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 Magic Elements vol.1 Play Track 770 sounds included $142.80 $114 incl. vat

    ‘Magic Elements’ is a detailed collection of designed & source sounds of organic elements, actions, characters, items, spells & atmospheres in the realm of Magic.


    DESIGNED:

    In the designed section you will find 326 carefully crafted sounds.
    Volume 1 of this magic saga is comprehensively focused on 6 elements:
    Earth, Ice, Fire, Air, Black, and Generic.

    Each element comes with a variety of spells, actions/movements such as whoosh, impacts, atmospheres, projectiles, along with many variations in intensity and speed.

    All these sounds are carefully designed, edited and meta-tagged.

    The ‘generic’ category contains handy neutral go-to sounds that are useful for any project.

    SOURCE:

    The source folder is packed with 444 useful sounds that cover a large spectrum; thoroughly edited and meta-tagged. They will support your creativity with materials such as choirs, dissonant metal, creatures, papers, debris, drones, cracks, textures, friction, LFE sub sweeteners,…

    What’s inside:

    • Impacts, Whoosh, Air Swirls,
    • Fireball, Deflagration, Flame Thrower, Deep Sub Whoosh
    • Aura, Energy Stone, Old Grimoire, Healing,
    • Earthquake, Constant Debris, Falling Rocks, Ground Friction,
    • Haunted Books,Laboratory, Magic Box, Potion
    • Huge Ground Opening, Eerie Drones,
    • Dark Choir, Ominous Creatures, Dark Dissonant Metal Scrape,
    • Iceberg Destruction, Ice Scrapes, LFE Sub Sweeteners,


    Choose how you want your sounds!
    2 DOWNLOAD OPTIONS INCLUDED:

    • GLUED (Multiple variations of the same sound glued in one file)

    • SEPARATED (Each variations of sound are separated in different files)

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  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Unheard Sounds: Electromagnetic Fields Play Track 82 sounds included, 77 mins total $36 $24 incl. vat

    Welcome to the sonic world of electromagnetic fields – sounds that are everywhere but rarely heard!

    This library consists of a collection of 82 sounds, with each sound ranging from 6 seconds in length up to almost 7 minutes, exploring the buzzing, clicking, and general weirdness that is found to be emitted in the electromagnetic fields of 21 devices. These include a washing machine, guitar effects pedal, Ford Focus, and a factory Security System.

    These recordings range from a variety of straight buzzes and hums to sounds the morph and change over time. They are be great for something as simple as adding a hum to a refrigerator, to creating more complex soundscapes for your sci-fi projects, or to use as samples for music. This collection has been put together using little-to-no processing so as to give you sounds that can be manipulated however you may need.

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  • Foley Tactical Backpack Play Track 72 sounds included $9.59 $7.19 incl. vat

    Tactical Backpack is a collection of 72 carefully recorded and mastered backpack sound effects.
    Zippers, straps, buckles, handling, drops, pick ups, velcro straps and more!

    All audio files have been recorded at superb 96KHZ 24BIT, multiple mic positions to capture all the wonderful sonic details.

    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + Sennheiser MKH 8060
    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: Pro Tools, iZotope RX (mildly).

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  • Environments Hong Kong Ambiences Play Track 18+ sounds included, 75 mins total $58.80 incl. vat

    Welcome to the Hong Kong Ambience sound effects library (1 hour and 15 minutes long, 1.6gb compressed .rar file, 2.4gb Uncompressed). This package contains sounds of what the Cantonese people hear during their daily commutes and can be used for common Asian scenes, China Town scenes, etc. All 18 ready to use and loop-able stereo wave files were captured in 24 Bit, 96 kHz (each in 3, 4, or 5 minutes long), and include metadata.

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  • Rock / Stone Rock Falls Play Track 42 sounds included $22.80 $18 incl. vat

    Echo Peak presents: Rock Falls: Recorded in the deserts of Southern California, this collection is perfect for anything from precarious cliffside action to superhero punches. Over 40 rock on rock impacts recorded with an MKH416 into a Sound Devices 788T.

