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In this fourth installment about how SFX creators have pushed artistic and professional boundaries, we hear from Detunized, BOOM Library, and Lilesoundlibrary. Stay tuned for more stories from our community through the next couple weeks.
What is your name, and who are your team members/co-creators?
Detunized @detunized: Hello community! My name is Stephan Marche. In 2009 I founded Detunized where I develop and distribute themed sound libraries and live packs for the Ableton DAW, as well as universally formatted instrument banks. My current catalog offers about 80 releases. I don’t have employees or freelance supporters, so Detunized is a mere one-man business. Nevertheless I couldn’t run Detunized without the help of some alter egos. (Maybe it is funny to get to know the “team” ;-) )
Lilesoundlibrary @Lilesound: Hi, we are Carl and Francesco, co-founders of Lilesoundlibrary, an independent audio studio. In the beginning we dealt only with sound design and music for animated films and short movies. We realized that more and more we had to create and synchronize our own sounds to get the “perfect match” for our projects. So why not embark on the creation of libraries? It really is something we value with lots of fun and learning throughout the creative process.
When was a time you felt you pushed the boundaries to capture the perfect sound effect?
Detunized: As I have had only a short career as a field recordist, I prefer to be cautious with superlatives. Up till now, I definitely haven’t captured THIS particular sound that I will remember until the end of my life. But this is exactly the reason that keeps me on track and encourages me to continuously develop my personal skills, as well as improve my setups and learn more and more about the thing that fascinates me most: sound.
Nevertheless, I have some nice memories of recording trips that led me to Sweden, Denmark and the Polish/Ukrainian border so far. In Denmark I captured the eerie atmospheres that one can find in and around the numerous bunker relics that formed the Atlantic Wall in WW2. I spent ten days along the entire west coast of Denmark where I crept through the bunker fields from morning till night. While sitting in dark and wet corners with crushing waves above my head, protected only by some concrete remains, I often began to think about the bigger context. Was it necessary that Europe had to go through these horrible years of WW2? Where would we be today without it?
Questions of this kind also occurred when I was recording the ‘Wind Turbines’ library, which took place on a large wind farm east of Berlin and in various locations in southern Germany. It is the search for alternative forms of energy that yields such wind farms and the benefit of its “clean” energy. But at the same time this is accompanied by a lot of drawbacks. Wind farms consume huge amounts of space, birds are hit by the propeller blades, and local residents suffer from the noise.
So for me personally, recording and editing sound is often like reading a book that inspires me to think about the source of a sound and its social circumstances. I also feel an obligation to conserve sounds for future generations so they can better understand the life of their ancestors.
BOOM Library: Actually several times: when a tiger literally pissed on me and the blimp, when a lioness grabbed the windshield through the cage and didn’t want to let go, or when I was in the same room as a dog who all of a sudden decided to jump at me. Luckily, the owner was close enough to catch the dog right before it was at me.
So working with animals can be dangerous for the sound designer and the equipment, but I also had a nice walk through the Alps with Patrice to record large rock debris in a remote place. Along the way, we learned we had vastly underestimated the trail and were afraid we’d have to stay somewhere up in the mountains without a tent or anything to sleep in. Before we started our hike, we of course checked the weather reports and nothing was stated, but suddenly the sky went dark and we were surprised by a thunderstorm, making it even worse. Luckily we had enough plastic bags with us to cover all the equipment, and we made it back down the mountain safely.
Also, when producing the ‘Creatures’ library, we always had a bucket around, because we and the actors were pushing ourselves so hard that we were very close to vomiting in the studio a few times.
Carl: While we were working on a short film, we had to recreate the sound of a possessed child in the womb. For this we used the technique of worldizing/re-amping. We first recorded the sound of a baby crying and reworked the sound to make it the scariest possible using EQs, pitch and delay. Then we played it in a small low-quality guitar amp inside a sealed plastic bag that we immersed in a metal box filled with water. Pressing play, the sound was really special. We recorded this sound with two mics, a cardioid (xy) close to the source and a hydrophone inside. The result was convincing and very dark—it was fun to do.
When was a time you felt you pushed the boundaries to design a new sound effect?
Detunized: With regard to new synth techniques I’d like to mention my second activity. Besides Detunized, I also work for Jobomusic.com, a young Swiss company that is about to develop “Flexion”. The concept of this software synthesizer is based on the principle of constructive synthesis that allows the creation of dynamic shapes with modulatable Flexpoints. These shapes (and higher level patches) can be used everywhere in the modular Flexion architecture so it is possible to create new sounds with unexpected flexibility. The patch management is cloud-based so it is easy to provide sub-elements or complete patches to the community. We have scheduled to start the public beta this summer.
BOOM Library: During the last two years and still ongoing, we focus on pushing our mastering qualities, especially for our “Designed” sound packs. We’ve started to test and use a lot of outboard gear, speaker setups, and the studio room. We are always trying to make the end-result cleaner, crisper, and more aggressive (only if it suits the topic, of course) without clipping the files, which is something we see a lot in current library work. Sometimes we sit here for a week, only to get the first single one-shot sound done to set the standard we want to achieve for the whole set later on.
Francesco: I feel this way every time I have to design a fight scene. Sometimes we feel a fight should have a very old school sound (Bud Spencer & Terence Hill) or ultra-realistic (The Raid). I personally have always thought « Does a punch really sound like that? » Why not try a mix of the two styles to keep the powerful aspects of realism and the fun aspects of the fake? So I dedicate hours to successfully find the perfect blend of sounds using different textures (vegetables, impact, sweetener, whoosh, cloth movement, etc…) to give a subtle sense of balance between reality and design.
When have you pushed the boundaries in selling sound effects (whether they be yours or others’)?
