Sunday, August 15, 2010

Content is King - Rise of the Independent Sound Library

Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives...well, the sands of time in my life have been moving a little too fast for me as of late. In the blink of an eye months have passed by in a rapid succession of: too much coffee, overtime dinners, and late nights all alone with a test tube. During that time there seems to have been a renaissance in Sound Libraries and a fully embraced digital download model for distribution.

Before I get into all of the new hotness out there in the world of content, I have to level with those of you who don't know where my loyalties lie. In a great overview of Sound Design roles in the game industry Rob Bridgett helped to clarify the newly embraced title of Technical Sound Designer which "implies that implementation and design of systems of playback is an integral part of (the) sound design process" and goes on to legitimize the moniker as a viable niche within the game audio community.

Since the moment I designed my first sounds for a small casual game it became immediately apparent  that there was more to game sound than just delivering content and calling it a day. Once my sounds had been integrated by the programmer I received a build back that found the beautifully sculpted tails of my one-shot's truncated after each successive re-triggering of the sound. While it ended up sounding cool, it was definitely not my intention. From here my fascination with the interactive playback of sounds took over for any desire I had for actually creating the sounds. The challenge of getting great sounds to play back appropriately when triggered from the mega-multitimbral synthesizer that is today's audio engine was just too interesting for me not to pursue.

As luck would have it I fell in with Julian and the content creators at Bay Area Sound and have since been spoiled by the level of quality that he and the rest of the team bring to every project I've worked on since officially starting in the industry (not to mention the other talented sound designers I've had the pleasure to work along side). With no concern over the content side of the equation, I've been free to pursue the craft of Technical Sound Design to the fullest without having to worry about the raw materials. It's true that the best sound can end up sounding bad if implemented poorly, but when the two are working together synergistically what you end up with is a whole that is greater than the sum of it's parts.

In short: for me it's all about the implementation, but I couldn't do it without great content.

Which brings me back around to the reason for this post: the plethora of options available as alternatives to the big-box sound libraries that have been used (and over used) in the short history of sample based game audio. But before we get to the bounty, here are some great sound design specific blogs that have sprung up recently, most of whom can also be found pontificating on a daily basis in the twitter-verse:

Chuck Russom
Noise Jockey
Miguel Isaza
Field Sepulchra
David Steinwedel
Music of Sound
Master of Sound
Left Brain (Audio) Blog
Colin Hart's Sound Kitchen
The Recordist
The Educated Sound Designer

It should come as no surprise, once you've read some of the passionate explorations of sound and field recording, that several of these fine fellow's have climbed on top of the capitalist mountain and have begun to bring some of these audio gem's to the masses. In several digestible forms of easily attainable audio packages, these trendsetters have spearheaded a new model focused on a high level of specificity, extreme quality, consistency, and user friendly bundles of sound. It has been pure joy over the past few months watching the launch of these personalized libraries, and I can't help but feel that the community aspect of twitter has helped foster a positive growth environment for each of these during their development. The support I've witnessed between sound professionals during these online tweets has constantly reinforced the beauty that can exist between people who, it is safe to say, all have a profound respect for one another.

With that, I'll unload on you a host of links that, hopefully, you'll come to rely on in your search for unique, highly variable, and affordable sound design elements. Several of these can be purchased in different sized bundles depending on the need for variation, sometimes including a free set meant to whet you sonic appetite.

Hiss and a Roar

Currently Available:

For review's see Tim's about page, and be sure to read (and listen to) Miguel's write up's.

Currently Available:

Author of the excellent Field Sepulchra Blog Michaels new venture recently launched with a bang!
Chuck Russom FX

Currently Available:
-Metal FX SFX Library
-Rocks SFX Library
-Skateboard SFX Library
-Handgun Foley SFX Library

Chuck has been at it long enough to know the unique demands of game audio, and the high level of variation represented in his libraries speak to his experience in creating multiple versions of the same sound to keep listener fatigue and repetition under control.

Currently Available:
-Ultimate Ice Sound Effects Released
-Broken World: Glass Sound Effects Library
-Thunderstorm HD Sound Effects Library
-Special Edition Sound Effects Library

-SB-DRS01: Doors of Stone
-SB-DUD01: Dungeon Doors
-SB-DED01: Demonic Doors
-SB-SFD01: SciFi Doors
-SB-MTE01: Metallic Energy
-SB-SFE01: Sci-Fi Energy
-SB-RM01: Rocket Man
-SB-SPF01: Space Fighters
-SB-SPF02: Space Fighters 2

As important as the sounds are the library backstory provided via his blog.

Currently Available:
-Cinematic Metal - Construction Kit
-Cinematic Metal - Impacts
-Cinematic Metal - Bundle

Be sure to check out the Metal Impacts - Review by Jim Stout

While we're on the topic of libraries, let me link dump some conversations that have been swirling on the topic of metadata and how to manage your ever-expanding library:

Designing Sound - Metadata in Sound Library Applications
Designing Sound - Sound Design Essentials: Software (I) – Database & Organization
Music of Sound - Metadata support in Sound Library Apps
Music of Sound - Do YOU use Metadata?

And the latest greatest:
Music of Sound - Why Use High Sample Rates?

Well, I've been meaning to round up all of the great things going on in Independent Sound Library creation so there you have it. I'm looking forward to hearing what all of the creative content creators come up with, and I look forward to pushing the art of implementation to insure that good sounds sound good in games.

'Til next time!