Hi Graham, please introduce yourself and Spectral Vibrations
Hi everyone, I’m Graham Donnelly and I generally work with post production sound, be it short films, feature films, documentaries, animations and occasionally I design some sounds for video games.
Spectral Vibrations came about after I finished a short-term contract with an amazing boutique sound design company this summer.
During my time there, I learned so much and got to work on some exciting projects. Part of the work I completed for this company was actually recording several sound libraries for their in-house collection.
It really was great fun, and the gear I got to use was top of the range, from Nagra VI and Sound Devices 788t, to Trance Inducer Contact mics and Earthworks M50 mics.
I also had to edit and organize the sounds into a decent format for their search software Basehead. So this really opened my eyes to the fun you can have recording and editing sound effects.
I am an avid fan of Frank Bry, Chuck Russom and Tim Prebble and their libraries, and am always massively jealous when they upload a video of their new libraries.
I just think, ahh man, I wish I could do that.
So during some down time, in between contracts and work, I decided it was about time I stopped thinking about releasing a library and to actually get one out there.
I remember starting out in post sound and realising how hard it can be to grow your sound library collection, especially if you are a student with little to no cash. So I wanted to be able to offer some decent sounds for a price that wouldn’t break the bank.
Initially the idea was to release the sounds under my own name, but after speaking with several folks on the Sound Design Facebook group, it became evident that trading under a company name is a better way to go with it, and so I started Spectral Vibrations.
What made you go for a gun mechanics library as your first release?
The sounds in ‘Gun Mechanics’ were actually recorded back in 2010 as part of a study for my degree. They were just sitting on my HDD doing absolutely nothing; so I figured, why not edit them up and release these. Every sound person I know loves guns – and you can never have enough gun sounds, in my opinion.
With the study, I was focusing on the growing importance of weapon sound design in modern day motion pictures and video games. Charles Maynes was a heavy influence for me during this study, his knowledge and experience with gun recording is inspiring.
The study had heavy emphasis on games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, and how these great sounding guns contrast to Hollywood gun sounds. Hollywood and film are catching up now, but they have taken their time to adjust – and the sounds that the guys at DICE and Infinity Ward are producing are amazing.
I digress, so the bottom line of the study was that the mechanical elements of a firearm are the most important aspect when giving a gun its ‘Character’ or unique sound.
So I recorded as many mechanical movements of guns as I could, and this library is the entire result of that.
Also in the UK, getting hold of guns is not an easy task, unless you are a police officer or gangster, so I wanted to offer something that was slightly tougher to obtain (here in the UK).
The subtitle of your library is ‘UK Police Issue’ – how did you get access to the guns in the library?
I was fortunate enough to have the willing help of a Dorset Police Firearms unit. The guys there were extremely accommodating and I was surprised at how easy-going they were about the whole process.
Unfortunately I am unable to name names, or provide pictures from the session, as the subject matter is still a very sensitive one. I had to undergo many background checks before I was able to see a gun though.
When you are a student, people seem so much more eager to help you out and lend a hand. I doubt I would have been able to do this if I tried now, and if I could, then I am sure that it would cost a decent amount of money.
So any current students out there, be cheeky, ask everyone and anyone if they can help you. You will be pleasantly surprised.
I only wish that I had known this fact then, as I would have been out recording so much more hard to find content.
How was the recording process?
The setup for this session was not “typical” of how most sound libraries are recorded. I didn’t have or have access to Sound Devices or other high-end recorders, no super high frequency microphones or anything like that.
I simply borrowed every microphone that I could from my work at the time and a Pre Sonus Digimax 8 Channel Pre amp, which fed a Digidesign 003 via ADAT Lightpipe directly into a macbook running Pro Tools (7 I think).I took so many mics that it got ridiculous, looking back now I wouldn’t have put that strain on my back and would approach the session completely differently. As you can see from the picture on the cover of the library, I completely surrounded the guns in a sea of mics, the majority being Sontronics and Rode.
But the only audio I ended up using for this library was a single Sontronics STC2 Large diaphragm condenser.
Once I was all set up and ready go, it was a case of selecting the gun and going through each and every movement that I possibly could with each one. Over and over again, and again, and again.
The poor firearms officer started to get really bored with the whole process. I wanted to record drop sounds and taking the weapons apart, but I was pretty sure that If I had made that request on the day, I would not be alive to tell the story!
Any lessons learned from the recording sessions?
First of all, if you are going to record guns – even the handling sounds: Try not to record them in an indoor firing range that is made of solid brick walls, concrete floor and has gigantic iron trusses in the ceiling.
The amount of flutter echo and reverb that bled into the recordings was phenomenal (Just want to give a shout out to Zynaptiq for their unveil software, that de-reverb is amazing). The obvious choice would be a studio or a relatively quiet space. I was restricted by certain rules as I was with the police.
This is why I envy Americans so much – If I had that easy access to guns, I’d be recording them all the time (Like Frank Bry).
I did record the actual firing of the guns too, but again due to the space, they were rendered completely useless.
The flutter echo was really impressive though. So that was an entire half of a day wasted, although it was still a hell of a lot of fun.
I do have plans to record some more guns at some point with the military at an outdoor range, which if I can arrange successfully, will be a whole bunch of fun and hopefully sound far superior too.
What’s next for Spectral Vibrations?
I will be creating a website to go with the company at some point, but I need more content first. I have a lot of ideas pending right now – so stay tuned!
Thanks to Graham Donnelly for taking the time for this interview. Check out the demos below, and grab the full library for $16.50 ex vat here
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