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:  
  • Drones & Moods The Case Play Track 185 sounds included, 41 mins total $30 $10

    Need to create suspense, tension, action and mystery in your production? “The Case” is great for you.

    Like my library UNSOLVED this pack is Inspired by crime/investigation movies and series, and contains 185 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to enhance the tension and drama of movies, games, series, trailers and musical compositions.

    You will find deep Bass Loops, powerful Percussive Loops (kick, hi-hat, hits, metal), Cinematic Melodies and notes (synth, clean electric guitar, percussive piano) and Fx (soundscapes, atmospheric elements, drops, hits and impacts).

    You will get:

    • 37 bass loops
    • 37 cinematic melodies
    • 67 percussive elements
    • 44 Fx

    This library has a nice mixture of sound design and music. It can be used to create moments of suspense and tension from a sound designe perspective or from a musical perspective thanks to the bass/percussion loops and melodies.

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  • Drones & Moods Sonikscape Play Track 338 sounds included, 191 mins total $74

    SONIKSCAPE has been produced to create intense underscore, dark atmospheres and abstract textures.

    This collection comes packed with cinematic soundscapes, vocal atmospheres, textures out of processed flutes, ghost breaths and vocal effects, dark low oscillations and subsonic frequencies, bowed cymbals, psychological screech and more.

    Dedicated to the movie trailer, suspenseful film and television soundtrack, dark ambient music, audio-visual installation and sound artist.

    Sonikscape is a collaboration between SampleTraxx and German sound designer Sebastian Emling who already collaborated on Cinematic Zither and Old Broken Piano.

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  • Destruction & Impact Rituals Play Track 550+ sounds included, 100 mins total $110 $85

    Rituals is a new toolbox of unique sounds and production elements, organic instruments and hybrid processing, highly stylized cinematic sound design to compose epic and sinister tracks with dark and ominous mood that brings visuals to another level.

    Rituals has been produced for the modern horror trailer style and suspence score with eerie violin fragments and phrases, sinister soundscapes, dramatic benders, destructive glitch, distorted synths, heavy hitting sound design elements, clocks and much more.

    Featuring 550 cutting edge sounds and 16 categories, this is a collaboration between composer, sound designer and electronic musician Si Begg and SampleTraxx.

     

    Categories:

    01 Tortured Strings
    02 Bender
    03 Feedback Larsen
    04 Horror Hits
    05 Pulsing Sub
    06 Tonal Objects
    07 Dark Event
    08 Dark Textures
    09 Flute Swells
    10 Horror Loops
    11 Low Hits
    12 Raw Synth – Bass
    13 Swell
    14 Riser
    15 Reverse
    16 Spare Noise
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  • Water & Oceans Ancient Sea Ruins Play Track 10 sounds included, 53 mins total $19.99 $14.99

    ANCIENT SEA RUINS is a collection of 10, high quality, detail-rich sea ambiences.
    Waves splashing on Roman ruins, gurgling, lapping, swells, water movement between rocks and more.

    Collection consist of 10 (53 min total time) high quality recordings (192kHz 24bit) of sea water traveling through old Roman ruins. Interesting and unique sounding wave patterns, gurgles, swells and wave collapsing onto one another. Many states of the sea from peaceful lapping and subtle gurgling to large swells.

    All the recording are free from city noises.

    All SFX have baked-in Soundminer’s meta data.

    LOCATION: Costa Blanca, ES
    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + 2x Sennheiser MKH 8040 (ORTF)
    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: Pro Tools, FabFilter.

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  • Water & Oceans SHORES island Play Track 45 sounds included $54 $42.70

    SHORES island edition features both varieties of beaches and cliffs from Oshima island, Japan, and extra harbors & boats are also included.
    While calm beaches have relaxing atmospheres, cliffs sound aggressive that like onboard ships. And others like rocky beaches create colorful sounds.

    Recorded with ortf, spaced omni, wide A-B and carefully edited.

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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:

  • 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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  • 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…

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THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog
from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement
- a few highlights:
  • Animals & Creatures Residential Seagulls Play Track 18 sounds included, 82 mins total $42 $30

    RESIDENTIAL SEAGULLS features 18 stereo tracks of seagulls in a residential area. All recordings have been taken from backyards where the city noise is very close to zero.

    Key Points:

    • Seagulls are the focus in all the recordings. Some tracks only contain seagulls, and some others also include sparrows, doves and magpies.
    • Recordings are mainly from sunrise and sunset, where seagulls tend to be more present. Recordings at night are also included though.
    • Seagulls vocalizations include classic seagull scream, some throaty and raspy calls, laughing sounds and mew calls or noises. From individual seagulls to bigger groups, including flocks.
    • Even though the focus of this library is to represent the soundscape of a residential area near the sea, with more or less distant calls, the collection also includes closer calls and screeches, which can be used for sound design purposes. Note: pitch shifted demo is not included in the library.
    • Recorded in M/S and ORTF, with ultrasonic content up to 50 kHz.
    • Human noise is absent. You won't hear any traffic, cars or neighbors. All recordings with those noises have been discarded.
    • Named markers are included in each file to help find interesting events.
    • All recordings have been made in the south coast of England.

    As usual, all files come in 24 bit and 96 kHz, with Soundminer embedded metadata.

    Gear used:
      • Zoom F8
      • Sennheiser MKH 8040 in ORTF
      • Sennheiser MKH 8040 & Sennheiser MKH 30 in M/S
      • Sennheiser MKH 8050 & Sennheiser MKH 30 in M/S
      • Rycote ORTF Blimp
      • Rycote Cyclone MS

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  • Bicycles Bicycles Play Track 650 sounds included $23

    Need bicycle sound effects? This SFX library delivers more than 650 bike sounds in 125 files, covering everything from cycle gears, chains, crankset, spokes, brakes, the saddle, gearbox, bells, bicycle pumps and valves – and of course lots of wheel sounds, spinning at various speeds.

    It also features outdoor ambiences of cycling, bike passes, skids and even some falls.

    Add to cart
  • Destruction & Impact Bullet Impacts Play Track 320 sounds included
    Rated 4.00 out of 5
    $35

    Prepare for impact! This EFX Bullet Impact collection features a huge number of impacts into cars, metal, walls, water, body impacts, as well as passbys, ricochets and underwater passbys.

    A must-have for for actual bullet and combat sounds – and for adding oomph to many other types of impact sounds too!

    Add to cart
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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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