Cope with game audio layoffs - with Brian Schmidt Asbjoern Andersen


Working in game audio offers some fantastic opportunities and experiences, but game development is also a volatile industry where mass layoffs and sudden studio closures are all-too-frequent. This series is dedicated to helping you prepare for, cope with and bounce back from layoffs when working in audio.

We're looking at it from a game audio perspective, but the vast majority of advice in this series will apply to anyone working in audio:


By Jennifer Walden and Asbjoern Andersen
Please share:
 

In this installment, we talk to Brian Schmidt — creator of GameSoundCon (held this year from Oct. 29 – 30 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, CA). He’s also a frequent keynote speaker at other game industry and sound-related conferences, like Game Developers Conference, Montreal Interactive Games Summit, and the Audio Engineering Society Conference.

Schmidt has been in the game sound industry for over 30 years and has worked on over 140 titles. His clients include major game studios like Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Sony, Capcom, Namco, Zynga, and Sega to name a few. He’s even an inventor of audio and game technology, with about 20 patents to his name. Schmidt was the 2008 recipient of the Game Audio Network Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Here, Schmidt discusses ways to prepare for and power through a layoff in the game audio industry:
 

Should game audio pros automatically plan for a layoff, even if their job seems stable?
Brian Schmidt (BS): The video game industry can be volatile. Even large companies like Microsoft or Amazon can have layoffs in their game audio groups. Or new management decides to outsource work that was previously done by in-house employees. Or a small company discovers it’s burned through its capital faster than they thought and the hammer falls. So it definitely makes sense to always keep that in the back of your mind to be ready in case it happens.
 

What can they do to prepare ahead of time?
BS: 1) Stay informed: Keep in touch with what’s going on in the game industry overall, and in game audio in particular.

2) Stay current: Are you up on the latest tools and tech? If your studio is a hardcore Pro Tools + FMOD shop, see what the latest version of Wwise, Fabric, ADX or CRI has to offer.

3) Stay connected: It’s very easy to become disconnected with the community at large when you work in-house; you already have co-workers to keep you social, so don’t let the fact you have a great in-house position keep you from hitting the local audio meet-ups.

4) Get Visible: If you’re working in-house, especially on a reasonably well known title, don’t be afraid to parlay that cache to benefit your own personal brand. Apply to be a speaker at conferences (GDC, GameSoundCon, AES, etc.), and get to be known external to the company, especially if there are interesting or unique things you are doing.

 

When a layoff happens, what are some things to do immediately to help soften the blow? Do you have any strategies for finding a new position?
BS: There are obvious financial things you should take care of pretty quickly. Hopefully you had previously set aside an emergency fund to help soften the blow (for some great overall financial advice, I’m a big fan of Jill Schlesinger’s site and podcast). Or receive a bit of a severance package to help things.

Give yourself a few days to settle down, but I’d say within a week, start your new ‘job’ of ‘finding your new job.’

If the company is large enough, they may have resources to help you find employment elsewhere. Make use of them. That’s what they’re there for.

Give yourself a few days to settle down, but I’d say within a week, start your new ‘job’ of ‘finding your new job.’

Your job of finding your job can take several forms. For example:

• Update your demo reel: Make a great demo reel, showing off your most recent achievements and/or things you’re especially proud of.

• Block out some number of hours each day for skills improvement: Never played with Unity or Unreal? Go through the audio tutorials. Pick up a “Making Unity Games for Dummies” book and work through it. Set up that orchestral template you’ve been meaning to. Dive into parts of your DAW you haven’t before.

Kick the tires at video editing (videos can make demo reels). We have a great advantage that the tools needed for game audio are either free (Unity, Unreal, FMOD, Wwise, etc.) or reasonably priced (Reaper, Avid Media Composer First, etc.). Always been meaning to get Wwise certified? Now’s the perfect time to go through all their tutorials.

Or dive into the innards of Excel or Google Sheets (Yes, I know someone who got a gig partly because she was one of the only applicants to have successfully worked through the full Excel part of the sound design take home test she was given).

