Last year, sound forum website Audible Worlds introduced the “Our Ambient World” crowdsourced sound library. Hundreds of field recordists across the globe spent months recording atmospheres characteristic to their homes.
The result? 263 field recordings in almost 40 gigabytes of audio with ambiences from Raleigh to Rome.
I interviewed Audible Worlds’ founder Mike Niederquell about that project last year. On Friday, after much community discussion, Mike announced the next crowdsourced sound library: The “Crowds” Library.
In this post, I’ll briefly describe the crowdsourced project, how it works, and why you may want to join other field recordists worldwide in capturing crowds from your home city.
What is Crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing is a way of using a community to get things done. It joins together the efforts of individuals to create something larger than what any single person can produce.
In terms of the “Crowds” sound library, it takes a few sound effects from each individual field recordist, collects them, then offers all of them, free of charge, to the entire group.
The “Crowds” Sound Library
What’s the aim of this crowdsourced project?
A post on Audible Worlds describes it:
The goal of this library is to capture 3–5 minutes of crowds or walla from your local region. It’s best if the conversations in the recordings are unintelligible, which is why we are using the term “walla” to describe this project. We realize it’s probably unrealistic for most people to have access to a group of performers to capture proper walla, so recording large groups of people in a public area is also being accepted.
What is “walla?” They are crowd recordings that aim for a generic sound, almost a texture of vocal expression, without detail. Sometimes this is captured by field recording at a particular distance: close enough for crowds to be heard, but far enough that details are not apparent. That makes those recordings fit more easily into a wide variety of projects without detailed voices and character distracting from the aim of the scenes they join. They’re meant to be a generic “bed” of vocals.
Capturing walla is quite tricky, so it’s good that large, typical crowd recordings are allowed, too. It’s a good challenge, though. It requires listening to an environment with a keen ear. It is also one of the best tests of microphone positioning that a field recordist may practice. It requires working in a fragile balance between proximity and distance. Discovering reliable walla locations is like striking field recording gold.
Why Join the Audible Worlds Crowdsourced Project?
Why should you contribute to the project? There are three reasons:
- It’s a great way to showcase your work to your peers. They’ll be introduced to your sounds, your recording style, and your expertise in the samples you submit to the project.
- It’s an easy way to add bulk to your sound library. The last Audible Worlds crowdsourced project set a limit of three field recording contributions. In return, each recordist received a total of 263 sound fx, free of charge.
- The “Crowds” library is a way to collect rare field recordings that would be difficult to capture otherwise. How often would I be able to record sound effects in the Rocky Mountains, or India? The “Our Audible Worlds” project shared a cosmopolitan collection, and the “Crowds” library will likely do the same.
How to Join
Right now the post is inviting feedback. I assume in the future they will have an official sign-up thread, as they did for the “Our Audible Worlds” crowdsourced library.
Remember, the collection is “closed.” That means you need to join the group to access the final collection of field recordings. Only those that have signed up to the project will be able to download the sound effects. The library will not be open to outsiders after that.
Mike has done a good job organizing files from hundreds of field recordists with different recorders, mastering technique, and naming styles. Read the submission requirements. Here’s an overview:
- Recordings must be between 3 and 5 minutes long.
- Embed metadata to the BWAV description.
- Sign up for Google Drive (free). This is how Audible Worlds will share the library once it is finished.
- Submit your recordings by October 1, 2014.
Have questions about the project? Post a reply on the thread.
Good luck to everyone interested in contributing. I look forward to hearing your field recordings!