Detunized: As I have a background as a video editor for many years, I was always a user of foley sound and libraries, but I had to deal with cumbersome media like CD-ROM or DVD. In 2009 I felt it was time to jump to the other side. Being dissatisfied with the few but huge sound libraries available at the time, I wanted to try to make smaller libraries that focused on one explicit topic. Due to the rapid development in audio and internet technology, it was then possible to set up a webshop at a moderate cost and offer downloadable sound libraries without the need to tamper with physical storage media. At the same time the potential customer community benefited from computers and software that became more and more efficient each year. So I think Detunized is a child of its time, or in other words: I was just at the right place at the right time.
BOOM Library: I think we were the first to offer the so-called “Construction Kit” vs. “Designed” editions, having raw recordings bundled with designed sounds made purely out of the corresponding “Construction Kits”. Since we think of ‘sound topics’ rather than specific objects or actions, and we want to produce complete packages of those topics, it is sometimes very hard to get all those different things done in a certain time-frame. There is a lot of work, traveling and organising in most of our libraries.
Carl: I do not know if we have pushed the boundaries in that way, but I feel I pushed myself during the creation of the website. I took care of developing the website, and frankly I started from zero. I think it took maybe one year to set up. Nothing worked in the beginning, but it took time to develop a method for a working website.
Francesco: In fact we really did everything alone until the creation of the logo, the website, the art covers, and setting up a server for the files… If you don’t have a team or a good friend to manage all this you must give considerable time to understand and control everything before you even think of selling sound libraries.
Carl: Of course, you can create sound libraries without running a website—that way you are only dedicated to what you do best. But for us, it was obvious to manage our site, because we love taking pictures and videos and adding other content.
Have you ever created a sound or synth that made you or your team laugh out loud? If so, what was the sound?
Detunized: Sure! I once recorded a terribly ravaged car from a friend of mine. Everything was broken, but the car still ran. So we took this opportunity to torture it like we would never do with a normal car for daily use. We drove along the backyard at unnaturally high revs, changed gears without the clutch, smashed the mirrors, and things like that. We acted like children in a sandbox playing a demolition derby.
BOOM Library: This is mostly the case with disgusting sounds like farts or accidents that happen. Once, we were recording remote planes and the owner crashed one. The reaction was surprisingly relaxed—freely translated from German, it was something like, “Oh, whoops!” Another fun moment was when we had an actor who thought the recorder wasn’t running anymore and said, “Imagine if you did this shit your whole life, wouldn’t that be super annoying?” We do and we love it! :-D
Carl: Frankly no matter the subject, I believe we laugh a lot in each session.
Francesco: We are currently working on a trilogy, 3 sound libraries around a common theme. The first, “Gross Sounds” (coming soon), is oriented toward cartoon and disgusting sounds. During a session, we recorded a whoopee cushion in a basin filled with water and soap, and the sound that came with the bubbles was simply amazing—realistic and very disturbing. I think we laughed for at least for 3 minutes continuously after.
Carl: We are like children, perhaps we are actually children. It is a childhood passion, you must listen and learn to tell stories. The first time I experienced a storm I could not help but laugh at the sound of thunder passing through the microphones into my headphones. It was something extraordinary, a great memory.
What is your advice for sounds designers who want to create and sell their own SFX libraries and synthesizers?
Detunized: From my perspective there isn’t any special advice for the sound business, only some general rules that apply to all kinds of creative jobs. The most important things are patience and confidence. Also, being able to accept setbacks can be helpful.
BOOM Library: Try to find gaps that you can and want to fill. Don’t just fill libraries with stuff, try to be outstanding. Average quality isn’t enough and most likely never was.
Carl: For us, it is the beginning; however, assuming the technical and creative aspects are not a problem for someone who wants to start in this job, I think especially of the graphical aspect: website, art covers, logo… Take photos of the recording sessions for social networks. It can be even a small camera to film the making of and presentation of your libraries. All of this is not the most essential aspect of the work, but it’s very difficult to do without.
Francesco: Don’t over-process your sounds. Try to be realistic as much as possible to provide the materials and give the choice to the sound editor and mixer. The gear is also important, but at the same time, quality is more and more present at an affordable price, so there really are no excuses. Audio equipment has become greatly democratized.
Carl: It is also a question of artistic perspective. Making a sound library is above all grouping high quality sounds around a common theme. However beyond the idea of this catalog, you must also have original themes and unexpected thematic assemblies. These are things we will try to do in the future.
What is an area you’d like to see pushed even further?
Detunized: I’d definitely like to see more efforts to make the society aware of their acoustical surroundings and to do a lot more research on how we can bring back the calm. The Earth’s population is growing rapidly and so are the big cities, which cause more and more noise. So it should be the government’s responsibility to enforce the development of concepts for quieter cities, industry areas and vehicles, just to name a few of the major noise emitters.
BOOM Library: I am personally always interested in more weaponry. There can’t be enough different firearm tails, gun calibers and real mechanics.
Francesco: We are working on the realism of the sound. The human ear is fantastic for us, and the goal will always be to try to get closer to what we hear and also what we feel.
Carl: In fact the world of sound recording is rather well done today having microphones available at the right price in the market. There is really plenty to do when you start. Working with several PZM, dynamic, static, and contact mics layers allows us to record and approach mixes with realistic and convincing results.
Francesco: We are not going to get into creating “blockbuster libraries” or ultra sci-fi, not because we do not like it, but because for the moment there is already a lot of them on the market. As sound editors we lack the everyday sounds more suitable for small projects. We are going to focus on this at the beginning. We would like to create a few series in this spirit.
We hope you enjoyed reading these stories and words of advice. To hear more about their experiences, check out their blogs:
BOOM Library: Right now we have “News” on our front page with industry news, our releases, reviews of equipment we just tested, job offers, tips and tricks, and so forth.