• Look for networking opportunities: Both anecdotally and more formal surveys seem to show that most game audio gigs are gotten through networking or referral. So check your local scene for both audio and game developer hangouts, meet-ups, conferences, seminars, etc. Get out there and be seen/heard.

• Look for actual job listings: Even using the right keywords in a source like Indeed can show a lot of openings. One of the best sites out there for audio job listings is www.soundlister.com, which is constantly being updated.

• If you don’t’ have a website, now’s the perfect time to create one: I’m partial to Wix, but I’ve also heard that Squarespace and Weebly are very easy to use.

One almost silly sounding recommendation while doing the above is: Get up in the morning. Get dressed and “go to work” (presumably in your home office or studio) with a reasonable, consistent schedule, putting in a full work-day

One almost silly sounding recommendation while doing the above is: Get up in the morning. Get dressed and “go to work” (presumably in your home office or studio) with a reasonable, consistent schedule, putting in a full work-day.
Not only can that make you more likely to follow-through, but it also means that when your workday is done, you can stop and not feel like you should still be looking for a gig.
 


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

 

Latest releases:  
  • Electricity Lamps Play Track 64 sounds included, 88 mins total $29.90 $25

    Lamps focuses on the buzzing/humming sound of light bulbs, lamps, fluorescent tubes, you name it… You can find a sound for any electricity driven device you can imagine.

    These sounds can be used as pure effects or as a layer in your ambiances/atmos tracks to create a buzzing hallway or even to add tension in a basement scene with a fluorescent tube.

    Low humming growls, aggressive and high pitched, glass resonant tubes, tiny filament lamp, fridge style hums,etc…
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  • Animals & Creatures High Desert Ambiences 4: Coyotes Play Track 34+ sounds included, 111 mins total From: $39

    COYOTES 1 – DESCRIPTION:
    • In High Desert Ambiences 4: Coyotes, I revisit the place where my field recording journey started: West Texas. On my drive out, a massive wildfire was burning large parts of the Davis Mountains. The day I arrived firefighters were finally able to contain the blaze, but sadly not before 22,000 acres burned. Much of the wildlife is too slow to escape, but luckily one pack of coyotes was fast enough to climb over a ridge. Normally I hear coyotes out in the plains where they love hunting jackrabbits. That night, however, I was recording from the edge of the dead fire. I was stunned to hear howling deep in the valley! The pack had run into the mountains to escape the blaze.
    • In this library, hear the angst-ridden vocals of coyotes running to escape a wildfire. Hear the howls and yips of an extremely close pack bouncing from high valley walls. Hear an echo chamber filled with the haunting howls of coyotes who has just had their home burned.

    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.

    COYOTES 1 – KEY FEATURES:
    • Six distinct coyote choruses. Recorded closely, from about 1/4 mile.
    • Howls and yips bouncing from high valley walls
    • Regal Great Horned Owl hoots
    • Lonely crickets chirping
    • Bats: ultrasonic and audible clicks
    • Eerie ranch dog barks
    • Quiet Nature clips from the same location to use a “natural roomtones”.
    COYOTES 2- KEY FEATURES:
    New Content – Available 9/13/2019.
    • Recorded on a separate trip to the same location
    • Extended coyote choruses with no other wildlife
    • Close and distant howls from as close as a quarter mile
    • Haunting echoes
    • Lush cricket choruses with coyotes
    .
    HOW ARE COYOTES 1 AND COYOTES 2 DIFFERENT? 
    • Recorded on separate trips to the same location
    • Recorded in the spring vs. autumn
    • COyotes 1 has more pack choruses
    • Coyotes 2 has more single lonesome howls
    • MS vs. ORTF recording
    .
    TEXT MARKERS:
    • Named markers are included in each file to help find interesting events in an otherwise uniform waveform.
    • Markers are included in the Soundminer and BWAV description fields starting with the prefix “Marker Text”.
    BLOG POST:
    • Read how I captured these mournful howls in my blog post: Wildfire Coyotes.
    FILE LIST & METADATA:
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    MORE INFO:
    • Read 40+ user reviews 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 – COYOTES 1:
    • Sennheiser MKH 50 and 30 in Mid/Side
    • Sound Devices 702
    • Rycote MS Blimp
    GEAR USED COYOTES 2:
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 pair in ORTF
    • Sound Devices 702
    • Rycote ORTF Blimp
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    The Complete Collection contains 1373+ sound effects from every sound library that we have released so far. It features Sci-Fi, Fire, Ice, Mecha, Rocks, and Plastic sound effects, including ambiences, drones, textures, swooshes / wooshes, impacts, glitches, sequences, and more. Royalty-free.

