Sound libraries are key tools of sound designers everywhere, while the way they are used differ between individuals, mostly they are used to sweeten or enhance original creations. Recently, while working on a project I was caught short on a couple of obscure sound sources, and resorted to downloading a selection from my favourite sound library websites . While editing these sounds, for some reason I was reminded of a developer I worked with who solely used library effects, and wouldn’t entertain the idea of my even editing them.

This in turn reminded me of the numerous times in my earlier days of advertising my services on various game dev forums where pretty much all audio design discussion (by non-audio types) frequently turned to ‘just download it from a free library/website’, as well as a couple of discussions with some friends who had colleagues that would just drop a sound straight from a professional library into the game.

“20th Century Fox Library, a library included with software such as Logic Studio or Sound Forge, or a downloaded boutique collection from independent vendors such as those listed at the bottom of this article.

One of the Hollywood produced sound libraries, as collated by their sound engineers over the years

website, sound libraries are “collections of sounds to serve as elements for sound designers to build their own sonic creations from”

As an example, I was in need of some specific animal sounds. As I had no suitable recording in my own sound collection, I delved into my preferred online royalty-free libraries and found the best examples from each and purchased them. I ended up with about 12 wave files from multiple sources. I could have sent those off as-is, and gone to bed at a reasonable hour, but instead took the time and care to sculpt the sounds into what I specifically needed. I combined them, pitch-shifted, time stretched, layered and EQ’ed the library sounds into submission, producing a selection of magnificent animal sounds that were matched perfectly to the animations they would accompany in-game.

Combining library sounds to create a new effect

 

So what have I achieved by putting in this extra work? I’ve essentially created new, original effects that were custom-made for a specific project out of raw elements I couldn’t have possibly obtained myself at such short notice. Also, no one will listen to these sounds and say “Oi, I heard this horse sound in ‘Barbie’s Horse Adventures 2‘!” With popular professional libraries, duplication of sound is a real danger if you aren’t customising the sounds you are using.

games!), however, no one really wants to be reminded of another film/game/tv show when immersing themselves into your world

And so the lesson is, dear reader, that although you can just buy a bunch of great sounds from library and throw them in ‘as is’, it’s much better for your project if these are used as a springboard for richer, more creative material that enhances your project.

 

About Sound Libraries

20th Century Fox libraries, a number of online libraries such SoundDogs (or the others listed below) have sprung up, offering a pay-per-sound / bundle model that can be really useful to the sound designer in a tight spot, without having to buy an entire collection. The downside with these online libraries is that I have found the quality varies quite substantially, from professional recordings through to amateur recordings made on cheap equipment with no noise reduction applied.

glass libraries. These have gained popularity because of their high quality, great value and the removal of the middle-man from the process.

If you, or your sound designer is in need of some ‘creative springboard’ material, please see the links below:

General online sound libraries:

Boutique Sound Libraries: