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The following is a guest blog post by sound designer Mark Camperell, Founder & Creative Director at Empty Sea Audio and its sister company, The Library by Empty Sea:
 
Behold, the sound effects library. The only library I know of where you won’t be told to “SHHHHHHH.” What a glorious notion!

For sound designers in search of source material, there are so many options to choose from.

On one side, you have the big boys like The Hollywood Edge, Blastwave FX, Sound Dogs and Sound Ideas. And on the other side there are small, independent producers like Rabbit Ears Audio, A Hiss and A Roar, Unidentified Sound Object and Echo Collective. And there are all the others in between.

If you’ve made the decision to join the ranks of the sound designers out there that are releasing independent sound libraries, you’ve probably got a lot of a questions on your mind.

I aim to address some of these questions and hopefully provide some guidance for folks looking to explore the entrepreneurial world of independent sound effects libraries.

Hopefully, I encourage you to get out there and do it!
 

What to do, what to do?

The first hurdle to clear when releasing a collection of sounds is deciding what to record or create. This can be quite daunting because really, the sky is the limit.

There are two schools of thought in regards to the what: Create something that people need a lot of, or create something that is extremely unique and hard to find/duplicate.

Starting out, try something that you have relatively easy access to. You could have an uncle that’s a marine officer and can get you onto base to record some maneuvers. Or you could have a friend that has a fully restored, hot-rodded ’57 Chevy that sounds killer!

Chances are, you know someone that can get you around something that sounds cool. When you’re starting out, you don’t necessarily want to have to shell out a bunch of dough just to get access to something awesome. If you settle on something that isn’t exactly unique, then make it something that is created in a unique or different way.

Most importantly of all though, make it something that you would want to buy and use yourself!

If you’re going the designed route, make sure you’re starting with source material that you have ownership of.

Notice, I keep saying create. Sound libraries don’t always have to be raw sounds recorded in the field. They can be designed or synthesized also. If you’re going the designed route, make sure you’re starting with source material that you have ownership of.

When it comes to sound libraries that you sell, you should ONLY design with sounds that you record yourself. This protects from any legal woes down the line.

 

Now the how

This is a delicate topic. Ask ten different sound designers which mic to use for a particular application and you’re liable get ten different answers.

I’ve always been of the school of thought that if you capture an interesting sound or performance, the quality of the gear shouldn’t matter as much as some would like you to think. Some folks get all caught up on the specs of the gear that they’re using.

Focus your energy on capturing interesting sounds in a way that makes the most sense.

Don’t worry about your gear. Focus your energy on capturing interesting sounds in a way that makes the most sense.

I’ve got a whole folder of stuff that I recorded with my smartphone’s built-in microphone, the contents of which regularly make it into projects I’m working on. Not the most ideal, but if it’s a cool sound, it’s a cool sound and I’ll find a way to use it. Okay, getting off the soapbox…

Some collections will beg for multiple perspectives.

Car collections for instance might have 6+ channels of material being captured at once. A collection of switches and buttons might only need 1 or 2 channels. 6 channels would be overkill. Be smart and efficient with regards to your gear choices.

 

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    Need sound for a mobile game? With Mobile Game you get 578 files of musical stabs, modern & retro pickups, crafting essentials, tonal and organic game trinkets and upgrades, power ups, a variety of coins, bubbles, UI and so much more mobile game fun. ​It's a pack that will bring instant familiarity to the users of your game or video productions.

    Inspired by app market hits like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush, we present to you Mobile Game, our most fun and gameplay-inspired sound library yet!

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I always like to map out my collections up front so I know if I can accomplish my goal with the gear I already possess or if I need to rent additional equipment.

If you’re in the field, choose only the essential gear you need to get the job done. Don’t load up your 50 pound car battery if you know you’re not going to need it. Remember that limitations can be helpful.

I often times will only give myself 2 channels to work with. It forces me to use my ears to find the sweet-spot which in the end can result in a better recording.

Try miking things in unusual ways. Try contact miking. Don’t just record an interesting sounding item, try recording it in a unique setting. Try miking the item underwater or in a giant culvert.
 

Coverage is king

When you’ve decided on what you’re recording, record ALL of it.

Just like with shooting video or film, you want coverage on the item. Especially if it’s an item that was difficult to gain access to. You don’t want to have to go back later because you missed something.

Obviously there are limitations to this, but do your best.

If you’ve settled on releasing a car sound pack, make sure you’re recording EVERY single sound the car makes. Get the hood, doors and trunk opening and closing. Get all of the locks, handles, knobs, buttons and sliders. Get all of its compartments.

 

I can’t emphasize this enough, GET IT ALL!

How about the windshield wipers? Gas tank? Turn signal sound? Radio static? Fan belts, why not?

There is so much more to a car than just the engine, wheel-wells and tailpipe. I can’t emphasize this enough, GET IT ALL!

