Recording

Sounddogs.com

FROM PETS TO JETS AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN 9/01/2005 8:00 AM Eastern

Rob Nokes with camel

Online sound effects distributor Sounddogs.com definitely has it together. Punching up the company's Website on July 4, 2005, I was immediately presented with a large selection of fireworks sounds. Pretty clever, huh? Say I'm an editor at a TV news station and the production sound for the town fireworks display didn't turn out too well. Or, maybe I'm putting together a little home video of the July 4th family reunion, or — well, you get the picture. If you work with sound design, Sounddogs.com wants to make your life easier.

“We try to hit it like that: target what customers might be looking for,” says Sounddogs.com VP of production Paul Virostek. “One of our main appeals is that we make it really simple. For example, the site is quick to load and there are no unnecessary graphics. It's just a tool for customers to quickly find exactly what they need.”

Launched in May 1997, Sounddogs.com sells — mostly over the Internet — sound effects, production music, samples and loops to a client base that works on productions of all sizes and budgets, from feature films to home videos. The library, which has 260,000 discrete sounds, is vast and growing. It now includes the Casablanca Sound Library, Master's Workshop and Amadeus collections, among others, as well as the personal libraries of such notables as Craig Henighan (Sin City, Requiem for a Dream), Dan O'Connell (Foley on Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator) and Andy Newell (The Wild). The company's latest acquisition is the prestigious SoundStorm library, a wealth of material recorded by Bruce Stambler (The Fast and the Furious, Stealth), John Leveque (The Fugitive, L.A. Confidential) and the other acclaimed SoundStorm editors.

The original Sound Dogs Inc., established in Toronto in 1991 by Greg King and Nelson Ferreira, was a feature film sound editorial house. King, Rob Nokes and Robert Grieve formed Sound Dogs U.S. in 1995, and went on to work on such movies as The Cable Guy, Big Momma's House, Red Dragon and many more. Sounddogs.com began as a side business, evolving, as Nokes says, “in off-hours — before broadband! We learned the market and worked out the kinks.”

A self-described “kid hacker,” Nokes made the Internet company his baby. Convinced that online delivery was the way to go, he kept at it. “In the beginning, everyone told Rob to dump the concept,” says Sounddogs.com marketing manager Doug Bossi. “He loves sounds and operated it at a loss, sticking with it a lot longer than most people would have because he believed in the concept. Now he's starting to reap the rewards.”

“We knew from our editing experience that there's always a hole you need to plug with that one effect you don't have,” Virostek says. “The fact that you can grab that sound from anywhere in the world and pull it down means you can work in all sorts of facilities, on different projects and still have access to the same collection of sound effects.”

Sound Dogs Inc. and Sounddogs.com split amicably in 2002 and remain close working partners. Not only did Nokes keep at the Internet business, but he kept — and keeps — adding to its library by acquisition, his own work and the work of the Vancouver, B.C. — based Virostek.

While they're now also Internet entrepreneurs, Nokes and Virostek are fundamentally still just sound junkies. Recording remains, they avow, their favorite part of the job. They're often to be found recording and creating sounds for top Hollywood sound supervisors, including for such high-profile films as Million Dollar Baby, Seabiscuit, Dukes of Hazzard, Shaggy DA and Stealth; the sounds they've recorded for those films are now part of the library, as well.

Exotic sounds abound — like camels from Kazakhstan, caves from the Czech Republic, soccer crowds from Brazil and a fish market from Hong Kong — as do the most mundane: Think baggage claim at Newark airport, haircuts, nose blows and teeth chomping on ears of corn. Some of the most popular sounds are fanfares, applause, dogs, DJ scratching and cartoon effects. Also available are unpublished specialty libraries by Sounddogs.com's friends that, Virostek says, have “a bit more character and distinctiveness,” as well as embedded metadata that provides info on the origin of the sounds.

Customers can preview selections in MP3 format before buying in .AIFF, .WAV or MP3, with purchased sounds available at the sample rate and bit configuration a customer requests, up to 16-bit/48 kHz. (Some are also available at 24-bit.) Prices range from $1 to $15, based on length, quality, number of channels and the sound effects creator. The company also sells CDs and compilations, including the new 24-bit Dog Packs.

Sounddogs.com's material has been used in everything from feature films such as Collateral, Meet the Parents and Titanic, to television, toys, games, Websites and commercials. The company now also offers production music and is gearing up to sell ringtones. Actually, says Bossi, the market these days looks limitless. “Internet advertising and streaming are taking off,” he points out. “And digital signage is projected to overtake regular advertising. All of those things need content and they all need sound. What's coming around the corner is really exciting: a continuing need for sound — and for new sounds.”

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