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?

The Two Twitters

I had a (Twitter DM) conversation with someone yesterday and it soon became aware they were using the first Twitter, and that was all they were aware of, as Twitter.

That version of Twitter is similar to Facebook or Instagram or whatever ie it is an ongoing stream or timeline of detritus from you and the people you choose to follow. While you likely subscribe or follow many people, groups & businesses on Facebook, you experience it through a single timeline or stream of content:

But, there is another Twitter which only exists due to a combination of user generated metadata (aka hashhtags) and apps like Tweetdeck

So in my case when I use or view Twitter, this is what it looks like:

So I currently view 22 different Twitter streams.
Why might you want to do this? Well there are a million reasons and each reason is unique to the user.

Some of the feeds I have in Tweetdeck are based on search terms eg if someone uses the terms “hiss roar” then their tweet appears in that feed. Note it doesn’t matter whether I follow the person or not, Tweetdeck searches & displays all current tweets with those terms.

Another column I view is based on the hashtag #dubtechno – again I don’t follow any of the individuals who use that hashtag but when they post links to new releases or mixes, I see them.

For the election in New Zealand there were two hashtags used, first #nzpol which is a permnanent hashtag for political discussion in NZ, and #decision17 which was created for the election. So I have a column/feed in Tweetdeck for both of those (but once the election results are finally achieved I will likely delete the #decision17 feed) and

Another reason why Tweetdeck is important is simply due to scale. Once you get past a certain number of friends/followers etc it becomes impossible to see them all eg I follow over 9k people on Twitter and the real time stream of all of them moves rapidly! But some of those people I am more interested in than others, and thats where twitter LISTS come into play. Whether you follow someone or not, you can create a Twitter list and add them to it. So I have one Twitter list called ‘endearing space cadets’ for media personalities that I find amusing and in Tweetdeck one of the feeds displays their posts. Similarly I have a fed for ‘uzic tech’ and another for ‘film’ and another for ‘uzic’ and another for #believeinfilm (which is a great feed of film photos) etc etc… When you create a list in Twitter you choose whether it is public or private, so while someone will be notified when you add them to a list, if the list is private they cannot view it or see who else is on it.

For me, one of the main benefits of all this is also archival. Because I live in NZ I am in a different time zone to many, and if I simply relied on the single Twitter stream it is unlikely I would ever see any tweets from eg people in the UK, who are in the opposite time zone. But Tweetdeck accumulates feeds and when I wake up & check Twitter via Tweetdeck, I get to see what was tweeted in the subjects that interest me.

Its funny, when Twitter first started I remember the common criticism is that “its just people tweeting what they had for lunch” but I tend to believe Twitter & most social media platforms are only as interesting as you are. If you are not curious and motivated enough to seek out what interests you then there is a pretty good chance it is actually you that is the boring one, and not the platform. YMMV

For a while I had a Tweetdeck feed labelled SATAN, which only listed tweets from the exalted orange one. But I deleted it, cos really who needs to see that sh+t! I also had a feed purely based on the word “silence” – that feed was like reading random poetry every day!

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:


USB Sharing

My new year (and the end of the old one) was spent moving atoms – lots of them! While I was away for the last four months doing my two Artist Residencies, all of my ‘stuff’ was in storage at my studio (my apartment building was bought out by NZTA so they can demolish it for a roading development) So upon return I have slowly been moving everything into my new place at the beach in Plimmerton and by the end of January my Miramar studio will be no more….
So it is also a great opportunity to rebuild my studio and one issue I struck today I found an excellent solution for, so figured I’d share it: USB keyboard & mouse sharing between multiple computers.

My physical desktop space is always fighting for attention, which controllers to have immediately at hand? When you add a few music controllers (ableton Push, MIDI keyboards etc) then the idea of having two keyboards & two mice cluttering up precious space just is not going to fly – its not like I operate both keyboards at the same time, I want to share one keyboard and mouse between the two computers.

The old school way to do this was via a hardware switcher, so if you had two computers side by side, you would install a small hardware switcher and send the USB signals from one mouse & keyboard to whichever computer the switch was directing them to…. It seems a bit Pavlovian (can we attach a bell to the switch?) but since in my new configuration I want to have two macs side by side (MacBookPro and MacPro Tower) I started searching for a USB switch and found this: SHARE MOUSE – a software USB switch!

By installing a tiny app on both computers one USB keyboard and mouse is shared via whatever existing network is in place – wifi, ethernet etc… A few tweaks and suddenly my two computers are behaving like one: I can manually switch devices via a hotkey, but I can also set up the position of the two monitors so the switching is seamless, eg if I move my mouse off the right side of screen of computer 1 it switches control over to computer 2 just as though both screens were running on the same computer! This is genius implementation, and in hindsight makes complete sense – no delay, no switch or key to press!! But SHARE MOUSE doesn’t stop there, it also syncs the clipboard between computers eg say I have a spreadsheet open on the right hand computer and want to copy text from there and paste it as metadata into SoundMiner running on the left hand computer… easy!

It also offers support for a few features I have no need for, but could be potentially super useful eg on a dub stage: you can share a single mouse and keyboard between up to nine computers! And it works on both OSX and Windows….


No Selfies

Years ago someone explained it to me eloquently, but I only half remember it; ‘if someone gives you a camera and you are over X years old, you will point it at what you find interesting in the world… But if you are under X years old you will point it at yourself….’

And so the selfie became part of (some) peoples lives… but not mine!

I can’t remember what age X equals, but it is not an age I have ever lived through. And this isn’t some whimsical old age retroactive theory, I have evidence dating back decades! And I would post it if I had access to my photo archive (no, its not ‘in the cloud’ – its in a box, under the stairs, exactly where it should be!!)

As a child I was notorious for being fairly placid (not really) but when Christmas came around & the multi-generational family photo was cued up, my tantrum preceded it by about 4 frames!
I detest having my photo taken, I have never known quite why but its a strong instinct & one I hold dearly….

As an adult I have tried to philosophise it: ‘the only evidence of my existence should be audible…‘ etc, etc… But as I am sure you will know, sometimes people require a photo…. so this is as close to a ‘selfie’ as I get!


For me, it just remidns me of the day I left the car at the top of KanKaKei & repeated my earleir descent of the mountain, but this time primarily for sound, with only a little P&S camera to document locations & grab GPS.

Frankly I preferred the shot from the day before, where one of the monkeys sneaked into one of my time lapses! I was paying more attention to my 5D timelapse, which was shooting into rapidily changing light & having its metadata cranked in real time… but at some point I turned around and… there he was!


My first thought at the time was oh sh+t! He is going to steal my tripod/GoPro camera! But then i rationalised it – does he have a USB reader & something to turn the 1000+ frames into timelapse? It was only hours later when I got home & actually DID turn the frames into timelapse I realised what he was up to! He was leaving me to do all the work & just wanted to appear in shot, bottom right, edge-of-frame…


While it doesnt take much post-fu to remove him from frame, do you think I would/could?

He knew exactly what he was doing…

detritus 262

Apparition HD all scenes – Klaus Obermaier & Ars Electronica Futurelab from Klaus Obermaier on Vimeo.

APPARITION is an interactive real-time generated dance and media performance feat. Desiree Kongerod and Rob Tannion, with music by Klaus Obermaier


> Laura Mvula live tiny desk concert at NPR


> Great resource for Reaktor users


> We use metadata for access to our sound libraries, but do you realise how much metadata you generate everywhere else?


> What it says on the lid: an HTML5 Drum Machine in your browser


> Awesome list of photography documentaries


> If you were a Google Reader user, then this article will help clarify why Google ditched it, but it and an article that the author links to also made me feel a little sad for where the interweb is headed under Google & Facebooks direction. My impression is these uber virtual entities aspire to be a one stop shop, and they are aiming to achieve that goal by slowly eliminating the most attractive attribute of the inter web: “We get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.”



> A microphone that listens with light


> He wouldn’t make it into my top 50 film composers, but have to admit he is effective: Hans Zimmer – tent pole movie score factory, inspired genius, or somewhere inbetween?


> interesting: Nagra VI vs Sound Devices 788


> Eli Keszler and So Percussion perform using the Manhattan bridge and some piano wire….


> Bicycle Built For 2,000 is comprised of 2,088 voice recordings collected via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk web service. Workers were prompted to listen to a short sound clip, then record themselves imitating what they heard.

Bicycle Built for Two Thousand from Aaron Koblin on Vimeo.


> emulating London’s skyline via audio waveforms


Have to confess I often think about how a landscape would sound, if its outline was a waveform. Is that a form of synaesthesia or just too much time spent messing with waveforms? eg Lake Heron

Lake waveform


> Interesting philosophical read, which applies as much to field recording as it does to photography and film: if you extrapolate google glass, what would the ramifications be if you could be in record 100% of the time? Streaming everything you hear to some cloud storage, for later use? On the Constant Moment


> one for Portishead fans: Live at Glastonbury Festival 28-6-2013 (Full Show)


My new hobby – digitizing vinyl

Not sure if hobby is the right term, but leisure time activity reminds me of Leisure Suit Larry… yeech! Maybe background task is better? Anyway I set up a vinyl digitising station yesterday, using gear that was gathering dust, so I can start digitising vinyl before it starts gathering too much dust!

When I’m working on things at home (writing/blog/data etc) I listen to music most of the time so I figured I might as well listen through some of the more interesting vinyl I own & record it at the same time. I’m not aiming to do this for the purpose of loading my iPod, I’m doing this for other reasons. Very good reasons. Have I told you about my record collection?

