test!  Imagine people who haven’t heard your train recording before, such as a director or producer, hearing it mixed in with the dialogues, music and atmospheres at a dub.  If it is perceived as an indistinguishable clatter or hum rather than as a distant, evocative train pass, it is very likely to get dropped immediately – and quite possibly with the aforementioned expletive question given an airing too!  In short, try to be objective about what your recording can really add to an atmospheres tracklay.

Personally, I intend to visit various overground London transport locations where I’ve noticed interesting acoustics while travelling around over the last year or so.  For example, the train tracks in Acton station lie at the bottom of a deep embankment; a railway bridge I walked under in Chiswick made a great boomy sound as a train passed over and, just today in Richmond, I noticed a train crossing one of the rail bridges over the river that made a really interesting sound too.  

These are just a few London-based ideas I happen to have had.  However, trains are one of the most sonically diverse forms of transport that exist and rail tracks slice through virtually every different form of landscape in the world so the possibilities should be endless.  Good luck with your collecting!


 

 

 


August’s Theme

Quite a simple theme this month after quite a tricky one in July.  So simple in fact, I don’t think it’ll really need much explanation.  

I think it suffices to suggest that you provide some individual rings or buzzes and then a variety of multiple patterns too.  It is really important that you let the reverb tails of your bells or buzzers subside completely before triggering the next ring or buzz (unless you’re doing a multiple ring of course) otherwise their usage becomes very limited.   The only other advice I’ll offer is that for your contribution to be as useful as possible, I would ask that you submit recordings of your chosen bell or buzzer from 3 different recording positions (but submitted as one track):

  1. Exterior, from the POV of the bell ringer
  2. Interior, close / direct (i.e. standing quite near or below it in order to get a clean recording of the bell itself)
  3. Interior, a bit more ambient / indirect (perhaps in the next room along from the bell – not too distant but just far enough away to pick some of your house or flat’s acoustics)

Last of all, please don’t forget to put a vocal ident or slate (including your name) on your recordings otherwise I won’t be able to accept it.  And that’s about it  – let’s get collecting ding dongs and bzzzzzzs!

 

 


July’s Theme

The human voice can evoke so much meaning and emotion.  Therefore, it is an invaluable vehicle for expressing the mood of a location.  As a result, this month’s theme is one of my favourite types of sound effect for creating interesting and evocative soundscapes. 

This theme lies somewhere between ‘exterior crowd’ fx and crowd ADR.  It is not general chat or crowd sounds.  It is more specific than that, and should only consist of one or a few people.  It is not crowd ADR, it is more distant and worldized than that.  The voices need to be raised, if not shouting, in order to carry over this distance.  

These type of recordings are perfect for poking through between dialogue to give a scene character.  Using distant voices in this way is a really effective way of controlling the vibe of an environment –  making it seem anything from intimidating or welcoming to posh or slummy.

A couple arguing in a courtyard; a drunk shouting in an alleyway; noisy scaffolders: a baby’s cries heard from an open window; or a few people talking loudly and laughing in the park – these are the sort of sounds I’m after.

Two important points:  

  1. As usual, it is vital that these recordings contain minimal background noise.  They are not atmospheres, they are fx which need to be able to fade in and out without a surge of traffic noise or other general crowd sounds.  
  2. Distance is crucial.  Too close and you are basically recording those people’s conversation.  Consequently, a can of worms is opened with regards to model release forms and privacy infringement, etc.  Instead, you need to be distant enough so that you are indirectly recording the voices.  If you stick a mic out of your window and someone is shouting down the end of the street then I would say that no privacy is infringed and you are ok to use that recording howsoever you please.  In contrast, if you make a stealth recording of a couple having a private, heated conversation in, say, a cafe, then I would argue that you have perhaps invaded their privacy and it could be unwise to start using that recording in commercial projects.  Common sense will hopefully dictate what is suitable, but a good guide is to consider whether you are recording someone actively or passively / directly or indirectly and whether they are imposing their voice on your environment or you are invading their privacy.  On the flip side, it will not be possible to use the recording as spot fx if the voices are too distant because the accompanying noise of the surrounding environment will surge in and out too much. 

One last point:  Please specify where your recordings were made.  It is vital that the title or metadata of these FX reveal what country they are from (and also mention if the location is somewhere where the language may be other than the native tongue, eg. Chinatown!)  

Other than that, good luck with your shout-hunting and I look forward to hearing the results!


June’s Theme

Very excited about this one.  I have two young boys so inevitably I watch quite a lot of kids’ TV at the moment.  There’s a lot of great kids’ shows around these days but one of my boys’ favourites is called Chuggington which I’ve always thought had particularly good sound FX in it.  So, I’m very pleased to announce that this month’s theme has been requested by the show’s sound designer, Richard Spooner:

“So this is another slightly selfish audio topic as I am starting sound design on a new series of “Chuggington” next week, which is a pre-school show about .. eergh .. trains.

I think the sounds that interest me are the more percussive engine sounds, hisses, doppler passes, rail clack etc. We should try and capture the power and speed of a train in the recordings. It could be some fast passes or just the static throbbing tick-over of a diesel or steam engine. It could be air/steam release on braking or the distinctive clickety-clack of a speeding train. We should stay away from station ambiences and commuter interior rides.”

I think an important thing to emphasize is that we need clean, high sample rate recordings of different separate elements of train sounds which would be suitable for use in animation sound design.  There may be exceptions but, on the whole, I’d imagine the recordings need to be relatively close so as to contain as little background atmos as possible.  In this way, I can imagine a separate future theme of, say, distant train FX or simply a more general collection of train sounds which are typically more suitable for standard reality-based film or television drama.

One last point is that it might also be useful for people who plan on contributing to this theme to check out some old episodes of the show if you haven’t seen it before, just so you get a feel for the sort of sounds that Rich might find useful.

Oh, and also bear in mind that Rich starts the show this month so, although the theme will stay open permanently, it’d be great if we could do our best to get a great collection together for him sooner rather than later.  Let’s make this a good one!

Additional Note on ‘Car Passes’

One thing I’d like to add regarding submissions to this month’s theme is please don’t break down your recordings into lots of separate car passes unless the vehicle is a particularly distinctive or unusual model that justifies being kept separately in a recording of it’s own.  If every car pass gets its own dedicated track we’ll have loads of tracks relative to actually not that much material.

What’s more, when it comes to editing traffic scenes, it is actually more useful to have a series of passes (which share similar characteristics such as speed and acoustics) all in one track rather than having to audition lots of different tracks containing only one pass which may not match up as consistently.

Also, don’t forget that vocal idents are now compulsory.  I’m being flexible about what the ident consists of but ideally you should say at least your name and the theme (a quick description of what your recording is always a bonus).  I tend to do this anyway on my recordings in order to remember the details just in case I don’t get round to editing and cataloguing them straightway.

Best,

Michael