You’ve finally set aside time to create your first independent sound fx library. You planned to capture an fresh, exciting subject. You’ve recorded the tracks in the field with care. You’ve mastered them diligently. The clips are packed and ready to go. Then you hesitate.
You’ve heard sound pros speak about metadata, and how much they need it. Your realize you need to add metadata to your sound clip collection for it to be complete.
What is metadata? What is the difference between weak metadata and robust info that inspires and excites sound pros? And how can you add this to your collection?
I’ve written this post as a cheat sheet to help you write metadata with minimal time and effort. It will introduce the broad strokes of sound fx library metadata. It will share the easiest, quickest, and cheapest way to begin writing the bonus text to your sound fx libraries.
An Introduction to Sound FX Metadata
Let’s get started with the broad strokes of sound fx metadata.
What is sound effects metadata?
Sound clip metadata is text information wrapped around a sound file. It’s normally hidden and unobtrusive. It’s revealed when viewed through a “sound fx browser” or “metadata app.”
Why use sound fx metadata?
Metadata helps sound pros find the perfect sound quickly and return to work. For sound library creators, metadata adds value to a collection and increases its salability and appeal.
What is good sound clip metadata?
How can we tell good from bad metadata? The best metadata has five elements:
- Extensive. The clip will be full and packed with rich keywords, not just in one field but in many of them. Complete the description, category, sub-category, microphone, designer, and more. Each of these fields helps sound pros narrow their choices and make their selections easier.
- Precise. The metadata must describe the sound as accurately as possible. On a basic level, the metadata must be able to distinguish between a cat meow and a door squeak. Finer precision is better: is the cat meowing angrily, longingly, or playfully? Is it distant or close? Is it fast or slow?
- Unique. No two metadata records should be the same. After all, if any metadata is identical, it’s the same as not having any metadata at all. Avoid numbering takes (e.g., “Dog bark 01,” “Dog bark 02,” and so on).
- Allows inference. The best metadata works beyond the words alone to invoke an image. Sound pros can read the text and imagine the sound and its context. A metadata description of slushy winter traffic invokes a stronger image when readers know it was recorded in Paris using a mono microphone.
- Portable. The best metadata is embedded into a file and cannot be separated from it. This ensures metadata can be shared with library fans. Avoid attaching external PDF, CSV, and TXT files of library listings, except as a bonus in addition to embedded metadata.
Read more about sound fx metadata basics.
Applying Sound FX Metadata
So now that we know what good metadata is, what is the simplest way to go about writing it to a sound library collection?
Choosing Metadata Software
You’ll need software to get this done. It must:
- Write in a common format. Not every sound pro will use the same metadata app as you. So, the app must write metadata in a non-proprietary, common format such as BWAV or iXML that can be read by pro apps such as Basehead and Soundminer, and editing apps such as Pro Tools. Avoid non-professional formats such as MP3 ID3 tags.
- Batch edit. You probably have a large collection of sounds. Writing unique metadata for each clip will take eons. So, it’s best if the software can write data to batches of files at once.
- Embed metadata. Since you plan to share your sounds, the text must be attached to each clip and travel with it.
You will need a metadata app to do this. There are many options ranging from free of charge to $1,000. Let’s focus on the simplest, most accessible apps: free ones.
Currently the only metadata app that ticks all of these boxes is Soundly, which I reviewed in a previous article.
Adding Metadata in Soundly in Four Easy Steps
Visit Soundly’s Web page and download the app. It’s free of charge.
Unpack it, install it, and launch the app.
Register for a free account.
- Importing Your Sound Library into Soundly
Select the File/Import menubar item.
Select the desktop files you’d like to add metadata to.
Drag them onto the “Local” import box within Soundly.
Click “Import” on the following screen.
- Turn down the “Local” sidebar item.
Select the freshly added library in the left sidebar. This will display all your working files.
- Option 1: Adding Metadata to a Single File
- Select the first, single file in your list. (Setting your preferences to “Auto play” will ensure you automatically hear the track without any further work.)
Type Command-T or right-click and select “Edit Metadata.” The metadata edit window will appear.
Compose your metadata in the box.
Type Command-S or click the “Save” button to write the metadata to the file. Check that “Store in wave file” option is ticked to ensure the data is embedded to the file.
- Cursor down to the next file.
- Repeat until finished.
- Option 2: Adding Metadata to Many Files
Select a span clips from your sound file list. Command-A will select all of them.
Type Command-T or right-click and choose “Multi Edit Metadata.” The metadata multi edit window will appear.
- Select your options:
- You may rename the actual sound file name, the metadata description, or the originator field.
- You may add info to the beginning or end of existing text, replace existing terms, or replace the entire contents of the field.
Compose your text below each field setting.
Click the “Save” button to embed the metadata to the file. Check that “Store in wave file” option is ticked to ensure the data is written to the file.
- Check Your Work
- Right-click the library folder in the leftmost pane.
Select the “Remove” menu item.
- Re-add the sounds following the steps above.
Check the metadata. Does it appear? If so, you are finished! The metadata has been written to the sound file properly.
Notes & Tips
- This process will not work with existing Soundminer metadata. Soundminer metadata must be wiped to apply metadata from Soundly.
- Remember, writing metadata to a single, lonely field doesn’t fulfill our requirement of having extensive metadata that creates inference among fields. This guide is no replacement for those requirements. However, filling even a single additional field is still a good place for beginners to start. Just ensure you tell library fans you have only one field of metadata. Otherwise they may be misled into thinking that there is more extensive metadata than a single field provides.
- Plan to expand your metadata later in your career using more sophisticated options.
- Browse metadata articles on Creative Field Recording.
- Visit the Soundly website.
- Take an in-depth look at sound fx metadata.
- Learn how to expand your metadata into additional fields.