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.



May’s Theme

Back to basics this month as I choose the theme for the first time since Rain back in November.  ‘Car passes’ may not be the most exotic theme we’ve ever had but it’ll be a very useful one if it provides us all with a greater variety of this type of recording to reach for.

As the club’s sound collection develops, I’d really like it to become useful to people for specific jobs they work on.  In other words, if any members have a project approaching in the coming months for which they could really do with a fresh bunch of specific sounds (which are not location-specific) then give me a shout and I’ll try my best to make it a theme in time to deliver the goods for you.  

With this in mind, I’ve chosen this theme for myself because it may be useful to me over the coming months.  I’ve got a couple of relatively quick turnaround FX jobs coming up soon which are highly likely to contain many scenes which need background traffic passes covered.  When you don’t have much time to pick out these individual passes, it’s really handy to have a good selection of recordings of  a series of vehicles passing by, otherwise you have to compile the passes from an amalgamation of different recordings which is much more time-consuming and sounds less consistent.  

Two particularly important attributes that a useful car passes recording must have are:

  1. Enough spacing between passes to give you full depiction of each vehicle’s approach and drive away.  Two cars passing by together while another car passes by on the other side of the carriageway is of no use for this purpose (if at all).
  2. As with most types of recording, low background noise is important to avoid hearing a surge of noise as you fade the car pass in and out.  What’s more, it muddies the definition of the sound of the vehicle itself.

Apart from that, though, there are very few conditions to adhere to.  The vehicles must predominantly be cars but your recording may also contain bus / truck / motorbike, etc. passes too.  The car passes can be as close or as wide as you like – although don’t go so wide that the individual car passes lose their definition and become a more general traffic atmos.  

Think about definition:  If you monitor at a low level but can still hear interesting detail from the engines, the road or simply from the acoustics of the street then the track is likely to work nicely when ducked down low in a mix around dialogue.  If not, you’ll end up adding little more than surges of white noise to the mix.

A good selection of orthodox street / main road recordings at different speeds would be great, but I’m also hoping to hear some more unusual contributions too:  eg.  Cobbled streets, flyovers, speed bumps and manhole covers to name but a few variants.

Other than that, and as usual, I don’t want to tell you all too precisely what to record, but please feel free to comment below if you have any questions or if you think I’ve been unclear in any way; if so, I’ll provide more detail where necessary.

April’s Theme

Finally a new theme!  Feels like ages since the start of the ‘Wind’ theme back in February – thanks for bearing with me these last couple of months while I’ve set up the new membership system for The Sound Collectors’ Club.  As a result, we can now keep our collections of sounds online permanently  so that they can continue to grow indefinitely, so I hope you’ll agree with me that it was well worth the wait.

Please have a thorough read through of the amended How to Upload your Sounds to the Club and Legal pages in the menu at the top of the page.  Also, the summary in my last post may help bring you up to speed on the changes too.  Essentially, everything’s the same except for a couple of important things:

  1. You will need to make a small payment to get membership to the Club for the year so that you can get access to the sounds.
  2. Vocal idents within all submitted recordings are now compulsory.

If, having read my uploading guide and legal page, there’s anything that still seems unclear then please feel free to e-mail me and I’ll try to help you out.

Right, now for the much more fun bit;  April’s theme.  Our latest winner who gets to choose a theme is Angel Perez Grandi, who has contributed some stunning Argentinian field recordings over the past few months.  In his words:

My suggestion for a set would be “natural echo spaces”, that is, spaces or sounds with inherent (natural) reverb. Diffused, decay, blurry background activity are words that pop to my mind. From canyons to temples to claustrophobic spaces as long as we get a strong sense of space. The resonance can be forced but not created through processing – a loud bang inside a tank would qualify too for example.

So; echoey sounds in a variety of interesting acoustic spaces – exterior or interior.  This could include anything from footsteps in a stairwell to voices in a cathedral to gunshots in a valley to door slams in an industrial lift.  As is often the way with my briefs, the main requirement is ‘character’.  Can’t really add much to that – sounds like a great theme to kick off the new club setup.  Enjoy!

February’s Theme

The result of the vote for the ‘Night and Day’ theme was a three way tie, so I’ve decided to give all three contributors the chance to choose a theme over the coming months.

First up is Dan Gallard of Sonik Boom Sound in Australia who has chosen ‘Wind’ to be February’s theme:

“My theme would be wind through different items be it trees, windows, doors etc. There have been a few times recently when I wish I had more wind to choose from.”