    Included libraries: 

    • Sci-Fi Explorations – Vol I – 546 files / 3.06 GB
    • Designed Fire – 255 files /  1.17 GB
    • Designed Circuits – 272 files / 1.58 GB
    • Designed Mecha – 47 files / 190 MB
    • Designed Ice – 47 files / 236 MB
    • Designed Rocks – 60 files / 309 MB
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    Created using cutting-edge granular and wavetable synthesis techniques, this 120 sound library of instrument manipulations and heavily-processed, resampled musical phrases provides a large palette of ideas to draw from for your audio projects, whether using the production-ready sounds as they are, layering them, or as a basis for further sound design.

    Contents:

    • 40 Granular Abstract Ambient Atmospheres
    • 40 Granular Abstract Ambient Elements
    • 20 Synthesized Abstract Ambient Atmospheres
    • 20 Synthesized Abstract Ambient Elements
    Add to cart
  • There are a lot of door sound libraries but I was missing the key sounds with variations on a project two years ago. After that, I started specifically recording key and lock sounds whenever I heared an interesting door or lid. I tried to capture the four most common performances (put the key in, remove the key, open the lock and close the lock) each at different speed (slow, medium, fast). This is a selection from these recordings. Some are captured in 192kHz with Earthworks QTC 50 to capture high frequencies, waiting to be pitched down several octaves and still remaining crispy.
    There are little locks from piggy banks and caskets, wooden cabinets, metal lockers, appartment doors with plastic keys, locks on regular homes and much more.
    In addition I added a few key drops on different surfaces (mats, parquet flooring, tiles, concrete…) and jingles.

    46 %
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    Ends 1569967199
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Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

Do you feel that freelancing is a viable path forward?
BS: Freelancing is definitely a viable path. In fact, as a composer, it’s far more likely you get hired as a freelancer than a full-time employee (although that does occur, too). However, freelancing isn’t just working, but for multiple employers. You have to get yourself into an entrepreneurial mindset. Most of the successful freelancers I know either enjoy that aspect of being freelance (to a certain extent), or have partnered with someone who is.
 

More on bouncing back from a layoff – with Damian Kastbauer:

For the first installment in this series, game audio guru Damian Kastbauer was kind enough to share his thoughts on how to land on your feet after a layoff – you can read his insights here.
 

Any other advice you’d like to share on surviving a layoff?
BS: I keep thinking back to the first 2 questions — the best way to survive one is probably to have prepared for it. Perform at your current job with professionalism, integrity and by being a pleasure to work with. The industry’s not large, and people always want to work with people who are great to work with.

I keep thinking back to the first 2 questions — the best way to survive one is probably to have prepared for it

A layoff will no doubt be a stressful time, with a lot of factors that are highly personalized. Don’t be shy to avail yourself of any resources or support that are there for you, be they corporate/professional or personal and family.
 

A big thanks to Brian Schmidt for the insights! Find out more about him and GameSoundCon here.

