METADATA: Additional Fields?

Ok, so as a collective group of random recordists, sound editors & designers (& therefore metadata users) what fields are currently missing from the spec? Hang on, which spec? Well, I am going to suggest SoundMiner only because it is thus far definitive & the developers are responsive… If all we achieve is a bit of (informed) crowdsourced opinion then even thats valuable….

So here is the question:

If you’re tagging your files (eg recordings, samples etc) with metadata, what fields of data are currently missing? Which ones have you reached for, only to find they don’t exist?

Lets try & keep this platform agnostic, although inevitably a suggestion will require checking if the app you use supports it already – I use SoundMiner Pro so I’ll inevitably only ask for things it doesn’t already support…

My first additional field would be for GPS coordinates. I’d like to tag every recording with GPS, in some standardised format, so that I can use the field’s data with as many different apps & devices as possible eg from google maps and google earth through to a Navman (eg say you want to go visit the place in Indonesia where those amazing frogs was recorded…)
Is there a standard for GPS data?

Recording so many ambiences this year I almost wish there was a descriptive field for LOCATION (or is there already?)

I also wonder if there isn’t an advantage in having at least two timecode fields; one for duration 00:03:03:00, one for timestamp 01:13:10:00 (but would that also require a TC frame rate field? ARG it gets complicated fast….)

I also think there is still a need for timestamped markers within a file – remember Sound Designer 2 and its exportable playlists/region markers? So could that work as a series of metadata fields? Cue01:, Cue02: etc but then you’d also want to name the markers = another field for marker name….


Transferring Metadata

Following this thread on gearslutz got me thinking about a process that has always been painful for me i.e. transferring the metadata from one file to another. I have often dreamed of a drag & drop application that would copy the metadata from file 1 and add it to file 2. Little did I realise I already had an app for that! SoundMiner v4 Pro! Check this video out:

Note: this is a feature that only comes with the full SoundMiner v4 Pro

SM Mirror

Soundminer Filenaming Algorithm (from the SoundMiner manual)

A naming scheme is a powerful way to make specific character sequences either for files or regions based on the metadata in a record. For example when you transfer a sound effect to your DAW you may want the region name to include some information about sound effect that is specified in its Description field. Instead of re-entering that information when you spot the
effect, you could tell Soundminer to extract the information from that field and build the region name from that information. This is very useful for processing multiple records because each region name will be built from the fields in their respective records.

SM Naming
SM Naming

Note: this is a feature that only comes with the full SoundMiner v4 Pro

Do YOU use Metadata?

Ok, I’m sure you are a little overwhelmed with the amount of info in the last post. One of the side benefits of THE DOORS project was getting to know some of the individuals who read (& now contribute) to this site, so knowing what a hard working, talented & diverse crowd of people you all are, I have a question for you: Do you use Metadata?

While I’d like to dream that my own 4TB sound library is all perfectly tidy and tagged with exquisitely detailed metadata, the truth is quite different. So relatedly I’d like to hear anecdotal stories of what state your sound library is in? What library app do you use? How big is your library? What is it stored on? What is it backed up to? And do you actually use metadata?

My library is on 2 x 2TB G Tech RAIDs which are set to read only; anything I access off them gets copied to the 3 x 1TB internal work/project drives on my Mac Pro PT HD2 system. For backup, I have a clone copy on 2 x 2TB RAIDs at my home studio (PT LE w DV Toolkit) and I also have an offsite copy on raw 1TB drives.

I use SoundMiner Pro to access my library at work and AudioFinder at home (although I do plan to buy SoundMiner for home) Little of my library has metadata – one use for it I do pursue is that when I finish a film I tend to archive the final library sessions of that film back into my library, so eg for the film BOY I archived BOY Ambiences, BOY Foley and BOY FX. For easy access later & as a visual reminder, I search & find these folders (using a path search in SoundMiner) and then tag all those files with ‘BOY ambience’ or ‘BOY foley’ or ‘BOY FX’ into the description field. Sometimes the fastest way to find a file is to think of where it may have been used previously!

Funnily enough it was through starting HISSandaROAR that I investigated metadata, and I will pursue updating the rest of my library as time allows…. As.Time.Allows.

And you?

Metadata support in Sound Library Apps

Following on from previous posts about metadata, I have emailed the developer of each library app and asked the same questions of them, specifically:

Could you provide basic info for me as to how your application handles metadata?
– does it read iXML?
– does it write iXML?
– does it read BEXT?
– does it write BEXT?
– do you use your own custom metadata?
– can your custom metadata be read by other programs?
– can your custom metadata be exported for use in other programs?
– what fields of metadata do you support?
– can I import metadata from a spreadsheet? what formats are supported?

Now two comments:
1. If any readers know of Sound Library software that I have missed which should be included, please let me know in the comments – I did contact NetMix but have never had a response. I will update this post when/if I do.
2. Developers, if I have misquoted you at all please get in touch asap (using the email link over on the right) & I will update this post – I totally appreciate how much hard work is involved in developing and evolving these apps and it is very important to me that your work is represented fairly & as you wish. The implementation of metadata is an evolving area, and this post is a snapshot as per these apps now. If in future you wish to update any of your comments as new features are implemented, please also get in touch!



