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:  
  • Horror Giant Pinecones Play Track 500+ sounds included, 44 mins total $79

    • In Giant Pinecones, get a visceral collection of scraped and eviscerated pinecones from the gray pine trees of Northern California. Scrape the razor-sharp hooks of the cone petals and hear guttural scrapes crackling with energy. Hear rolling cones popping and fluttering with rich stuttering tones. Hear fully open cone pedals squeaking with woody vocalizations like supernatural animals and hardy crunches filled with organic grit.
    • This library offers you an extensive collection of sounds from a unique organic sound source. Digger pinecone sounds are incredibly soft and intimate in real life, but when recorded from two inches they morph into a unique wooden sound source brimming with powerful glitchy and stuttering textures.

    2% FOR THE ENVIRONMENT & CARBON NEUTRAL:
    • Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause, as an “artist royalty” for the planet!
    • Carbon offset credits were purchased to offset my field recording travel for this library.

    KEY FEATURES:
    • Woody vocalizations
    • Rolling, scraping, and stuttering textures
    • Visceral and guttural scrapes
    • Fluttering and popping textures
    • Rich crunches
    • Chalkboard-like squeaks and squeals
    FILE LIST & METADATA:
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    • A spectrogram is included for each audio file. Double click on the photo to enlarge.
    MORE INFO:
    • Read 40+ testimonials for Thomas Rex Beverly Audio
    • Read my Field Recording Mastering Rules and learn more about how these recordings were mastered.
    • Browse the Library Info Master List to compare specs on all my libraries.
    • Browse the Metadata Master List to search my entire catalog.
    • MD5 and SHA 256 Checksums are included for each zip file in my catalog. Use these hashes to check the integrity of your downloaded files.
    GEAR USED:
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 and MKH30 in MS
    • Sound Devices MixPre-6
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  • Recording of the American 2017 Polaris Ranger EV. Powered by an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor.


    The American 2017 Polaris Industries Ranger EV sound collection shares 44 sounds in 3.49 gigabytes of audio. It showcases the sound of an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor in 4 channels with 2 custom stereo mixes.

    The sound pack includes 4 synchronized takes of onboard driving. 4 channels of audio capture the engine and onboard perspectives, with 2 custom stereo mixes provided. Performances include driving slow and fast, with steady RPMs and ramps, starting, stopping, and more.

    The package includes Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, full professional metadata, and metadata import files in 7 languages.

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  • A crush on music

    Distortion and saturation play a very important role in music production. From subtle, clean and warm tube or tape saturation to the wildest multiband guitar amp effects: FabFilter Saturn 2 delivers.

    Saturn 2 introduces a host of new features such as a redesigned interface with modulation visualization, new subtle saturation and linear phase processing for mastering, many new distortion styles, and more.


    Warmth, harmonics, color and dynamics

    FabFilter Saturn 2 offers a range of different high quality distortion models, inspired by the vintage sound of tubes, tape, transformers and guitar amps. In addition, you get five creative FX distortion styles to mangle your sounds in weird and unexpected ways.

    With its multiband design and per-band feedback, dynamics, drive, tone and modulation options, Saturn 2 will bring a unique flavor to your music.

    Bring your sounds to life

    Add life and depth to your music using the extensive modulation section. By applying subtle modulation to crossover frequencies, dynamics, band levels or tone controls, great warmth and definition can be achieved.

    With all the XLFOs, EGs, XY controllers/sliders, envelope followers and MIDI sources you will ever need, you get practically unlimited modulation possibilities. Creating new modulation connections could not be easier: just drag and drop. And Saturn 2 visualizes all modulation in real-time to show exactly what’s going on.

    FabFilter goodies

    Finally, FabFilter Saturn 2 contains all the usual FabFilter goodies: perfectly tuned knobs, MIDI Learn, Smart Parameter Interpolation for smooth parameter transitions, interface resizing and full screen mode, support for Avid control surfaces, GPU-powered graphics acceleration, extensive help with interactive help hints, SSE optimization, and much more.

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  • Cricket – Junior & Senior is our latest SFX library toolkit, created to cater to cricket specific sounds. We have covered a broad range of specific sounds that differentiate Cricket from other batting sports. Included are sounds for Cricket Gear, Movements, Batting, Bowling, Fielding and Other Miscellaneous sounds.

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  • An ice hockey game is an exciting, dynamic and powerful sonic experience. From the thunderous crack of a puck hitting the boards at full speed to the gentle scrape of a stick on the ice, this library contains a complete range of the game’s on ice sounds, all captured with natural reverb in an indoor arena.

    Included are a range of performances of skate, stick, puck, and whistle sounds, as well as rink door opens and closes, and various board, glass, and ice impacts.

    The skate sounds include starts, stops, turns, and pass bys, as well as single steps and scrapes for detailed editing and layering. Stick sounds include different kinds of shots, passes, drops and scrapes, and impacts with other sticks, the boards, and the ice. Puck sounds include impacts with the ice, boards, skates, the goal metal and net, and even goalie pads. Rink sounds include the opening and closing of doors, impacts with the boards and glass, and a goal horn. Two different types of whistles were recorded, with varying durations.

    Each sound effect performance was recorded from multiple perspectives – a stereo ORTF pair of Lewitt LCT 540s microphones, a closer wide XY from an Audio Technica BP4025, and a close mono Schoeps CMC6/MK41 – either stationary or following the action on a boom, depending on the type of sound. The ratio of direct to reverberant sound differs between these perspectives, offering a variety of options when editing to picture.

    Also included are quad-channel room tones from two different ice rinks, and a special onboard recording of a puck, made by taping a Sony PCM-M10 to a puck and sliding it across the surface of the ice.

    The actions were performed at a range of speeds and energy levels, with multiple takes for variety. Please refer to the sound list pdf below for details. Captured at a sampling rate of 96kHz, these recordings contain detailed information above 20kHz, expanding the possibilities for manipulation when slowing and pitching them down.

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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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- a few highlights:
  • Sci-Fi Advanced Propulsion Play Track 1191 sounds included $99

    ADVANCED PROPULSION is a next-gen sound design toolkit built for creating dynamic sci-fi vehicle engines and passbys. The designed engine sounds are all seamless loops, making them perfect for use with various plug-ins and interactive applications. All raw source material used to design the engines is included, giving you maximum creative flexibility.

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  • Genres Vintage Anime SFX Play Track 350+ sounds included $69

    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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  • 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.
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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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