 

Please share this:


 

 


 


Succeed in sound:

• How to Set (and Get) the Right Price for Your Audio Work

• 10 Essential Tips for Game Audio Freelancers

• How to be a successful sound designer – with Scott Gershin

• 5 Useful Tips for Upcoming Sound Designers and Sound Editors

• Sound Opinions: How to get game audio pricing right

• Building a successful audio post studio – with Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman

• Rebuilding your studio: Goals, tips and lessons learned

• Creating audio for games – with Martin Stig Andersen

• A life in sound: How to foster creativity and protect yourself from burning out – with Chance Thomas

• Tips and thoughts on running your own audio post production house – with William McGuigan

• 7 Sound Alternatives to Working For Free

• Audio Outsourcing Success: Essential Tips, Thoughts and Working Practices from Adele Cutting

 
 
The sound success series:

• How to succeed in UI/UX Sound Design, ADR Recording, & Audio Programming

• How to succeed in sound design for Film, Documentaries, and Trailers

• How to succeed in sound design for Games, Animation, and Television

How to succeed in Field Recording, Foley, and Teaching Sound

• How to succeed in Audio Branding, Music Editing, and sound for VR

• How to succeed in Sound Editing, Sound for Advertising, and Production Sound

 
Breaking into audio – guides and resources:

• The ‘Quit Aspiring’ book – by Adam Croft

• 4 Effective Ways to Break into Game Audio

• Tips for Creating a Perfect Resume for Audio Industry Jobs

• Yet Another Game Audio Hiring Article – by Ariel Gross

• 5 Tips for Getting a Job in the Audio Industry

• Applying for a job in game audio – by Matthew Florianz

• Freelance Game Audio: Getting Started and finding work – by Ashton Morris

• How to get started (and make it) in game audio – 10+ fundamental questions answered by Akash Thakkar

• Courses: How to network and get paid for your work in the game industry – by Akash Thakkar

• How to Craft a Perfect Cover Letter for Audio Industry Jobs
 
 
Finding those audio jobs:

• Get the weekly Audio Jobs newsletter

• Join the Audio Jobs Facebook group
 
 
Showcasing your work:
 
• Get a free profile on Soundlister

• Upload your demos to Soundcloud

• Upload your demos to ReelCrafter
 
 
Networking:
 
• Find game audio community groups around the world

• Find interesting audio events around the world

• Find other audio pros around the world
 
 
Coping with a layoff - and how to bounce back:

• How to prepare for – and power through – a layoff in the game audio industry, with Brian Schmidt:

• How to Survive a Game Audio Layoff – insights from Damian Kastbauer

• What it’s like to be laid off from your video game studio

• What To Do Before and After Being Laid Off

• Facebook Group: Survival Skills for Creatives
 
 
Education and knowledge:
 
• Get an audio mentor at the Audio Mentoring Project

• How To Learn Game Audio Online – A talk with Game Audio Educator Leonard Paul

• Read the 100s of sound stories and guides on the A Sound Effect blog (search for stories here)

• Browse Industry Data: Game Music and Sound Design Salary Survey Results

• Browse 100+ Sound Design Guides

• Get tips and ideas for making your own sound effects

• Discover 1000s of sound libraries from the independent sound community

• Take online courses in Wwise, FMOD Studio, Unity, Pure Data & Unreal at the School of Video Game Audio
 
 
Getting into independent sound effects:
 
• DIY SFX libraries - Your guide to your first sound effects library

• Sound effects survey results: Here are 90+ ideas for new SFX libraries

• How to create an indie sound bundle

• The quick-start guide to adding sound FX library metadata
 


 
 
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:
 
 
  • Animals & Creatures Zombie Voices Play Track 110 Original Sounds sounds included $29.99 $19.99

    Experience this huge soundbank of skin-crawling zombie sounds, expertly recorded for maximum scare factor!

    Includes 330 audio files of stomach churning Hisses, Roars, Groans, Grunts, Sequenced sounds, Throat Fluids, Breath sounds and more… All in cutting-edge cinematic horror quality and multiple WAV and MP3 formats for your convenience.

    GROW THE HORDE!