AudioFinder header

AudioFinderIced Audio – US$69.95 – OSX

“There are two market niches for metadata, one is overflowing with support and the other has been almost entirely ignored. Market one, the main one is sound designers for post production managing sound effects. This is primarily where all the apps are focused. This is not where AudioFinder is focused. The second potentially larger niche, but completely ignored is musicians managing sample libraries, this is AudioFinder’s focus.

AudioFinder’s Metadata is aimed at adding properties that are musically useful to people composing music. Most of the open standards like BEXT and IXML are focused on post-production and broadcast and don’t really offer anything useful to someone looking for sounds in a music project.

AudioFinder does not modify files – when people do processing actions in AF it always creates a new file. Therefore, AudioFinder keeps all the metadata users enter in an SQLite database. When the user enters metadata about a file, a new database entry for the file is created, and the file is finger printed, so if they move the file, the fingerprint will allow it to be reconnected to the metadata database.

The special part about the AF metadata implementation is that it’s open. SQLite is open source and an industry standard. There are plenty of little database utilities out there that can work on it. Anyone is invited to work with the AudioFinder metadata database.

Does AudioFinder read iXML?

Partially. It doesn’t read some of the custom sections.

Does AudioFinder write iXML?


Does AudioFinder read BEXT?


Does AudioFinder write BEXT?


Do you use your own custom metadata?

Yes, in the SQLite database

Can your custom metadata be read by other programs?

Yes, if they want to read the database, the format is open and not encrypted.

Can your custom metadata be exported for use in other programs?

A user can use an SQLite utility and export the database, into many formats.

What fields of metadata do you support?

Fields that are musically useful i.e. key, instrument, BPM etc…
please see the app for the complete listing.

Can I import metadata from a spreadsheet? what formats are supported?




Basehead header

BaseHead – US$289 – Windows & OSX

Does BaseHead read iXML?

We do but only from recorder files in which the BEXT is standardised.

Does BaseHead write iXML?

Not yet. We write aXML now and full support for iXML in Version 3.x

Does BaseHead read BEXT?


Does BaseHead write BEXT?


Do you use your own custom metadata?

Yes, we have a chunk called aXML that is the same as iXML but labeled differently so we can find it quick. Injector Pro writes this with indexes that we read in BaseHead. BaseHead also writes all changed descriptions to aXML and BEXT simultaneously since BEXT has a character limit of 256 – aXML is helpful for long descriptions and files with tons of indexes in one file.

Can your custom metadata be read by other programs?

It’s basic XML based so an other program can read it if they sat down for 10 minutes and coded it in.

Can your custom metadata be exported for use in other programs?

Not directly, but we invite any other sound library programs to read it since it’s only basic XML. We support only open standards and always will!

What fields of metadata do you support?

1 path
2 filename
3 description
4 start
5 length
6 hide_me
7 bitrate
8 channels
9 date_added
10 sample_rate
11 type
12 cd_title
13 artist
14 coding_history
15 original_date
16 originator_ref
17 originator
18 timecode
19 category_short
20 category
21 index
22 comment
23 episode
24 frame_rate
25 group
26 library
27 location
28 project_name
29 rating
30 tape
31 scene
32 snap_point
33 take
34 track_title
35 composer
36 designer
37 publisher
38 folder
39 genre

Can I import metadata from a spreadsheet? what formats are supported?

 Not directly, most users migrating metadata end up formating Excel sheets in a way that Injector Pro likes and then just burn the descriptions into the files permanently. Or use some SQLite tools to migrate data, but I suggest the first way since then the files have descriptions in them permanently.
Can I export metadata to a spreadsheet?

Not directly in BaseHead, but we use a SQLite database now and there are plenty of tools to read our non-encrypted database and export that to a Spreadsheet.

Added comments:

BaseHead can read: BEXT, iXML (limited), aXML, SNDM v3, NMIX, ID3, OGG



Library Monkey header

Library Monkey Pro – Monkey Tools – US$399 – OSX
Library Monkey – Monkey Tools – US$129 – OSX

Does it read iXML? Does it write iXML?

We do not currently support iXML read/write in our products.

Does it read BEXT? Does it write BEXT?

We support this where BWAV is supported

Do you use your own custom metadata?

We do not embed any custom metadata as we strive to support and be complient to industry standards. Our librarian products do provide custom fields which can be mapped to a formats metadata field.

Can your custom metadata be read by other programs?


Can your custom metadata be exported for use in other programs?

In our Librarian software we provide 30 user fields that can be remapped on processing into the desired formats metadata.  

What fields of metadata do you support?

Library Monkey Pro metadata list
Library Monkey metadata list

ID3 Tags v2.2, v2.3
Protools Metadata
Soundminer Metadata

FLAC Comments

ID3 Tags v1.1, v2.2, v2.3

MPEG 4 Audio
MPEG 4 Metadata

FLAC Comments

Vorbis Comments

Quicktime Movie
Quicktime Metadata
Quicktime User Data

Sound Designer II
Protools Metadata

ID3 Tags v2.2, v2.3
Protools Metadata
Soundminer v3 Metadata

Can I import metadata from a spreadsheet? what formats are supported?

