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:

 

Latest releases:  
  • Destruction & Impact Debris – Ambisonic Play Track 110+ sounds included, 17 mins total $75

    Get all sorts of ambisonic debris recordings in this release from Spheric Collection – perfect for earthquakes, landslides, explosions and beyond. Debris is the material you will need for a house and gallery collapsing. From very small stone and dust to large rocks, this collection is a good set of mineral sounds – covering everything from impacts, continuous falling debris, rocks poured from various heights, light and heavy falling debris sounds, a number of falling rock sounds, to rocky explosions and blasts, glass sounds and more. Always immersive all sounds are ambisonic recordings.

    About Ambisonics:
    This is an Ambisonics sound effects library - and by using the free SoundField SurroundZone 2 plugin you can convert the B-format files into your preferred format (stereo, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0 or 7.1 surround). Note: The library also contains ready-made stereo mixdowns for your convenience.
    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Affright Play Track 208 sounds included, 45 mins total $30 $15

    Affright” is a collection of 208 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to induce tension, fear and urgency in horror productions.

    You will find looped percussive elements (clocks, metals, hits, alarms, musical elements and more at 75 bpm), designed rhythmic elements (75 bpm) and fx (atmospheric elements, reverses, noises, risers, drops).

    If you are a musician who wants to define the building blocks of an intense horror track or maybe you are a sound designer who needs to create a musical moment in a scene from a sound design perspective, this library can help you to achieve those things.

    Metals, vinyl noises, voices, ukuleles, flutes, guitars and clocks were used to create this intense pack of 164 loops and 44 Fx.

    Check the main demo!! It was created very quickly using only the sounds of the pack with NO ADDED EFFECTS, only mixing the levels of the sounds and shows you the intensity of what you can create with this library!!

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  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Vintage Film Tech Effects Play Track 206 sounds included, 5 mins total $120 $99

    Vintage Film Tech Effects features Slate claps, Beeps, Bloops, Film leader tone, Static, 2 Pops, digital dropouts, record player noise and much more. We’ve collected these vintage sounds from old Hollywood dailies reels, and film stock. 206 tracks that recreate the sound of the lost art of classic Film, TV and radio production.

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  • City Life Transit: Japan Play Track 40 sounds included, 2.75 hrs mins total $30 $15

    Looking for authentic ambient sounds of Japanese transportation? Look no further! Field recordist and composer Ryan Ayers travelled to Japan in April of 2019 and captured this wonderful collection. His journey took him from Osaka to Tokyo to Fukuoka and all points in-between. Travel aboard the trains of the JR, the famous Shinkansen, the Hanyu Ferry and more! Explore the train platforms and station terminals of Osaka. Get lost in the Kansai International Airport. There is a subway noodle shop as well as specialty food markets. Authentic walla and natural activity give this collection the ear candy necessary to be an integral part of great soundscapes.

    This is a purely recorded sound pack. Nothing is synthetic or layered here. What you hear is exactly what was captured on location. We edited and mastered the files to bring out the best parts of the recordings. Most of the recordings have been ready-made into loops for ease of use. As always, we have embedded the files with detailed metadata for easy database searches.

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  • Foley Wooden Ship Ambiences Play Track 50 sounds included, 85 mins total $149.99 $99.99

    Ahoy Mateys! Step aboard the finest sailing ship sound effects library in the land.

    Whether you’re working on an exciting Pirates of the Caribbean style video game or a relaxing sea-faring romance, the hours of exceptional background loops and additional cutting edge ship sounds contained within this sound pack will set your project on a course to excellence!

    EXPLORE AN ENTIRE SHIP

    Whether your adventure takes place in the MAIN DECK, CABIN, BELOW DECK, atop the CROWS NEST, in a MEDIEVAL PORT, or on a DISTANT SHIP in the HIGH SEAS we’ve got you covered! Each ambience contains MULTIPLE VARIATIONS, ALL WEATHER CONDITIONS, and MULTIPLE INTENSITIES to cover each and every part of the ship, on the rough and calm seas, this sound effects library is perfect for every situation you need.

    A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

    Our expert team of sound designers have meticulously crafted each ambience into CONTINUOUS, NON-REPETITIVE, DRAG AND DROP-READY LOOPS that will serve as perfect background audio for your game, film, animation, live event, or even as relaxing background audio! We have even included FULL and SIMPLIFIED MIXES, ISOLATED WEATHER, OCEAN and WOOD CRACKING versions, SHORT and LONG non-repetitive variants, and numerous other options for your convenience!

    TREASURE APLENTY

    With FREE UPDATES, FOREVER! and FREE BONUS AMBIENCES: MEDIEVAL PORT and isolated, SEA, SAILS and FLAG FLAPPING, Ship’s BELL RINGING, WEATHER and WOOD CRACKING SOUNDS, all supplied in industry standard Hi-Rez WAV and Hi-Quality MP3 formats, there’s no better time to set sail on the high seas with this ONE OF A KIND sound pack!

    So what are you waiting for? Take command of this UNIQUE library and begin your journey on the high seas today!

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Huge variety of Old Wooden Ship Interior and Exterior Ambiences, All Weather Conditions and Additional Useful BONUS Sound Effects for every scene or situation.
    • Multiple variants and intensities for your convenience and additional edit options (lengths, looping versions, stingers, etc.).
    • Ready to use – requires no editing, labelling or splicing. Categorized, organized and individually labeled files for maximum use efficiency
    • All files are included in Hi-Rez WAV, High-Quality WAV and High-Quality MP3 formats
    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     

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Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

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:

  • 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.

    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Industrial Disquiet Play Track 53 sounds included, 200+ mins total $85

    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

    Add to cart
  • 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

    Add to cart

 
 
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