He’s just released his latest footstep SFX library, featuring 10 different surfaces – and a special Footsteps Bundle that delivers a total of 19 different surfaces.
But just how did he go about creating it, what was his approach to capturing great footstep SFX, and how did he deal with the (literally millions of) challenges that awaited him in the Finnish wilderness? I decided to have talk with him to get the story behind the new library:
Hi Pasi, what’s the idea behind your Footsteps SFX series – and what’s new in Footsteps Two?
Hi Asbjoern! The idea for the Footsteps series came when I needed various snow footstep sounds for a project that I was working on. I looked at the general sound effect libraries that I had and realised that the variety was not good enough so I decided to record my own.
I went to my hometown in Northern Finland during a Christmas break and recorded as many snow sounds as possible. First I recorded footstep sounds in snow that was only 5cm deep and after that I continued to record in deeper snow. At the end of the day I ended up walking and scuffing knee deep in 40-50cm snow. Those deep snow sounds came out really nice and I also got some good exercise out of it!
It was on this trip that I wrote down and planned the first footsteps library too. I started to think about what was missing in other commercial libraries and realised that there was a need for special surface footsteps like forest plain, wood scrap and pine needle ground. The good thing about these special surfaces was that I would not need to record the sounds with multiple shoes because the sound would not alter that much. This decision made the recording sessions shorter and easier.When I was editing the Footsteps One library I noticed that these sounds could be used in more ways than just footstep sounds so as I was planning the Footsteps Two library I kept this in mind.
Footsteps Two adds ten surfaces on top of the nine that were in the first library so there are now 19 unique surfaces in the series.
As with the first library I recorded all the sounds in my hometown in quiet rural locations. Also I have to tell that when I was editing the wet swamp sounds I felt like I was disembowelling a corpse so these sounds will definitely be useful for adding that special flavour to your gore / horror sounds. :)
How did people respond to your Footsteps One library?
Overall the response has been great and sales have been good too. I have not had that much feedback on where and how people have used these sounds but hopefully at some point I will get to hear some of these stories.
An example of the footstep sounds included in Footsteps One
What was your recording setup for this, and what was your approach to getting the best-sounding footstep recordings?
I used the Sony PCM-D50 and PCM-D100 handheld recorders to record these libraries. The main reason for this approach was that I wanted to have a simple, lightweight and easy to use setup that I could operate and carry around with me to locations like swamps and lakes. The quality of the built-in microphones in Sony handhelds is great, the self-noise is low and the batteries last a looong time. I combined the recorders with the Rycote Portable Recorder Audio Kit so I could eliminate most of the handling and wind noise.
My recording approach was simple as well. I wanted to get closely miked and clean footstep sounds so I tried to keep the recorder as close to the feet as possible without introducing too much proximity effect. On the other hand for the stomp sounds I wanted to include that oomph factor so I left a bit of the proximity effect in there.
Dirt • Dry Sand • Dry Swamp • Forest Plain • Forest Plain II • Frozen Stairs • Grass • Grass Long • Grass Short • Gravel • Pine Needle Ground • Snow Deep • Snow Packed • Snow Scrape • Water Deep • Water Shallow • Wet Swamp • Wood Scrap • Wooden Stairs
Can you describe a typical recording session?
The recording sessions were pretty straightforward. First I would find a location that was quiet enough and had the surface I needed. Then I just hit the record button, voice tagged the recording by saying what I was going to record e.g. footsteps on pine needle ground walk and started to perform the sounds. I always voice tag my recordings because it helps me to keep track on what I have recorded and also makes the editing phase faster since I can quickly check the start of the recording and hear what is on it.
Did you learn anything from the making of Footsteps One that you could use for Footsteps Two?
There were a couple of things, yes. While scouting for a good and quiet location I learned to listen better to the location and really focus on finding the problem areas if there were any.
I ended up recording most of the sounds for Footsteps Two in the evening and sometimes during the night because it was a lot calmer and quieter then
I especially listened to the birds and tried to find a location that did not have them which was easier said than done. I ended up recording most of the sounds for Footsteps Two in the evening and sometimes during the night because it was a lot calmer and quieter then.
The second thing I learned was related to performing the sounds. I listened to the Footsteps One recordings and realised that I had not left enough breathing room between the individual sounds so I corrected this in Footsteps Two. This small change also helped to make my editing workflow a lot faster.
Some of the footstep sound effects included in Footsteps Two
What’s been the best experience making the new library?
The best experience was to be in the wilderness, relax and just record. I spend most of my year in Espoo / Helsinki area so these getaway recording trips are a great way to unwind and reset my brain. I am not used to the constant traffic noise so being in the middle of a forest, sitting on a tree stump and just listening to the nature around you is always going to be the best experience possible.
What was the most challenging thing to get right for Footsteps Two?
The most challenging thing was to minimize the sound of the billion mosquitoes that inhabit Northern Finland during the summer months. I had my summer vacation in July and that is usually the month when the mosquitoes are the most active. I knew that beforehand of course so I came prepared with a mosquito hat and some repellent too.
As always the mosquitoes eventually win and get you. I can say that recording wet swamp footstep sounds at night (when there was little to no wind) was not a fun thing to do but I survived to tell the tale.
This time I had to get rid of my pants so I could record the deep water sounds – and boy did the mosquitoes love that!
The mosquitoes were literally everywhere which forced me to record all the sounds in smaller sessions so I could battle the mosquitoes in between. The same thing happened when I recorded the water footstep sounds in the lake near my cabin. This time I had to get rid of my pants so I could record the deep water sounds – and boy did the mosquitoes love that! I think I even managed to discover a new state of focus within myself which allowed me to record the sounds successfully even when there were ten mosquitoes sucking the blood out of me! :D
The mosquito problem extended to the editing phase as well where I tried to get rid of the mosquito noises as best as I could. I don’t usually do any post-processing to my libraries but this time I used RX4 Advanced to clear some of the more prominent mosquito sounds from the recordings.
I like to edit all my sounds manually so I can check and get rid of the bad takes and unwanted sounds. It takes a bit more time but I guess it is the only way I can be totally happy about a library when it is finished.
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