    Featuring a huge variety of situational sounds, such as Warnings, Attacks, Fearful Screams, Hurt and Deaths voice sounds, and many more. Combine them together to create your very own undead horde! OR use the included Idle and Attack zombie horde sounds, pre-made for you!

    Hurry! BUY NOW and bring your humanoid monster character to life!

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Huge variety of Roars, Groans, Hisses, Grunts, Warnings, Attacks, Sequenced sounds, Throat Fluids, Breaths, Hurt and Death sounds and more
    • Perfect vocal styles for multiple genres (Adventure, FPS, RPG, RTS Games, Casino Slots, etc.), any scene or situation
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    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!
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  • 'Organic Lifeform Textures' by Bluezone Corporation is an inspirational sound effect library offering a selection of 99 ( 24 bit / 96 kHz / stereo ) unusual and mysterious sounds : From huge organisms to tiny insects, unexpected groans to invertebrate creatures moving through mud, this SFX library will offer you ultra high quality malleable textures for all your projects. This downloadable sample pack is very usefull for pro editors, film makers, music producers and video game sound designers.

    All sounds were recorded using various sources and processed meticulously using high-end gear. These sound effects have been layered to give you ready-to-use elements. You can easily pitch, modulate, mangle and stretch these sounds to create thousands of variations. 'Organic Lifeform Textures' has been designed to enhance science fiction, mystery, suspense and fantasy video game and scoring projects. Note: The background ambience in the demo is not part of the product but is added free of charge.

    Add to cart
  • In a remote research lab in the north-east of England, scientists have been secretly carrying out experiments on a number of human test subjects. There is no record of what these experiments entailed or who authorized them, but one thing we do know is that something went horrendously wrong and transformed these once-innocent, everyday people into something else entirely… Something inherently evil.

    Herein lies an audio documentation of these wretched beasts as they run amok with only one thing on their minds… To feed and to destroy.

    Zombie contains 205 vocal sounds in the following categories:
    Subject A: 67 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
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    Processed: 27 vocal sounds with pitch down and reverb fx
    Layered: 4 layered, looping sequences of Subject A & B
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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Electricity Lamps Play Track 64 sounds included, 88 mins total $29.90 $25

    Lamps focuses on the buzzing/humming sound of light bulbs, lamps, fluorescent tubes, you name it… You can find a sound for any electricity driven device you can imagine.

    These sounds can be used as pure effects or as a layer in your ambiances/atmos tracks to create a buzzing hallway or even to add tension in a basement scene with a fluorescent tube.

    Low humming growls, aggressive and high pitched, glass resonant tubes, tiny filament lamp, fridge style hums,etc…
    This library contains 44 designed textures and about 20 source material files with full and detailed metadata embedded ( Soundminer, Basehead, iXML ) , all at 96kHz / 24 bits.

    16 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569880799
  • Animals & Creatures High Desert Ambiences 4: Coyotes Play Track 34+ sounds included, 111 mins total From: $39

    COYOTES 1 – DESCRIPTION:
    • In High Desert Ambiences 4: Coyotes, I revisit the place where my field recording journey started: West Texas. On my drive out, a massive wildfire was burning large parts of the Davis Mountains. The day I arrived firefighters were finally able to contain the blaze, but sadly not before 22,000 acres burned. Much of the wildlife is too slow to escape, but luckily one pack of coyotes was fast enough to climb over a ridge. Normally I hear coyotes out in the plains where they love hunting jackrabbits. That night, however, I was recording from the edge of the dead fire. I was stunned to hear howling deep in the valley! The pack had run into the mountains to escape the blaze.
    • In this library, hear the angst-ridden vocals of coyotes running to escape a wildfire. Hear the howls and yips of an extremely close pack bouncing from high valley walls. Hear an echo chamber filled with the haunting howls of coyotes who has just had their home burned.

    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.

