These days, it’s typical to edit audio and send finished show reels digitally to colleagues a half dozen time zones away. Capturing field recordings at 192 kilohertz is routine. It’s common to source fresh sound effects from talented recordists living on the other side of the globe.
This digital revolution has evolved sound effects libraries over the past fifty years from vinly records to bursting online archives of hundreds of thousands of clips.
And now? Focused libraries known as sound effects bundles are shared on a growing number of independent websites. They are crafted by the masters of sound design and field recording that surround us. We hear their work in films, television, and games. We work with them. We share ideas with them online. Most importantly, the greatest impact of the sound bundle format is that this collection of people also includes you.
Do you want to list your field recordings or sound design clips online? Are you eager to share your ideas through audio with other pros? Want to learn how to build a collection of clips and sell them on the Web? Sound bundles make this possible. Today’s article explains.
This post describes what sound bundles are, and how they are different. It includes a step-by-step guide that teaches you how to build an exceptional sound bundle yourself.
This post is the first of a two-part series of abridged chapters from my recently released book called Sharing Sound Online, which describes how to build a bulletproof sound bundle and share it from your own Web shop.
What Are Indie Sound Libraries?
Sound effect bundles (also known as “packs” or “indie sound libraries”) are simply a collection of sound files. They may contain any number of audio tracks gathered and bundled together into compact archive ZIP or RAR files.
Well, that’s the technical description. People have been archiving all types of files for decades, of course. What’s the big deal about indie sound libraries?
Aside from the audio itself, sound libraries are distinguished in two ways:
- How sound libraries are packaged.
- How collections are delivered.
So, sound bundles are revolutionary because of:
- Creators. For the first time in sound library history, independent sound creators can share their work directly with fans. That means their creativity isn’t filtered by third-party producers. Sound pros are directly rewarded for their inspiration and the risk they take.
- Superior quality. Corporate libraries and massive à la carte websites are predominantly managed by distributors. They aren’t run by sound pros. In contrast, bundles are created by actual field recordists and sound designers. These people sculpt sound daily. They know how to make their libraries attractive. They spend months recording a pack, mastering it, and sharing it with their fans.
- Focus. The bundles are also highly focused. They follow a theme: a collection of bells, or animals, or weapons. They are what I call sonic essays on a subject. They explore sound effects in intense, informed detail. This eliminates the gamble of spending thousands of dollars on a collection that can’t be tested before buying. These field recordists invest time and skill into every clip. They describe them in a way people will understand.
The result? High-value collections of audio that can be sent to fans instantaneously for next to no expense. No wonder sound bundles are popular with creators and their fans.
How to Build an Indie Sound Library
How do you create your own sound bundle? Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Choose a bundle concept.
- Gather the audio.
- Gather bonus materials.
- Create the bundle file.
Let’s see how:
- Choose a Bundle Concept
So, how do you start?
You begin by crafting a bundle concept.
A bundle concept? Surely it’s better to get your hands dirty working with audio right away? Perhaps by firing up your samplers or smashing things in a Foley room?
Unfortunately, the majority of sound bundles merely jumble sound clips into an archived folder and are done with it. Well, what’s wrong with that?
Technically? Nothing. You can certainly release a package of superior sound effects without any thought beyond the audio you captured, mastered, and organized. It will do well. However, a deeper consideration of a bundle concept ensures it succeeds. How can you do this?
The easiest way to think about a sound bundle is by considering its topic. You may already have a subject in mind. The bundle may collect clips of dogs. It may offer horror cuts. Perhaps it’s a study of Alaskan winds. Those are all valid bundle concepts.
However, consider: does it duplicate popular packs? You must ensure your tracks add a distinctive flavour to the collection, otherwise they’ll be lost in the exploding amount of bundles arriving daily. Instead, supercharge your recordings by adding one or more points from the Sound Effects Star.
A topic-based package is the simplest way to assemble a collection. The majority of bundles stop here. What more can you do to improve your library?
Consider the type of bundle you’re creating. There are two flavours:
- Theme-based bundle. A collection of sound effects people use often, or a package of specialized or rare clips that people desperately need. These bundles often focus on one sound effect category.
- Need-based bundle. Packs that address a need by expanding, enhancing, or augmenting existing libraries, helping people start a library, or save cash.
Either will create a focused pack that fans will need. That’s guaranteed to be successful. Just ensure you choose one or the other. Trying to do both results in a washed-out pack.
Intangible Bundle Ideas
What more can you do? Complete your bundle concept by baking in intangible ideas:
- Supply quality. Ensure your bundle includes the purest audio at the highest fidelity shaped with the best craftmanship you can provide to create the most essential aspect of quality: authenticity.
- Provide value. Expand your bundle’s value beyond price and quantity. Sound pros commonly don’t have enough time, money, or freedom. Provide recordings that solve these problems.
- Fulfill cravings. Certain recordings are prized. They give pros popular sounds they’ll always find useful.
There are others ideas, too. Ideas like these enrich your package. They add depth. Technically, they’re not absolutely required. You can release a package without them. However, when you consider how the clips contribute to a larger concept, your sound libraries will soar. They will attract listeners. The packs will resonate with them. They will become useful tools, of course. However, when your bundles are crafted wisely, they will do more. The sound effects bond together to create a powerful package that is helpful to others. They combine to create an authoritative body of work embedded with your creativity and goals that helps and inspires others, too.
