Animal sound effects library Asbjoern Andersen


Mattia Cellotto has created a range of popular sound effects libraries, and his latest release, Animal Hyperrealism II, features recordings of animals such as walruses, alligators, lemurs, guinea pigs, monkeys, hamsters, sea lions, dolphins, bats, geese, leopards, a variety of birds and many more - captured at up to 384 kHz.

In this new interview by Barney Oram, he takes you behind the scenes on the making of his new library, and shares tips, tricks and ideas for capturing outstanding animal sound effects:


Interview by Barney Oram, images courtesy of Mattia Cellotto
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What inspired you to create this and the previous library? Why animals specifically?
After having worked on libraries that are mostly focused on human made sounds I thought it would have been a nice challenge to try and record in environments where I had less control.

What I wanted to capture most of all was clarity in the form of proximity, dryness of the sound and ultrasonic richness

I wanted that to be a test to see whether I could deliver the same quality that is normally delivered for other types of libraries where variables are easier to keep in check. What I wanted to capture most of all was clarity in the form of proximity, dryness of the sound and ultrasonic richness.
 

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Not all sound effects libraries come with a launch trailer, but this one does:
Watch the Animal Hyperrealism II trailer above

What was your recording setup for this library? Did that change since your previous library? If so, why?
For the first library I used a Zaxcom Maxx and a Sound Devices Mixpre10T along with Sennheiser 8040 and 8050 mics and a Sanken CO100K. The result were very satisfying but I couldn’t help but notice I was still missing part of the ultrasonic picture.

ultrasonic_animal_sounds_1

A recording made for Animal Hyperrealism Vol I with the CO100K at 192KHz

Here you can see a recording made for Vol I with the CO100K at 192KHz. You can notice how at 96 KHz the signal is still strong, but truncated past that frequency due to the sample rate limitation of most hardware.

For Vol II I decided to try and create an experimental setup that featured not only a 384KHz recorder but also a 200KHz microphone by Avisoft, specifically the CM16/CMPA. With this microphone I was able to get a fuller picture for a lot of new animals. Here you can see another picture from Vol II featuring a Congo Grey Parrot.

A recording for Animal Hyperrealism Vol 2, captured with a 200KHz microphone by Avisoft

In the image you can see a selection that goes from 0 to 96KHz, which is the range the previous setup could capture. Above the selection you can see another 96KHz interval full of harmonics I could previously not capture.

Not all animals feature this kind ultrasonic richness but a lot of them made sounds with energy up to 120 to 150KHz, hence I decided to preserve the recordings at 384KHz for the animals that did.
 

How much planning goes in the average recording session for Animal Hyperrealism?
I would say anywhere in between two weeks and six months! The extremes of this answer come with good stories too.

For the short planning extreme it was January, I was starting to reach the amount of animals I wanted in the library but needed more variety to really wrap things up and feel good about it. At the same time a German student reached out to ask for a few tips with a recording project for university. It turned out he wanted to record a few animals so I almost jokingly said I should have come along for a win-win. One thing led to another and in 2 weeks I was his guest, recording in German zoos during the day and spending the evenings with his lovely family, being offered amazing homemade food without knowing the language enough to say more than a simple “thank you”. From complete strangers to friends in 2 weeks, I owe Kevin (the student’s name) a lot. That was a very random experience but it allowed me to capture some amazing bats and leopards which I didn’t even know would be at the zoo, more importantly it led me to meet a great sound enthusiast and to travel experiencing new things while doing what I love.


The demo track for Animal Hyperrealism II

On the opposite side of the extremes, the six months one was more of a necessity than a deeply planned trip: last winter I realised a place not too far from home had alligators, at the time I was reading about Colin Hart’s experience recording them. I approached him and he shared a few tips with me (thank you Colin!) but when I approached the alligator center they invited me to wait for mating season as it’d be easier for me to hear the sound. We spent weeks exchanging emails to get the perfect conditions for both myself and the animals.

Alligators are amazing to record as they assume a very specific pose before bellowing – additionally the sound starts at a subsonic level, so you can see the water around them jump and can feel your chest vibrate before you can even hear a sound

In April it finally happened: the gators were amazing, definitely worth the wait. As a side note, alligators are amazing to record as they assume a very specific pose before bellowing, additionally the sound starts at a subsonic level so you can see the water around them jump and can feel your chest vibrate before you can even hear a sound, quite amazing to experience.
 

