Here is an interview that Rob Nokes had some time ago, where he talks about the work on his sound effects company. Let’s read:
Question: What is the quality control for sounds available for the users and customers?
Answer: A Sounddogs.com librarian will review the recordings and master them before they are imported in the web site for users to purchase and download. The librarian ensures that only good quality sounds are making it onto the web site. There are a lot of substandard sound recordings out there and we take pride in providing a great library with a money back guarantee on all purchases.
Q: Who buy the sounds? What is the public Sounddogs.com focus?
A: Every one buys sounds as they are everywhere and in almost all products.
These products, and more, contain sounds for example: cellular phones, television, DVD menus, commercial music, video games, movies, TV shows, radio stations, webisodes, amusement rides, simulators, toys and etc.
Sounddogs.com’s focus is feature film. That is where the best sounds are being recorded and created and we believe that if our sound effects are used in feature films then they are good enough for every other person producing products that need sounds also.
Q: The price of sounds on the website is not expensive. How is it possible to maintain the site?
A: You’re right. Sounds are pretty cheap when you consider how much effort goes into recording, mastering, cataloging, and importing sounds on to Sounddogs.com’s website. The only way it is possible to stay in business is by sales volume and the expansive catalog we own the copyrights to. The first seven years of the business were precarious but now that we own so much of our own content we can sleep a little easier. It’s a tough to be successful in such a small niche micro payment business but when you love sound effects the way we do it makes it a worthwhile sacrifice.
Q: Does Sounddogs.com work with special orders?
A: Those are the best kind of jobs and the most challenging. We love doing special orders especially if they involve recording sound effects somewhere in the world. Sometimes special orders have a very limited budget and in those cases when delve into our immense archives and search for sounds that will do the trick. We purchase a lot of sound archives and are fortunate to own one of the largest sound libraries in the world. Check out SoundStorm, there are thirty years of film sound in that library.
Q: There are mp3 samples on the web site. What is the audio format you deliver to clients?
A: MP3 are for low-resolution previews. When a customer purchases a sound it is delivered to them immediately via ftp in full-resolution sample rate and bit rate in one of three selectable formats, mp3, wav, or aiff. All purchases come with a money back guarantee we’re not interested in getting paid unless you’re happy with your sound files.
Q: How can the sounds be used? Is it copyright material?
A: Each sound effect has a copyright just like music. The difference is that sound effects are sold with a synchronization license which allows an Editor to use the sound in a production with no additional license costs on condition that the sound effect is incorporated into a multimedia production with voice, visual, music, or other sound effects.
The sound effect may not be sold or used as a single sound effect by itself. That usage requires a mechanical license to reproduce the sound effect as a sound effect or a derivative of the sound effect. On the movies I work on I retain all ownership of sound effects that I record, create, and master but I make a point of over delivering to the production. I appreciate that they allow me to retain ownership and I reward them a sound library worth far more than they paid for it.
Q: How you choose the sounds to record? If you need a bird chirp, how do you select it?
A: A sound is selected based on quality of performance and that is generally quantified by how a sound makes us feel or what it makes us think of. Typically a good sound has: dynamics, changes in pitch over time, length in time, interesting reverb or reflections, and is generally isolated or as we like to say “clean.” Sounds that are short, un-dynamic, and lacking changes in pitch or level over time are generally static and boring. With this in mind I try to find a good sound to record and then do my best to isolate it with microphone selection, placement, and technique. Sound selection is about 70% of the job followed by 20% for microphone technique and 10% mastering.
Q: How are sounds recorded? Location or studio?
A: Sounds can be recorded on location (field recording) or in a studio. Usually studio recording is performed by Foley Artists, and field recording by SFX Recordists. Both have similar skill sets but I would say Foley Artists / Recordists have to be inventive in their use of props and microphone technique to create a natural sound in a controlled studio environment. SFX Recordists work in uncontrolled environments with varied obstacles that require quick problem solving and superb microphone technique. Also SFX Recordists interact with many people that are foreign to movies and sound work therefore communication with lay people with simple instructions is crucial.
Q: Who does the recording?
A: The SFX Recordist generally does the recording but in some cases you have a layperson help record something, that’s pretty rare though. An example might be an airplane pilot checking and modifying levels in flight.
Q: If the sound must be recorded in a studio, what is the set up?
A: Foley Artists have a prop room that contains thousands of different objects of all sizes, makes, shapes, and generally anything that is absolutely common to everyday life like bicycles, shoes, bells, telephones, doors, spray bottles, rakes, shovels, etc. The Foley Artist may record a typical sound or invent an atypical sound by combining similar elements from the prop room. For example celery snaps for bones breaks or a shammy on Plexiglas for a car brake screech.
Q: What’s the gear generally used on field recording?