In both Library Monkey and Library Monkey Pro you can use a tab-delimited file to import your data. This data is not embedded into the file until processed.

Can I export metadata to a spreadsheet?

Not currently

Added comment:

One feature that I think is important to note is the metadata remapping we provide in Library Monkey Pro and Sound Grinder Pro.  By control+clicking the metadata field in the processing section you can have metadata from one format mapped to a field in another.  For example, you can take the composer field in a MP3 file and move it to a different field in a bwav file.  This would then remap it automatically for all processed files.



Snapper header

Snapper – Audio Ease – US$79 – OSX

Does Snapper read iXML?

Snapper 1, the current version doesn’t. Snapper 2, which is in the works, will.

Does it write iXML?


Does it read BEXT?


Does it write BEXT?

Yes, if appropriate info is available in the input file

Do you use your own custom metadata?


Can your custom metadata be read by other programs?
Can your custom metadata be exported for use in other programs?


What fields of metadata do you support?

Everything that’s legible, that is, not in a custom format from field recorder or software. Most notably copyright tags, take numbers and time stamps.

Can I import metadata from a spreadsheet? what formats are supported?


Can I export metadata to a spreadsheet?




SoundMiner header

SoundMiner is available for OSX, Windows & Web platforms
SoundMiner PRO – US$899
SoundMiner – US$599 – OSX
MiniMiner – US$199 – OSX (metadata read only)

For comparison of functionality in versions, please see here

“Soundminer has been at the forefront of the metadata discussion for ten years.  We very early on realized and developed a specialized container for the purposes of holding expanded embedded metadata regardless of the file format. This was something no other products on the market at the time did.  We worked tirelessly with our user base and the content creators in creating both application support and tools that would allow for the distribution and ingestion of this metadata and compatible industry metadata. The Soundminer metawrapper was developed alongside ‘open’ containers so as to be as compatible as possible with industry standards, while allowing us to further develop our own metawrapper for use within our various aggregator products.

We have published a ‘whitepaper’ that details our position on metadata – please see here

Does SoundMiner read iXML?


Does it write iXML?


Does it read BEXT?


Does it write BEXT?


Do you use your own custom metadata?


Can your custom metadata be read by other programs?

Other applications can read the metadata we print to the open containers. Please see additional comments below with regards to our custom metadata.

Can your custom metadata be exported for use in other programs?

Any set of metadata fields in Soundminer can be exported as text

What fields of metadata do you support?

Not modifiable fields (hard attributes derived from the files themselves):
Filename – 255 characters (Both V3 and V4)
Pathname – limited only by system
File size – in bytes
File type – 4 character creator signature (ie. ,aif, .wav, .mp3)
Duration- minutes and seconds
Channels – mono(1), stereo(2), 3-8 channel surround.
Creation Date – date format
Modification Date – date format
Bit Depth – 16 or 24 bits
Sampling Rate – 44khz up to 192khz
Original time Stamp (allotted for future)
User Time Stamp (allotted for future)

Master Modifiable V4 metadata fields:
(these are the main fields which pertain to searchable metadata for most users)
Description – 1000 characters – (255 characters under V3)
Notes – (255 characters under V3 and V4)
Category – 62 characters (31 characters under V3) – used for OBJECTIVE Musical category. See accompanying addendum on Categories.
SubCategory – 62 characters additional category or genre information. See addendum for more info.
*Composer – 255 characters(31 characters under V3) name of the Composer(s) and should contain affiliation and percentage information. It must follow the following format (Composer first name, last name, affiliation, percentage and every Composer would be then separated by a or pipe – ie. Johan P., Smith, ASCAP, 50%|John G., Doe, BMI, 50%
*Publisher – 255 characters – name of the Publisher and should contain affiliation and percentage information. It must follow the following format (Publisher, affiliation, percentage and every Publisher would be then separated by a pipe – ie. MyMusicCo, ASCAP, 50%|YourMusicCo, BMI, 50%
FeaturedInstrument – 128 characters – a list of the main instruments featured in the piece of music.
CDTitle – 62 characters – title of the CD
CDDescription – 128 characters – a description of the contents or theme of the CD if applicable.
TrackTitle – 128 characters – name of the piece of music
Library – 62 characters(31 characters under V3)– name of the Library
Manufacturer – 62 characters(31 characters under V3) name of the Manufacturer or Distributor or Author
Mood – 62 characters. An alternate field to place ‘Mood’ specific descriptors. Suggested: place these kinds of adjectives in your main Description field as well.
Usage – 62 characters. An alternate field to place categoric usage like ‘sports’, ‘documentary’, ‘human interest’. Suggested: place these kinds of adjectives in your main Description field as well.
Version 31 characters. An field to place version identifier. For example, you may have 4 versions of a track with the same name, but in here you could add things like ‘underscore’ ‘alt mix 1’, etc.
Volume – used to link files in the web portal grouping systems. If from a library series or batch, it could be identified here.
Lyrics – 1000 characters. Here you can add your lyrics. Use the ‘pipe’(|) character to separate your lines so it can be reformatted better for display inside the web portal or in the v4pro metadata pane.
Artist 62 characters. Use this field if using band material where the artist may be someone other than the Performer and or Composer.
Designer – 62 characters(31 characters under V3) name of the creator as in Sound Designer.
Source – 62 characters(31 characters under V3) – original CD source as in CD001:01:01 (CD/Track/Index). This is also a good place for a unique identifier.
Show – 62 characters(31 characters under V3)– usually the name o the Project the sound was designed for.
LongID – 62 characters (31 characters under V3) usually reserved alternate ID or as alternate for V3 systems that have no field dedicated for Track Title
Short ID – 31 characters(10 characters under V3) – reserved for shortened Category denominations as per our Music Categorization document.
Record Medium – 62 characters(16 characters in V3) – Originating Medium – DVD, CD, VHS, etc
Record Type – 62 characters(16 characters) – usually used for type of file – ie. Full Mix, Narration, Underscore, etc. Or used for original format…recording type – room tone, wild track.
Location – 128 characters (62 characters) – originator reference number. Perhaps a serial number or name that associates the file with a master file on your hard drive.
Microphone – 62 characters(31 characters under V3)- usually reserved for sound designers who like to note what microphone they used when recording a sound effect.
Arranger – 128 characters(31 characters under V3)
Conductor – 128 characters(31 characters under V3)
Performer – 128 characters(31 characters under V3)
Rating – (8 characters) Usually used to denote files
BPM – 31 characters(4 numeric characters under V3) used for tempo information
Editor comment – 255 characters (leave blank as it is used by the end user)
Keywords- 255 characters (leave blank as it is reserved for Soundminer’s internal search engine – use the description field for your keywords)
FXName – 128 characters – name of effect if applicable
Key – 15 characters. Musical key of file if applicable
Scene – 31 characters – Project or Production specific information
Take – 31 characters – Project or Production specific information
Tape – 31 characters – Project or Production specific information