- Gather the Audio
You’ve thought of a terrific sound bundle concept. What’s next?
We’ll assume that you have already captured all the audio you need. Now it’s time to start assembling and sorting your tracks into an independent sound bundle.
- Create a playlist. To begin, create a way of storing sound file selections. Create a playlist in your favorite metadata app. You may prefer to simply drag-and-drop WAV files into a desktop folder.
- Intuitive pass. Go through the sounds you’ve recorded for your pack. Perform your first listening pass. Listen to each entire sound file from beginning to end. Use your intuition to select clips you want in your bundle. Don’t think about it too much. Just grab the tracks that excite and inspire you and drop them in your playlist. The intuitive pass gathers selections based on emotion and inspiration. Isn’t that a feeble way to build a bundle? Not at all. Sound pros select tracks in precisely this manner when crafting their work.
- Consistency pass. Listen to your selections again, one at a time, from beginning to end. Do the tracks have the same feel? Are they processed similarly? Does the stereo width vary? Pluck out tracks that don’t fit with the others. The aim is to make your package consistent and cohesive.
- Check for audio quality. Listen to each track in full again. This time, pay attention to the quality of the audio in particular. Listen for flaws: recordist moves, sloppy fades, over- or under-processed clips, mis-matched mastering, level balancing, stereo width, and more. Pull weak sounds and replace them with others. Some of these cuts may be redeemed by additional mastering. Delete substandard tracks.
- Specific content pass. This pass examines each clip in detail. Consider the sound effect in isolation: does it work well on its own? Can you imagine using this clip in your own projects? Would you stand behind this clip? Does it add value to the bundle? Is it superfluous? Use the answers to these questions to determine if a clip belongs in a bundle, or should be removed.
- Broad content pass. Listen to everything again. Consider how the clips work together. You’ve trimmed, snipped, and chopped clips from your playlist. How does it stand up after your editing? Does the collection feel complete? Think about this in a practical sense: does it provide everything a fan will need? Consider it conceptually as well: do the clips work together to provide value or fulfill cravings?
- Assemble the sounds. At the moment, your tracks are merely referenced in a playlist. The originals may be scattered across various hard drives. Export the playlist into an independent, self-contained folder to create a copy of these files elsewhere on your drive. Use this step to apply similar clips settings (e.g., fidelity), and text transformations (capitalization, name length) to ensure all clips are consistent. Touch up metadata here, too.
Well done! You’ve gathered a finely curated collection of exceptional sound effects.
- Gather Bonus Materials
Take advantage of the sound bundle format to package other helpful files with your library. Here are ideas for “bonus” or “support” files, with recommended files marked with an asterisk:
- Audio preview montage file (*). An audio overview of your collection. Learn how to create a sound library audio preview. Upload your preview to SoundCloud or AudioBoo.
- Bundle design and packaging. A library icon or virtual product packaging (e.g., DVD case mockup).
- README file. (*) “How-to” instructions displayed the moment the bundle is opened.
- “Thank you” file (*). A sincere message of gratitude to the downloader.
- The user licence (*). Lists how your sound files may and may not be used. Read more about the end user licence.
- Sound file list. A PDF or Excel list of the files in the collection.
- Spec sheet. A custom PDF document that provides additional details about the sounds in your package. Learn more about spec sheets.
- Images. Microphone layout diagrams and photos, positioning sketches, and detailed photographs of your subject.
- Links. Hyperlinks to your site, helpful articles, or to other info about your subject.
- Promotional files. Details about yourself or your sound company. Contact information.
Which of these files do you include? Decide by answering this question: what will help your particular fans?
- Create the Bundle File
You’ve gathered all your audio and media files. Everything is collected in one master folder. You’re all set, right?
Not quite. Imagine opening a sound bundle that vomits hundreds of audio, text, and image files all into one jumbled folder. Naturally, your fans would prefer to avoid that mess. Instead, separate the audio from the support files. Nest your sound effects into subcategory folders if you like.
Next, place the essential support files in the parent folder (licence, README, “thank you” files). Sort them so people will see them immediately after they open your bundle. Tuck all other support files into other folders away from everything else.
Compress your master bundle folder into a digital archive. Use ZIP or RAR compression formats to collect the files into 500-megabyte-sized archive file chunks. That helps people with slower, laggy Internet connections. A single, monstrous multi-gigabyte file can cause problems. Name each of these archive files in a predicatble sorted sequence while omitting restricted server characters ($, /, @, %):
Sharing Your Sounds Online
Nice work! You’ve done it. You’ve created your first sound bundle. Now all you need to do is share it with others.
That’s next. The last article in this series will teach you how to choose a Web shop and share your library on the Web. Subscribe to the free email newsletter to recieve the next post in your inbox.
Did you find this article interesting? This post is a condensed version of a 37,000-word section from my book Sharing Sound Online. It expands on each of these ideas with additional tips and tricks, thoughts, and suggestions. Learn more about Sharing Sound Online.
- Learn more about the four ways of selling sound in an earlier article.
- Want to build a sound library and share it on the best shops on the Web? I’ve written another book, Selling Creative Sound, which explains how to craft a bulletproof sound library and partner with the best à la carte stores on the Internet.
Scissors photo courtesy of Rena Tom. Modified files image courtesy of Stephanie Asher. Box courtesy of HornM201.