Anyone who creates audio using sound effects for radio or TV broadcast, video, film, video games, live theater and other applications knows the challenge of finding just the right effect for any situation. In my studio, we have at least 15 effects collections on CD, more than 100 vintage SFX records (yes, vinyl!), and another 5,000 or so sounds in Pro Tools and sampler (E-mu, Akai and Kurzweil) formats. Yet we always seem to need some sound that eludes our current stock. Unfortunately, buying another 5, 10 or 20-CD library just to get a single sound is an expensive proposition, while going out with a Nagra or a portable DAT to record lion roars or bull elephants tends to be time consuming and costlier still.
One convenient, fast and relatively inexpensive alternative is offered by sound-effects-library.com, part of Britain's renowned Tape Gallery (www.tape-gallery.co.uk) group of companies, now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Sound-effects-library.com offers instant access (via the Web) to some 30,000 effects — and music samples — from leading international suppliers. Combined with a powerful search engine and a slick interface, sound-effects-library.com can provide quick auditioning of almost any sound effect from anywhere in the world.
Libraries available through sound-effects-library.com include: Audio Inter-active; Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theatre; Crawfords; Enn Reitel; Dave Losko; Optifex; Post Organ Toolkit (organ samples in Gigasampler format, as well as accordions, church bells, basses, prepared piano and harpsichord); Prosonus (strings, percussion, Foley, guitars, synths, vocals); Slow Death by Vise; Digital Toy Cupboard (loops); The Tape Gallery; Valentino; Victor Iorillo; Zero-G; and more to come.
HOW IT WORKS
Anyone with Internet access and a relatively recent version of Internet Explorer or Netscape will do fine. The faster the Internet connection, the better, but I had no problems with a 56k dialup. The search/audition engine uses the (free) Macromedia Shockwave player plug-in, so you'll need that and speakers attached to your computer to hear the sounds. (Note: The better the speakers, the easier the audition process goes.) To prevent piracy, the site adds hiss to auditioned sounds, but the high-res 44.1kHz/16-bit, stereo or mono sounds that you purchase in .WAV or .AIFF format are sparkling and exhibit no distortion whatsoever.
Once you surf to the site, just enter keywords for any sound you want to audition. A new window opens with a list of all sounds containing that keyword, plus a short description of each sound and its duration and file size. Click to highlight the selection and press the Play key to hear the sound in real time. If it's what you want, merely press the Add To Cart button — the system maintains a tally, listing selected sounds and their prices. Cost per sound begins at £1.40 (about $2.10) and goes up to about $15 or so, depending on the sound, complexity, rarity and length, though most of the sounds fall well into the lower price category. Annual blanket subscriptions are also available, priced for single- and multi-user versions.
Once you've entered your subscriber PIN or credit card number and selected .AIFF or .WAV file delivery format, the system sends you an e-mail listing discrete URLs where each sound (in ZIP format) can be downloaded. Enter the location URL in your browser, and each clip automatically downloads to your system. Unzip your downloads and they're ready for transfer or direct playback. Alternatively, users can request files in MP3, Au, SDII and other formats by using a mail order option.
I found the sound-effects-library.com site fast, convenient and comprehensive, offering a wealth of high-quality sounds — both domestic USA and exotic overseas types — at prices hovering around the cost of a gallon of gas. This is a lot less than the time and fuel I'd spend looking for “dinosaur fighting screams thrash big thud” — one of the 293 entries under “scream” — and provides a powerful tool for the audio pro. The auditions are always free, so check out sound-effects-library.com. It might just change your way of hearing.
The Sound Effects Library Ltd., Tape Gallery House, 28 Lexington Street, London, England W1R 3HR; +44 207/439-3325; fax: +44 207/734-9417; www.sound-effects-library.com.