A: A stereo MS microphone and a digital recorder will always do the trick. The important the shoot, the larger the recording rig. For example, with guns you want to record as many perspectives as possible, from extreme close up to distant. You want to sample the sounds as many times as possible during the same instant so you can mix the best elements from each perspective into one channel. Multi-track recording allows you more options and the ability to experiment where as when you only have a two-channel recorder you had best pick the best sound being made and record it cleanly. Good headphones are a must they should not distort and should have good isolation from background sounds.
Q: What are the difficulties for getting a good sound on field recording?
A: The hardest thing is to find a good sound to record. Then you need to record it as isolated from background noises as possible. Background noises generally are comprised of the elements wind and water, and nature, but the most difficult thing to avoid is people and their machines. I have been in remote parts of Canada, Kazakhstan, Norway, and The Cook Island and you still hear planes or cars in the background. I was logging recordings for Imax when I first started out in the business and was appalled to hear distant chain saws in the rain forests of Costa Rica and Guatemala.
Q: What kind of sound is hardest to get?
A: Animals. They are so unpredictable in their performance and movements. Keeping an animal on microphone while it makes a good sound requires incredible patience. That’s why good animal libraries are so rare and not very extensive. Even if you have an animal in a studio it does not mean that it will make a good sound, a natural sound, or even make a sound at all.
I try to record animals in their home environments with the advice of a naturalist or animal trainer. When I’m with the animal I study its body language and try to act in a way that is least offensive to the animal. This could mean a boom pole, staying low to the ground, or pointing the microphone up below the animal’s chin. You really need to feel out each animal and record as much as possible and hope for the best.
Q: Was there any situation where you couldn’t get the sound?
A: It happens all the time. If you go out to record a vehicle in the desert but the distant coyotes are too loud you might think the day is wasted but it’s not. Simply record the distant coyotes and wait for them to leave. If the crickets are too loud record the crickets. Take a negative and make it a positive. You may have to come back at a better time to record but that’s part of the experience of learning how our environments’ work. If you learn a specific location that is quiet you will start to learn when the best times to go are so that you can avoid such adverse situations.
Q: What’s the most problematic part, recording or mastering? Why?
A: Mastering is not a problem it is just time consuming. If you have spent an entire day recording it will take anywhere from one to five days to master the recordings. It takes fortitude and concentration to carefully listen and master recordings.
The thing about mastering is that when it is done it is done, it is done for every Editor that ever has to use that sound. If there is a microphone bump in a recording and it was used ten times by four hundred editors then that microphone bump would have had to have been removed 4,000 times. It’s best to remove it the first time so that Editors can focus on being creative and not cleaning technical faults in recording. Recording is fun it is easy compared to mastering.
Q: How do you get a certain technical pattern between all sounds you record for a movie?
A: A Supervising Sound Editor, Director, or Film Editor on a movie will ask for specific sounds and ask for situational sounds. A specific sound may be LAV-25 (light armored vehicle) and a situational sound may be Las Vegas casinos. I research the specific sounds and situations and then figure out where I can find the best places to record those sounds. Sometimes authorizations, rentals, and permissions are needed and sometimes not. I go out and record as many good sounds as possible at those locations, master them and then deliver them to the people working on the movie.
Q: How did Sounddogs.com get started? How many people work with you and where are they based?
A: Sounddogs.com’s roots started in early 1992, at Sound Dogs Toronto we recorded, mastered, and cataloged a sound library for our own use. We imagined one day that we could publish it but we felt that Sound Ideas was doing such a good job at that we did not want to enter that same market. After Sound Dogs USA was formed in 1995 we quickly vaulted to doing A-list Hollywood movies.
Our library continued to grow and the Internet was just getting started, Amazon was launched in 1995-1996 an it occurred to me that we could launch Sounddogs.com to generate more interest for our feature film sound design work, increase the size of our sound library, and overtime become a sound effects publisher like Sound Ideas. The early years for Sounddogs.com were all about library growth and building the Sound Dogs brand name so that people in Hollywood knew who we were and knew we had a great sound library.
Sound Dogs USA became very successful in the late 90’s and our partnership was strained due to the divergent interests. We parted company amicably in November 2001, they continued with Sound Dogs USA, and I went on with Sounddogs.com. Gradually Sounddogs.com began more and more successful, but those early years were tough!
Q: Does Sounddogs.com accept recordings from other sound editors? And how does this partnership work?
A: Sounddogs.com distributes sound effects recordings and production music libraries for people, copyright owners, musicians, and publishers. We like libraries that have that have good sounds, are well recorded, have unique sounds, a good volume of sounds, and are well cataloged. We also buy libraries outright and provide a synchronization license to the seller so that they can continue to use their library, but we take over the publishing. Sometimes people want the big cash up front and don’t want to wait for money to come in over time.
The distribution agreement (partnership) is non-exclusive with one-year auto-renewals, and we pay 40% of the gross sales on a quarterly basis with a full sales .pdf report. We went with a simple gross sales model in order to minimize administration and accounting costs. A publishing partner gets their own FTP space on our site and can upload their sound effects or production music tracks or if they like they can send us DVD-R’s or a hard drive.