Working in a large post production facility is great. You get access to all the tools you need, especially a large sound effects library. However over the last decade a lot more post production sound professionals have found themselves thrust in to the freelance world.
On the flipside, client expectations remain as high as when they were dealing with a large facility. As well as having access to the latest tools, they also expect you to have a large and diverse sound effects library.
You Pay For What You Get
Sound Effects Libraries are not cheap. There are very good reasons for this. As well as the physical acquisition and design of the sound effects, you need to do extensive market research, then properly edit and most importantly, accurately catalogue your library. You also have to ensure that your effects are future proofed against the ever forward march of technology, which means high sample rates and bit depth, and multi-channel.
Another aspect is variety. During the 90's in the UK, the ground breaking File Effects library was very popular, but unfortunately became a bit of a victim of its own success. It seemed that it was an unwritten law that if you had a night time interior scene in a city, that it had to have the "FEX-08 08 01 Room Interior Room With Bass Resonation Of Individual Vehicle Passes; Tyre (Tire) Squeal At End" atmos track laid up. When certain sound effects are over used they become a cliche, but this is caused by a lack of availability.
This is where companies like Pro Sound Effects really come in to their own. The Hybrid Library 2017 contains a staggering 63,000 sound effects (individual worth over $10k!), and each category has a good variety within that area.
The Hybrid Library 2017 is sent to you in physical form, safely packaged via courier, on a 1TB USB3 hard drive. The library itself uses around 350GB of this drive, which allows you to use the remaining space for whatever you wish. It is formatted in the exFAT format, so is readable by all reasonably modern operating systems, including smart devices.
It also contains the excellent Basehead search engine (in both Mac and Windows versions) as a feature limited trial. Basehead deserves a full article of its own, and I'd thoroughly recommend upgrading to the full version, as that brings tools like being able to spot directly to the Pro Tools timeline.
Here's the full list of features -
- 63,812 broadcast .wav files for use in any project
- NEW: 8,000+ newly added feature film sound effects
- 293 Categories: From everyday, most-needed recordings to niche elements
- Full Online Access: 24/7 from any computer
- Free Annual Updates: Continually keep your library fresh
- 100 Additional Download Credits from their Online Library of 225,000+
- Curated from PSE's world class recordists
- 100% Royalty-Free
- PSE Warranty: includes 3-Year Data Replacement
The Devil Is In The Detail - Metadata
The drive contains a metadata spreadsheet which gives Basehead the power to help you find sounds where you might not have been looking. It also helps you avoid sounds you may not want, thus saving your time.
For example, if we were looking for Buffalo in Africa, and found "AfricanBuffaloC24127_ambience_01.wav", based on just the filename we might think we'd found the perfect thing. However, the metadata says -
African Buffalo. CU Sounds Of Buffalo Charging A Pride Of Lions In Defence Of An Injured Male; Hoof-Beats & Grunts; Lions Snarl & Growl As They Are Forced To Retreat. Rufous-Tailed Starlings Call & Alarm Call, Cricket Chorus & Other Birds In Background.
Which tells us that there are a whole host of other sounds involved with this recording, which might not be appropriate. Rich, well chosen metadata really helps find an effect when you're not entirely sure what you're looking for. I've known sound effects editors just flick through the library records to see where the page falls when searching for inspiration.
Piracy Is Theft
I'm old enough to remember the sound editing workflow for film before DAWs were common. There were only a few companies that had sound effects libraries, the most notable in the UK being CineSound. As an editor, you had to go through the piece and log how many times you needed a certain sound effect. If your show had seven occasions of a gun firing, you had to get that sound effect (or variations of) transferred to linear mag stock seven times. The company supplying you with the sound effects would log how many effects you'd ordered, the production it was for, and charge you accordingly. These companies would also keep a close ear out for films that used copies of their effects without paying for them, and then pursue them.
It's the same now. Major distributors have automated "bots" listening to content, trawling for instances of their intellectual property being used without licence. Another thing to keep in mind is using "bundled" or "commercially available" sound effects. Closer inspection of a lot of these often finds that they are only licensed for "personal use". However expensive you may think sound effects libraries are, this cost pales into insignificance compared to that of legal action.
There's another hidden risk. It's very tempting to shop around online and try to get the best price on a sound effect. This usually means going to some of the "darker" areas of the internet. I know a sound editor who in a desperate quest for a (very specific) car effect, ended up downloading from a site that they didn't really know the provenance of. Unfortunately this download also contained a virus, which wiped out their main Mac based Pro Tools rig. With the ease of digital audio cloning and distribution over the internet, these are all very important things to consider.
Pro Sound Effects Freelancer Program
So you've recently been thrust in to the "Freelance World", with maybe a statutory redundancy (severance) payout, maybe not. You're expected to buy your own DAW, find somewhere to work, get work in, do the work, get paid, and on top of all that, buy a sound effects library? I know what it's like - I've been there, a couple of times. The lovely people at Pro Sound Effects also know how it feels, so they have the Freelancer Program.
This program requires no purchase to apply for, but brings you savings of up to 60% on curated Libraries & Sound Design Software. The deals are updated regularly, and past product offerings have included -
- The Hybrid Library
- NYC Ambisonics
- And SoundMorph to name a few
The Pro Sound Effects Hybrid Library 2017 is a very comprehensive, well recorded and extremely well documented resource, with excellent after sales support and service. The effects are clean, dynamic, and I particularly like that if a sound effect is effectively mono, with no ambience, it is supplied as a mono file. This really helps maintain efficient disk space usage, as does the bundled Basehead software, which saves you from importing a whole bunch of effects just to find the right one. I also like that the drive is supplied in a format that can easily be mounted on a NAS system and supports all common operating systems. This particularly suits me as I often work from more than one system, in different locations, and don't want to risk carrying the master drive with me. Saying that, having it on a physical drive rather than dependent on cloud storage and internet access is an advantage in itself, and there is the three year warranty that includes data replacement.
The Pro Sound Effects Hybrid Library retails at $3995 for a single user perpetual licence. Other licensing options are available, plus there is a substantial discount if you qualify for the Freelance Program.