Asbjoern Andersen


Michael Theiler and the team at Kpow Sounds have done game audio for titles such as L.A. Noire and The Banner Saga. About a year ago, they decided to create their own sound effect libraries – an experience that proved far more challenging than expected. But today, they’ve got two brand-new libraries out – and here’s how they went from the initial idea to the final products:
 

Creating sounds is fun. It’s a joy, a creative process that sees you learning everyday while exercising your creativity.

Like many disciplines, it rewards effort and practice with new skills, faster workflow, and an ever expanding horizon of possibilities. I love it, I do it pretty much every day, therefore creating sounds as part of a sound library seemed a logical move.

I’d thought about it for years, but hadn’t actually put anything together. The decision to go for it came about a year ago now.

Twelve or so months to go from “let’s make sound libraries and sell them!” to actually having anything worth selling. It was something I didn’t take lightly, and was definitely a journey.

Part of the reason for the time taken to get to this point is that there already exists a wealth of amazing independent sound effect libraries out there that are doing a great job at providing quality, useful sounds. Guys such as Tim Prebble, Frank Bry, Paul Virostek, Stephan Schutze, the guys at Echo Collective, there are too many to list.

They all provide quality sounds, well edited, named and organised and professionally promoted. Joining these guys requires considerable effort to present similar high quality work.

Because there are so many already doing it, there are less useful things yet to be recorded. You need to be creative, or unusually perceptive in figuring out what sound post professionals might need.

I would sometimes find an area where sound effects libraries were lean or didn’t exist

For me working on so many varied game audio projects meant I had to provide incredibly varied sound design, and I would sometimes find an area where sound effects libraries were lean or didn’t exist.

I would note these for the future.

But I still felt a little insecure putting myself in the presence of those guys, knowing the level of quality I would need to provide.

Also, figuring out what sounds to create is only part of the problem, and probably one of the more ‘fun’ issues you will face. Next comes the hard graft.
 

Testing the waters

I tested the waters by creating a user interface collection for Unity users as my first experiment in sound effect library creation.. In hindsight I think over-complicated it.

The UI Collection is made up of 14 separate sound packs. Each contains sounds that sit together nicely, and each contains various types of ‘enter’ ‘select’ ‘scroll’ ‘back’ and ‘error’ sounds. Each sound also has subtle variations for replayability.

My thinking was that this would give an efficient way of quickly providing a cohesive User Interface experience with all the required sounds sitting well together, ready for implementation.

Seemed like a good idea. But the amount of editing, cataloging, exporting, file-naming was incredible.

Protools

A ProTools session containing just the audio files used for the previews for the UI soundpacks

Keeping everything consistent and labelled in such a way that it was obvious what sounds fitted where, what their functions were, and including variations and different sounds with the same function. A nightmare. I got through it, and learned a huge amount in the process.

I will be adding the library to the available libraries as I hope people will find use for it, but I think the pain in creating it overshadows its usefulness. I guess the market will decide!
 

Time for fun

With that project wrapped, the next I tackled and our first release was the Toots & Squeaks collection. As we have been working on a number of children’s games for iOS, we’ve needed fun, sometimes comedic, sometimes just accents, or descriptive vertical and horizontal type sounds.

I had a difficult time sourcing them, so these sounds became our first library.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Consisting of toy whistles, squeeze toys, slide whistle and melody pops, and a variety of horns, the intention was to create a great palette of highlights, punctuations and accents that I would have liked to have found in a library when working on these games.

I was a lot more prepared for the task ahead with this library. I knew I had to be organised, consistent, and well-planned in order to present something at a level required to compete in this market.

Each recording session I set up in the same way, with the tracks all being fed from the same mics to the same channels.

I would dump, edit and label the recording sessions before booking the next one. This made a big difference to my workflow. It doesn’t sound like much, but I get a bit crazy and single-minded and probably a bit manic when I have a mountain of boring, menial work to get through.

Exporting and naming files is for me just that. But it is important – really important. It has to be done right.

So splitting it up into the smallest, most manageable chunks works really well for me. Being consistent with the file-naming and metadata is also very important. It took a few goes for me to figure out a system.

If anyone is about to attempt it, have a plan, then go through adding all your metadata, but be mentally prepared to go back and edit up your early work.

Often a good system doesn’t really present itself till a quarter or a third of the way through all the files.

This could just be me, others may be better at organising and compartmentalising, but I found I would need to go back and redo a lot of my work to be sure it all felt consistent enough for release.

There was a great sense of relief having completed all that, but then the next step is just as important – the packaging.
 

Preparing to ship

I used WinRAR to compress the libraries, as it gets far better compression than zipping achieved. I created sample files that can be compressed to mp3 to help people decide whether the library is right for them.

Some of the people creating sound libraries use videos, and I think this can create more buzz and be more accessible for a lot of people thinking of buying the library.