Project level Metadata:
(In the Soundminer system, users can add a secondary level of data to copied files that contain Project specific notes and information. This level is purely for the copied file and does not reside in the original file.)
Region/Clip Name
EDIT – In time
EDIT – Out time
Reel – 10 characters
Footage – time specific
Scene – 10 characters
Scene Description – 31 characters
Supervisor Notes – 512 characters
Spot Date – date specific
FFOA – first frame of action
Version – version of the edit list
Title, Transfer path, Status, Type, Perspective – all film specific metadata used by the supervisor.
Destination filename – 255 characters

BWAV: (specific to the BWAV BEXT standard)
Description – 255 characters
OriginatorRef – 31 characters
Originator – 31 characters
Date – specific date format
Time – 00:00:00
Timestamp – numerical

Understanding the wrapper will help you maximize your metadata presence and use. V4pro allows you to combine different fields so you could maximize the limited space provided by the BWAV description container to hold ‘composer, publisher, CD source and a shortened description while naming the copied file by track title for example.

This standard was created primarily for field recording. It is useful however in that many applications are now adopting it and it can be used in a very modified way to hold information that is relevant to music as well (although it is not designed for such).
Version – lists the version of iXML the file used
Project – name of the project
Scene – film/project specific
Take – film/project specific
Tape – refers to the tape the file was originally recorded to but could be used for the CD source for example.
Note – Here is a good place for the description or combination of fields as in: category, description, composer, Publisher
UID – special unique identification number.

Can I import metadata from a spreadsheet? what formats are supported?

Yes. Tab seperated text is necessary with headers to align the content into Soundminer’s field format.
SoundMiner can also import from CSV text sheet and Itunes XML.

Additional comments:
For the record, v4 data is encrypted because when we designed v3 for v3 aggregators we never thought others would backward engineer access to it for their own agenda and begin writing to it – sometimes incorrectly, thus causing issues in our aggregators.  v4 data is for Soundminer applications and are an entrenched part of enterprise solutions in many different markets.  We cannot risk having other companies applications adversely affecting our client’s systems.



TwistedWave header

Twisted Wave – OSX – US$79.90

Does it read iXML?


Does it write iXML?


Does it read BEXT?


Does it write BEXT?


Do you use your own custom metadata?


Can your custom metadata be read by other programs?
Can your custom metadata be exported for use in other programs?


What fields of metadata do you support?

TwistedWave supports Soundminer v3 tags, BEXT metadata, and the usual title, album, artist, year, genre, artwork found in id3 tags and in FLAC files.

Can I import metadata from a spreadsheet? what formats are supported?


Additional comments:

TwistedWave is still young, and I will certainly consider improving metadata support in the future.

Sound Library App Metadata Support

Ok I am contacting the following companies to enquire as to their applications metadata support…
I am just publishing this list now so you can tell me if I have missed anyone out?



Library Monkey





Twisted Wave

Any other applications that specifically work with sound effects libraries and metadata?

My primary questions are:

How does your application handle metadata?

– does it read iXML?
– does it write iXML?
– does it read BEXT?
– does it write BEXT?
– do you use your own custom metadata?
– what fields of custom metadata do you support?
– can your custom metadata be read by other programs?
– can your custom metadata be exported for use in other programs?