What challenges did you encounter?
I think the hardest part of recording animals is in the inconsistency of the challenges themselves. Sometimes an animal might be trained to perform sounds but the environment might not be ideal, other times the animal might be in water, might be flying, or in the case of bats you are never really sure you are even recording the right way as most of the content is ultrasonic. If the recording is successful the new challenge becomes to create a library where quality is consistent, where signal to noise ratio is similar for all recordings so that a sound designer knows what the bar is for the whole collection rather than a specific animal.

It took me days to stop flinching at a tiger’s every move, and now that I have I feel as if I removed “self-preservation” from my operating system

Understanding the animals themselves is a challenge, luckily most of the time I was helped by great keepers and animal trainers that knew how to act in the interest of the animals, to keep them as stress free as possible. Once you know the animals are safe it can take quite some time to convince yourself that you are too: it took me days to stop flinching at a tiger’s every move, and now that I have I feel as if I removed “self-preservation” from my operating system.
 

Why is ultrasonic sound recording so important for you?
The same way a high speed camera allows us to see what is faster than our eye can catch, ultrasonic recordings can tell us a lot more about a sound that has a story which unfolds too quickly for us to fully grasp in real time.

The normal answer to this question is “the higher I record, the bigger I can make the sound”, which is true in most cases as especially with animal sounds pitching down allows us to create something that sounds bigger than the original source, but there is more to it.

I recorded these small parrots in Italy that make very sharp and quick chirps. As I slowed these recordings down I could imagine the parrots getting bigger and bigger but I could also notice what used to sound like an innocuous chirp was now a complex territorial call with a lot of nuances to it I could not previously hear.

Before:

After:


 

Did you have a chance to witness something truly special?
I think the best thing that can happen when recording animals is to not exist to them. Gordon Hempton sums it up amazingly: “when I listen I have to quiet, I become very peaceful, and I think what enjoy most about listening is that I disappear”. When you record things like electricity, rocks falling and other man made noises there is a sense of disruption of the ordinary, whereas when you listen to the daily call of a leopard or birds interacting with one another you slowly become part of the environment, silently witnessing the ordinary.

I think the best thing that can happen when recording animals is to not exist to them

This didn’t happen with every animal but in a few cases I briefly forgot what exactly I was doing there, it’s a strange feeling of just being at its simplest.

This happened while recording lion calls on the first library. It felt special as what you normally hear are big cats’ roars, growls, snarls, but very rarely one can hear territorial calls from a meter away, which are much deeper and vulnerable sounding. To get higher chances of making this happen I shipped an old blimp to the person that trained the lions so that after a few months, when I stopped by to attempt the recording the lions would not be bothered as much as they’d be familiar with the object.

At the beginning I could feel my presence being an obstacle to their natural being, specifically I felt that seeking eye contact seemed to disturb them, so I started slowly walking around calmly talking about my day and in a few minutes they started calling, so I slowly became quiet and pointed the blimp in their direction without turning to look at what was happening. From what I understand this is also Ann Kroeber’s approach to animal sounds recording: to be friendly, calm, quiet and to relate to animals with faith that there could be some chance of understanding peaceful intentions.

Fruits of the labour:

Mattia Cellotto has created a range of popular independent sound effects libraries – here’s an overview of his releases so far:

  • Animals & Creatures Animal Hyperrealism Vol I Play Track Over 1300 sounds included $170

    Animal Hyperrealism Vol I is a library containing sounds themed animal vocalisations, from real to designed creatures totaling more than 1300 individual sounds in 290 files.

    The sounds were partly recorded with animals trained for media production, partly recorded in zoos and wildlife centers. The asset list includes but is not limited to: african lions, bengal tigers, horses, donkeys, cows, exotic birds, owls, bobcats, pumas, dromedaries, wolves, dogs, geese, lemurs, gibbons and many more.

    All the content has been recorded at 192KHz with a Sanken CO100K plus a Sennheiser 8050 for center image and a couple of Sennheiser MKH8040 for stereo image. All files are delivered as stereo bounce of these for mics, though in some instances an additional couple of CO100K was added to the sides.

    The resulting ultrasonic spectrum is rich and allows for truly extreme manipulation of the content.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
  • Animals & Creatures Animal Hyperrealism Vol II Play Track Over 2000 sounds included $170

    Animal Hyperrealism Vol II is a library containing sounds themed animal vocalisations, from real to designed creatures totaling more than 2000 individual sounds in 283 files.

    The sounds were partly recorded with animals trained for media production, partly recorded in zoos and wildlife centers. The asset list includes but is not limited to: amur leopards, bottlenose dolphins, californian sealions, pacific walruses, red ruffed lemurs, owls, parrots, dwarf little fruit bats, hamsters, guinea pigs and many more.