Last time I moved studios I posted the photo below, and that gives a little idea of it, but its the details that are very interesting… See amongst my library of records is an actual Music Library!

vinyl rules

So maybe a third of my records I inherited by being the right person at the right place at the right point in time…. And so I received a call on a certain happy day a decade or so ago, that the big collection of records I had kept asking about, were on their way to the dump – was I serious about wanting them? HELL YES!

See this record collection came from a post facility that has existed since the era of silent movies… Accordingly they had collected all of the music libraries that were available, for licensing use in films, video etc… But as times change & technical evolution occurs these unused & unloved LPs hadn’t been touched in decades…

vinyl rules

These records are an incredible resource as a reference and source of inspiration (& god forbid…. sampling!) but I am very clear about the legalities of music licensing and of course many of these companies still exist but a quick flick through reveals literally hundreds of music library albums from labels such as KPM, De Wolfe, Sylvester, Impress etc etc…

I’ve owned a copy of this LIBRARY MUSIC book for a while, but to actually have access to the records is a crate diggers wet dream… And yet all I have done with them so far is make sure they are stored carefully & have an occasional listen to some of them… So here is my new digitizing setup:

vinyl rules

Technics SL1200 + Vestax PD2000 > Pioneer preamp > Apogee MiniMe > SPDIF into ProTools 002r at 24bit 96kHz > Mac Mini server running ProTools 10…

I know I could use an audiophile steam powered turntable with oxygen free cables in a room with negative pressure air con… but then again I more likely wont – I’m a pragmatist.. and its taken me ten years to get around to starting this process…. But I’ll explain what I plan to do as I haven’t really started yet and I am open to suggestions!

– Digitise each side of LP at 24bit 96k > archive 24bit 96k master A+B sides
– Break each song/track into seperate files > name & tag metadata > output 24bit 96k master individual tracks
– Output 16bit 44.1k and 320 AAC files for easy/quick access/reference
– Shoot photo of album covers & inserts > archive original photos + output real size JPGs

Does this make sense so far?

So one question, before I start digging through google etc – what is the best way to clean records before digitising? I know expensive record cleaning machines exist, but whats a more practical approach?

Here’s a little selection of the first few I will digitize, even the names are genius eg Music for Space and Oceanographic Science by Eric Towren (wow – quick search & not that I would or could ever sell these but the last copy of this LP sold online for US$81!)

vinyl rules

vinyl rules

vinyl rules

vinyl rules

vinyl rules

vinyl rules

vinyl rules

vinyl rules

vinyl rules

Field Recording Tips

I know there are a lot of very experienced field recordists who read this blog, so after stumbling across Greg Shaws brief but poignant field recording tips I wondered if we might expand on that list & attempt to compile a set of field recording tips that go from concept to completion? If you’re keen to contribute, I’ve started a basic timeline below & sketched some initial basic ideas. Add a comment with your thoughts & if you can, tag them to a relevant section (eg 2B additional: blah blah) so I can update this post as a master list & eventually create a PDF of it for all of our future reference… Be aware I have little experience eg with gun or weapons recording so your help with specific advice there would be much appreciated.

Sorry it is a bit dense & text heavy at the moment – I’ll reformat this document once it is complete. If you have a field recording photo that you’d like to contribute (generally or to a specific section) please link to it in the comments… Thanks!








A. research the prop/s, location and create a RECORDING LIST, with estimated set up time, time with each prop

B. do a recce to the location

C. do you need official access?

D. do you need permits?

E. do you need help? assemble a crewlist
– other recordists? Every recording device needs to be monitored
– props wrangler?
– production manager and/or safety officer?
– a runner? catering?

F. assemble an equipment list
– recorders
– microphones
– stands
– cables
– headphones
– expendables eg gaffer tape, cable ties
– comms devices eg RT?

G. plan power requirements: battery vs AC

H. schedule recording session, plus alternate dates for weather




A. refine the RECORDING LIST – time estimates are important to track progress on the day

B. do test recordings, at the planned time of day of the actual session. Check recordings in studio

C. if location is exterior check for flight path, traffic, other users of location

D. if location is interior check for light or appliance buzz, air con, traffic, other users of location

E. Discuss & decide on coverage with your team:
– close, medium & wide perspectives?
– microphone types & choices?




A. Charge batteries – do you have enough batteries? No – Order more!

B. Test cables, mics, recorders

C. Check weather forecast




A. Complete & print your RECORDING LIST: with estimated timings & priority list including all props & locations

B. Final check weather

C. Visit location

D. Reconfirm all crew & check who needs transport

E. Set meeting time & place for session – make sure each person has a map etc

F. Assemble gear

G. Syncronize internal time-of-day clocks on all devices (especially important if crossing time zones!)

H. Pack gear ready to go, but keep in secure area (we’ve all heard of bands losing all their kit from leaving it in a locked van)

I. Pack any required food, drinks etc




A. Confirm session with all crew – weather ok?

B. Load all gear, food, drinks




A. Cable mics with clear access to props

B. Test recording on all recorders and mics

C. Record a verbal ID of all mics & recorders, one by one: tap the stand & say the mics name & recorder

D. Test recording for gain setting

E. Disable limiters? Comments please?




A. Assign someone the role to verbal ID every take, and every prop/location

B. Assign someone the role to write sound logs & take a photo of every recording – do not rely on memory or metadata!!

C. Photo and/or video: every take, every prop, every change of location

D. If shooting video: at least do a hand clap at start of every take

E. If something unexpected happens, DO NOT VERBALISE until after the action & reverbant field has completed.

F. Constantly refer to your RECORDING LIST as a priority list to avoid over recording with one prop and running out of time & getting none of another. If you are getting behind schedule, assess & re-prioritise.




A. Clean up – leave the location cleaner than you found it!

B. Be aware you may have to revisit and do more recordings, so make sure you do not create any reasons that people won’t want you back

C. Reward people, especially people who help & who refuse reward. Buy them a nice bottle of wine or a gift. Our industry runs on goodwill, make sure you create it.




A. Extract all data from recorders & cameras – verify integrity

B. Clone to multiple copies – verify integrity. Do not return hire gear or erase recorder media until all media is in a DAW and been checked.

C. Celebrate!




A. Personal safety
– This is priority #1 for every member of your team. Even walking outside your front door presents potential dangers but we are used to dealing with most local situations, its when your are in unfamiliar situations that you must be extra vigilant & well researched on potential dangers.
– Think through the potential dangers before you are there: environment, props, other humans
– No one wants to be a dead hero, but people have been killed trying to defend their iPhone! If you are robbed or confronted be very careful to not escalate the situation. Recording gear is not easily sold, but your watch, phone & cash are and can more easily be replaced. Think through how you will handle such situations and do not panic. The primary outcome is for personal safety. Do not be a hero, do not call peoples bluff. Always remember: you cannot reason with a meth head who hasn’t slept in a week. Give them what they want & get away from harm as fast as possible!


B. Access
– Whats involved in safely getting to and from location? Do you need support crew?
– What happens if something goes wrong? Have a plan.


C. Night
– Lighting is vital: head lamp, torches
– Do you need a road sign? traffic control? warning lights?


D. Temperature – cold
– I have little experience recording in snow/ice – hello Frank?


E. Temperature – hot
– use high SPF suntan lotion at all times, sun burn can be bad, skin cancer can be fatal
– wear a hat
– if in another country research ozone depletion (eg sun in NZ is many times more likely to bun than in Europe)
– keeping hydrated is critical, drink enough that you are not thirsty. Travel doctor says: “It is best to gauge that you are well hydrated by the colour and volume of your urine. Keep your urine “clear and copious”!


F. Humidity
– research your mics behaviour in high humidity
– be careful acclimitising equipment, especially moving between air conditioned areas & outdoors
– pelican dessicant silica gel capsule in each bag to extract any moisture
– keeping hydrated is critical. Travel doctor says: “It is best to gauge that you are well hydrated by the colour and volume of your urine. Keep your urine “clear and copious”!


G. International travel
– you are a visitor, be respectful of local customs & law, never presume, always ask
– do you need a work VISA?
– do you need permits?
– do you need shots/vaccinations? see an experienced travel doctor (not a general doctor)
– weigh baggage & check excess baggage costs for each step of travel, cheap flights can be a false economy with exorbidant excess baggage charges – check before you book flights with an airline.
– if all of your checked baggage is lost, can you still fulfill the minimum recording requirements? all critical gear should travel as carry-on baggage.
– have copies of your passport, contact info in every bag
– have printed copies of your name, contact info and a description of what you’re doing translated to the local language
– do you need a local guide, support person, negotiator?
– be careful with drinking water unless you are sure it is safe, use water purifer tablets if in doubt
– take a gastro kit (see travel doctor) to help deal with any stomach upsets, food poisoning etc


H. Rain
– check forecast but be prepared for the worst, especially in tropical locations
– check your response time, in a sudden downpour how fast can you protect your gear?
– rain covers for recorder bag
– rain covers for mic bag
– rain covers for individual mics
– umbrella
– pelican dessicant silica gel capsule in each bag to extract any moisture


I. At or near Sea
– check tide and swell maps
– always make sure someone not on the trip knows your plans, departure time & estimated return time
– life jackets are mandatory
– a cellphone is worthless if there is no reception
– be aware of freak waves, the one in a hundred wave that kills fisherman – never turn your back to the sea


J. Insects
– take insect repellant
– in areas with mosquitos and sand flies you may have to set & leave your recording gear rolling & get away from the area to avoid being bitten repeatedly & interupting the recordings – take a waterproof bag for the recorder.