METADATA Test with Wave Agent

Following up on yesterdays post re Metadata, I installed Wave Agent and imported a test file: METADATA TEST.wav and I added the following metadata:

Wave Agent test

I then hit SAVE & exited Wave Agent & booted up ProTools
At first when I went to Workspace & located the file METADATA TEST.wav no metadata was displayed but when I selected the file ProTools quickly drew the waveform & displayed the metadata, as below.
Now I know there is also a shortcut key command that when you click on a waveform on a track, it requests ProTools to import all metadata – anyone remember what the key combo is? I only know it exists as a few times I have hit it by mistake and have to wait, since if its a big session with 5,000 files in it importing all the metadata takes a few minutes (and there is no cancel button)

Wave Agent test

Also, if I go to View menu > Region > Scene & Take I could display info in waveform:

Wave Agent test

So thanks Sound Devices & AVID for implementing this – go get yourself a copy of WAVE AGENT for Mac or PC here

UPDATE: If you own ProTools it would also be worth your while reading the PDF which is labelled: “Field Recorder Workflows.pdf”

Applications/Digidesign/Documentation/Misc/Field Recorder Workflows.pdf

Two relevant bits (although be aware DigiBase is not same as Workspace)

PT metadata support

You and your Metadata….

Data about data, that’s got to be pretty interesting right? Well, it turns out to be more interesting than you might think. But first lets get the definition under control: Metadata is data about other data – that’s where its value lies, but the metadata is only of value if you have a use for it, and the same could be said of the data itself.
More than likely like me you are constantly generating new material – be it photos, sounds, video, music, text or whatever. All that data is getting stored and, in the present tense, we know what that data is and its relative importance. But time passes, memories blurr and data soon becomes lost in the archive constantly growing in parallel to your life. And thats where metadata can help!
Chances are you’re already generating metadata, either automatically or manually. Every time you take a photo or record a sound, the device you use is generating metadata for you eg metadata fields such as creation date and the device name & model are embedded in every photo or sound. But if you’ve ever uploaded a video to youtube or vimeo, or uploaded photos on flickr you might also notice you are obliged to enter descriptive tags to specify the genre, style or topic. This also is metadata…

Not coincidentally I have recently read an interesting book by Gene Smith called Tagging: People Powered Metadata and the Social Web and it outlines three main motives for tagging:

1. helps you (or others) find your data
2. helps you manage your data
3. lets you relate your data to other data

While most people probably don’t worry too much about ever setting it up, metadata is crucial in the process of film making. For example the location sound recordist must be very, very sure his file naming & metadata are correct because his media is inherited by a lot of people & is accessed repeatedly for many months, long after he is off the payroll & has archived his work.

For sound effects editors and sound designers, one of the most important assets you own is your own personal sound library and it is this application of metadata I’m going to discuss, as it represents a means of including far more descriptive information than is possible with just the filename, and it can have a major impact on the accessibility & useability of your library. But it is not as straight forward as perhaps it should be, since as with many technical developments we meet the clash of open source versus proprietry systems.

The first issue is what applications support metadata? With ProTools you can display and edit metadata in the workspace browser. Open it via Window menu > Browsers > Workspace and open one of your drives with sound files on it & see what metadata already exists in your files. You can see from this example that it easily gives you the ability to tag the file with more descriptive terms than is used in the file name, so eg as below if I searched for ‘chomp’ in filename alone I would get zero results, whereas searching filename & metadata would find the file….

metadata in workplace

Now this is an example of metadata stored within the source file itself & it is not the only way; the other option is to store metadata in a seperate database, and some apps give you the choice of both scenarios eg the sound library application SoundMiner allows you to tag additional descriptive terms to any file & by default these added terms are stored in SoundMiners own database file. But the danger here is what happens if that database file is lost or becomes corrupt?
Once you have spent the time entering metadata, it is so important that there is no way you ever want to risk losing it, so apart from regularly backing up your SoundMiner databases I also believe you should export your metadata into the source files themselves.

metadata export

If you have ever used a nice, user friendly database app like FileMaker Pro you will know that you can keep adding fields to the database to your hearts content, but does the same apply to metadata? Well… yes and no… And here’s where we need to do some research into the actual format of metadata and how it is embedded into your soundfiles.

In terms of digital audio files, first there was the .WAV audio format which stores audio data in a straightforward linear fashion. But as software and hardware has evolved we’ve seen the evolution to the BWF (Broadcast Wave Format). Whats the difference? Basically a BWF file is a .WAV audio file that also contains an extra data “chunk” to carry information about the content, you guessed it metadata. Now the great thing with this extra chunk of data is that if your software or hardware device has no use for the metadata then it ignores it and treats it like a normal .WAV file.

So what sort of data can we add? And more importantly, is it standardised?

As I mentioned earlier, from a sound point of view the idea of metadata that is entered during a film shoot is very important and accordingly a lot of work has been done to establish a standard for this use, and this form of audio metadata has been given the name: iXML

So for example a production recordist on a film shoot enters the slate & take number every time he rolls sound, and that information is embedded into the .WAV files, which are delivered to picture editorial who load it into their AVID or whatever. Months later a dialogue editor inherits the work of the picture editor (as well as all of the material recorded) and in ProTools he can verify from metadata the slate and take of any piece of audio because of iXML.

