What is a sound effects library?
Simply put, a sound effects library is a collection of audio effects that have been artificially created or enhanced for the purposes of enhancing a media production such as a radio show, film, music track, live theatrical performance, animated short or feature, computer game or other forms of media.
Sound effects libraries are nothing new - they have been around since the early days of radio and news broadcasts where broadcasters needed quick and easy access to high quality sound effects that would enhance their performance. A good example of this is the sound effects used in early radio comedy such as Spike Milligan's The Goon Show, which were mostly pre-recorded effects such as the slide whistle and a frying pan being hit on a metal surface at the exact point of contact.
The BBC: pioneers of the sound effects library
Later, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop contributed electronic audio effects generated by its state of the art (for the time) synthesizer equipment. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop is probably most well known internationally for its contribution to the audio design of the cult science fiction show Doctor Who. Many of the sound effects that were produced by the BBC during this time are still widely used today.
Sound effects have always been seen as building blocks of a production, whether the medium is radio, television, motion picture or video games, and in fact, with no sound effects track, these productions are often missing a vital aspect.
Sound effects are often referred to as foley effects, with the sound effects track called the foley track. Before the days of sound effects libraries, foley was added to a motion picture track in real time by a team of two or three sound engineers working in a small studio full of props. The team would become familiar with the story and create the appropriate sound elements using the props (e.g. by striking an old boot onto a wooden surface for footsteps) at the appropriate time, which would later be synchronized into the sound track.
Enter the sound board
Later, as "canned" sound effects became more popular due to the rise in electronic technology in Hollywood, a new invention called the sound board became widespread. This device, as its name implies, was literally a board containing a number of buttons, each associated with a different sound effect. When the button was pressed, which was identifiable by a label or effects map, the sound effect would be introduced into the live sound mix, or played via speakers and captured on the recording equipment. This had the benefit of offering sound engineers much more flexibility and speed of access to single sound effects, and also allowed radio performers access to the sounds themselves. This became an intrinsic part of many radio performers' acts. Fully functional retro sound boards can be viewed as Flash applications within a web browser online today.
Sound engineering for the masses
With the progression to sound engineering applications for modern home computer systems, sound engineering is no longer just reserved for professional productions and it is now possible to have sound effects libraries which are many thousands of times larger than the old sound boards, containing many individual, separate sound sample tracks. Of course, each sound effect doesn't get its own button anymore, as this is no longer feasible, but users can quickly search for a sound effect or assign it a hot key for easy access.
Sound effect libraries and video games
Early video games used mostly white noise sound effects for anything from a tennis racket striking a tennis ball to a pistol being fired or a spacecraft launching from space dock. White noise is essentially static that can be easily manipulated by changing the pitch and frequency, and thus enabling video game designers with a low cost, versatile and memory/resource efficient method of sound design. Since computing introduced sampling playback, which allows sound effect samples to be associated with events in the program code, video game sound design has become very similar to motion picture sound design. Often sound effects samples for both mediums are sourced from the same suppliers, and very similar tools are used to build up the layers of the sound track.
Feel the synth magic
Music has a long history of synthetic sound usage, dating back to the earlier musical synthesizers of the late 1960s and peaking with the heavily electronic-laden music of the 1980s. Allow it is no longer bound by the limitations of older synthesizer technology, the distinctive sound of certain musical synthesizers has a nostalgic quality for many listeners and for that reason many of the same synthesizer models are still used today - or sampled at home, so that the sound is comparable to all but the most trained of ears (with none of the associated cost of locating and maintaining legacy and antique sound equipment).
Build your own sound effects library
Building your own sound effects library is easy in 2013. With so many individual sound effects and sound effect compilations available for download from sources such as Tradebit, you really have it far too easy compared to the sound engineers of the past!
Whether you want to purchase and download the sounds of animals in the wild, transportation (cars, trains, bikes, planes, boats), ambient office sounds, industry sound effects such as tools and machinery or building site, human sounds such as a speak track or crowds in a bar or office (very useful for creating a surround sound effect mix), nature (forest or wood, ocean, desert, mountains, heavy rain) or just about anything else, this is all possible within a few clicks on a sound effect supplier such as Tradebit. Whatever it is you are producing - a music mix, a movie, animation or video game - we have it here as a high quality download.
Tradebit: #1 for sound effects libraries
Tradebit also offers a number of download format, including mp3 and WAV. So that you can buy in confidence, Tradebit also allows you to preview the sound effect before purchasing it. Play a short preview of the sound sample directly in your browser before purchasing, so that you know it is exactly what you need. View the details of any sound file edition just by clicking the More Info button on the product detail page of the Tradebit site.
Searching the web for free new individual sound effects is always problematic, because the sites (sometimes also found on a suspect blog) that offer supposedly free sound effects always come loaded with pop-up banners and other catches - sometimes even infecting your browser with nasty malware as soon as you arrive.
Sound effects files that you do not pay for are often copyrighted, in the end. If there is copyright on a new sound effect file that you use, this could come back to haunt you later on down the line when the copyright owner views your production!
Purchasing high quality sfx downloads, for the extremely low retail price of just a few dollars, for your sound effects library allows you to use them in the knowledge that they are royalty free and you are not violating any copyright license holder's rights, and you can always be assured of the highest possible sample quality. Our partners on Tradebit are all highly reputable and offer sound samples that are just a browse and click away when you urgently need to select obscure sound elements for your project, whether as collections or a couple of single tracks.
Contact us for more information if you need help or support with your sound files! Email us on [email protected]