Asbjoern Andersen


Stuart Keenan is founder of Glitchedtones, a sound effect company doing a range of interesting SFX libraries. In this exclusive A Sound Effect guide, Stuart introduces Databending, a creative sound design approach that gives you unique new sounds – from some quite unlikely sources:
 

Databending is an art form where flaws in digital systems are exploited and used for creative purposes. Most popular in Glitch Art circles due to its ability to seriously corrupt image and video files, Databending can also produce sonic artifacts which can be useful to have in your sound library and use as an inspiring platform from which further sound design can begin.

I began experimenting with Databending via my visual artwork, which encompasses the hacking of image (and sometimes video) files in text, hex and audio editors. During these processes, I was opened up to the multitude of bonus audio delights which emerged from these experiments.

Having always had a fascination with Glitch, Noise and alternative approaches to sound design, Databending was something I was keen to embrace and implement in my audio work. The ‘random/chance’ nature, never quite knowing what sounds a file is going to throw at you and the old adage of finding ‘diamonds in the rough’ is an approach I take with the majority of my work.

For the uninitiated, I’d like to describe a single Databending process to serve as an introduction to the technique and one which is highly beneficial to any sound designer who would like to break free of convention.

A simple method of Databending can be achieved by opening non-audio files as ‘raw data’ in Audacity, although any audio editor with the ability to open raw files should work too. The software will deliver an audio representation of the data and provide a highly malleable stream of noises and glitched-out sounds.

The technique works best with files which are not too heavily compressed, for example, a JPEG will mostly result in a short run of white noise, whereas a Bitmap or executable file will throw out all sorts of lengthy, glitchy goodness that is just ripe for the plucking.

The results which can be gained from meticulous and ruthless editing are vast

Experiment with different file types and stick with the ones which give you the best results. Although it’s rare that you will use the audio in its entirety, the results which can be gained from meticulous and ruthless editing are vast…

Cutting out microsecond snippets provides a plethora of unique percussive effects that will liven up your rhythm tracks, while other edits can be perfect for some original multimedia notification sounds such as rollovers, navigation tones, error buzzes and so on. Lengthy drone-like sounds can emerge from a Databent file, rhythmic elements will surface, a sneaky bass tone and so on… Use your ears and imagination and you are on your way.
 


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Latest releases:  
  • Destruction & Impact Debris – Ambisonic Play Track 110+ sounds included, 17 mins total $90 incl. vat

    Get all sorts of ambisonic debris recordings in this release from Spheric Collection – perfect for earthquakes, landslides, explosions and beyond. Debris is the material you will need for a house and gallery collapsing. From very small stone and dust to large rocks, this collection is a good set of mineral sounds – covering everything from impacts, continuous falling debris, rocks poured from various heights, light and heavy falling debris sounds, a number of falling rock sounds, to rocky explosions and blasts, glass sounds and more. Always immersive all sounds are ambisonic recordings.

    About Ambisonics:
    This is an Ambisonics sound effects library - and by using the free SoundField SurroundZone 2 plugin you can convert the B-format files into your preferred format (stereo, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0 or 7.1 surround). Note: The library also contains ready-made stereo mixdowns for your convenience.
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  • Drones & Moods Affright Play Track 208 sounds included, 45 mins total $36 $18 incl. vat

    Affright” is a collection of 208 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to induce tension, fear and urgency in horror productions.

    You will find looped percussive elements (clocks, metals, hits, alarms, musical elements and more at 75 bpm), designed rhythmic elements (75 bpm) and fx (atmospheric elements, reverses, noises, risers, drops).

    If you are a musician who wants to define the building blocks of an intense horror track or maybe you are a sound designer who needs to create a musical moment in a scene from a sound design perspective, this library can help you to achieve those things.

    Metals, vinyl noises, voices, ukuleles, flutes, guitars and clocks were used to create this intense pack of 164 loops and 44 Fx.

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  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Vintage Film Tech Effects Play Track 206 sounds included, 5 mins total $144 $118.80 incl. vat

    Vintage Film Tech Effects features Slate claps, Beeps, Bloops, Film leader tone, Static, 2 Pops, digital dropouts, record player noise and much more. We’ve collected these vintage sounds from old Hollywood dailies reels, and film stock. 206 tracks that recreate the sound of the lost art of classic Film, TV and radio production.

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  • City Life Transit: Japan Play Track 40 sounds included, 2.75 hrs mins total $36 $18 incl. vat

    Looking for authentic ambient sounds of Japanese transportation? Look no further! Field recordist and composer Ryan Ayers travelled to Japan in April of 2019 and captured this wonderful collection. His journey took him from Osaka to Tokyo to Fukuoka and all points in-between. Travel aboard the trains of the JR, the famous Shinkansen, the Hanyu Ferry and more! Explore the train platforms and station terminals of Osaka. Get lost in the Kansai International Airport. There is a subway noodle shop as well as specialty food markets. Authentic walla and natural activity give this collection the ear candy necessary to be an integral part of great soundscapes.

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  • Foley Wooden Ship Ambiences Play Track 50 sounds included, 85 mins total $179.99 $119.99 incl. vat

    Ahoy Mateys! Step aboard the finest sailing ship sound effects library in the land.

    Whether you’re working on an exciting Pirates of the Caribbean style video game or a relaxing sea-faring romance, the hours of exceptional background loops and additional cutting edge ship sounds contained within this sound pack will set your project on a course to excellence!

    EXPLORE AN ENTIRE SHIP

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    A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

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    • Huge variety of Old Wooden Ship Interior and Exterior Ambiences, All Weather Conditions and Additional Useful BONUS Sound Effects for every scene or situation.
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    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     

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Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

Going into Databending with an open mind and taking the time to listen through files featuring extreme digital distortions, taking note of and cutting out any ‘sweet spots’, will bring you a whole new, versatile sonic palette. If you decide to process and add effects to your edits, then there is even more scope for unique sounds.