    The content has been recorded at 192KHz with a Sanken CO100K plus a Sennheiser 8050 for center image and a couple of Sennheiser MKH8040 for stereo image.
    A special section of the library features samples recorded at 384KHz. For these sounds an additional microphone was employed, specifically the CMPA by Avisoft-Bioacoustics which records up to 200 KHz. This microphone was actually used to record most of the library but the 384KHz format was preserved only where energy was found beyond 96KHz not to occupy unnecessary disk space.
    All files are delivered as stereo bounce of these for mics, though in some instances an additional couple of CO100K was added to the sides.
    The resulting ultrasonic spectrum is rich and allows for truly extreme manipulation of the content.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
  • Ice Glacier Ice Play Track 300+ sounds included $40

    Glacier Ice is a library containing over 300 high quality sounds of ice cracking, breaking, shattering in various sizes of blocks – recorded entirely in the Italian Alps over the course of two winters.

    The library contains sounds of all dimensions, from ice cubes being dropped in a drink to a designed iceberg collapsing.

    The majority of the material was recorded at 192 KHz with a Sanken CO100K and a stereo pair of Sennheiser MKH8040, making this library greatly flexible for pitch shifting and all sorts of heavy processing.

    A small section recorded at 96KHz features sounds recorded exclusively with contact microphones placed directly on the surface of a frozen water stream.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
  • Destruction & Impact Metal Groans and Slams Play Track 346 sounds included $37

    An audio library for which metal was kicked, hammered, bowed and… induced to vibrate through feedback loops?! The collection features 346 unique sounds recorded through field trips in US, UK and Italy.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
  • Electricity Polarity Play Track 975 sounds included $90

    Polarity delivers more than 950 sounds of electricity, science and technology – captured in several locations around the world, from electricity museums to science labs. About 50% of the library is all about electricity, with various types of Jacob's Ladders, Tesla Coils, Ruhmkorff lamp and all sorts of impactful bursts of energy.

    Then we go through welders, plasma spheres, 3D printers, starting to cover a more broad technology theme – like old phones, telegraphs, dynamo wheels, rotary dials, whirling watchers, alarm, lab centrifuges, something scientists call a roller and a rocker, servo sounds, neon lights, a wimshurst machine and sparklers.

    Many sounds in this section were captured from vintage equipment, from a 1928's tram to old telephone switchboards, high voltage levers and control surfaces.

    All content was recorded at 192KHz with a Sanken CO100K, a couple of Sennheiser 8040 and a Neumann 81i, translating into final assets that have plenty of ultrasonic content, ready for the most extreme manipulation.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
  • Destruction & Impact Rocks Momentum Play Track 1100+ sounds included $37

    The Rocks Momentum sound effects library gets you more than 1100 sounds of rocks, bricks, wood logs, stones, impacting on different surfaces, rolling, being scraped one against the other and so on. The library was recorded in the Italian alps, and in Inverness, Scotland. Defective construction materials were used for the recording of bricks, roofing tiles, cement blocks etc.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
  • Ice Ultrasonic Dry Ice Play Track 635+ sounds included, 71 mins total $65

    Ultrasonic Dry Ice is a library containing over 600 sounds themed metal resonances, scrapes and all sorts of weird.
    All the content has been recorded at 192KHz with a Sanken CO100K, a couple of Sennheiser MKH8040 and a MKH416.
    The resulting ultrasonic spectrum is rich and allows for truly extreme manipulation of the content.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
  • Materials & Texture Water Volumes Play Track 335+ sounds included, 74 mins total $40

    The Water Volumes SFX library gets you over 300 sounds of natural hot-springs, bubbles, and liquids of various densities boiling under the effect of dry ice.

    A large amount of content was recorded during two weeks spent in the city of Furnas, Azores, where volcanic hot-springs of all kinds are active. Other recordings were gathered with the use of dry ice.
    Most recordings will contain energy up to 96 KHz as they were recorded with a Sanken CO-100K at a 192KHz sample rate. Others were gathered with the use of an Acquarian H2A, Sennheiser MKH8040, 416, a Sony D100 and a Tascam DR-05.

    The collection was recorded over a trip to Sao Miguel, Azores, and several other recording sessions in the UK.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart

 
Do you have any personal favorites among the collection?
Yes! I think the bottlenose dolphins and the diana monkey from VOL II could be my current favorites. Mostly because recording them was so pleasant: dolphins are pretty much the perfect voice artists: they vocalise with the perfect pauses in between takes, they don’t move much nor mind being approached closely and they somehow seem to smile throughout. The diana monkey is a bit of a different story. I enjoyed the sound as like the dolphins’ it has great ultrasonic richness but what I enjoyed the most about recording it was that I had to talk back to trigger the calls. It felt like a normal conversation with certainty of answer to my every question.
 

