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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.

 

 

Think Tank

As with all the ‘Extras’ at the Club, this is a bit of an experiment.  The thinking behind it is kind of an evolution from the idea of The Knowledge which I’m considering discontinuing as a feature of the Club.

Unlike the Knowledge’s wide open (but perhaps too vague) ambition for members to collect and share any general notes, tips and info relating to sound collecting, ‘Think Tank’ is intended to simply be a melting pot of ideas and inspiration relating to the Club’s specific themes.

People can contribute photos, articles, videos….pretty much anything they want (in as polished or as rough a state as they wish) as long as it informs or inspires members collecting sounds for one of the Club’s themes.

Contributions to Think Tank can be made using Gimme Bar which, if you’d like to contribute, you’ll need to add to your Bookmarks Bar and then you can simply grab images, articles or videos online to add to the pot.  Basically, it’s a sexier and cleverer version of Delicious.

My plan is to invite all members to collaborate with these Gimme Bar collections.  If people add stuff, great but, if not, then I’m happy to treat the collections as my personal scrapbooks for members to dip into as they wish.  For a while, I’ve been looking for a format to enable me to gather together the various notes, vids, drawings or photos that I seem to accumulate in the process of collecting sounds (‘field notes’ if you will, that are sometimes useful to refer back to but seem a bit scruffy and disjointed to publish in an actual blog post) and I’m hoping that Gimme Bar might provide an attractive solution.

This feature is in a very early beta stage so I won’t go to town fully explaining how to use Gimme Bar in this collaborative way just yet – I’ll build up some of the collections a bit first and then send out collaboration invites to all members.  However, if you’re interested in checking out the basic concept a bit further, you can check out my first additions to the pot:  I’ve made a small start on a ‘Trains: Design’ Collection by adding a couple of rough vids and jottings I made whilst recently hunting down a Leaf Blower Train to record.

More info to follow in the coming months via the Home page of the website and Twitter.

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.

‘Trains: BGs’ Theme Deadline Extended to End of October

Well, I did say I wasn’t going to extend deadlines anymore but this is a bit different.

Ever since collections started staying online and remaining active, new themes have been accumulating tracks more slowly.  With hindsight, this outcome is perhaps obvious – members’ new contributions are getting spread amongst an ever increasing number of themes.  Also, new themes inevitably inspire less urgency to participate before the end of the month when people know that they can join in and grab the collections at a later date when they specifically need them or when they simply have more spare time.

That’s all fine but I think a change is in order to address this ‘imbalance’.  If old themes are still attracting significant interest then perhaps a more steady influx of new themes is necessary.  I’m proposing making themes bimonthly for the time being.

I must admit that, when I’m busy, I do find that the month’s fly by and before I know it (and before I’ve barely had a chance to add a recording) it’s time to come up with a new theme again.  With an extra month for each current theme, I’m hoping it’ll give me more of a chance to explore each subject; posting about my own and other members’ recordings, as well as hopefully making club meetups a more regular occurence (one for every new theme) as well.

Generally, I’m quite a strong believer in the idea of not trying to please everyone otherwise you end up pleasing nobody.  However, on this occasion in particular, I’d be really interested to hear members’ thoughts on this matter so please feel free to leave any comments below.

 

New Solution for Keeping Track of Sounds

[memolane lane=”thescclub” width=”550″ height=”550″]

As the club’s collection expands, it’s inevitable that I’m going to need to come up with different solutions to how we can keep all this audio well organized and easily accessible.  I’ve been thinking for a while now about how best to keep members aware of any new contributions that are uploaded – hence the decision to start tweeting all new uploads.  

However, another solution fell into my lap last week via a Soundcloud newsletter which mentioned a new app called Memolane.  I really like Memolane’s design and the way it displays Soundcloud updates so I’ve decided to use it in the BROWSE THE COLLECTION page (in the menu at the top of this page) to showcase all the MP3 samples of contributions as and when they are uploaded (you can still browse by themes as well if you’d rather).

In this way, if members choose to download en masse intermittently, they can now keep track of what’s been added to the collection since their last visit.  Together with the twitter alerts, hopefully members will find it easier than ever to keep up to date with their copies of the club’s collection.  However, besides being a good inventory tool for existing members, I think it’s also an interesting alternative way for new visitors to the site to investigate and audition the collection too.

Hope you like it !

‘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….