Yeah, it’ll make for a lot of material to sift through later, but you’ll be thankful you have it. You might not use it all for this particular pack, but you might use it for another release later on!

With some smaller objects and only if you can afford it, you should even consider purposefully misusing the item at the very end to produce malfunction, damage or destruction sounds.

These are always unique and so many games and films feature destruction, so you know they’ll come in handy.
 

Read part two of this guide, where Mark Camperell takes a look at the post processing and the delicate art of pricing your sound effect library.

Jump to part two
 

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About Mark Camperell:

Mark Camperell is the Founder & Creative Director at Empty Sea Audio and its sister company,
The Library by Empty Sea. Mark’s direction, along with his ability to assemble uniquely talented audio teams, is positioning Empty Sea as a leader in creative audio services ranging from sound effects libraries to original music composition to full service post audio packages. In addition to his position at Empty Sea, Mark is also a freelance Supervising Sound Designer, Re-Recording Mixer and Music Producer with over 100 titles under his belt. Mark is an active member of the Motion Picture Sound Editors and Motion Picture Editors Guild.

The Library by Empty Sea:

  • Drones & Moods Dronos Play Track 154 sounds included, 154 mins total

    Brand New Sci-Fi Ambiences from The Library by Empty Sea. 6+ GB, 150+ sounds, almost 3 hours of material, all 96k, all looped for easy use.

  • Tired of those same old door knobs and hinge squeaks that you hear in every single game, film and TV show? Well, Gateway aims to remedy that issue while providing you with a brand new palette of sounds.

    Gateway comes packed with doors, doors and more doors! Low end, high end, slow horror creaks and squeaks, huge slams and impacts, tiny compartment doors.

    The Gateway family now includes the just-released Gateway Part 3, with more than 1400 new sounds.

    Doors, gates, overhead rollups, cabinets, closets, drawers, garage doors, fireplaces, sheds, you name it!

    Latches and knobs, wrought iron and chain link! Metal, wood, glass and MORE! All of these doors were acoustically captured in the real world. You won’t find anything synthesized here!

    Did we mention doors? Yeah, Gateway has those too.

    Gateway Part 1 features 675 files, 1200+ sounds

    Gateway Part 2 features 365 files, 600+ sounds

    Gateway Part 3 features 772 files, 1400+ sounds

    The Gateway 1-3 Bundle features 1812 files, 3200+ sounds

    Special offer:
    Do you already have Gateway Part 1 or 2? Send a message here for a special upgrade offer for part 3.

    Choose your preferred version below – or land some great savings by getting all three in one handy package!

    17 %
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  • Mechanical Robobiotics Play Track 3600+ sounds included

    Robobiotics is an exciting new sound effects collection from The Library by Empty Sea. It delivers 3600+ original sound effects for scifi and robots. We’re talking about almost 3 hours of material here.

    We spent over a year recording and designing Lasers, Robot Vox, Impacts, Servos, Ratcheting Metal, Ambiances, Transformations, Foley, Vehicle Bys and much much more!

  • Sea Monsters from The Library by Empty Sea is a collection containing over 4000 sound effects for creature vocals. This collection weighs in at a whopping 9GB!

    A must-have for any sound designer looking to level up on creature sound design.

  • This collection contains over 1400 original sound effects for user interfaces, telemetry, gadgetry and more.

 
 
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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:
 
  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles Mobile Game Play Track 578 sounds included, 30 mins total

    Need sound for a mobile game? With Mobile Game you get 578 files of musical stabs, modern & retro pickups, crafting essentials, tonal and organic game trinkets and upgrades, power ups, a variety of coins, bubbles, UI and so much more mobile game fun. ​It's a pack that will bring instant familiarity to the users of your game or video productions.

    Inspired by app market hits like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush, we present to you Mobile Game, our most fun and gameplay-inspired sound library yet!

    Mobile Game features sounds such as:

    Bubbles • Building • Coins • Crafting • Mechanisms and Contraptions • Musical Stabs • Objective Completes • Pick Ups • Potions • Tonal Designed Organic fx • UI/Menu • Upgrades

  • This plane library delivers several pass-bys, captured from different perspectives (interior and exterior) from my house, with windows opened and closed.

    Perfect to use and tweak if you need a spaceship flying (or another flying transportation) over your head!

  • The Sci-Fi Weapons library delivers more than 1000 futuristic weapon shots, charges, ricochets and other related sounds.

    All of them were designed using exclusively recorded Foley sounds, synthetic layers, various sound manipulation and morphing techniques.

    Single shots and automatic fire, reloading ammo, energy blasts, impacts and explosions, surface hits – it’s all there, ready to be used in your sci-fi projects!

    Forthcoming updates and extensions of the library are free! You have to pay the actual price once, and you will be getting new stuff as it is released.

Explore the full, unique collection here
 

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