So, here’s how it works – I’m using the free audio editor Audacity for this example:

A Quick Start Guide To Databending In Audacity
Author’s Tip: The audio files resulting from this technique can be incredibly loud, so make sure your headphones or monitors are low!
 

Import AudioFirst of all, head to File>Import>Raw Data. Next you need to select a file. For this guide, ‘audacity.exe’ is used but the choice is yours, import various file types and find out which ones give you the best results to work with. Generally, .exe, .bmp and .dll file formats give great sonic artifacts.

 

Import settingsThe default import settings are fine to get instant results, the only thing changed here is the Channels (from Mono to Stereo), but experiment with all the options available as they give differing results.

 

As you can see from the image below, the file results in a harsh wall of sound and is over a minute long, which is plenty of material to edit down into smaller, glitchy elements or lengthier passages of digital noise. Head to Effect>Normalize to tailor the volume (I went with -6dB), as some of the results can be a little too loud!

Waveform View
Hit File>Export and render to an audio format of your choice.

 

Here’s what it sounds like:

Caution: the examples below are loudbe sure to lower your playback volume
 

 

And here’s another example – a Bitmap as Raw Data:

 

And finally, here is a short set of edited sounds from my Data Destruction sample pack:

 


Playing with Raw Data in Audacity is just one of many ways in which you can obtain fresh audio from Databending. Explore all the possible options, ruthlessly edit, process as you please and most importantly, experiment and don’t adhere to any ‘rules’.

And above all, have fun!

 

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Thanks a lot to Stuart Keenan for this introduction!
Check out some his libraries below, and follow his sonic adventures on his Facebook page:

  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Data Destruction Play Track 97 sounds included $12 incl. vat

    Data Destruction is a collection of sounds made using the technique of databending, the creative destruction of digital data. It features 97 unprocessed raw data .wav files. Pure digital glitch/noise suited to a variety of musical styles and multimedia applications or as a creative springboard for further sound design.

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  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Data Disruption Play Track 200 sounds included $18 incl. vat

    Databending: A digital art form where flaws in digital systems are exploited and used for creative purposes.

    Data Disruption contains 200 sounds sourced from raw computer files which have been interpreted as audio data. Bitmaps, executables, plugin files and more have been exploited to bring you a unique, varied collection of sound effects and atmospheres ready for a range of productions.

    This sound collection has 100 'raw' files which include harsh, random data noises, intense drones and a versatile selection of glitch one shots as well as 100 processed sounds which were subject to extreme editing and mangling to deliver an array of abstract sonic artefacts.

    Most useful for scenarios where computer technology – known or otherwise – is glitching out, these sounds are best suited to Science Fiction productions which call for the noise of broken communications, signal failures, ailing machines, industrial settings, planetary ambience and dystopian soundworlds.

    That's not to say they won't also come in handy for Glitch/IDM music producers looking to build up an original collection of sounds for their latest kit, or for the creative sound designer to further shape these sounds into anything from user interface clicks, blips and bleeps to surreal soundscapes and beyond.

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  • Process Malfunction features 40 intricate future technology glitch production elements for science fiction scenarios where computers are going way out of control. You'll hear corrupt data streams, servers overloading, user interface issues, generative, abstract rhythms and more in this detailed exploration of what the computers of tomorrow may sound like when they go wrong.

    Perhaps the mainframe has been compromised from a series of lethal hacker attacks or alien communication signals are interfering with the network, maybe the CPU has just seen better days… Whatever the cause of the failure, the machines have been corrupted and they are struggling, screaming and hanging on for their last bleep…

    Add to cart
 
 
 
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  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles Vintage Anime SFX Play Track 350+ sounds included $82.80 incl. vat

    The Vintage Anime Sound Effects Library brings all of the excitement of your favorite Japanese animated series to your fingertips. Inspired by classic cartoons from the 80's and 90's, these recognizable and versatile sounds will instantly enhance any FX collection. Vintage synths were used to create the auras, beams, mecha blasters, atmospheres, magic spells, guns, sonic blasts and explosives that makeup this pack of over 350+ custom 24bit/96khz .WAV files. Perfect for film, video games, podcasts and any project that could benefit from a power up!

    Both designed sounds and source recordings:

    • Classic anime sfx from the 80’s and 90’s

    • Auras, mecha, beams, blasters, spells, explosives and more! 350+ sounds!

    • Tons of source material for experimentation

    • Expert crafted metadata

    • Vintage Anime PDF

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  • Human Swordfighter Play Track 479 sounds included $30 $24 incl. vat

    Swordfighter is a robust package with sharp sounding swords, heaps of variations and all the extras you need to make a fight come alive. Build unique sword swings with various hits, swooshes, schings, different fighter vocals and impacts on various surfaces. All up there are 137 sword sounds, 93 surface impact sounds, 15 knife throwing sounds, 48 swooshes and 180 fighter vocals.

    This version includes two sub-folders: one optimised for a film & TV workflow and the other optimised for video games workflow. Plus a few bonus sounds of a charging army.

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  • Ice Glacier Ice Play Track 300+ sounds included $48 incl. vat

    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.
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2 thoughts on “Creative Sound Design: When Glitches Are A Good Thing

  1. This may well be one of the most inspiring things I have ever read, got some great raw material out of a few files already. Granted at least half the time the sheer volume of the white noise tears the top of your head off and I’ve gone through several pairs of studio monitors already but that’s kinda cool anyway, the rest of the time is a glitch goldmine.
    Huge thanks!

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