It is something that I would like to do in the future, but right now I have no way of creating high quality footage, and anything but high quality material would cheapen the product, so I decided to stay with mp3 files for previews. I hope this provides a level of preview people are happy with.

If you have the means, planning video capture of your recording session into your workflow would be hugely beneficial later on in the shopfront, preview and promo phases.
 


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 
  • Destruction & Impact Crash & Smash Play Track 1110+ sounds included $44 $30.80

    The Crash & Smash sound effects library contains over 1110 sounds of destruction. For this collection I went on a rampage at several junk yards around my hometown, collecting a vast amount of crash sound effects. This one is highly focused more on crashing sounds with all the rumble and debris, giving you hundreds of variations of glass smashes, rolling stones and stone hits, wood breaks and impacts and metal crashes.

    As usual the sounds come perfectly cleaned and edited so you can instantly place them in your timeline or design new sounds with it. Of course they also got some EQ and compression treatment but weren't further “designed”, so you have nice and flexible source material for your own productions.

    All sounds come with embedded Soundminer Metadata sorted in subfolders for:

    • Glass
    • Metal
    • Stone
    • Wood
    • Plastic

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  • Environments Organic Nature Play Track 160 sounds included, 180 mins total $29 $15

    Organic Nature gets you more than 3 hours of ambient nature sound recordings, capturing the sounds of forests, woodlands, beaches and more in Tennessee, South Carolina and Washington State. It also delivers weather sounds such as rain, thunder, and freezing rain – and even comes with a collection of campfire / burning sounds. + Includes embedded Soundminer meta data.

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  • A collection of authentic Italian motorcycles and scooters – includes recordings of models like the Guzzi, Ciao Piaggio, Vespa and Ducati. Recordings include pass-bys, onboard, starting, idle, stopping, horn honking – and even skidding (see the full track list below).

    Just updated!

    This library has just been updated with 72 new recordings (47+ minutes) of motorcycles & scooters such as the APRILIA 150cc, LAMBRETTA 125cc, MALAGUTI 50cc, MOTOMORINI Scrambler 1200cc, MV AGUSTA F3 600, PIAGGIO X9 500cc and a VESPA 125 ET3 PRIMAVERA


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Setting up shop

The shopfront and selling the libraries phase is currently where I find myself.

At first it was fairly daunting. Deciding on the correct method of delivery is difficult. I found a solution that works for me. It’s locally based so can deliver funds direct to our bank account, it uses Amazon’s S3 storage, so should be quick for people downloading, and payment can be made in a few convenient ways.

It’s called Selz, but as I say, its based locally to me, so may not be the best option for everyone. Do your research, there are many options out there.

The Kpow Sounds ShopFor me the important aspects where allowing for PayPal but also having non PayPal options, having storage and download of digital goods as part of the package, and having a clean and neat look.

Being relatively simple to setup was also an important element.

All that’s left now is getting my libraries known to as many people as possible. It’s hard to say how effective one can be at this. I’ve built up some networks already, so am certainly not coming into this dry.

I know that the game audio and sound post networks are very supportive and are lovely people, so I am pretty sure I’ll be able to get the word out and connect with the people who could use the libraries I create.

I hope this has been some help to those thinking of also embarking on a similar journey. So far it has been a rewarding experience.

 

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Thanks a lot to Michael Theiler for sharing the story! Meet him and the team on Twitter and check out the brand new sound effect libraries below:

  • Drones & Moods Industrial Disquiet Play Track 53 sounds included, 200+ mins total

    Industrial Ambiences – perfect for industrial settings, subtle intricate backgrounds, eerie man-made areas and horror ambiences. Features long, four minute files for extended scenes.

    Industrial Disquiet highlights:

    • 53 Tracks Total (25 Day time Tracks, 28 Night time Tracks)
    • High Resolution Photographs of Recording Locations Included
    • Thorough metadata included in all files
    • All tracks recorded and edited at 24bit, 96kHz
    • Each Track around 4 Minutes in Length
    • 5 GB compressed download, 7.1 GB uncompressed

  • You get 1,074 individual sounds, in 14 separate soundpacks containing variations on all the sounds.

    Included are all commonly required sounds needed for a comprehensive UI experience.

  • This library consists of hundreds of performances (581 files total) of toy whistles, clown and bicycle horns, slide whistles, melody pops, party blowers and squeeze toys.

    Metadata has been meticulously added, and the material in this library is ready for immediate inclusion in your sound designs. Have fun!

    Toots & Sqeaks highlights:

    • 581 broadcast wave files
    • All at 24 bit, 96kHz
    • 4.81 uncompressed gigabytes of audio data
    • Most takes include stereo, mono and distant microphone perspectives
    • Metadata carefully added to each audio file ready for efficient searching


 
 
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