As the information superhighway fulfills its promise of speeding sound effects to us at a moment's notice, it's sometimes hard to believe that there was a time when sound effects discs took weeks to arrive. And when they did arrive, occasionally they were of shoddy quality and would sometimes take hours to sort through, catalog and make functional. Those days have passed, and now companies are looking for better and easier ways to make their libraries accessible to a greater number of end-users, all the while making sure that their files are at higher resolution and ready to pop in a production.
That said, the latest craze of downloadable single files or entire libraries has been hampered by a bevy of issues. Not only is the Internet's increasingly narrow bottleneck a concern, but so are any number of software compatibility problems and the high cost of putting those files on the Web. Right now, it seems most companies allow for auditioning sounds on the Web, and a quick perusal of home pages allows for more specific searches, but it may be a year or two before downloading a particular door slam for insertion into the Toyota spot is a matter of course. With those factors in mind, as well as the need to have the files within reach, the overwhelming feeling is that the compact disc method of distribution will not disappear any time soon.
The Internet has, however, allowed post houses, such as Sound Dogs, and individuals like Frank Serafine to offer their own libraries online. In fact, one quick search for sound effects on excite.com yielded over a million links to some of the more established companies as well as to some of the more obscure ones.
One thing is for sure. As the number of general sound effects catalogs have grown over the years, demand seems to be decreasing. So, companies like Sound Ideas are turning more and more to specialized discs. As Sound Ideas president Brian Nimmons explains, "I think what is happening is that there are a lot of general libraries out there, and we don't need another general library. However, more specialized libraries are coming to the marketplace, like our 'Open and Close' series, which was a very narrow focus on door openings and closings, and different performances of everything. We're finding ourselves looking at more niche categories of sounds and going out and recording them."
Here are some more of the latest sound effects releases, and where to find them.
CREATIVE SUPPORT SERVICESwww.cssmusic.com; 800/468-6874Ten years ago Creative Support Services released its first sound effects package with the idea of becoming the most useful library available, rather than the biggest. The company now has seven CDs of 800 effects available. Last January CSS released E-EFXIV and there's another pair of releases ready to go, though there's no firm release date yet. All of these sound effects are downloadable in CD-quality on a discrete-cut basis from the site.
DE WOLFE MUSIC LIBRARYwww.dewolfemusic.com; 800/221-6713 (In NY: 212/382-0220)Don't let the "music" in the name fool you: With 1,500 effects files spread over 20 CDs, the De Wolfe collection is a convenient library for end-users. Discs called Horror and Construction were released in 1998, and there are no current plans for another release. There is no audio available on the Web site.
EAST-WEST COMMUNICATIONS INC.www.soundsonline.com; 800/833-8339After years of selling a number of other companies' collections, East-West decided to jump into the waters with both feet and release its own. The company's offerings include Foley SFX, a ten-CD set, and Academy Series SFX, a 30-CD collection. With the combination of its original sound design discs and the number of collections for distribution, East-West's Web site features 10,000 downloadable sound effects.
FRESH PRODUCEwww.freshmusic.com; 800/545-0688Started seven years ago as Fresh Music Library (now up to 57 discs), the company developed the Fresh Produce Sound Library last year. More than just a pure sound effects library, the nine-disc Fresh Produce series combines effects and production elements. The company's latest disc is a vocal disc with all the letters of the alphabet and call numbers in multiple versions, in multiple pitches, in short and long versions. Though sounds and music can be auditioned, buyers cannot yet download sounds from the site.
THE HOLLYWOOD EDGEwww.hollywoodedge.com; 800/292-3755Along with its already impressive list of catalogs, The Hollywood Edge will be releasing a number of new selections this fall, including The Hollywood Edge Foley Series (a five-CD set of doors, weapons, horses, fights, impacts), Premier Edition 3 (a ten-CD set of general categories), Explosions (two-CD set) and a Sci Fi SFX set. Perhaps the biggest addition, though, is the new Apocalypse Now set (reviewed in Mix, June 1999), which is spread over five CDs and features aircrafts, vehicles, weaponry (including napalm) and backgrounds. The Apocalypse Now collection was created in conjunction with Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope company. Though the company has designs on making its Web site audio-able, there is no firm timetable.
JONATHAN HELFAND MUSIC & POSTwww.jhmp.com; 212/647-9500The Designer Sound(r) Library was developed by Jonathan Helfand and Clive Smith as a tool kit for sound design. The three-CD collection includes two discs of music-based sound effects created by Smith, and one CD of noise-based files from Helfand. A second CD of Helfand's noise files is in development and will include files that Helfand says he can't find anywhere else. The CDs are currently distributed by The Hollywood Edge, and Helfand is looking into setting up download capabilities on the site.
OMNI MUSICwww.omnimusic.com; 800/828-6664Known mostly for its music library, Omnimusic has a 15-CD sound effects library that also features pre-produced environments. The company's three latest editions-Crime, Sci Fi and Natural Disasters/Environments-include both effects files and environments. Two of Omnimusic's music discs, the Zap series and Logo Magic, also have sound effects applications. The company is in the process of adding its effects files to the Web for both audition and download.
SOUND IDEASwww.sound-ideas.com; 800/387-3030As the largest sound effects supplier, Sound Ideas is looking for new ways to expand its reach. With that in mind, the company will be releasing a 14-CD ambience collection at the AES convention in New York this year. The 300-plus tracks will feature background ambiences from every continent on the globe, including North America, South America, all across Europe, Africa, the rain forests of the Amazon and Red Square in Russia. Sound Ideas currently has a co-venture with Sound Dogs in Los Angeles, where individual sound effects are available for download, or libraries can be purchased and delivered the old-fashioned way.
SOUND WORKSwww.soundworks.com; 800/HOT-SOUNDThis fall Sound Works will enter the sound effects business by introducing the High PerformaX HPX Sound Effects Library. The library is geared toward high-end post-production clients working on motion pictures, games, interactive content and broadcast media. The initial release will include ten to 15 discs of files the company has been accumulating for its own projects. Each disc will come with detailed documentation, and the files will be offered in .WAV and SDII formats for use on both Macs and PCs. Hand in hand with the release, Sound Works is building its online capability so customers will be able to audition, and eventually purchase, individual sounds.
VIDEO HELPERwww.videohelper.com; 212/633-7009After spending four years producing music libraries, the folks at Video Helper decided to take the sound effects they were recording and release them to the public. The initial disc had about 350 sound design elements that had been recorded and then run through various effects processors. Two years ago, they released Noise Generator, a set of four discs with almost 2,000 elements. The sounds were recorded organically and then twisted to make them edgier. The company's Internet site offers demos of the Noise Generator tracks and the complete music library.