Monday, March 21, 2011

Sound Industry Past and Present

     Producers have used sound effects for a long time. However, the industry has changed over the years. For one thing, sounds are now recorded digitally and are on the Internet; does this decrease the quality of the effects available? A second change is that a wider range of people are beginning to use sound effects. Can any random person get some sound effects and throw them together into a quality project? That will be discussed.
         Michael Coleman, a producer for SoundWorks collection, said that the way sounds are recorded has changed in that effects are going “from analog taped to digital.” The sounds can be taken from the recorders and loaded directly onto the computer, which “kind of speeds up the process.” He also pointed out that since now effects are data, people don’t have to look through walls and walls of tapes. Digital sound effects are also more convenient because a person doesn’t have to be there or receive something in the mail; he or she can simply download it from the Internet.
         Adam Johnson, who runs the website and company SFXsource, explained that since sound effects are now available on the Internet, obtaining sound effects is much cheaper and more economical. Before, a person would have to invest as much as $5,000 for 20 CDs. The effects “weren’t available individually, so [people would] have to invest in a lot of products,” Johnson said. “Now you can go online and buy [sound effects] for like two dollars.” Johnson’s website has more than 100,000 sound effects and royalty free music that film makers, animators, web designers, and others can use in their productions. All of the sound effects are produced by Hollywood level designers.
         Although Johnson advocated online sound effects, he did explain that “online sound libraries are kind of split into two camps.” This reminded me a little bit of one of my previous posts about the quality of free verses non-free sound effects. Johnson said that there are user-generated sites on which anyone can upload songs. “It’s like a yard sale,” he said. However, a lot of those effects are not quality. The other “camp” for online sound effect libraries is the one just for professional effects creators. “A professional who is trying to make a video is going to waste a lot of time going to one of those user-generated sites,” Johnson pointed out. “One [type of site] isn’t better than the other; they’re just used for different things,” Johnson said.
         The sound effects industry has also changed regarding who uses the sound effects. “Everything is becoming democratized,” Johnson said. “Everyone can write, publish, have their own businesses—it’s the same with the sound industry. Anyone can easily and cheaply get into it.” One example close to home for me is how students at Asbury University use sound effects. Don Mink, operations manager and producer for the school communication arts program, said that student usually use sound effects in terms of post-production for their films. In post production, usually producers strive to increase the volume of footsteps or to add in the sound of a book being placed on a table.
         Johnson also gave the example that churches often put videos on their websites, and those videos often require sound effects and music. Even kids look for sound effects. Thousands of people make videos for youtube. “There are so many people who use [sound effects] now and have the skills to access the files. Actually, as a promotion for his site, Johnson actually has a youtube channel, and every video has a link to the free sound on his site.
         However, as available as sound effects are to the public, it still takes skill and knowledge to use them properly. Coleman expressed that this concept applies to the creation of sound effects as well as the usage of any kind of technical equipment in general. “It’s not like just plugging a light into the wall and turning it on,” he said. Coleman said that a good contrast example is a hammer; it does one thing. Sound effects are not at all like that because there are many way to implement them and many strategies to use them. “I think that’s the cool thing about sound effects—there’s not just one way to do it,” Coleman said. Working with sound effects isn’t something a person can learn just off of pure knowledge. “You have to go out into the field and learn from experience. You can learn the theory of it, but theory only goes so far.”
         So sure the industry is changing. The effects are used for more things and available to more people. I think it’s really cool that the average person can have access to them and use them in their work. However, I also agree that it is a craft that needs to be mastered by practice and hard work. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Good, sound reason to believe that music is just as important