    COYOTES 1 – KEY FEATURES:
    • Six distinct coyote choruses. Recorded closely, from about 1/4 mile.
    • Howls and yips bouncing from high valley walls
    • Regal Great Horned Owl hoots
    • Lonely crickets chirping
    • Bats: ultrasonic and audible clicks
    • Eerie ranch dog barks
    • Quiet Nature clips from the same location to use a “natural roomtones”.
    COYOTES 2- KEY FEATURES:
    New Content – Available 9/13/2019.
    • Recorded on a separate trip to the same location
    • Extended coyote choruses with no other wildlife
    • Close and distant howls from as close as a quarter mile
    • Haunting echoes
    • Lush cricket choruses with coyotes
    .
    HOW ARE COYOTES 1 AND COYOTES 2 DIFFERENT? 
    • Recorded on separate trips to the same location
    • Recorded in the spring vs. autumn
    • COyotes 1 has more pack choruses
    • Coyotes 2 has more single lonesome howls
    • MS vs. ORTF recording
    .
    TEXT MARKERS:
    • Named markers are included in each file to help find interesting events in an otherwise uniform waveform.
    • Markers are included in the Soundminer and BWAV description fields starting with the prefix “Marker Text”.
    BLOG POST:
    • Read how I captured these mournful howls in my blog post: Wildfire Coyotes.
    FILE LIST & METADATA:
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    MORE INFO:
    • Read 40+ user reviews 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 – COYOTES 1:
    • Sennheiser MKH 50 and 30 in Mid/Side
    • Sound Devices 702
    • Rycote MS Blimp
    GEAR USED COYOTES 2:
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 pair in ORTF
    • Sound Devices 702
    • Rycote ORTF Blimp
  • Destruction & Impact The Complete Collection Play Track 1373+ sounds included, 210+ mins total $80 $70

    The Complete Collection contains 1373+ sound effects from every sound library that we have released so far. It features Sci-Fi, Fire, Ice, Mecha, Rocks, and Plastic sound effects, including ambiences, drones, textures, swooshes / wooshes, impacts, glitches, sequences, and more. Royalty-free.

    Included libraries: 

    • Sci-Fi Explorations – Vol I – 546 files / 3.06 GB
    • Designed Fire – 255 files /  1.17 GB
    • Designed Circuits – 272 files / 1.58 GB
    • Designed Mecha – 47 files / 190 MB
    • Designed Ice – 47 files / 236 MB
    • Designed Rocks – 60 files / 309 MB
    • Designed Plastic – 146 files / 490 MB
    13 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569967199
  • Dreamstates is a collection of abstract ambient elements full of stretched-out swathes of noise, hazy, washed-out melodics, deep, tension-invoking drones, unique transitions and Lo-Fi, other-wordly textures to inspire dream sequences, flashback scenes and moments of character reminiscence.

    Created using cutting-edge granular and wavetable synthesis techniques, this 120 sound library of instrument manipulations and heavily-processed, resampled musical phrases provides a large palette of ideas to draw from for your audio projects, whether using the production-ready sounds as they are, layering them, or as a basis for further sound design.

    Contents:

    • 40 Granular Abstract Ambient Atmospheres
    • 40 Granular Abstract Ambient Elements
    • 20 Synthesized Abstract Ambient Atmospheres
    • 20 Synthesized Abstract Ambient Elements
  • There are a lot of door sound libraries but I was missing the key sounds with variations on a project two years ago. After that, I started specifically recording key and lock sounds whenever I heared an interesting door or lid. I tried to capture the four most common performances (put the key in, remove the key, open the lock and close the lock) each at different speed (slow, medium, fast). This is a selection from these recordings. Some are captured in 192kHz with Earthworks QTC 50 to capture high frequencies, waiting to be pitched down several octaves and still remaining crispy.
    There are little locks from piggy banks and caskets, wooden cabinets, metal lockers, appartment doors with plastic keys, locks on regular homes and much more.
    In addition I added a few key drops on different surfaces (mats, parquet flooring, tiles, concrete…) and jingles.

    46 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569967199
 
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