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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  • Materials & Texture Snow & Ice Play Track 1700+ sounds included, 90 mins total $40

    Snow & Ice is an extensive collection of various ice and snow sounds recorded in quiet rural locations in Northern Finland between 2015-2017. The library contains 1700+ sounds / 2.9 GB worth of material recorded and mastered in 96KHz 24bit quality, so they are more than ready for pitch shifting and other heavy audio processing.

    Among the biggest highlights of this library are the industry’s first glassy yet heavier sounding ice lantern breaks which will definitely be useful in adding unique twist to your material sound design. The library also comes with a huge variety of snow and ice debris sounds, snow block breaks and even footsteps on frozen snow and ice debris.

    You get the sounds in two formats: 96 kHz, 24 bit and in 44.1 KHz, 16 bit, for more convenient ways of utilizing the sounds in games and other media.

    FOOTSTEPS:

    Frozen Snow Packed Run • Frozen Snow Packed Scuffs • Frozen Snow Packed Stomps • Frozen Snow Packed Walk • Frozen Snow Road Walk • Frozen Snow Run • Frozen Snow Walk • Frozen Wood Terrace Walk • Frozen Ice Shard Debris Scuffs • Frozen Ice Shard Debris Stomps • Frozen Ice Shard Debris Walk

    ICE:

    Ice Debris Fall • Ice Debris Rattle Continuous Loop • Ice Debris Rattle Heavy • Ice Debris Rattle Light • Ice Debris Smash To Ground Heavy • Ice Debris Smash To Ground Light • Ice Lantern Collision • Ice Lantern Large Break Smash • Ice Lantern Small Break Smash • Ice Shard Break Smash • Ice Shard Crack Snap • Ice Shard Small Group Rattle • Ice Shard Small Hit Collision Rattle • Ice Shard Small Rattle

    SNOW / MISC:

    Snow Block Large Collision • Snow Block Large Hit Collision • Snow Block Large Hit Rattle Scrape • Snow Block Large Smash Break • Snow Block Medium Hit Collision • Snow Block Medium Hit Rattle Scrape • Snow Block Medium Move Friction Loop Fast • Snow Block Medium Short Friction • Snow Block Small Collision • Snow Block Small Group Rattle • Snow Block Small Hit Collision • Snow Block Small Hit Rattle Scrape • Snow Block Small Large Fall On Snow • Snow Block Small Move Friction Loop Fast • Snow Block Small Move Friction Loop Slow • Snow Block Small Short Friction • Snow Block Small Smash Break • Snow Block Small Smash Ground • Snow Crack Snap • Snow Debris Rattle • Snow Ice Shard Small Crush • Snow Pressure Squeeze Crunch • Snowfall On Cardboard Light • Snowfall On Plastic Bag Light • Snowpusher Move • Wood Block Hit Snow • Wood Log Hit Snow • Metal Shovel Snow Debris Dig

  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles Gamemaster Pro Sound Collection Play Track 8076 sounds included, 189 mins total
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    Pro Sound Collection is the highest quality and most affordable sound library you will find. The ultimate collection of 8076 ready to use sound effects!!!

    This is the perfect collection of sounds for all types of sound designers, game developers and video editors who need a large range of high quality sound effects ready to use. Designed specifically for games, film and other media by award winning sound designers.

    What’s included? EVERY sound Gamemaster Audio ever made! ALL our other other sound libraries (plus other sounds) have been packed into in this amazing sound collection.

    Pro Sound Collection Includes:
    Animal Sounds $25
    Explosion Sound Pack $10
    Footstep and Foley Sounds $10
    Fun Casual Sounds $15
    Fun Character Voices $10
    Gun Sound Pack $19
    Guns, Bullets and Explosions $35
    Human Vocalizations $25
    Magic and Spell Sounds $25
    Punch and Combat Sounds $29
    Retro 8 Bit Sounds $15
    Sci-Fi Sounds and Sci-Fi Weapons $25
    Silenced Gun Sounds $25
    Troll Monster Vocalizations $10

    Total value $278!!!

    Sound Categories:

    • Alarms • Ambience • Animals • Beeps • Bullets • Buttons • Cartoon • Cinematic • Collectibles • Comedy • Doors • Electricity • Explosions • Fire • Foley • Footsteps • Guns • Hums • Items • Levers • Magic • Misc. • Nature • Powerups • Punches • Retro/8Bit • Sci-Fi • Snow / Ice • Switches • User Interface • Voice • Water • Weapons • Whooshes + MANY MORE!

  • Genres Magic and Spell Sounds Play Track 682 sounds included, 29 mins total $25

    Magic and Spell Sounds is a custom designed sound library covering many types of magic and spells. From shining in the light to bringing darkness.

    Elements: electricity, energy, fireballs, ice, vines, rock, wind and water. Covering actions such as: blasts, casting, conjuring, impacts, healing and more.