As you can imagine it has been a herculean task to get all of the manufacturers of sound recording hardware (along with the DAW developers) to agree to a standard, but it has been achieved! For more info on the iXML spec check wikipedia and the official support site.

iXML metadata

So for the workflow of [shoot -> picture editorial -> sound editorial] metadata works, with the caveat that nothing is presumed and camera/workflow tests are ALWAYS done before the shoot to verify this fact. So now lets presume you are doing something similar to me ie recording wild ambiences & FX, editing & mastering them and then adding them to your sound library. What’s the best way to integrate metadata in that scenario?

About now is the point where use of the word standards starts to get a little shakey. It seems anyone can create an app that adds metadata to a .WAV file, the issue then becomes who can read it? Now I’ve used ProTools as my primary sound editing DAW for the last 18 years so whatever metadata I embed I want it to be readable by ProTools. But over the years I’ve tried & used many different solutions for managing my sound library and at the moment SoundMiner is my app of choice. Now I’m pretty sure I’ll still be using ProTools 5 years from now, but SoundMiner? I’m not so sure… It does a great job but I have also investigated a number of other options and I’m not 100% convinced that give or take a year or two of development I may well end up switching to a different sound library app. With this knowledge the idea of proprietry metadata becomes a significant issue: why invest time & energy adding metadata that can’t be read by other apps, should I eventually migrate?

So what metadata do I add via SoundMiner?
When I started HISSandaROAR, after doing tests with the main Mac contenders (SoundMiner, Basehead, AudioFinder, Snapper) I discovered the only metadata that worked with all of them was the DESCRIPTION field, and the easiest way to enter that data was via the ProTools Workplace as described above. But after a few emails from people asking for more metadata I revisited the released libraries and updated them, so the metadata fields I have provided are listed below (along with one files metadata as an example)

ID: SD001
DESCRIPTION: Vegetable Violence Cabbage bat hit smack impact
RECORDER: Sound Devices 722
LOCATION: SUBSTATION, Wellington, New Zealand
GPS LATITUDE: 41°18’29.11″”S”
GPS LONGITUDE: 174°49’22.40″”E
GPS POSITION: 41°18’29.11″”S, 174°49’22.40″”E”

Now some of these fields I know are particular to SoundMiner eg the ability to tag the Designers name, and embed an image. So if you own SoundMiner and embed all of this metadata, and then are working from your laptop using AudioFinder, that Designer and Image metadata will not be available to you. And there lies the quandry of the world we live: commercial imperatives vs practical long term use.

Its worth having a read of a white paper that the SoundMIner developers published in the name of establishing and encouraging sound library developers to include their implementation of metadata. In an effort to be fair and balanced I shall send a link to the developers of each of the sound library application creators and ask for their comments about metadata support.

So aside from the ProTools workplace how else can we get metadata into our files?

Sound Devices who have been actively involved in the development of the iXML open standard have a free metadata application available for mac & PC called WAVE AGENT – downloadable here which allows playback of polyphonic and monophonic BWF and standard WAV files from any source, up to 12-tracks wide, plus allows viewing and editing metadata, batch editing, file-renaming and mono/poly file conversion! Here’s a demo of it in use:

Ok so thats my metadata rant for now, tomorrow I am going to send an email to each company that sells a sound library app, and ask for a specific explanation of their metadata implementation and support. I shall report back!

Please also feel free to consider this an open thread on the subject of metadata…
– do you inject metadata into your sound library files?
– what sound library app/s do you use?

Detritus 426

▶ Robots, they’re coming for your drum solo!


▶ MPAA Adds New Rating To Warn Audiences Of Films Not Based On Existing Works


▶ Vintage photographs altered by Anja Wülfing


▶ Fascinating reading: Avian Acoustics Research at Massey University, Auckland, NZ


Post horror? anything has got be better than dumb schlock frights… I don’t watch horror any more, whereas existential dread I do still appreciate…. maybe..


▶ “Imagine if Charles Dickens had left a record of some of his technical decisions—why, for example, he so often used a verbless sentence; or if Joseph Mallord William Turner had explained to his contemporaries why he chose a certain vivid pigment….” – the composer who broke the rules


▶ Does music played in a metadata void actually make a sound


▶ With recent news of layoffs etc at Soundcloud, do you have backups/archive of your tracks on Soundcloud? This site can make backup easier (thanks Tom!)


Listening to incense

I’ve had a few interesting experiences in the last few days, listening to incense. And no, thats a turn of phrase I made up (aka burnt contact mics?) – it is apparently a traditional Japanese idea. I visited the Shoyeido incense store in Osaka yesterday, and their website describes it thus: “We use the expression “listening to incense” to describe the delicate process of enjoying the subtle fragrance of a tiny piece of aromatic wood. As we embrace the bowl in our palms, the gentle scent beckons us to use all of our senses–a process also known as “Mon-koh.” Have a read here for further instruction on this tradition

In the West, incense has a somewhat dubious association with hippies, but thats really just a case of appropriation – same for the crystal stores & like. Incense has been an important part of both religion and general life for centuries in Japan – the Shoyeido store states their incense is the result of 12 generations and 300 years of evolution and as well as having stores in Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo also supply incense to the head temples of all the major Japanese Buddhist sects. So I guess I couldn’t have a better reason to erase the horrid hippy connotations and open my mind & olfactory organs to some new experiences.