    The sound of closing doors, footsteps, and explosions is important, but what about the slow, sad music during the funeral scene? Or the majestic marching tune when the soldiers go off to war? Or the creepy, eerie tune when the child is lost in the woods? Music in the background of a movie is just as important.
     Movies use music in a lot of ways you may never have even noticed. John Carpenter is a director who makes and produces the music for just about all of his movies. "You shouldn't be aware of what I'm doing ... You shouldn't be sitting there listening to music, or aware of it ... I don't want you to be aware of the technique. I just want you to feel it." However, movie-goers of this day and age have learned to recognize the techniques. When King Kong climbs the Empire State Building, it's obvious that the music is slowly going upward.
     Another good technique to use with sound tracks is the concept of every character having his or her own song or theme. This idea can be clearly scene in the Star Wars movies. To the average observer, all of a villains quite obviously have a theme, but actually the protagonists have their own subtle themes as well. Watch it sometime and see for yourself
(Information taken from

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Sweet Sound of Another Blog

     I came across a blog about sound effects, and, more specifically, free sound effects. ( It's a pretty complex and well set up blog with a lot of features. It has many, many sound effects available for purchase, as well as several links that I can see at the moment that can help us find free sound effects. You should check it out.
     The part of this blog I find most interesting, however, is the most recent post on the blog. It talks about how sometimes when we're watching a movie, sound effects that we hear don't quite match up with what we're seeing. This is because an alarming number of these sounds are actually added in post-production. I find this really fascinating, and it's a good, valid explanation to something we've probably all noticed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sounds Effect a Change in the Project-Creating Experience

      Where do filmmakers get their sound effects? Did you know that when a character in a film sits down on a couch or walks across the floor or even drops something, most of the time camera doesn’t pick up such subtle sounds? This means that they must be added in later, and that's quite a few effects.
     We live in an internet-based society, and we can get music for free, information for free, games for free—pretty much anything for free. The free things the internet offers sometimes hurt the various industries that are actually trying to sell a product. Does this concept apply to sound effects as well? Where do professionals who work with media prefer to get their effects?
        To answer this question, I talked with a professional broadcaster, a media guru, a talented student filmmaker and a professional producer.
         Ben Dyer, a news editor at the Christian broadcasting network, said he buys most of his sound effects for his projects on the Internet. In college he was involved in the creation of a science fiction film that was an allegory of Jonah and the Whale. “I needed tons of sound effects that sounded unreal—noises machines would make,” Dyer said. He got most of his effects from, which offers cheaper sound effects to those who are just creating a project for a class or for fun.
         What did Dyer have to say about getting sound effects for free? Well, he said a lot of free sound effects are of poor quality. “Even some of the stuff they try to charge for,” Dyer said. He had been telling a story about how he was looking for the sound of a mouse clicking when he gave this example: “[For some of the effects I found] it sounded like there’s some guy with a crappy microphone, and he’s holding his mouse up to it and clicking it.” The really good effects are the ones recorded on a good microphone and in a Foley room. Dyer said, “If it’s professionally done, you’re probably going to have to pay for it.”
         However, Don Mink, operations manager and producer for the Asbury University's communications arts, doesn’t see anything wrong with using free sound effects but said that it depends on the type of sound and the budget of the project. “If you’re looking for something like thunder and lightening, you can go on the internet right now, and there are like 5,000 of them,” he said. On the other hand, Mink said that one might need to be more creative and perhaps spend a little money if the director requests an effect such as “a storm blowing into England.” Mink said that the director might dismiss a sound effects worker’s efforts by claiming that the effects sound more “like a storm blowing off San Francisco.” Since some sites are offering effects for free, this inspires the sites that sell the sound effects to come up with a better, more unique product.
         The other major factor involved in the free vs. pricey sound effects decision was regarding the budget. “If you’re Steven Spielberg, you just buy everything,” Mink said. The director will always want the best, but the producer knows that there is a budget, and it will eventually run out.  Filmmakers will always also have to spend money on costumes, equipment, location, etc.
         Zach Meiners, who wrote, directed and produced the film “Pivot Point,” expressed an entirely different view on the subject of sound effects. Besides directing and all of the other things he did, he was also very involved in the sound effects portion of the movie. During the shooting, his team created sound effects so that the actors would have something to react to. During the school shooting, Meiners had someone walking around slamming apple boxes together so the actors would know when there was a “gun shot” to cower from.
         Meiners had subscriptions for several online sound effects sites, such as He was allowed to download a certain number of effects per month, so he got a few at a time to make this deal most effective. Meiners said he used some free sound effects for the movie, but “it depended on if we could find a good sound effect on the sites that we had subscriptions to.”
         Meiners and the other members of the sound effects team also had to create some of the sounds. “We went in my garage and were throwing things around and knocking over trash cans, and then we went and screeched the tires of my car and compiled it all together,” Meiners said, explaining where the sounds of the car crash in the movie had originated. Another example of a sound effect they had to create was the sound of an arm popping during a fight. “We took pieces of celery and snapped them in water in a cup … Think about it. Celery: one of the most unassuming vegetables.”
     Michael Coleman, a producer for SoundWorks collection, expressed mostly distaste for free sound effects. "There's a certain understanding about what you're getting when you spend money on sound effects—they're probably of better quality," Coleman said. However, he also expressed a refreshing open-mindedness about the topic. Coleman pointed out that sound effects have been around for a long time, and he commented that in the old days, people used to create their own sound effects for cartoons with various random objects. "But there's really no right or wrong way to go about it. If it sounds like the sound you want to make, then it works. There are really no rules with sound effects."
         So will companies that sell sound effects for money go out of business thanks to the ones who offer them for free? Probably not. Although the four people I interviewed had differing opinions about the usefulness of free online sound effects, they all seemed to agree on one thing: There will always be a place for sound effects that one has to pay for, whether it’s because of their uniqueness, better quality or accessibility.
         What do I think about this? Well, the only experience I have with sound effects was in my radio production class last semester. I made a radio drama and used all of the sound effects on the computer. However, I couldn’t find an effect that sounded like someone cutting through a rope and then it subsequently falling off a cliff. I created this by scraping my spiral notebook on the edge of a table. And it worked!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Speed of Sound