    682 total sounds (422 magic and spell sounds, 260 bonus sounds from Pro Sound Collection).

    ALL sounds from this library Magic and Spell Sounds are included in our full sound library Pro Sound Collection. So if you need more sounds be sure to check it out before purchase.



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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Available as a standalone SFX library – or get it bundled with the popular Data Destruction library at a very special price below
  • 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…

 
 
 
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from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement
- a few highlights:
  • Pro Sound Collection is the highest quality and most affordable sound library you will find. The ultimate collection of 8076 ready to use sound effects!!!

    This is the perfect collection of sounds for all types of sound designers, game developers and video editors who need a large range of high quality sound effects ready to use. Designed specifically for games, film and other media by award winning sound designers.

    What’s included? EVERY sound Gamemaster Audio ever made! ALL our other other sound libraries (plus other sounds) have been packed into in this amazing sound collection.

    Pro Sound Collection Includes:
    Animal Sounds $25
    Explosion Sound Pack $10
    Footstep and Foley Sounds $10
    Fun Casual Sounds $15
    Fun Character Voices $10
    Gun Sound Pack $19
    Guns, Bullets and Explosions $35
    Human Vocalizations $25
    Magic and Spell Sounds $25
    Punch and Combat Sounds $29
    Retro 8 Bit Sounds $15
    Sci-Fi Sounds and Sci-Fi Weapons $25
    Silenced Gun Sounds $25
    Troll Monster Vocalizations $10

    Total value $278!!!

    Sound Categories:

    • Alarms • Ambience • Animals • Beeps • Bullets • Buttons • Cartoon • Cinematic • Collectibles • Comedy • Doors • Electricity • Explosions • Fire • Foley • Footsteps • Guns • Hums • Items • Levers • Magic • Misc. • Nature • Powerups • Punches • Retro/8Bit • Sci-Fi • Snow / Ice • Switches • User Interface • Voice • Water • Weapons • Whooshes + MANY MORE!

  • Materials & Texture Snow & Ice Play Track 1700+ sounds included, 90 mins total

    Snow & Ice is an extensive collection of various ice and snow sounds recorded in quiet rural locations in Northern Finland between 2015-2017. The library contains 1700+ sounds / 2.9 GB worth of material recorded and mastered in 96KHz 24bit quality, so they are more than ready for pitch shifting and other heavy audio processing.

    Among the biggest highlights of this library are the industry’s first glassy yet heavier sounding ice lantern breaks which will definitely be useful in adding unique twist to your material sound design. The library also comes with a huge variety of snow and ice debris sounds, snow block breaks and even footsteps on frozen snow and ice debris.

    You get the sounds in two formats: 96 kHz, 24 bit and in 44.1 KHz, 16 bit, for more convenient ways of utilizing the sounds in games and other media.

    FOOTSTEPS:

    Frozen Snow Packed Run • Frozen Snow Packed Scuffs • Frozen Snow Packed Stomps • Frozen Snow Packed Walk • Frozen Snow Road Walk • Frozen Snow Run • Frozen Snow Walk • Frozen Wood Terrace Walk • Frozen Ice Shard Debris Scuffs • Frozen Ice Shard Debris Stomps • Frozen Ice Shard Debris Walk

    ICE:

    Ice Debris Fall • Ice Debris Rattle Continuous Loop • Ice Debris Rattle Heavy • Ice Debris Rattle Light • Ice Debris Smash To Ground Heavy • Ice Debris Smash To Ground Light • Ice Lantern Collision • Ice Lantern Large Break Smash • Ice Lantern Small Break Smash • Ice Shard Break Smash • Ice Shard Crack Snap • Ice Shard Small Group Rattle • Ice Shard Small Hit Collision Rattle • Ice Shard Small Rattle

    SNOW / MISC:

    Snow Block Large Collision • Snow Block Large Hit Collision • Snow Block Large Hit Rattle Scrape • Snow Block Large Smash Break • Snow Block Medium Hit Collision • Snow Block Medium Hit Rattle Scrape • Snow Block Medium Move Friction Loop Fast • Snow Block Medium Short Friction • Snow Block Small Collision • Snow Block Small Group Rattle • Snow Block Small Hit Collision • Snow Block Small Hit Rattle Scrape • Snow Block Small Large Fall On Snow • Snow Block Small Move Friction Loop Fast • Snow Block Small Move Friction Loop Slow • Snow Block Small Short Friction • Snow Block Small Smash Break • Snow Block Small Smash Ground • Snow Crack Snap • Snow Debris Rattle • Snow Ice Shard Small Crush • Snow Pressure Squeeze Crunch • Snowfall On Cardboard Light • Snowfall On Plastic Bag Light • Snowpusher Move • Wood Block Hit Snow • Wood Log Hit Snow • Metal Shovel Snow Debris Dig

  • Human Swordfighter Play Track 479 sounds included

    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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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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