Tell us a little bit about yourself and your sound libraries?
My name is Axel, I’m a Sound Designer at Continental Europe’s largest game audio facility, “Dynamedion”, located in Germany. Besides games we also do commercials and movies, but game sound is where we come from and what we still do the most. We started the “BOOM Library” in 2010, resulting from our need for some special sounds that we were always looking for on the SFX library market but weren’t able to find anywhere.
How do you prepare or should we say, how does one start making sound libraries?
The first thing we are looking for are things we need ourselves in our everyday work. Take, for example, the animal series we started (including Dogs, Horses, Wildcats so far): we are kind of famous for our creature sound design and we’re booked worldwide for huge MMOs or similar media that need Creature SFX. So we are always looking for good animal sounds, and especially animal sounds recorded in such a high quality and variety that we are able to mangle them pretty badly to get some awesome creature sounds. We use those sounds a lot in combination with our “Creatures” library which helps us to get the massive amount of Creature SFX work done in mostly very tight deadlines. So there will be more animal libraries coming in the future…
Apart from the creature SFX, working on trailers gave us some headache before we started to concentrate on some trailer-ish sounds with our “Cinematic” series. It is difficult to get sounds in such a quality without going to the large trailer license houses. So we think this is really helping a lot of guys out there.
Also, having raw gun recordings gives us the flexibility we need to recreate gun sounds for each project more or less from scratch without needing the budget for a big gun recording session which always goes into the 5-digit figures.
And so it goes on with all the other libraries. We need it, so we hope it helps our fellow Sound Designers as well.
How long does it take to make a sound library? (recording, mixing, etc.)
All the preparation at the very beginning – writing a creative concept, making a detailed sound book, organising the props, locations etc. – sometimes takes a few weeks alone. We mostly record about one or two months, assuming it is not a Gun session which only take a week. This is mostly because we want to get a certain variety, not only concerning the sounds and props, but also the locations. Programming is not really an issue, but writing all the Metadata for a large library might take another week. The editing process takes two or three times as long as the recording in my experience. So add another 1 to 3 months. The sound design part to create the “Designed”-counterparts of the “Construction Kits” varies majorly depending on the topic. We produce about one trailer hit per day per sound designer, to give an expensive example. So 100 trailer hits means a hundred working days.
Can you give us a little insight on your creative process? (microphone placement, equipment used, vst software)
I personally see the microphones as my ears in general. That means: most of the time, when I’m standing somewhere and think it sounds good, placing the mic there mostly works to capture that. For more creative work, the placement can vary, of course, but this is my base rule for mic positions. We mostly record in stereo only, so we use a Sound Devices 744T, a rock-solid piece of hardware that has always worked so far, be it snow and ice, rain or dusty desert. We chose a microphone setup with an extended frequency range, so that pitch-shifting is fun because enough overtones are recorded. The microphones we use the most are Sennheiser MKH8040 XY or Sennheiser MKH8050 MS.
For restoration we use iZotope’s RX and we edit in different hosts, like Wavelab, Pro Tools or Cubase. VST-wise I think we use pretty much everything out there for the “Designed” editions.
How much sound design is involved in making sound libraries?
The “Construction Kit” libraries are as raw as possible. They focus more on good and flexible source recordings that have to be, or better “offer the possibility to be” further processed, leaving as much creative space as possible for the user. The “Designed” editions however are majorly processed, compressed, and designed. A lot of sound design work is involved in creating those.
What inspires you to make such amazing products?
Thanks for the compliment ;-) There is no perfect, but we want to come as close as possible. So we try to get closer to that term each day and with every single thing we start. We are very eager to improve ourselves on many different levels and, typically German maybe, we give each other very hard and clear feedback within the team. That pushes us further and further. Another reason why we want to create good libraries is that we work faster and with better results using our own libraries in third party productions so that we can concentrate even more on the creativeness and on matching a certain world, emotion or style for a third party product.
Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
The real thing isn’t always the best. I had this hard experience that I wanted to record some cool, real medieval catapults for our “Medieval Weapons – Construction Kit”. It was tough to find some that were a) in a remote and silent area, without any medieval castle-festivals or so and b) whose owners were willing to shoot several times, preferably both with burning projectiles and without.
The actual recordings turned out to be pretty boring after all, so we then recorded different elements which give a much better flexibility and the possibility to create those over the top catapult sounds that we were after for the “Designed” edition of the “Medieval Weapons”. That is just one of many examples why the real thing might not be the best choice.
What are your plans for the future?
We will definitely expand our collection. We are currently working on a bunch of libraries at the same time because some of them are harder to organize, take more time or we have to wait for the right moment to get what we are after. Something that we already announced is the next guns library, which will feature tons of assault weapons, some submachine guns and some sniper rifles. This will be a selection of a huge 60 channel recording we did.
Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
Something I still get to hear: “I can’t do this, because of my equipment”, “If some environmental things would be better, I could…”, “It is because I have no budget for proper stuff” and so on. Work on your skills, not on excuses. I heard extraordinary good productions done with the cheapest equipment out there. So just do it! All guys I know started like this.
At the same time I think one learns the most by doing and reflecting, improving, doing and reflecting and so forth.