     These days we pay for everything, but at the same time, we pay for nothing. People don't buy seasons of shows as much anymore, because they can watch them on the internet. Why buy music when you can get it from the internet? Sure, they sell those things on the internet, but whether it's legal or illegal, there's usually a way to get whatever you're after—for free.
     The sound effects industry is really no different. Google "free sound effects," and you'll end up with 61 million or more results. One example is The site boasts: "You may use the sound effects on this web site free of charge in your video, film, audio and multimedia productions." Someone creates these sound effects. Will they eventually be out of a job because no one is paying to use their work? We'll see. It's a changing world, and the Internet is a big part of that.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How Sound Effects the Movies

     In past years, directors didn't worry about incorporating music into their films until near the end of the process. Now, however, directors are beginning to think of music as not only a background element, but also as a part of the sound effects in a film. For that reason, composers are now responsible for the better part of the background sounds of many modern movies. One good example of this is "Tron: Legacy." Addison Teague, the supervising sound editor said, "There are times in this movie when it may not be clear if music or sound effects are responbile for what you are hearing. It doesn't matter. All that matters is the sound is enhancing the escape for the audience."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Is creativity dead?

     Are you one of those people who can usually predict the end of a movie? When you're reading a book, have you ever gotten a sneaking suspicion that you've heard this story before, even though it's supposed to be brand new? In the article "The Plot of the Book - How to Write a Plot," John Gardener contends that "After all these years of published books and reams of short stories, there's little likelihood of your finding a new plot. You simply have to discover new ways of dealing with an old plot." (
     First of all, these days producers are remaking movies multiple times, even just a few years apart. For example, the story of "The Hulk" became a movie in 2003, and then it was remade in 2008. The same goes for "True Grit," which came to theaters just recently. Also, many movies are based on books, video games, and comic books. And finally, authors and screenplay writers alike are oftentimes simply "stealing" each other's ideas. Is creativity dead? It remains to be seen.