OK, so that’s the theory. But there are many ways to add metadata, and dozens of fields to choose from. How do you know which metadata fields you should use when building a sound fx library?
Today’s post will suggest guidelines to help you choose which sound fx metadata you should use for your collection.
Metadata for Your Sound Library
Which metadata fields should you choose for your collection?
Well, not all sound libraries are alike. You may create a collection for game audio pros, picture editors, or just for you to use at home. Because of this, you won’t find the answer with a single, rigid checklist. Instead, the solution is found by thinking about how your sound library will be used.
So, I’ll list typical fields for your consideration. More importantly, I’ll also include why you should choose these fields. So, while the actual field names will be helpful, it’s far more important to think about how your library will be used, and who will use it.
I’ve divided the fields into three lists.
- Basic sound libraries.
- Advanced sound libraries.
- Pro sound libraries.
Each one builds on the previous list. Browse them, and take away the ideas you like to use with your own sound library.
Note: most field names are generic, so you can apply them to the metadata app you prefer. There are a few terms that are exclusive to the most popular metadata app, Soundminer. The labels aren’t as important as they type of information they hold, and why.
Anyway, let’s get started.
Metadata for Basic Sound Libraries
I don’t mean “basic” in a negative way. Instead, it’s meant to provide an uncomplicated foundation you can use to build your sound collection.
As a technicality, I’ll first mention these essential, basic “hard” metadata fields:
- Sampling rate
You don’t really have to do any work to add those, since most metadata apps automatically populate them. However, if your app does not, or you are using an “external” file, ensure you complete this info.
Other than that, there are only two pieces of information you need to get started:
- Sound file
- File name
These are the most basic elements of a sound effect. No sound clip exists without them. As for the sound file, you’ll cut and trim the sound effect, of course. And the name? I suggested 15 tips for naming sound effects earlier.
But wait. Where’s the metadata? Surely we should populate more fields, even at a basic level?
Not really. You want to focus on these two fields first before building more metadata. Why?
It has to do with how metadata is browsed. Certainly, if you are a sound professional, and can spend $900 on a pro version of Soundminer, you’d like to have more metadata. However, that’s not the case for everyone that will encounter your sound effect. You don’t know what app future listeners will use, or that they can afford a metadata app at all.
However, everyone using clips on a computer will be able to perceive two things: the sound of the audio, and read the text of the file name. The audio and file name are the lowest common denominator. Everyone will be able to access those. That’s why the audio must be mastered as good as you are able, and the sound file must be named so well that everyone will be able to understand it, with or without a metadata app.
Resist the temptation to skip this naming step and rush to populate metadata fields instead. That shortchanges all listeners that lack metadata apps. It’s important to get the audio and name right first. Spend a lot of time perfecting those. Then, build upon that foundation with additional metadata later. Good audio and a unique, exceptional file name are “application-independent.” They will appeal to pros and casuals alike.
Metadata for Advanced Sound Libraries
Once you have the basic metadata complete, add these fields:
- Keywords or tags
- Sound Title (TrackTitle in Soundminer)
These metadata are the most common fields used in sound searches. Why?
Well, they provide immediately usable information. They’re a bridge between the “hard” information such as sampling rate and bit-depth, and the “soft,” contextual information we’ll get to next. Because of this, they’re used often to find sound effects, browse them, and make decisions.
These are also the most “popular” metadata fields. Part of this has to do with how often they are used in searches. They are also considered popular because the majority of metadata apps use these fields. That means a sound library with these “advanced” fields will be transferable. Embedding these fields ensures that your metadata will be able to be used in the most popular metadata apps.
It’s true that metadata added in one app may not be read directly by another. That’s okay, though. Completing these fields creates a foundation you can work with. With these columns filled, you can easily export these metadata fields and shift them to another app’s format via import files (a process I’ll explain later this month).
Including these metadata fields amplifies your sound library’s value. It becomes easier to search, and more useful to a wider variety of fans across a broader selection of sound browsing apps.
Metadata for Pro Sound Libraries
Want to truly flush out your sound effects collection? Add these fields:
- Personnel (Designer or Composer in Soundminer)
- Source (i.e., if it is a derivative from elsewhere, or created outside of an audio recorder)
- Global library name (Library in Soundminer)
- Specific collection name (CDTitle in Soundminer)
- BWAV Description
Casual users won’t find these fields that helpful. However, they are incredibly useful to sound pros and power users. Why? Two reasons:
- These fields are important when the library becomes part of a larger collection. The additional fields are incredibly helpful when search results return hundreds of files. They become increasingly useful the larger a collection grows.
- Sound pros need specialized information. A newbie won’t know the difference between a Neumann 191 and a Sanken CSS–5. And don’t blame them. They may have not heard either mic. However, the infomation is incredibly valuable for the sound pros that know the sound of these microphones.
These fields aren’t searched as commonly. However, they provide a valuable service: they help us filter search results finely in large collections, and deliver context and inference for sound pros and power users.
Incidentally, if you’d like to know more about these fields, check out my e-book Selling Creative Sound. I describe each of these fields in detail, and provide a workflow for adding metadata to your sound library to create a bulletproof collection.
Augmenting Your Sound Clips
Start with the basic metadata fields. Augment them with advanced metadata. When you’re ready, supercharge your library with pro metadata.
How do you add these fields? Which metadata app should you choose to do the job? I’ll explore what metadata apps do, how they are different, and which you should choose, next.
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