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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.

    Add to cart
  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Data Disruption Play Track 200 sounds included From: $18 From: $9

    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
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  • Sci-Fi Process Malfunction Play Track 40 sounds included $12 $6 incl. vat

    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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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:
  • Paper Books Alive Play Track 434 sounds included $29.99 $14.99 incl. vat

    Books Alive is a collection of 434 carefully recorded and mastered book sound effects.
    Turning pages, set downs, pick ups, drops, opens, closes, flipping pages, handling, sliding across and more!

    All audio files have been recorded at superb 192KHZ 24BIT, multiple mic positions to capture
    all the wonderful details such as cracking book bindings, handling of fabric and leather covers etc
    All files come with rich and detailed Soundminer’s metadata.

    Recoded books: (also embedded into notes section of metadata)

    BOOK 0 XS Paperback, 506 pages, thin recycled paper
    BOOK 1 S Paperback, 62pages, med-thick silk paper
    BOOK 2 M Hardback thick gloss finish, 508 pages, thin recycled paper
    BOOK 3 L Paperback, 206pages, old, thin carbon-paper like pages
    BOOK 4 XL Hardback thick fabric finish, 900 pages, thick uncoated pages
    BOOK 5 XXL Paperback, 860pages, med-thick uncoated pages
    BOOK 6 3XL Hardback thick fabric finish, 1800 pages, thin papyrus-like pages
    BOOK 7 4XL Hardback thick leather finish, 650 pages, thick, coated silk pages
    BOOK 8 5XL Hardback thick faux leather finish, 850 pages, thin coated, gloss, silk pages

    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + Sennheiser MKH 8060
    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: Pro Tools, iZotope RX (mildly).

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  • The Board Game Sound Library features more than 2.350 sounds.

    These sound effects are especially useful when it comes to creating games that simulate real boardgames or modern apps featuring game mechanisms as dice rolling and moving tokens.

    The Board Game Sound Library covers 6 main categories, granting easy access to a variety of sounds — dice, pawns (or meeples or checkers) moving, tokens made of cardboard and wood, plastic pieces and many more.

    The sounds provided by the Board Game Sound Library have been carefully produced, selected, edited and tested.

    The Board Game Sound Library offers a great variety. Especially in games, sound repetitions of the same recording-take when rolling a dice or moving a pawn can bore the audience. So within this library, the sounds have been recorded in many different repetitions and variations.

    All sounds of the Board Game Sound Library are royalty-free. They may be used for private and commercial purposes.

    Provided in 96 kHz / 24bit AND 44,1 kHz / 16 bit

    Add to cart
  • Mechanical Heavy Industry Play Track 608+ sounds included $298.80 $238.80 incl. vat

    Sound Mind Heavy Industry sound effects library is a massive collection of over 600 sound files of unique and hard to access machines and industrial ambiences, recorded both interior and exterior. To create this 45+ GB pack we went underground and climbed on constructions, we have been in both very hot and cold, humid and smelly places, wearing funky protective clothing, helmets and glasses.

    You will find large, heavy machines sounds in it, industrial vehicles, as well as pneumatic, electric, diesel or even antique steam engines sounds and many metal, wooden, debris and also liquid textures.
    During our searches we found many unusual sounds with great potential for sound design.

    Recording locations include:
    Coal Mines • Zinc Mine • Zinc Smelters • Scrapyard • Trams Repair Workshop • Train Factory • Steelworks • Vulcanizer • Quarry

    Sounds were recorded multi-mic and from different perspectives, giving large variety for designing purposes. We used microphones with extended frequency range (Schoeps CMC6XT MS kit, Sanken CO-100k) recording on 192kHz sample rate, shotgun mics (Sennheiser MKH-8060, MKH-815T, Neumann KMR81/KM120 MS kit) as well as Trance Audio Inducer stereo contact microphone (which was very useful in noisy environments and which also has very wide frequency range). We used Sound Devices 702, 744 recorders with MixPre, plus Zoom F8 and Sony PCM D-50.

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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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