It was such a pleasure to visit this store. Standing out on the busy street prior to entering I inhaled the mix of cold autumn air & vehicle fumes & thought about the contrast: how would it smell when I opened that door? The smell of anticipation… And when comparing incense I wondered if there was an equivalent taste cleansing such as that of the cracker when wine tasting, or eating ginger between trying different types of sushi & sashimi…


I planned from the outset to cover my bases by buying a variety of incense, so I can slowly learn to appreciate the different types and find what I actually prefer under different circumstances. My primary aim is to find an incense that I can use to alter my state of mind, for example if I busy doing some boring work (accounts, metadata entry etc..) and I finish that work & wish to then have some fun writing/producing music, it is pretty obvious a completely different state of consciousness is required and to find an incense that I really really enjoy AND can be used to inform my subconscious I am finished with the accounts and am now going to make some drones or beats or whatever, could be an invaluable aid. Suspect I already know the right incense for playing bass, but who knows? Maybe I find an incense that is perfect for modular synth wiggling!?!


I tried a number of different varieties, and it was interesting how easily a scent was replaced by the next – a quick sniff didn’t linger in my mind, despite clarifying what I did and didn’t like.. So I bought a decent selection of incense: some selector packs, a few larger boxes and an interesting book (in english) The Book of Incense: Enjoying the Traditional Art of Japanese Scents


My second experience was remarkably different, this time I visited the LISN store in Kyoto. LISN is actually owned by Shoyeido but takes a different approach to selling incense, reinventing itself for a contemporary, presumably younger market with brightly coloured packaging and even a 2D incense chart to help categorise the different kinds… I was also partly motivated to visit this store due to its incredibly beautiful minimalist interior design by Shigemasa Noi – check out this and some of his other work here


This time trying the many different flavours was more like taking little sips from a cup – fragrances were grouped together, so for example sniffing my way through the ‘floral’ section was quite quick & I was given a little tray to place my selections on… It will be interesting to actually try these at home as it became a little overwhelming, and I got the impression with the bright colours & huge range of scents that these were produced via chemistry rather than traditionally but that may be a side effect of the way they are presented, compared with the traditional Shoyeido store…


Its certainly been a fascinating cultural learning experience, and it will be an ongoing experiment at my home & studio exploring how my olfactory organs influence what I hear & make! Thanks to Ken for this article providing invaluable insight to finding these stores!


An appreciation for empty grain silos

Two fragments of nostalgia; the first I have no doubt mentioned before, that on my parents farm we had three grain silos and some of my earliest sound memories are as a small kid running around inside them, generating thunder. And while that might seem like simple fun, the philosophical aspect I hold to be true is that at a very young age I got to learn that sound can be generated. Now we all generate sound, from our first cry at birth, then learning to speak & potentially learning to play musical instruments. But discovering you can create thunder?

Second fragment: decades later a friend bought one of the first Roland samplers, I can’t remember the model – maybe an S10? But it was a rack unit, had a mic input, saved to floppy disks and had a total sample time of 4.4 seconds! What can you do with 4.4 seconds? Well, I joined up three extention power cords, and took the sampler out to the grain silos and with a beaten up old acoustic guitar sampled myself playing a single chord. And while it sounded great, the next step (which must have been a built in function) was to create a backwards/forwards loop. So from nothing grew this massive reverbant acoustic guitar chord, which built to a crescendo and then disappeared back into the massive reverb trail, cycling like a king tide. I loved that sound, and despite losing the floppy disks a decade or two ago, I can still hear that sound in my head any time I like….

So I spent a few hours yesterday messing with a grain silo – ages ago when I decided to record a library of heavy metal sounds, one of the first props that went on the list was an empty grain silo… And after attempting to find one on my own that I could access locally, I started asking friends… and through a friend of a friend, at last found one (thanks Rob!) So I loaded up the car & left home early Saturday morning for the 90 minute drive to get to the farm location at Gladstone in the Wairarapa.

I met the farmer & he took me across the road to their yard & showed me the props


Until this point I didn’t know if they were the ‘right’ silos i.e. would they actually sound as I remembered them. Thankfully the three on the right of that photo were, due to the solid metal angular base which provides the source of solid metal hits & resonance, and which then reverberates in the space. By comparison the silos on the left were made of flexible corrugated iron and rattled but had none of the solid resonance I was after.

So I rigged the silo with mics: a pair of MKH8040s on fully extended stand, as high as I could get them inside the space, then an MKH8020 omni inside for the low end, an AKG D112 for the attack and a pair of Trance Audio Contact Mics on the metal frame – I tried the contact mics directly on the metal body and they instantly over loaded no matter what I did – contact mics built for subtle vibrations of an acoustic guitar or piano are not built to cope with the massive vibrations coming from a silo!


I recorded until I had exhausted all the sounds I could think of – apart from hitting the body with various grades of hammers, mallets & velocities I also did a lot of recording hitting the steel pipe support structure, which pushed a sharp higher pitched metallic strike into the reverb field of the silo – just watch until I pitch you down an octave or two!!