I don’t want to take over Dan’s idea (and feel free to comment to the contrary if this isn’t your wish, Dan) but one thing that I think would be good to try and focus on for this theme is capturing ‘atmospheric’ wind tracks (interior or exterior) and maybe trying to avoid anything that’s too similar to white noise.  Obviously wind can convey all kinds of moods and emotions – everything from eerie whistles to relaxing breezes – and tracks like these can be priceless when it comes to needing to create interesting ambiances for films.   Clearly, this is a tricky one as we will be at the mercy of Mother Nature but let’s see what we can all get together over the next few weeks.

Just a couple of ‘updates’ to mention regarding the club this month:

  1. This month, I was going to completely close the door on any entries which don’t have a vocal ident but, considering the difficulty of the theme, I will be a little bit flexible for one more month.  However, vocal idents are still preferred if possible.  Otherwise, as usual, your recordings must contain some form of imperfection (mic bumps, shash, etc.) to prove that they are not taken from some FX library CD.  Once again, please don’t take offence if your perfectly manicured contribution is not accepted; I’m just trying to cover my arse.
  2. Lastly, due to a very low vote this past month, I think I’m going to put less emphasis on voting and winners.  Essentially, I don’t think all that stuff really matters – I presume everyone’s main interest is simply the collecting.  Therefore, once the ‘Night and Day’ winners have chosen their themes, I’ll just choose themes myself unless there happens to be a strong vote one month for some reason or if a theme  gets a lot of requests in the poll widget in the sidebar of the club homepage.

Good luck!


December’s Theme

November’s winner, Alastair Sirkett, has chosen the theme of ‘Night and Day’ for December’s theme.  I’ll let him explain further:

“On the topic of the next theme. Maybe something like ‘Five minutes outside your front door’. Then you’d get a good range of sounds, countryside/city/people, etc. And then maybe they could record twice, one day/one night, more useful that way. Give people the opportunity of work or home, whichever is the more interesting?”

I like this idea as it’s really easy (you can’t get much simpler than sticking your mic out the window) but also by getting one recording during the day and then one during the night the sounds should come in really handy as atmos fx for when you have a location in a film or tv programme that you return to at different times of day.

I’m not going to set any restrictions on what the recordings should be but bear in mind the idea that your recordings should be useful for showing a transition or contrast between night and day at a specific location – they shouldn’t be two completely unrelated subjects.  As Al explains, feel free to simply record outside your house or workplace but more adventurous locations further afield are obviously very welcome too.

A few things to mention for this month:

  1. I’m afraid I’m going to be a lot stricter about the necessity for a vocal ident on your recordings this month.  I haven’t been able to lockdown the legal side of things just yet so the vocal ident idea is my insurance policy for now.  Please help me out with this as much as possible.  I may still consider accepting entries that don’t have a vocal ident as long as they are obviously not library fx but I can’t guarantee it.  Please don’t take offense if I have to reject your submission(s) for this reason.
  2. From now on, I’m going to set a minimum sample / bit rate requirement of 48k / 24 bit, and  I encourage you to record at higher sample rates whenever possible.  This is directed at myself as much as anyone else as last month I submitted an old minidisc recording which was at 44.1k because I was short on time to get new recordings.  However, I really want everyone to feel that they’ve gained a pro-quality collection of sounds at the end of each month so I think this is a necessary new standard to set.  Likewise, although I’ve been an advocate of them for lo-fi ‘guerilla’ recording, phone recordings don’t belong in a professional sound collection like this either so will not be accepted.
  3. We’re fortunately already in the position of it being quite a task downloading all the submitted tracks!  Apparently, Soundcloud are planning a ‘Set Download’ button that’ll save you having to click on each track, so that’ll eventually make life much easier.  However, in the meantime, bear in mind that Soundcloud preserves any metadata that you load into your wav’s – at least it does when you load your metadata in Pro Tools which is what I tend to do (if you don’t use Pro Tools, don’t worry, just enter your metadata as you would normally and we’ll see whether it survives or not).  Consequently, if you make the file name the same as the title you give the track on the Soundcloud upload page and then you make the ‘description’ box in Soundcloud show the same info that appears in ‘File Comment’ in the Pro Tools workspace then we won’t have to do any cataloguing at the end of each month, i.e. the info related to a track that appears in Soundcloud will already be contained within the file when it is downloaded. Conveniently, in this way your files can carry your contact info should they be needed by someone.

Good luck!

November’s Theme

So to get things started, I’ve picked the theme for this month.  Hopefully  it’s something that’s pretty accessible to most people – it certainly is here in the UK at the moment!

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.

The club is primarily meant to be a stimulus for people to go and make new recordings but please feel free to dip into your archives (as long as they’re recordings made by you, of course!) if it’s as dry as a bone where you live at the moment but you’d still like to get a copy of this month’s collection.

I haven’t had a chance to go out recording yet but didn’t want the tank to be empty if and when people started uploading so I’ve just uploaded a token offering for now until I get the chance to make a better quality  contribution over the next week or so.

Let’s see what we can get together!