Are there any interesting tips or techniques you picked up whilst recording this library that would be useful for others trying to record animals?

Yes, a few! Here are some tips in random order:

Research the animals before you get to a location: Create a collection of sounds from the animal species and try playing back sounds from the same species at a distance until you can see the animal actively listening, then slowly move the speaker closer until the animal either calls back or loses interest/realises the call is not authentic. Be careful to select calls that don’t imply distress, check with an expert and don’t try more than 2 or 3 times, don’t barrage the animals with triggers, it won’t work.

Surround yourself with experts: They will be able to tell you if it’s the right season for you to capture the sound you want. Even in the right season they might stop a day off and spare you from wasting a day waiting for something that won’t happen.

Manage Expectations: Even better but less catchy: don’t expect! Not all animals can be trained and even when they are they can still choose not to do what you hope they’d do. Give yourself more time than you think you need, avoid blowing a large part of the budget on one session and think of anything you get as a gift. Recording animals shares a lot of elements with fishing, you could wait hours for something to happen and it could happen the second you think of giving up, so don’t, but also try and realise when something is clearly hopeless!

We are not animal behaviorists: When in doubt ask. As recordist I tend to want a lot of variations for the sounds I capture but most animals need long breaks. Once you start recording do not focus exclusively on the animal, turn to the expert that is allowing you to record the animal and check for when it’s a good time to stop. This is truly important for getting any sound at all, for learning about the animal you are recording and to have more positive experiences while recording animals in general.

If safe, follow your gut: Some animals might never get triggered by a recorded sound, try to build a sense for when this is the case. If it seems like a good idea, try talking to animals like parrots and monkeys, I got lucky plenty of times!

Video Thumbnail

Mattia Cellotto having a bit of a chat with a Diana Monkey

Check your eye contact: Big cats and other hunters do not react to sustained eye contact the same way we do, it has a different meaning that might change the atmosphere for the recording to worse. Additionally, if you think you are building the strongest bond humankind has ever had with an owl through eye contact, remember the owl is probably staring at something 20 meters past you.

Try not to exist to the animals: Be silent, be respectful and kind. It goes without saying but it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and focus on the task at hand.
 

So what can we expect in Animal Hyperrealism VOL II?
The library includes a variety of animal vocalizations, from alligators to lemurs, geese, bats, dolphins, leopards, a variety of birds and many more. This content forms one of the three sections of the library: the “raw section”.

In addition to that I have added a “cheats section” which contains sounds that could be used as animal vocalizations or layers for creature sound design but that aren’t that. This includes a variety of weird whistles, exercise balls, sneakers squeaking and other weird sources.

Lastly I included a “designed section” which tends to be the result of tests for me to see how far the sounds can be stretched and pushed through sound design. I do it to get a deeper sense of mastery for the specific theme I based my recordings on and to get an idea of the value the library ultimately has in the eyes of a sound designer. This is always the least comprehensive section of my libraries as I like to provide wildly flexible raw materials more so than pre-baked goods that could be less versatile.
 

A big thanks to Mattia Cellotto for his animal recording insights – and to Barney Oram for the interview!
Check out the full Animal Hyperrealism II library below:

 
 
  • Animals & Creatures Animal Hyperrealism Vol II Play Track Over 2000 sounds included $170

    Animal Hyperrealism Vol II is a library containing sounds themed animal vocalisations, from real to designed creatures totaling more than 2000 individual sounds in 283 files.

    The sounds were partly recorded with animals trained for media production, partly recorded in zoos and wildlife centers. The asset list includes but is not limited to: amur leopards, bottlenose dolphins, californian sealions, pacific walruses, red ruffed lemurs, owls, parrots, dwarf little fruit bats, hamsters, guinea pigs and many more.

    The content has been recorded at 192KHz with a Sanken CO100K plus a Sennheiser 8050 for center image and a couple of Sennheiser MKH8040 for stereo image.
    A special section of the library features samples recorded at 384KHz. For these sounds an additional microphone was employed, specifically the CMPA by Avisoft-Bioacoustics which records up to 200 KHz. This microphone was actually used to record most of the library but the 384KHz format was preserved only where energy was found beyond 96KHz not to occupy unnecessary disk space.
    All files are delivered as stereo bounce of these for mics, though in some instances an additional couple of CO100K was added to the sides.
    The resulting ultrasonic spectrum is rich and allows for truly extreme manipulation of the content.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
 
 

 

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