This month’s Q It Up wraps up the responses we had to last month's question.
Q It Up: Tell us what libraries you use for sound effects. (We're talking about natural sound effects such as doorbells, dog barks, car horns, etc., NOT effects such as zaps, lasers, and such.) What are your likes and dislikes (if any) about the library or libraries? Also, what other sources of sound effects do you use? Do you make your own, for example? If you have a trick or two for making or using sound effects, please share with us. Do you know of some great Internet sites for sound effects? What are the addresses?
Jeff Wros, Independent producer & voice talent, Davenport, Iowa: I've used The Hollywood Edge--good library with the classic "elevator lift" sound effect that I've heard so many times since on television. Another tried and true is the Digiffects collection. It leaves some to be desired, but I've found that 8 of 10 times I can find what I'm looking for. I know Network Music has a library out--haven't heard it yet, but I'd venture to guess that it's pretty good, too. The one I haven't used much is Sound Ideas, you know, the one that ships the 1000 Series for free with the hopes that you'll persuade the GM to buy the others? Rarely make my own effects. Best source for effects is the bin at Best Buy. They always have some available, much of it useful too, and cheaper than the buyouts!
John Pellegrini, WLS-AM, Chicago, Illinois: Sound effects, to me, at their best should be like therapy. If it works correctly, you don't notice it at all. They should enhance, but never overwhelm. The last thing you want is for someone to listen to an entire commercial or promo and ask, "I wonder where that noise came from?" If that happens, you've lost the entire purpose of the spot.
I've had to Foley some of my own sound effects from time to time. Usually it's for something that just simply defies description. For example, I once had to imitate the sound of a dog relieving itself on a fire hydrant. I filled up an old dishwashing liquid squeeze bottle with water and squirted it against a sheet of metal that drained into a wash tub. Close enough for rock 'n roll, if you ask me. Another time, I had to make the noise of a large passenger jet landing, as heard from inside the cockpit. I found a sound effect that was a plane taking off, but they had no landing version. So I recorded it to tape and reversed the tape. The result was the sound of a plane's engines slowing down instead of speeding up. The spot was for a flight school, and the pilots who ran the school couldn't believe that I hadn't recorded the sound from an actual flight.
But, like the Foley artists themselves, I really don't want to reveal all my SFX ideas, largely because some people are shocked to discover that the sound that they wanted recorded exactly from the original source actually sounds nothing like the sounds you expect to hear. Like a big computer mainframe. Truth be told, if you recorded one, all you'd hear would be the blower on the internal cooling fan. Usually, a low-grade hum works better to describe a huge computer. But that sounds like the subject of an entire article in itself, and I don't have enough expertise in this field to write about it. Maybe some other RAP members should address the subject.
Pete Jensen, KXLY/KZZU, Spokane, Washington: The first digital SFX library we got 10 years ago was FirstCom's Digiffects. Then we got the Hollywood Edge Premiere Edition, and we also have The General 6000 from Sound Ideas. Having multiple libraries is a luxury to me because no single library can cover it all, and with 3, we can find the sound we want almost every time.
Kurt Schenk, Jacor, Rochester, New York: We use the usual, good old Trendsetter and Sound Ideas. As for realistic sound effects, I've been known to take a mic out on location. For instance, hockey warm ups, crowd, and that damn loud air-horn when our team scores. You can't find that on any library.
Dennis Coleman, Production Director, CBS Radio, Austin, Texas: Here at CBS Austin, we use the Network SFX library, the Sound Ideas 1000 Series (their oldest one I think), a Lucasfilm Library that was here when I got here, a library called Digeffects from Sweden or somewhere, another no-name library from the Netherlands that's pretty good, Cartoon Trax, and various other CDs that are available at a garage sale near you. Most of the time, with that many effects at our disposal, we'll just use them straight off the CD. Sometimes, though, it's necessary to Foley our own for that "just right" sound, or I'll layer them together to make a new sound. This is especially helpful on promos and sweepers, when just any old laser zap won't do. We try everything from flipping the audio, to running the sounds through every outboard effect processor we have. Sometimes they come out pretty cool; sometimes they sound better straight off the CD. And most of the time, people walking through the hall just stop, shake their head, and move on.
Jim Cutler, JCCR/TV,Inc., Cutchogue, Long Island, New York: We use all of the Sound Ideas libraries (we own all of them), and several from the Hollywood Edge. I like to buy a bunch of solid, general packages, and then fill-in with specialty disks from different companies. I love the old Electra SFX disks, started with the records (remember them?) and now have the 5 CD versions. The proper loudness of the sound effect in the mix is the key to making it sound real. I hear a lot of people playing all the effects they put in a spot at full volume. That sounds amateurish. You don't have to overuse SFX either. I notice a lot of folks filling their spots with subtle layers of sound effects and then bragging that it's so intricate. No one hears most of it, man! They're in their car, or half-paying attention, and all the other sounds in the room are competing with your spot. So anything too subtle isn't heard and doesn't matter.
Ben Blankenship, Big Ben Productions, Jonesboro, Arkansas: The newest edition to my SFX library is the SFX ToolKit from GMI Media. I'm already using it quite regularly. Many of the effects have a good stereo sound, and some of the effects are obscure and come in handy for sticky spots. I still rely on the Media General library as well, but even though it’s on CD now, it sounds like they've dubbed it from the old vinyl recordings, so the quality is low. Many times I find myself in the field with a portable DAT. Just last week I produced a promo for a station on their fall ATV (4 -wheeler) giveaway. I had several bike SFX but no 4-wheeler SFX. So I spent the afternoon at the Honda shop. I recorded the sounds from all different sides of the ATV. After final mix down, it worked out great.