Sound Libraries when starting out as a Sound Editor

Someone got in touch recently, keen to buy their first sound libraries but a little overwhelmed by the choices. So they asked what would I recommend?
Funnily enough I had been thinking about exactly this i.e. building a “Sound FX Editor Starter Pack” so I will work through some ideas and choices, but I am also totally open to suggestions. Is there a combination you would be interested in?

First, I’ll outline my own approach to building my own personal sound library, as a sound effects editor & sound designer.

Fairly early on in my career I realised that once I had ProTools the next thing that would have the most impact on my work was to build up my raw resources: sounds!

First was gaining access to a field recorder and microphones.
We are each unique, with unique backgrounds and unique opportunities for recording. Your parent’s occupation provides direct access to industries that otherwise might never be accessible. And your location also provides access to unique sounds. So the sooner you start recording sounds towards your own personal library the better. Note you do not need to own gear to start this. My first recordings were made by borrowing a Nagra 4.2 and an MKH416 shotgun mic. So all I had to fund was some 1/4″ tape & batteries. Years later I got my first recorder, a Tascam portable DAT machine and a pair of mics (Oktava omni mics). Why I raise this as a starting point is twofold: first every time you record something – ambience, a prop, a machine, a vehicle, an animal, anything… and then transfer it into your DAW and mess with it, you complete an invaluable learning feedback loop. You go through the complete cycle of research & planning a recording, doing the recording in reality – hearing the sounds directly with your own ears as well as through headphones. And then you get to hear how the recordings sound in your studio. The sooner you start this lifelong process the better.

Second, how to organise my library so it’s easy to use.
Thankfully now hard drives are cheap and online storage such as Google Drive is cheap. So say you start filling a 4TB hard drive and you back it up to Google Drive. Some people like to spend their time organising their sounds into folders by categories etc but I have never done this. I feel it is a futile waste of time which does not scale. Here I am decades later with a personal library with over 500k sounds in it. Sorting those into category folders would have cost me vast amounts of time, with no benefit as I do not ever browse my library by looking through folders. I use a sound library app (SoundMiner in my case) to find anything. So my approach has always been to store my sounds chronologically. So I just keep adding new folders on my library drive named with the date first “20240331 PekaPeka Beach recording” etc… or, sometimes named with project they are associated with. This way the original recordings are backed up, I can find them by searching, by the approximate year & date and I can find them by memory.
But the important point here is I began collecting sounds. So if I was starting out now, I would be a voracious downloader of every legitimate free sound I could find. That word “legitimate” is important because years later you may not remember where you got something from, but you may have to sign a contract saying you own a license to the sounds you use on a project.

Third, once I was working on films my library purchases were motivated by the projects needs.
For example when I worked on the film Mr Pip, I noted there was a big scene where a village is destroyed and burnt to the ground. So I did some research & bought all of the indie fire sound libraries I could find. The bonus of this approach is that I can write off the cost as part of the cost of that project but those fire sounds I will have forever more. So each project means you get to fill out some aspect of your sound library. And you remember how & why you got those sounds & which ones worked best for the scenes.

So which HISSandaROAR libraries would I buy if I was starting out?
Which libraries cover good basic categories, that recurr in projects often?

Here are three practical bundles I have put together, with sounds you will that will be useful forever more:

BUNDLE 1 – Practical Effects:
SD001 VEGE VIOLENCE
SD002 SWISHES
SD007 WATER FOLEY
SD008 CONTACT MIC
FX002 BODY HITS
FX004 DIG
FX006 SHED IMPACTS
FX019 CELERY BONE CRUNCH
UFX017 LEATHER JACKET

BUNDLE 2 – Breaking Things:
SD019 TORTURED WOOD
SD021 HEAVY METAL IMPACTS
SD048 GLASS Practical FX
SD052 SOFA SMASH
SD057 100K METAL
FX012 PLATE SMASH

BUNDLE 3 – Ambiences 1:
AMB002 BEACHES
AMB004 GALE FORCE WIND
AMB007 LAKES
AMB008 RIVERS AND STREAMS
AMB012 DISTANT SEA

While some libraries HISSandaROAR release are more specialist, these are all libraries that you will find practical use for, forever more. So I have created bundles with maximum discount:

BUNDLE 1 – Practical Effects
BUNDLE 2 – Breaking Things
BUNDLE 3 – Ambiences 1

 

 

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