But before I moved on to the next prop, I had one more set of sounds to capture


I fired a dozen or more shots with my starter pistol into the silo, and then carefully climbed up the outside of the silo and fired a few sets into the top… then on to silo #2


I didn’t spend so much time with this silo – it was very rattly & lighter sounding, but I was also keen as hell to get on to recording other big metal props which just happened to be sitting in the yard, and the farmer had kindly encouraged me to try any of them…


This sheep truck made some great impacts & rattles, but after capturing those sounds i got totally obsessed with two metal attachments on the side of it.


I’m not sure what their purpose was, but these two long bracket things were hanging freely, so by lifting them up & releasing them I could get great gravity powered rhythmic decay from their impact! And if I timed the release I could generate a real-world ping-pong delay effect…


next was this heavy metal plate thing…


then on to these suspended truck deck sides – I recorded from the outside & noticed how the decay from an impact travelled along the side, and when I ducked down to have a look discovered I could get inside it…


There were a number of machines parked around the place, and after one hit on this digger bucket thing & hearing the deeply resonant tone produced I immediately rigged it for recording.. it has a purity of tone that reminded me of big temple bells


By now I was getting tired – physically from wrangling gear & hitting things, but also psychologically from discovering the sounds hidden in these props…

I hadn’t even noticed these props when I first arrived, but again it took one listen to know I wasn’t leaving without capturing them. I started off doing straight impacts & hits, but then discovered if I offset the angle of the steep plate I could use its own weight & gravity to make a more complex, extended impact….


Last was this metal gate: sitting on top of the large metal box meant there were a ton of variations to be had, and I wanted to pursue it as I had set up something similar in my back yard & really liked the complex decay & variations possible. But at home I used a 44 gallon drum as a resonator, whereas this gate was heavier & the box far larger…


Here’s the setup at home for comparison:


Apart from the metal recyclers in Paraparaumu I’ve also done quite a lot of recording at home for this library too, and while these sounds are mostly all LOUD high SPL sounds the only time I’ve had trouble with distortion was in a weird situation. The MKH8040s can handle up to 142dB so if the gain staging is carefully managed, there should be no distortion. Dealing with such loud sounds requires constant vigilance, but there was one instance where I was recording a sound that didn’t seem so loud and my gain staging was definitely ok, but… when I checked the recordings in my studio the 8040s were distorted. Here is the setup:


So the mics are actually inside the drum, and while that particular steel drum is a standard size 44 gallon drum, this one weighs about two or three times what a normal 44 gallon drum weighs.. So it is VERY resonant, but the mics should have been able to handle it and I still don’t know why they didn’t – I can only guess that the resonance at the fundamental frequency is huge inside there & overloaded the mics at that frequency – so I was doing the classic noobs trick of cleanly recording distorted microphones!

But thankfully it was a prop I own and could easily re-record, so I set it up in my foley room and re-recorded it, this time placing the mics just outside the drum…


Problem solved!
And by being in foley room I could capture more subtle material too!

So I have one more recording session to do this week – I want to revisit the 5 ton concrete block, swinging on the crane at The MetalMen recyclers (I just can’t have enough of that sound!) & then the library is all captured…

When people ask me whats involved in making a HISSandaROAR sound library I usually offer the slightly glib response of ’20+ years working in the film industry and hundreds of hours of research, recording, editing, metadata, video editing, output, marketing etc’ but this image illustrates a point too:


Note the timeline – while all the regions are not closely joined up, that’s still a 12 hour span across all the existing material.

The folder on my RAID with all of the material for SD021 HEAVY METAL IMPACTS = 416.44GB
(although that includes the native compressed video and the ProREZ version for video editing)

So my quandry now is managing the size & scale of the library for release. So if you are someone who supports HISSandaROAR and are interested in this library, what is your opinion on size? Whats a viable maximum download size? This library could easily end up being 30GB download – is that viable?
Over the last four years I’ve had maybe two people complain about download speed eg ‘why is the download so insanely slow?’ When I pursued the issue with one of them it turned out their idea of insanely slow was it taking 3 hours to download 10GB!?! Sheesh, I wish I had those sort of download speeds! When for example I buy a large Kontakt instrument library, I don’t complain about it, I just leave it downloading overnight and it really isn’t a problem. After all, it is a scenario of downloading it once & using it for a lifetime…. And it is that long term thinking that motivates me…

And equally whats your opinion on pricing? I have always aimed to avoid increasing the price of my libraries, but this library is shaping up to be the largest scale HISSandaROAR library yet and even if I only included the MKH8040 recordings, US$99 seems under priced… My instinct is to sell the library for a step up in price, eg US$149 or US$199 (still with a significant early bird discount) and include all the mics, but make the primary library include: [the MKH8040s and a mixed/processed version] with the recordings from the other mics [MKH8050 or 8020, the AKG D112, and the contact mics] included in the library but as secondary downloads.

I do appreciate for beginners the scale & depth of this library may well be overwhelming, and would require more from them than they have to give – it is far easier to grab the fast food equivalent of such sounds.
But as I said, I am not thinking short term. People soon evolve past being beginners and a core aim of HISSandaROAR is to release libraries that are on a scale that in the past, only large facilities or projects with deep pockets would have had access to.


If you’d prefer to discuss directly, feel free to fire me an email


Here’s the teaser video, featuring the previous recordings for this library: