A recent update of the Soundminer V5 metadata sound browser included a cool new feature: the ability to populate both sound effect categories and subcategories from a pre-defined list – with just a single click. The idea is incredibly helpful: instead of typing in field recording categories and subcategories one by one, it’s now possible to merely right click and choose from a list. It may seem like a small perk, however for those writing metadata for tens of thousands of sound fx, it’s an invaluable addition.
The update arrived with a stock list of field recording categories and subcategories. It has been a huge help to many sound pros. After all, anything that gets a recordist out of the studio and back in the field more quickly is always welcome.
However, as we know, sound is incredibly varied. Being so nebulous and complex, sound itself defies easy categorization. There are hundreds of distinct groups of audio fans, each with their own needs. What can you do if the unique sound you recorded doesn’t fit with the default list of categories included with Soundminer? Does this mean one-click categorization is out of reach?
Luckily, there’s a way to customize categorization to your own taste. Today’s article will show you how to update the stock list of categories with a list that fits your needs, apply it to your field recordings, and embed this metadata text to the sounds themselves.
The Need for Custom Categories
I once had a corporate customer that needed hyper-precise jet aircraft sounds for a commercial airliner training simulator. Pilots were trained in mock-aircraft that were an exact replica for the real thing: the look, feel, and – of course – the sounds. This would help them prepare for the real thing when they began flying with the responsibility of transporting hundreds of lives.
These simulators needed precise sounds: the engines, switches, jet movement and more. What’s more, separate recordings were needed for each model of aircraft in the fleet. Obviously, providing these within a single “Aircraft” and “Jet” category and subcategory would not be enough. The client wanted something more granular to help the technicians find the clips they needed with pinpoint precision.
That’s one situation where custom categories are useful. Other highly specialized industries I’ve personally worked with are music libraries, nature recordists, ornithologists, relaxation and meditation libraries, sound designers, international libraries, and many more. I’m sure you’ve worked with some unique clients yourself. Maybe you don’t share sounds with anyone, but have your preference for sorting sounds. And of course every sound effects and music Web shop has their own nested classification list.
What’s the point?
Well, imagine a law library categorizing all their books simply as “law”. Of course, the study of law is far more intricate than that. It helps judges and clerks much more by dividing the books into criminal law, family law, divorce law, copyright law, and so on. Each will have a separate row – or entire floor – of a law library. If the whole library is labelled “law”, it actually hinders readers more than it helps. How will an IP lawyer know where to start searching?
Similarly, it doesn’t make sense to specialize a neighborhood library so much. After all, that community library may have only 10 law books out of thousands in the building, and few lawyers or legal scholars visiting. So, such fine specialization may hurt the school kids, students, seniors, and general suburban readers that use the library every day.
What’s the solution?
In cases like these, custom categorization is vital. The Soundminer stock category list is a good start for post-production users. However, people in more specialized industries typically demand something more nuanced.
Let’s see how we can fix this.
How to Add Categories and Subcategories in Soundminer
For most metadata apps, adding categories and subcategories is a laborious task. Usually, it requires selecting records, typing in the name of the category, then the subcategory, and applying the change.
Of course, you can imagine the issues with this. How will you know which categories you’ve used before? Is a subcategory properly paired with a parent category? Does the spelling match? Is it best to use British or American spelling? It can be a headache, especially when using massive sound collections.
A predefined list solves all these problems: just right-click and select what you need.
Soundminer did have similar functionality before: you could drop a list file in a special folder then use a shortcut to populate the category metadata. It was a bit clunky, though. It took many steps to complete, which made it inefficient when working with a lot of different sounds. (Read an earlier article to learn more about this technique.)
It was also possible to add all categories in Soundminer’s MetaTag Editor window. However, this only applied either the category or subcategory, not both. (Read more about how to use method.)
Soundminer’s recent update adds a much better option: applying both a category and its related subcategory instantly with a single click.
How to Add Your Own Custom Soundminer Categories
Here’s how you can add your own specialized category list.
- Find the existing list. On your internal hard drive, navigate to the folder user/Library/Application Support/SoundminerV5.
- Open the CSV file at the top of the list named “categorylist”. You can open this in Excel, MacOS Numbers, or Google Sheets.
- Erase all the existing information below the first row. Do NOT erase the header names in the first row.
- Add your categories and subcategories to the first two columns.
- Remove any empty rows at the bottom of the list.
- Save the file. (And make a backup!)
Pro tip: do you have multiple clients that use different categorization schemes? Make a copy of the “categorylist” file for each client, then store them side by side. Use a desktop shortcut to jump to the Soundminer folder, and rename the one you want to use that day to “categorylist”. It’s a bit of a clunky solution, but the time saved is worth the effort.
How Assign Custom Soundminer Categories
How can you assign these custom categories to your field recordings?
- Open Soundminer.
- Select the files you’d like to modify.
- Right-click in any column. You’ll see your customized list to the right of the CategoryFull Assign menu item at the top.
- Hover over the category, then the subcategory you want, then click. Both the category and subcategory will be applied to all selected items.
You’ve just saved yourself a lot of time. Use the time you’ve saved to capture more cool field recordings.
Saving Time While Writing Metadata
Writing metadata is time-consuming effort. Of course, it’s easy to just add any text and hope for the best. As earlier articles have mentioned, the best, most helpful metadata is both accurate and unique. Generic metadata invites generic search results. That won’t help your users. Instead, it is specific data that aids users in finding the precise sound they need with little effort.
This Soundminer shortcut takes the pain out of writing metadata. With custom categories, you can ensure your clients’ specific needs will be met without sacrificing your own metadata workflow. Give it a shot!
Learn more about sound effects metadata:
- An Introduction to Sound FX Metadata 1 – The Basics. Understanding how metadata works with field recordings and sound clips.
- An Introduction to Sound FX Metadata 2 – Beneath the Surface. Why sound fx metadata is used, and best practices for applying it.
- An Introduction to Sound FX Library Categorization – The Basics. Why sort field recordings? This article shares the answer and explains how to get started.
- 13 Lucky Tips & Tricks for Sound FX Library Categorization. Introduces a philosophy behind creating a usable category list.