K. Weapon recording
– What is standard procedure at a weapons session?
– safety first!
– hearing protection




Thats all I have time to do now – I’ve got a plane to catch!

NOTE: If you have never commented here before, your first comment will be held until I approve it – sorry, otherwise I get too much dumb spam… Keep contributing I will approve as soon as I can!

New Ambience Libraries

Looks like there will be two new ambience libraries available next week – both multichannel although in different ways… Check the preview videos, first Tonsturms Mountain Air

I sincerely hope they tag the metadata of any tracks with birds or crickets with the location/country they were recorded in! As a sound editor it is invaluable to know that your choices of wildlife actually are appropriate for the setting… I only say this as last week I watched an old BBC doco on Emperor Hirohoto (homework for next year) and every time they cut to a temple the soundtrack included prominent birds that I’ve never heard in Japan…

And heres a preview of the next HISSandaROAR library…

Apart from having an excuse to get off road, it has been SO good to be forced to sit at the beach & have a quiet mind for decent lengths of time… I’ll put together a post next week re my theories/experience recording & editing ambiences…

Detritus 123

“Ferrous printer toner particles floating on the surface of water are attracted by a magnet and align to the invisible magnetic field around them….”


> the pauses/breaths in this video are almost the most disturbing part: CNN Concatenated


> Interruption-free space/time is/should be sacred



> “there I fixed it…..



> Fennesz, Bioshphere, Mika Vainio, Philip Jeck & Hazard ‘remix’ Chris Watson



> what side of the brain you are using? Find out




> Anyone using AtomicView? I just bought a copy to test it out – its a bit like SoundMiner for visual media, handles metadata & lots of formats… I’ve tried to use iPhoto and Portfolio before, both with limited success… AtomicView is currently importing my photo library… 110,255 to go…


Detritus 120

> essential viewing/thinking-about:


> A list of highly recommended documentaries


> Just discovered the excellent mixes (i don’t like that ‘podcast’ word) by DFRNT: Insight
“a showcase for new and emerging deep and dub-influenced bass music” – highly reccomended!



> A cartoon explanation of how the music industry committed business suicide


“Quintetto” is an installation based on the study of casual movement of objects or living creatures used as input for the production of sounds. The basic concept is to reveal what we call “invisible concerts” of everyday life.
The vertical movements of the 5 fishes in the acquariums is captured by a videocamera, that translates (through a computer software) their movements in digital sound signals.
We’ll have 5 different musical instruments creating a totally unexpected live concert. The installation was born with the collaboration of the Aesop studio




this last one is a metaphor for…. something?


> Handy metadata/EXIF editor for photos…. a couple of other photography links: 10 things Henri Cartier Bresson can teach you about street photography and two good (free) photography PDF books (thanks for tip Guy!)


> “Become a fan of Haruki Murakami on Facebook and gain early access to Chapter 1 of 1Q84, which hits stores on October 25, 2011.”


> Public Domain Review is a nice idea – posting reviews of media thats in public domain eg audio


> Altered signs



CrowdSource Library 2: ROOM TONES

Traditionally Room Tone referred to the recording of (near) silence on set, to help dialogue editors with filling their tracks/matching backgrounds to different camera/mic angles and/or extraneous sound. It’s also known as a buzz track presumably due to the various lighting buzzes also found on film sets. explains “Each room has a distinct presence of subtle sounds created by the movement of air particles in a particular volume. A microphone placed in two different empty rooms will produce different room tone for each.” So while that description might appear very zen, in reality it is VERY practical. And my favourite local production sound recordists usually grab a buzz track for each location – even 30 seconds of ‘quiet’ can be invaluable, but especially when the ‘quiet’ is less than ideal eg if it starts raining half way through a scene, or a variable traffic background is present.

Interior ambience recording

But it isn’t just dialogue editors who uses room tones; the sound effects editor in charge of editing ambiences also collects and uses room tones, since apart from making an appropriate and interesting ambience for every scene and moment in a film, they must also layer their elements so as to gel with the production audio dialogue track. I’ve always believed that no matter how ‘cool’ you might think your ambiences are, if I mute the left, right and surrounds then the remaining centre track had better still play really well with the dialogue! Accordingly anyone who has been a sound editor for a while collects room tones – as with any element of a soundtrack having a variety to draw from is the fundamental key to having options and making good choices.

Interior ambience recording

So I propose Crowd Source Library #2 be a collection of Room Tones and interior ambiences. To continue discussion and establish the specs here is the plan so far (see here for discussion too, and sign up here to take part)

– Each recordist to contribute 10 interior ambiences/room tones

– Each room tone must be a minimum 2-3 minutes in duration, 24 bit 96kHz .WAV

– Preferably stereo recordings (but mono is ok if only option)

– Photo of every interior (& I mean every one!)

– Multiple perspectives/mic placement and/or mic choices for each location are also welcome
(see the discussion here for some very salient points by David Vranken & Charles Mayne)

Interior ambience recording

Some recording notes:

We are after reasonably steady state ambiences, and to create a 3 minute room tone/interior ambience may require 5-10 minutes of recording, so that you can edit out any unwanted sounds (eg a phone ring or a door slam or a car horn) We also don’t want arm/knee clicks or mic bumps, so using a mic stand is going to make your life easier, but you still need to factor in editing will be involved with every file.

If a room tone features birds of any kind eg a daytime suburban interior (which we need lots of) then its important to note the location of the recording (City/Country) because I suspect suburban birds in Wellington may well be different to those in Alaska… Same goes for ambiences with strong lighting buzzes – I’d like to know if its a 50Hz or a 60Hz fluorescent lighting buzz. Same in the kitchen with fridge buzz.

Hopefully 100 recordists = 1,000 room tones, and we already have 63 signed up so we have traction regardless!

Interior ambience recording

As with THE DOORS, this isn’t the final record list – its just an announcement & an invitation for discussion. And like THE DOORS, I’m not sure this is really intended as a training exercise. If this is the first time you will have recorded a room tone or interior ambience then alarm bells should be ringing. What I mean by this is a year or three ago a young sound editor emailed me asking if I could give him some interior suburban ambiences to use on the film he was working on. As usual with young people I answered with a question: Do you have a recorder? (yes) Do you have a microphone? (yes) Do you live in suburbia? (yes) Well…. WTF? Why are you asking me for something you could record yourself? I spoke to the re-recording mixer after that project was finished and he told me his ambiences lacked any ‘real’ interiors – why is it so hard to set a mic up, let it roll for an hour in your lounge, do it five times, at different times of the day. Load them into ProTools and have a listen?? Years ago I lived in a flat on Dominion Road in Auckland and I recorded hours of ambiences. Rush hour in the morning, mid day, sunny day, rainy day, afternoon, evening, night time. Apart from capturing lots of VERY useable room tones & interior traffic sounds I also recorded lots of great distant sirens as well. It really isn’t difficult to do, and yet… just like THE DOORS, the concept is easy but the practicalities can be frustrating.

Recording a door is easy, but when you actually go to do it, you discover you cannot use your will to silence the world while you record. You must prepare, be ready and choose your moment. With THE DOORS I had some people tell me it took them ages to get their recording done. It took me either 2 hours or 102 hours: the latter because I spent a week or more quietly noting when the quiet time was each day for each location, and then once I knew when was a likely good time, I actually went and did the recording. So it took 100 hours of preparation and two hours of actual work – you tell me which I can bill for if I was doing it for a job? Similarly you don’t record a storm by hitting record and waiting for one to turn up. You watch the weather, wait for your moment and THEN go do your recording. Simple stuff? Maybe, but if you haven’t actually done it you won’t appreciate it until you do.

Interior ambience recording

I learned a lot with THE DOORS library and I am going to be stricter with the approval process. If there is a fault with your contribution you will be fixing it and reuploading. So if there are spelling mistakes in the file name, incorrect or missing metadata, wrong file format, missing photo etc then I’ll keep rejecting it until it is correct. The same is true of recordists IDs – every file and I mean EVERY FIle must have your ID tagged. I literally spent hours tagging peoples filenames with XX, so that years later you search THE DOORS library with “DOORS TP” and find all of my recordings, same goes for every one of the recordists. It matters because it is a group library, and each person deserves to own their contribution. But this is especially true of the actual edited final audio: 1,000 x 3 minute ambiences = 50 hours of uninterupted listening time, just to check it all once – I haven’t had a whole week off in ten years so its not likely any time soon. So you will need to double and triple check your work before it is uploaded or you’ll get to meet the grumpy version of me, as a couple of people did on The Doors…

And this is a relevant note to any trainee sound editor: before you show your work to anyone (and ESPECIALLY before you ever hand it over to anyone else) make sure you have done a reality check. And by reality check I mean play it down in real time and make sure it plays ok, without obvious errors. One obvious beginner submitted his DOORS files with verbal IDs and mic bumps in them. To a professional sound editor this is not a mistake, it is just a great big sign saying “I DID NOT LISTEN TO MY FILES BEFORE I HANDED THEM OVER” which is not a good look under any circumstances. A good friend of mine summed this issue up perfectly: We all make mistakes, it is a part of learning and everyone would prefer it if you don’t make any mistakes but the first time you make a mistake I will tell you its a mistake and you can fix it and learn from it. The second time you make that mistake it is my problem because obviously I did not explain the issue properly and how to resolve it. But the third time you make that mistake? You will be looking for a new job” ( I personally have always subscribed to the theory that you don’t need to make mistakes yourself to learn from them – when you see others make mistakes you learn from them!)

Interior ambience recording

Which leads me to the final part of this rant: levels! Now THIS is where I want input from practitioners i.e. sound editors who have & do edit ambiences for films. As a part of this post, could you please do a little exercise for me and add a comment with your findings? it will take you less than ten minutes, but the results will be invaluable for the success of this library. Here is what I need you to do:

Go to your sound library app, choose 5 or 10 interior ambiences that you know well and have used on film projects. Transfer them into ProTools and using the gain change AudioSuite plugin to tell me what they meter at? I detest having to turn ambiences down eg 12 or 16dB just to get them to a sensible, useable level (And this process can also illustrate that as a contributor you know what you are aiming for – you have examples of what we need) I appreciate there will be a range; a morgue is going to seem a bit quieter than a public library or an art gallery, which will be quieter than an house by the motorway at rush hour or an empty factory, so feel free to comment with some context. I’ll do the same tomorrow… What feels the right level for an interior ambience?

Note: this levels question is also a part of a discussion about recording technique: some recorders add a lot of preamp hiss if their preamps are cranked too much, so we need to establish what is a reasonable end result, so that no one goes cranking a ton of gain into their original recordings… I do not want people using noise reduction processing on their recordings, no matter how great you think RX2 is!

ps Time frame = 4 months, so by the end of April 2011 your files will need to be uploaded. I’ll need a month or three to finish the library, plus I want to include some ambiences recorded in some of my favourite architect (Tadao Ando) spaces and I won’t get to Japan until June…

UPDATE: Heres few from my library:
– INT Suburban night city drone (Westmere, Auckland) Peak -25.7dB RMS -39.5dB
– INT Suburban kitchen w fridge (Melrose, Wellington) Peak -31.3db RMS -46dB
– INT Office reception ex prod room tone Peak -26.8dB RMS -42.8dB
– INT Office fluoro light buzz Peak -35dB RMS RMS -44.7dB
– INT House rain Peak -30.2dB RMS -46.6dB
– INT Buzz spacious Peak -21.8dB RMS -38.2dB
– INT Woolshed Peak -19dB RMS -39.9dB (it has roof tinks in it that ping levels)
– INT Church Peak -14.9 RMS -44.8dB (has movement creaks that ping levels)
– INT Alcatraz Peak -22.7dB RMS -40.5dB
– INT Aircon rumble under building Peak -25.9dB RMS -40dB
– INT Office toilet Peak -25.6dB RMS -39.8dB
– INT Cathedral Peak -27dB RMS -43.8dB
– INT Beachhouse rural Peak -33dB RMS -51.7dB
– INT Beachhouse kitchen fridge Peak -26.8dB RMS -39.6dB


First the great news – THE DOORS library is finished!!! I’ve been saying this for the last week or more but I have now literally finished packing up the drives for the contributors and am dropping them off on Monday at the post office! Look! Here’s the evidence:

DOORS drives

Its an awesome collection of 121GB and 5,241 files!! And as per my original brief, there are a huge variety of great ‘normal’ doors, perfect for any dialogue driven film or TV, but there are also some great strange doors – very useful for manipulation and as components for totally unrelated sound design.

DOORS compile

I’ll email all the contributors later today, so each person knows when to expect a package to arrive…. The library will go on sale in January, available as an 18DVD set!

The main tools I used to wrangle the 121GB of audio into shape first involved SoundMiner (especially the Dump Query to Text File command) closely followed by BB Edit, Excel, A Better Finder Rename (esp droplet apps), Snapper, Spellcheck and then SoundMiner again to import the fixed text & embed it as new metadata. Of course there were also a few round trips to ProTools, which also then required the tedious task of transferring the metadata from the v1 file to the new v2 fixed file – now THAT is a droplet app I need ie transfer all/selected metadata from file 1 to file 2(n))

Ah the stories I could tell, they would bore you to tears! But here’s one photo from the collection that makes me smile – its my parents house, and I recorded the garage door (from four perspectives – EXT, INT, INT by motor, INT upstairs in attic) with my Dads car parked in it – check this youtube vid for a little backstory & onboard pov – its a 1906 Talbot!)

garage door

Lastly, I’d like to announce the start of Crowd Source Library #2: ROOM TONES – I’m thinking 2-4 months for each contributor to record a minimum of five 2-5 minute interior ambiences.. If you’re keen to take part, please go sign up here! I’ll also make a discussion post here early next week.

In the meantime please do me a favour and transfer half a dozen “good” useable interior ambiences from your library into ProTools and check what level they are, its an important aspect we need to discuss next week, and the best solution will be based on what feels right, when in use.

Conformalizer Group Buy

If you work in film sound post production then you will well know the myth that is locked picture. I remember when my friends were working on LOTR and back then they were still being delivered the cut on video tape – there were times when the assistant would just get a new cut digitised and be about to distribute QTs to all the editors when a new version would be delivered!! It would be fascinating to know how many cuts/conforms are involved in large scale projects like that, especially with the endless VFX updates.

I’m old enough to remember the time BEFORE programs like Conformalizer, when the only way to conform a cut was either manually plugging in numbers or grouping all your tracks and then cutting the old guidetrack into sync with the new one, matching sync via waveforms… Now thats not a process I feel nostalgic about…. But Justin who develops Conformalizer worked through all of the LOTR projects – check his IMDB here – and his background is the best testament to how well Conformalizer works: it kept those very complex projects in sync, through some of the most demanding schedules I’ve ever heard of.


Apart from the resultant task of conforming your ProTools sessions to new picture cut, Conformalizer has a lot of smarts about how it knows what picture changes to implement. This is especially important with VFX heavy films, where individual shots are constantly being updated, but sync may or may not be effected. Establishing naming conventions for VFX updates is critical and Conformalizer handles it seamlessly.

Of course the one thing no conforming program can do is patch the cuts in your session, and more than once I’ve had to remind producers that while we can conform to new cuts very quickly, patching the conformed material so that it works for the new cut can take days. This is especially true of material where sync is not directly related to picture eg ambience elements.

Anyway enough of me admitting my total dependence on Conformalizer, and the double edged locked/latched cut (as long as it makes for a better film then there should be no reason to complain, as long as the schedule & budget allow for the time involved) – Justin is currently offering a group buy discount, so if you haven’t checked it out (you can download a fully working demo version to trial) then now is a good time to do so;

13/11/2010 Conformalizer group-buy announced
A group of 5 or more will fetch a 10% discount and a group of 20 or more will command a juicy 30%
All groupbuy participants will also receive a free copy of sibliminator
Offer closes on 1 December 2010 (00:01am NZ Time GMT+13)
email groupbuy(at)maggot(dot)co(dot)nz too add your name to the list

Conformalizer is a well established conforming app that has proven its worth of many very complex feature films, but for those who are not aware of Sibliminator it is basically a very handy app which leverages the built in ProTools field recorder functionality of being able to swap out alternate takes via metadata. Heres a simple example of its use: say you create 30 different woosh sounds, you drag & drop them on Sibliminiator, assign a family name and save. Now when you use one of these files (eg Woosh 01) in a ProTools session, if you simply cmd-click (or right click) on the region on a track a list of alternate takes will be displayed. If you choose eg Woosh 05, it will be substitued in place of the original region with all fades, volume graph etc kept intact. Also VERY handy when providing temp FX to picture editorial eg a surround ambience downmixed to stereo for temp fx, sibliminiate them all & when you get the OMF you can substitute back the surround ambience in place of the temp stereo version.


SoundMiner Group Buy


After all my posts about metadata and sound library apps a couple of people suggested the idea of approaching the developers of SoundMiner to see if a group buy discount might be possible, so I contacted Steve at SoundMiner and asked. I already own SoundMiner Pro and use it constantly at my work studio, but I really need SoundMiner at home, so I have a vested interest too!
His reply: “10% discount for 10 people, 20% discount for 50 people”
So what do you think? Can we do a simple show of hands and see if this is worth pursuing?

Soundminer V4pro US$899: 10% discount US$809, 20% discount US$719
Soundminer V4 Standard US$599: 10% discount US$539, 20% discount US$479

Also note, this potential discount applies to the imminent new SoundMiner HD

Soundminer HD US$199: 10% discount US$179, 20% discount US$159
Soundminer HD Plus US$399: 10% discount US$359, 20% discount US$319

Please read this to see the feature set for SoundMiner HD

We’d really need to hit the 50 person mark to make it significant, so please add a comment if you would be in – no total commitment at this stage, just to see if its possible. SoundMiner HD is 4-6 weeks away so lets see what support there is for this idea over the next month….

More info on the various SoundMiner versions here

And spectral search looks interesting

NOTE: this group buy is for new licenses, not upgrades!

GROUP BUY is now CLOSED, thanks everyone!

HISSandaROAR SD004 Fireworks Library Released!

Fireworks font

I am very happy to announce that Library number 4 is now available from HISSandaROAR!

FIREWORKS is a library I have been planning for well over a year. Here in New Zealand fireworks are only sold for one week each year (Guy Fawkes is November 5th) and most years I would buy a bunch of fireworks & record them for my library, and I noticed how often those sounds were handy for all sorts of purposes…. So in November 2009 I contacted a number of fireworks importers and asked them to hand select an arsenal for me based on sound. Six hundred dollars later I had a serious fireworks selection but summer was starting & I knew I would have to wait for winter & the fire risk to not be an issue. So I stored my potential library away & waited….

Fireworks collection

After discussing the project with recordist friends a number of locations were suggested, which I checked out one by one, and finally settled on Waiohinehine Park, in Newlands, Wellington. The hard part of finding the best location was a trade off between the location being isolated enough to not have traffic noise, but not so remote that it was too great a distance to travel to. The latter was important as I knew I wanted to involve a number of recordists and some of the locations were 3 hours travel each way. Recording at night would have meant 3 hours travelling home, late at night – an unattractive prospect!

Waiohinehine Park is literally a 15 minute drive from central Wellington, but has no immediate traffic issues. Depending on the wind direction it could be in the flight path, but that can be coped with & just means taking 10 minute breaks…
I visited the location during day time and listened – there was a great slap echo off the hills to the left of the photo below. I visited the location at night, and on a still windless night it was very quiet! So the location was locked in, now time to sort out permissions…


My first port of call for permits was Film Wellington – an organisation funded by the city council to insure Wellington is a film friendly city. And I was so impressed with the help & advice they provided. They cleared access to the park for me with the City Council and provided copies of an official letter which I dropped in peoples mailboxes near the location, advising them of what we were doing. They also put me in touch with a fire officer, who I met with on location and outlined what I intended to do. He issued a fire permit with a few conditions (must have fire extinguisher, wind must be less than 5kmph etc) and he also gave me contacts which I had to advise on the day eg the police, fire department etc. The police was especially important – depending on your imagination, from a distance fireworks sound similar to firearms and the last thing we wanted to record was an armed offenders squad visit. Or get billed for it!
So with council permits and fire permit in place I set dates, a Thursday and following Sunday, Monday, Tuesday as weather cover. Thursday arrived and the weather was dreadful – rainy & misty…. by about 3pm I called off the session and hoped the storm would have passed by Sunday. Sure enough the weekend was sunny & clear, and Sunday night was go! It was a beautiful clear evening with a full moon and no wind at all – perfect!!!

I loaded up my 4WD with a LOT of gear: apart from recorders, mics & mic stands I also took lamps, a table, cameras, warm clothing etc.. and props! Apart from 3 big plastic bins of fireworks one of my goals with capturing the fireworks library was about context: these sounds are very useful when designing weapons and I was very interested in reinforcing this aspect by releasing fireworks in metal pipes of various sizes. Earlier in the week I visited a great junkyard and bought a number of different size pipes, from a 2m long metal drain pipe to short narrow pipes to a larger air conditioning vent; all great sources of resonance!
I contacted all the recordists to confirm the session was on, phoned in notification to the police, fire department etc & then raced off to the location a few hours ahead of time to get set up…..


I got the table & my gear setup before my friends arrived. The recordists & setup was:

Tim Prebble – Sound Devices 722 with two Sanken CUB mics
Dave Whitehead – Sound Devices 722 with Sennhesier 8050 and DPA4006
Matt Lambourn – Sound Devices 722 with MKH816 and my MKH70
Ray Beentjes – Sound Devices 744 with quad rig: Sennheiser MKH 50+30 LR and MKH816 x 2 LsRs

We also had a loan of two other recorders & mic rigs: Matt Stutters Sound Devices 722 recorder with MKH8050 + MKH30 MS rig and Chris Wards Sound Devices 722 recorder with a pair of MKH8020 mics.

Usually when I record I take my DV camera and also usually shoot timelapse with my DSLR stills camera, but I knew this session was going to be difficult to shoot, so I asked my friend & dialogue editor collaborator Chris Todd to shoot with his lovely new Canon 5DMkII!

Oh yes – we were armed & dangerous!!!


We started off recording the small fireworks, as I figured that would give everyone a chance to set levels & get mic perspectives sorted out. The ground bloom flowers were great fun & totally unpredictable – every one was different! Apart from releasing them on the ground I also took a wok and got great movement by dropping them into the wok as they ignited. Also following Chuck Russoms experiences of dropping them into a swimming pool, I took a big metal bowl & filled it with water and got some phenomenal sounds from it. But here the trick was planning ahead: I knew I wanted to drop them in water but how to do it without either burning myself or having the fuse go out in the water. The answer? An extra large pair of BBQ tongs! With these I could hold the firework, light it & hold it over the water bowl and when the fuse actually ignites the firework, then release it into the water. Using this process I had a 100% hit ratio of lighting & releasing the ground bloom flowers with no duds!

Fireworks with tongs

After then trying releasing the ground flower blooms into metal pipes (great resonance!!!) we then decided it was time to move on to the bigger fireworks. I chose a big firework that I knew I had multiples of and let rip! And wow!!! The slap off the hills was so beautiful! We spent the next half hour or so releasing all of the big multi shot fireworks, verbally ID’ing each one as we went. ( I later collected up all the used fireworks, took them back to the studio & photographed them for metadata… verbal IDs are essential!!!)


Next we moved on to the rockets and roman candles. These were more predictable and I had many multiples of each one; most simply fired up to ten single shots, with each shot having an explosion when it reached its destination. To test the power of them the first shots we did were from within one of the pipes and I instantly realised (a) what a great idea the pipes were and (b) how incredibly loud actual mortars must be – these were comparatively low power fireworks but the contained sound from within the pipe was exhilerating! I also detected there wasnt too much physical kick from them so once we had finished experimenting with the pipes I took to releasing them handheld, and the results from controlling where they shot was very interesting. Some shots I pointed towards the hills, so the slap echo was pronounced, but others I fired horizontally along the ground, so the explosion was also low to the ground and the sound had a whole other tonality – in many ways more boomy & less crack. I also fired a few deliberately aiming through Rays quad mic setup.

Now I do not want to encourage anyone else to do this – firing fireworks hand held could go very wrong if you are not fully confident & do not know what you are doing. I wore safety glasses and gloves & was very careful at exactly where the fireworks were aimed. So KIDS DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!


By 9.30pm we were running out of time (I’d said we’d be done by 10pm) so we worked through all of the other big fireworks & then packed up. I still had a large number of small fireworks including smaller roman candles, but i felt confident recording them on my own – it was the big fireworks that I needed the help from my friends with. So we headed home, tired, smelling of gun powder & very happy that we’d heard & captured some very beautiful, very dramatic sounds…


The next day I visited each of the recordists and copied their recordings onto my drives; each recordist turned in approx 8GB of material (recording stereo at 192kHz) while of course Rays data was twice that via recording quad. I spent the following week working on the material, while also waiting for another still quiet evening. Thursday, a week later, the weather came right, and I made the necessary notifications and headed up to the same location. I again started off doing more ground bloom flowers, this time recording with the two Sanken CUB mics (close up) on one Sound Devices 722 and my Sanken CSS5 mic (a bit wider) on another recorder. Once I moved on to the roman candles I moved the CSS5 mic further away, almost 5m from where I was launching the shots from. So for example if using a pipe I had one Sanken CUB mic at the base of the pipe (where the firework was lighted) and the other CUB mic at the exit end of the pipe. I then pointed the pipe at the CSS5 mic and later when listening the sense of movement is great! After I tired of using the pipes I went back to handheld releases and pointed the firework directly at the CSS5 and I just knew I was getting great passby sounds as the shots were whizzing past the mic, missing by mere centimetres… and sometimes not at all! After a few direct hits one sparked & the fluffy actually ignited for a moment!! Listening back at my studio I laughed when I heard myself go “SH+T!” – I still have to stich up the burnt patch on my poor Rycote…

Burnt Rycote

But near misses aside, this is the first HISSandaROAR Library to be released 192kHz and multi channel. I do plan to release more libraries in this format, but it won’t be all libraries – just when the subject matter warrants it. But working on this library was a revelation for me in using 192kHz – wow plugins work SO MUCH BETTER at 192k!!!

Anyway in the meantime please do go check out the FIREWORKS LIBRARY and failing all else grab yourself a copy of the FREE library!

And thanks so much to my dear sonic friends for helping make this library possible: Dave, Matt, Ray, Chris, Matt, Chris, Ken Saville (for the CUB mics) and Nicci at Film Wellington and Jock at the Fire Department!
Arigatou gozimasu!

THE DOORS – update & discussion

So firstly congrats to all the recordists who have uploaded their material – what a truly BRILLIANT collection it is rapidly becoming. The total currently sits at 70GB and tonight I have sent an email to everyone who committed to the project but hasn’t uploaded as yet to clarify whether their material is coming soon or not.

DOORS of the World

In the meantime I have been checking files, metadata etc and I have two topics for discussion here:

1. How best to organise the library. While most people access their libraries through searches using SoundMiner etc I believe it is still valuable to organise the folder structure logically. So I’d appreciate your thoughts on the matter – as a contributor or a potential user of the library.

Currently the library remains in the form it was uploaded
ie THE DOORS/Recordist Name/Folder for each door

I imagine re-organising them by type, so for example
THE DOORS/APARTMENT/Folder for each Apartment door
THE DOORS/HOUSE/Folder for each House door
THE DOORS/KITCHEN/Folder for each Kitchen door
THE DOORS/OFFICE/Folder for each Office door

Is that how you imagine it being presented?
Each individual door folder is still tagged with the recordists name….
Possible issues: I seem to remember there being a limit to the number of folders you can have in one directory before the OS becomes bogged down – is that true?

2. The final library will be approx 100GB which means it is beyond the realistic size of a download. Currently the largest Flash drives are 35GB. I investigated BluRay disks but I am not sure everyone has access to BluRay readers, plus the blank disks are still reasonably costly. Which leads me to believe the only way to deliver this library is via a small USB hard drive. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this – are there any options I havent thought of? And what are a good reliable model of small USB drives?

Waiohine Gorge

On the way back from my record mission yesterday i took a side trip into Waiohine Gorge and so after all that dry techy talk about metadata I thought I’d post a couple of photos I took in there…


Waiohine Gorge signage


Waiohine Gorge


I truly expected the next sign after that ! one to be a WTF? sign….


Ok heres a photo of the first door I’ve recorded for THE DOORS project – I recorded it while I was in Ngawi on my seal recording mission. I had thought I would record all the doors in the house I rented but you could hear the sea too much with any doors downstairs or near the front of the house… So I recorded this bedroom door upstairs..

Door one

And heres the set of files following the folder structure and file naming convention which everyone who is part of the project will be getting an email to confirm very soon. That email will also have the ftp details, and I’ll upload this set of door recordings there too so feel free to download if you want something as a reference. Not that its a startlingly interesting door, quite the opposite. I discovered the reverb in the stairway was a bit ringy & nasty, so apart from the wide recording I actually did the recording from inside the bedroom, rather than in the hallway….

Door files

Despite the record wishlist (in the email coming to participants) you’ll note I didnt record lock or knocks, the former because it didn’t have one and the latter because I forgot! Nevermind… Primarily its the front door or back door people knock on, although if someone more reliable than me can record door knocks on eg bathroom door, and bedroom door it would be good!

Anyway, for any participants please comment here if we need to discuss anything re my email, so that we can share the “wisdom of crowds” and so I can avoid getting 147 emails for each comment or mistake! And yes the little metadata tutorial is coming!

Thanks everyone! Happy door recording!

ps the email has been sent – if you have confirmed your inclusion in this project as per previous emails and haven’t received it please get in touch!

ps As I will be listening to all 1,000+ doors as I check & compile the library
I will give away a special prize to the most memorable, characterful door!
The prize will be real (ie not a download! You’ll already be getting those
once the library starts selling) but I can say this: it will include something
uniquely from New Zealand…


the doors

OK!!! We’ve got 114 recordists onboard now – this is going to be an awesome library! Heres my record list, please comment with any suggestions/alterations – I’ll edit this document to update it with peoples suggestions and improvements so it becomes a master document… Especially thoughts on naming conventions?


A photo of each door MUST be included (JPG pref 800 x 600) plus I’d like to know where (city & country) the doors were recorded..

1. DOOR interior close perspective: open and close – soft, medium, hard/slam
2. DOOR interior wide perspective: open and close – soft, medium, hard/slam

If the door is an exterior door ie the front door of a house:
3. DOOR exterior close perspective: open and close – soft, medium, hard/slam

4. DOOR close perspective: handle grab, lock, unlock

5. DOOR close perspective: creak, hinge squeak, movement
6. DOOR close perspective: door knocks and/or doorbell

Anything goes, but I’d like each person to contribute at least a few normal domestic house or apartment doors – they may seem boring to you but they can be essential for a normal dialogue scene in a film. Cupboards and smaller doors can also be included, along with character doors eg school, hospital, electric, garage, caravan, trailer, sheds, castles etc…

– 24 bit 96k
– stereo (if possible)

ADDITIONAL NOTES: (these notes are for any inexperienced recordists)
– Leave 1 second of quiet or more between each action (for reverb tail and clean edit points)
– if recording where bg ambience is present (eg exterior) leave 5+ seconds between actions
– Do not max out your recording levels, or normalise files when editing
– It can be a challenge to cleanly record door slams: good practice!

Deliver me one stereo 24 bit 96kHz file for each door containing all of the above actions, in the form of split stereo .WAV files:

Where name is:

DOOR [building] [door type] [material] [INT or EXT] [actions] [recordist initials]


DOOR Airport electric EXT open close TP
DOOR Apartment wood EXT open close lock TP
DOOR House front wood glass EXT open close doorbell knocks lock TP
DOOR House bathroom wood INT open close creak TP
DOOR House kitchen cupboard wood INT open close creak TP
DOOR Shed hinge creak EXT open close TP

I’d appreciate you entering as much descriptive metadata as possible. I prefer not to invest energy in program specific metadata which other programs cannot access. If only Basehead or SoundMiner can read it then its too proprietry for my tastes… In my tests the only metadata entry I did that could be read in ALL the apps I tested, was via Protools Workspace data entry, but I’m open to discussion about this. Once everyone is in agreement about this I’ll write a blog post here explaining the methodology – anyone who doesn’t have access to ProTools can let me know when they upload and I’ll tag their files (but I’d rather watch paint dry!)

I have worked out a scenario for the release of the library that I will email to each of the contributers – there are two aspects to it:

1. The people who record & contribute the sounds should be rewarded for their work, both in receiving a free copy of the finished library but also in other ways which i will elaborate on in the email.

2. Other people should be able to buy the library, but not get it for free (otherwise it means any of you could do nothing & receive the same benefits as those who do all the work, which isn’t fair)

So I will send an email outlining the exact details of this proposal, and if you are in agreement I will then send you a formal document so our agreement is official BEFORE any work is done or any files are uploaded.

I’ll then also set up an ftp account for uploading your finished, edited files & will email you login details once we are all in agreement about proceedings…

When you upload files I’ll also ask you to include the name you want credited as and I’m happy to embed a link with your name…

Also have set DEADLINE for ftp upload as June 12th

Please comment on this post with any changes to the record list or process/metadata etc… If anything is confusing or doesn’t make sense please ask!

HISSandaROAR Library 2 released: SWISHES

Sounds have been performed, recorded and edited: organised, categorised & exported, metadata-ised, compiled, exported & rar-ified, uploaded, tagged, embedded & posted…
All of which means I am very tired and Library 2 from HISSandaROAR is now available!





HISS and a ROAR site launch!

Hiss launch

Wahoo – finally my new HISS and a ROAR site is live!

UPDATE: Gianpaolo has just posted an interview he did with me re HISSandaROAR, check it out at

UPDATE: and a great article at DesigningSound

I created the project because I felt the way sound effects are sold online doesn’t actually encourage sound editors to do their best work. As a sound designer I have no use for over-designed sound libraries; I want the raw elements, not someone else’s idea of the end result. And I don’t want to pay $5 for one sound effect, because one sound effect is never enough – I need a variety of sounds and performances so I can create my own composite sounds that suit the project I am working on. And while there are also many free sound effects available online, the issue is that they are hugely variable in quality & the copyright can be vague or inappropriate for professional work.

I’ll paste the ABOUT info from the site, but its much nicer to read in context here

HISS grassy

HISS and a ROAR release royalty-free sound effects & sound design libraries created by film sound designer Tim Prebble and while there is nothing new about the idea of selling sound effects online, these libraries take a different philosophical approach, which we believe is fundamental to the art of sound effects editing. We believe the four most important assets for a sound editor or sound designer are: an open mind, sharp ears, experience and a personal sound library. But what about ProTools? Plugins? A recording kit? The truth is that anyone can buy these things, and if they were lost in a catastrophic disaster then pending the insurance claim you would simply go & replace them. They are valuable and important but not irreplaceable.

The first three assets are about creative development and I offer what help I can via my blog, but being an artist is a never ending evolutionary process; the day I stop learning is the day I stop breathing. But it is the creative role of the sound library that I would like to stop and consider.

As a sound designer I well know the creative value of my sound library and while the ideal is to always record a totally new pallet of sounds for every film, sometimes schedules and budgets can make this difficult. So how do we resolve this compromise? Resort to a commercial sound library?

As I see it there are two important issues with regards to sound libraries, the first is variety. When I record a sound eg a door creak, I don’t record one version of it – I aim to record a definitive collection of performances. Later back in the studio, as a sound editor I audition the various performances and select and manipulate the takes that I feel best suit the intended use. I need that variety of performances because until I am editing it in context it is impossible to know exactly what will work the best – it’s about feel and instinct. But its also about finding the best sound – now and in the future….

The second issue is about memory. By finding and recording that sound myself I will never forget what it looked like, felt like and the acoustic space it existed in. But if you aren’t recording the sounds yourself then the most crucial aspect is knowing your library ie memorable sounds.

So the libraries I release aim to affordably solve both of these issues:

1. The libraries are not over-designed generic composites: as a sound designer I want the raw elements, not someone elses idea of the end result. So I aim to provide a huge range of source material to help you do your best work by editing, manipulating & layering individual elements to achieve a unique solution.

2. The libraries are context based. They are not a random collection of sounds, they are specifically targeted at particular circumstances that I have had experience with on many features films. And as you become familiar with the contents of each library it will feel as though you were there at the recording session too.

Context is everything: I noticed during my 20 years of working in the film industry that there are certain sounds in my library which have become incredibly handy due to recurring demands and my library recording priorities are driven by this knowledge. The first sound library is a good example of this; Vegetable Violence is actually the fifth time I have recorded such a collection. And it’s no coincidence that each of the previous sessions occurred during my work on a horror film; first in 2003 with The Locals then in 2005 for Boogieman, then in 2006 for Black Sheep and again in 2007 for 30 Days of Night. Each time we captured different performances and props because each film has unique requirements; a mutant sheep bite is different to a vampire bite after all… And it obviously isn’t just horror films that contain violence, I had to break a finger in Stickmen in 2000 and there were a multitude of samurai sword deaths in The Warrior’s Way 2009. But with this new library I aimed to record the definitive high resolution library, employing all the knowledge of what was actually useful from those recording sessions while making these films.


While all the recording, editing and mastering of each sound library is done at 24bit 96kHz, we offer four levels of delivery, targeted at the potential use for the sounds:

1. MAX LIBRARY is a definitive library provided at 24bit 96kHz for sound editors and designers who need the extended resolution for manipulation and processing and who also require a large range of performances with each prop.

2. MID LIBRARY is provided at 24bit 48kHz and contains the same number of props as the Pro Library, but with approximately half as many performances.

3. LITE LIBRARY is provided at CD quality 16bit 44.1kHz contains the same number of props as the Pro Library, but with five performances with each prop.

4. FREE LIBRARY is provided at CD quality 16bit 44.1kHz and contains the same number of props as the Pro Library but with just a single performance with each. This library is perfect for low/no budget projects and youtube videos, student films, music projects etc… This version is also a means of auditioning the sounds in context at a decent resolution before deciding whether to purchase a full library.

VV content

All libraries are provided as a collection of stereo .WAV files, carefully labelled & tagged with Metadata compatible with the ProTools workspace, SoundMiner, Basehead, Snapper and AudioFinder sound library software.

Apart from the .WAV files I also include a ProTools (Mac) session with all files laid consecutively on a single stereo track. Why? Well the fastest way to import the entire library into a session you are working in, is to import the stereo track from this session. And in fact this is a technique I use a lot, as compared with accessing files from the Region list or the workspace browser, using a library track allows you to reorder files, drop markers & comment on favorites & even rename sub-regions within the track for further reference.

Another note: any files I provide that are a series of variations on a sound (eg a celery crunch) are spaced 1-2 seconds apart. Why? It provides an efficient means of trying alternate takes of a sound: sync the first sound to an onscreen action and trim it to length. By then putting the nudge amount to 1 second and using the Control and numeric keypad plus and minus, you can quickly step through all the variations in the file without having to resync. Heres a quick example of what I mean:

I very much appreciate feedback so as you use the library please let me know any problems and/or ideas you might have to improve it. I’d also love to start a log of projects that each library has been used on, so let me know what you are using the sounds on.

I have another eight libraries in various states of development, but if you have an idea for a library I would be very happy to reward you if it is a unique idea and one that I haven’t already thought of….

Also note – if you have bought the MID Library and wish to upgrade to PRO, I’m happy to charge you only for the difference – drop me a line and I’ll sort it out for you…


Detritus 36

> OK – I have become a serious multi-tasker as of late… Day times I am 2 weeks away from starting predubs on this film I’ve been on for the last month or two, evenings & weekends I am solely focused on Hiss and a Roar… Yes, I know I’ve delayed the launch date twice now, I just did it again but this time I am serious: either this Wednesday I am drinking tequila to celebrate the launch or you all are because I haven’t – it will be my shout! Other stuff on this week: recording a $200k Lexus hybrid car (anyone else done this? experiences/advice? I imagine its silky quiet i.e. hard to record in an urban environment) plus shifter kart recording session 5, plus a diesel 4WD SUV onboard, an 80s Alfa car horn, a boy racer EVO passby and a whole bunch of more mundane stuff….


> My new hobby? Metadata evolution (epic blog post on that sometime in the near future) and information trapping


>Love these synth cakes

synth cake


>I’d be grabbing a copy of these stems of Bob Marley (& others) before they disappear back into the ether


> Eno doco – part 1/4 – go to youtube to see the other 3 parts


> Twin Peaks still marks the summit of TV soundtracks


> Q&A with the author of a book on Vocoders


> Such a beautiful music video for such a beautiful song…. prepare to shed a tear


> re copyright & format shifting, this is an interesting discussion vis a viz Ethics vs The Law?


> Added a bunch of new links to the sidebar eg SimonSound and In Pursuit of Silence and Audio Pleasures and Acoustic Light and Sound & Motion


> Some great advice for ADR


> Military grade post apocalyptic boomboxes?


> Interplanetary gamelan?


> Re earlier post about working for free/deferred: this weekend I saw what I strongly suspect is the best film to be made in New Zealand this year. Self funded, shot & edited with cast & crew on deferrals, and a seriously beautiful work of art. Had it been funded with 2-5 million and suffered a ‘typical’ development path, I doubt it would be the work of genius that it is. Just goes to show, there really aren’t any rules: every project must be considered on its own merits.


> I love this because it sounds like nothing the band are playing….


> new Synaesthesia coming in mere minutes…. hang on….


> Late addition: AVID buys Euphonix! The ramifications of that deal are very complex…

Horace Andy Remix Update

Wow – there were 450 entries to the Horace Andy remix competition! They haven’t decided a winner yet due to there being so many entries & also being on tour, but it goes to show how much love there is for Horace Andy’s voice & equally how many people have the spare time & passion to participate… They’ve reduced it down to 90 which you can have a listen to here and its great to hear the range of styles and approaches. There are definitely a few I intend to go find what other music they make & check out their originals….
Two other aspects surprised me: firstly, how few people seem to know how to embed metadata into mp3 files (!?!) and secondly, how maybe 10% of the remixes are obviously smacking a limiter to hell – mastering your own music doesnt mean pounding it into an L1 or whatever but I guess comments like those just fall on deaf (to dynamics) ears.. in fact that could be their catchcry: DEAF TO DYNAMICS!
But despite them all being very good & showing a plethora of inventiveness, out of those 90 below are the six I would consider the actual contenders (& its a shame they don’t instigate a voting system as per the Peter Gabriel remix, so there can be an audience choice too)

2. Nico Mueller aka Show Your Shoe – Show Your Horace Remix

16. Gareth Desmond and Johny Quinn aka Analogue MIndfield – When I look Back Remix

23. Mark Wall aka Kosine – Shine In The Dark Remix

45. Rodrigo Sanchez aka Linchaco – Slow Rhythm RMX

62. Leyton aka sonsine – watch we (dig mix)

75. Jon Martin aka Pier – Pier Refix

The ultimate test has to be this: which track out of those 90 do you instantly want to play again? And again. For me, its that Kosine mix – nice work!

Skimming for Jewels..

I seem to be collecting up more PDF ebooks than I can read & while I’m sure the trees are happy about that I’m not so sure my attention span is! Slowly I am becoming a chronic skim-reader, skipping through the content looking for the jewels & ignoring the rest. Its only when I stop & savour beautifully written fiction that I fully appreciate reading for its own sake… The same is true of auditioning music. If you buy vinyl you well know the process of selecting half a dozen records instore, waiting for your turn on one of the decks & then skipping the stylus through a few crucial parts of each tune to decide if its worth buying. So how much music do you need to hear to know whether you like it? Not very much; just a sonic glimpse of the intro, main melody or the beat…

But the same is even more true auditioning sound effects for a scene. Fast listening doesn’t mean playing it at double speed, but it does mean rapid auditioning. Having waveforms to guide you to the content definitely helps, but as time passes so does history, context & metadata. Finding the ‘right’ sound often involves all four… These are skills created by necessity; if I search in SoundMiner for ‘dog’ for example, I get 740 hits & if I actually listen to them all then I wont get any work done today!

Anyway, an ebook I was skimming through yesterday struck a few resonant chords with me & although it is written primarily focused on graphic design much of its wisdom relates to any creative endeavour. I think its worth having a read of Time Management for Creative People (PDF) by Mark McGuinness

Car FX – part 2

Thanks to Michael for the question: “Just wanted to ask you how you found the dynamic mics handled wind and vibration noise when recording the Valiant Charger?”

I’ve never had any trouble with either wind noise or vibration using dynamic mics. Sounds too good to be true but it is – I must have recorded half a dozen cars or more & gaffer taped a dynamic to the rear bumper right by the exhaust = no problem! Gaffered a dynamic mic in the engine bay & almost always no problem, the only caveat being; beware of mounting the mic too close to the distributor – once or twice i’ve had to move the mic to get away from periodic static generated by the distributor. If you dont know what a distributor is, & presuming you know what a spark plug is; the distributor generates sequential voltage to each of the spark plugs so they fire (or zap!) in time, so if you trace the cables going from each of the spark plugs back to the round black plastic thing (the distributor) then mount your mic nowhere near it. It isnt a noise you hear in the engine bay, more a signal caused by interference in your mics or cables..

Re wind noise: I wrap the dynamic mics in what i think is called ‘polar fleece’ – its a material a bit like what sweatshirts are made out of, although slightly thicker… You can buy lightweight jackets made of it, that will keep you warm in a very cold wind. Wrap & then gaffer tape the mics tightly with this… I’ve never had a problem with wind buffets. I think this is due to a few factors: dynamic mics are way less sensitive to wind than shotgun mics. Consider how much trouble you have to go to, to protect a shotgun mic from even the wind generated by slowly moving the mic. Compare that with the pop shield involved in someone basically shouting at a dynamic mic… the shotgun mic is floated to avoid vibrational movement, then protected by a Rycote cage (light foam) then wrapped in the inner softie and then the exterior fluffy… a pop shield is like 2 layers of nylon stocking….
You definitely need to protect the mic but remember dynamic mics are placed one cm away from a drum skin, while someone smacks them with sticks!

Vibration: no problem! I’ve always gaffer taped the mic directly to the rear bumper bar. Depending on how far out the exhaust protudes; with the Valiant I could position the mic vertically as the end of the exhaust was directly below the bumper. On another car I recorded this week the exhaust was like 1 foot closer to the engine than the bumper, so I angled the mic so it was pointed at the exhaust.
The engine mic I have always partly gaffer taped & partly wedged it into whatever space there is in the engine bay. I would offer practical advice but every time is different. That Valiant was different to the lovely old 4 cylinder Singer Vogue I also recorded, which was also different to the gang car; a Falcon big block V8, which was the loudest V8 I have ever heard!!!

And that is my final word of advice: be ready to pad the level of the dynamic mics down prior to your mic preamps. Some cars are very LOUD! I remember reading about people recording Formula 1 race cars & they had Shure SM58 mics mounted by the exhaust & in the engine bay. But they discovered that the incredible SPL was such that these dynamic mics were generating like 3 or 4volts rather than the millivolts that the mic preamps were expecting. So they had to use lots of inline mic pads to reduce the voltage down to a level that they could cleanly record. When I was recording the Valiant the Fostex PD6 kept throwing up ‘clip detected’ errors oncreen, which i had to manually clear before I could see the actual level. After I turned down the record levels such that they were no where near hitting 0dB & I was still getting ‘clip detected’ errors I realised the mics were clipping the mic preamp inputs, so I switched in the inline pads that the PD6 has (pre-mic preamp) and no more problems. I should really get a few 6dB and 12dB XLR inline pads for emergencies & I sure as hell will before ever recording a seriously loud vehicle. They could easily make the difference between a totally distorted unuseable recording & a multi-track recording you can be proud of!

Also a tip from people micing up drum kits, use your ear as your guide. Literally! For example in the engine bay, open the bonnet & get someone to rev the engine & use your ears to localise where the best sound is. Too close to the fan belt & you’ll just get belt whine. Does it have a turbo? How about the sound of the air intake? Whats the most interesting sound you hear? Put your ear right in there & locate a perspective you like, then gaffer tap your mic there! Remember that dynamic mics only see/hear a short distance…

I just got home so tomorrow & over the weekend will load up all my recordings & quickly make notes/tag info & metadata & embed photos with each recording while all the memories are still fresh. Theres nothing worse than revisiting a recording a few months later & trying to work out where it was recorded by a few vague verbal comments… Right now my psyche is still back on the beautiful East Cape, but even the drive through rush hour traffic getting back into town has started to erode that….

ps heres a photo of the two mics I used, still wrapped as I used them… in fact I leave them wrapped like this until i need them for something else…. Excuse the gaffer tape mess, I literally pulled them off the car & threw them in a pelican case…

A final warning: you must be careful leaving any loose wires hanging anywhere on the car – i’d hate to see what would happen if a mic cable got tangled with the fan belt! But also be very careful with routing cables back to your recorder. I usually just put them through a window that is open enough to allow it, but again you end up gaffer taping loose cable to the car body & be very very very careful removing that tape! The owner of that car will not be your friend if you remove some of their paintwork when you remove your cables!!!

GPS for field recording

This is one excellent project: Aporee Maps with GPS located field recordings!

And best of all, its an open project: “This project is about sounds in relation to spaces & places, the interferences of public sonic layers with our everyday life. get yourself a recorder, go out and listen… it’s not about music!… so please don’t send songs, your CD collection or some greatest hits! excessive workings or sound manipulations are also undesirable. in case of doubt, send an email”

The first sound from New Zealand was uploaded & geotagged by Grant Finlay; its an Auckland suburban ambience with distant dogs, night crickets & some really creepy sounding frogs; have a listen here! Grant also has a great blog of his recordings here.

There is more info here about the project as well as their other projects.

I’ve been thinking about uses for GPS ever since I read Spook Country the excellent novel by William Gibson – theres a good review of the book & interview with the author here and I’ll quote a piece of the interview:

Q. ‘In “Spook Country,” you write about “locative art” — that is, viewing historical happenings and contemporary artistic images in situ through virtual-reality devices. How much of this technology already exists?’

A. ‘The software that Bobby (the novel’s reclusive GPS genius) uses exists, but I have no idea if it conceivably could be made to do what he uses it for — the rest of it you can buy on eBay. I don’t know if anybody actually can do what Bobby does, but if you Google “Locative art,” you get millions of hits.

One of my more technically adroit colleagues pointed out that you can’t use GPS indoors (as Bobby does in “Spook Country”). We hadn’t quite gone to press. But then he said, if you need to use GPS indoors, you can just triangulate it off the nearest cellphone towers. I spent a busy afternoon updating Bobby’s skill set a bit. Whatever relationship I have with the technology … it is not in understanding how it works. I think what it is is seeing the forest for the trees. I don’t know how it works, but what I watch is how people react with it. Which is generally not what the manufacturer had in mind.’

And he is right, the devices are out there. This thread on the forum at William Gibsons site lists a few (including GPS enabled platform shoes for sex-workers!?) but for sound the issue is more about actually embedding GPS metadata into sounds. I presume some of the sounds uploaded to Aporee Maps are located manually although the author describes sound walks, where you can follow the trail of his GPS and hear the sounds at various locations along the way so I presume they have automated it to some degree.

The application I have in mind is to not just to embed sounds into google maps, but to embed QTVRs with sound into google maps… As an example this link is a small (1.6MB) version of a Quicktime VR I shot at Castlepoint. (If you downlaod it, make sure you hit the full screen button before you click in the image & rotate the view; the original is 1920 x 1200.) I haven’t yet found Mac software that will let me embed audio into a QTVR but that is my intent; whenever I am out recording ambiences I will shoot a QTVR (and vice versa) and I was thinking it would be quite amazing to record 4 stereo ambiences at the location of the QTVR, one pointed North, East, South, West…. then somehow have the sound mix crossfade from one audio stream to the other as you rotate… more research to do, but it seems photography is the field leading the way, with many means of automatically embeddign GPS data into the EXIF metadata of each photo. Heres a few links I found worth further reading:

O’reilly basic guide to GPS
Jobo photoGPS is a device that sits in the hot shoe of your camera & captures GPS info every time you take a photo.. B&H have them for US$174 – review here

IF anyone reads this post who has experience with using GPS I would really appreciate your thoughts via the comments. Thanks!

Do you scrobble?

Back in the day we used to swap tapes or, god forbid, actually talked about music… Yeah! and vehemently sometimes! Now it seems, software sits in the background, quietly observing what we are listening to & sharing the stats… I think this is me confessing to activating a LastFM registration, simply because I am intrigued about my own listening habits… I’ve also had to move my iTunes library more than a few times & each time ended up losing all my play count data (shame on you Apple! sort out your metadata on your consumer products! If you can do it with Final Cut you can do it with iTunes)

But heres where I think LastFM miss the boat…. sometimes iTunes is like radio, I may choose to play an album but it may turn out that I fckng hate the album… or for very strange reasons I hate everything an artist does BUT for one gem….

So I’m not sure if you know about a website called dropular? Its a bit like fffound except the interface is a bit slicker ie it works! (use those buttons with the arrows on them!) Basically dropular is an image tagging site, so if you are a registered member & you are at some random website & see an image or some design or architecture or whatever you like, you tag it to dropular, much the way you can tag websites to delicious ie it works best when you are registered & can load up your tagged media at the drop of a hat (or click of a feral rodent) but its equally a great source of inspiration as to what the universal mind considers worthy….

So delicious & dropular & fffound all work on the basis of the user tagging some specific ‘things’, actively ie I LIKE THIS, I AM TAGGING IT. So why is it that Last FM presume if you played it you liked it? Where is the big red button that says I FCKNG LOVE THIS TUNE! and alternately, the DAMN THIS TUNE TO HELL!! button…. cos, I dont know if I like it until I’ve played it & by then its (presumably) been scrobbled… or does it sense how quickly you hit the skip button?

Do you scrobble?

And no, so far LastFM hasnt suggested anything that I hadnt already heard… it did suggest I watch a video of dimlite playing ‘live’ that contained a phenomena that was new to me: someone doing speech bubbles/tags live, in the real world… the actual merit of which escapes me….

Found Music #1

I often find musical phrases when I’m manipulating sound effects & I came across one yesterday that I just had to share as it is so beautiful & yet the source is so unlikely.
First the backstory: a few years ago I heard of a plant shop having a closing down sale so I went & had a look & ended up buying a small tree. This tree was about 12 foot tall & it survived for a while but eventually died & all that was left were these long spindly branches, which I kind of still liked so I left it where it was…. Just before Christmas I was clearing out my old studio space prior to moving & discarding any & everything that was non-essential & I decided the tree had to go. I had been collecting up a pile of wood to break & record FX of, so I added it to the pile & carried on working.
A few days later I got inspired & started recording wood breaks – the room I was recording in was a smallish studio space with a glass ranch slider door & as the tree was way to tall to fit in through the glass slider door I accidentally scraped one of the branches across the glass as i was dragging it into the room. Hmmm: STOP RIGHT THERE! It produced a nasty shrill screech which I just knew I would find a use for sooner or later (ie tag the metadata with: use in the next horror film!)
Anyway I recorded many various scrapes & I discovered some of the most nasty ones were when I applied gentle pressure to the branch so it almost stuck & wouldnt scrape, but then pressure gently overcame the friction & a nasty screech ensues… So I recorded maybe 15 minutes of them, basically until I got tired of it & felt I had exhausted the tree branch & my own repertoire….

Yesterday I suddenly remembered these recordings (I originally just loaded the recordings & dumped them into my sound library) so I started wading through auditioning bits. I was in the process of making some spooky kind of stings & I wanted a high shrill element so I started trying the branch glass scrapes as a component – first at real speed, then at half speed, then putting each of those through various impulse responses. And thats when I found a little bit of music that is so hauntingly beautiful it stopped me in my tracks! So I exported the progression of sounds for you to have a listen to;

First an example of some of the glass scrapes (watch your ears/monitoring level – they are shrill!)

download glass scrape 01 mp3

Ok so next, here is the little phrase or fragment of sound I pursued, at real speed:

download glass scrape 02 mp3

Here is the same sound at half speed (can you hear the musicality in it yet?)

download glass scrape 03 half speed mp3

And here is the half speed branch-glass scrape through an impulse response:

download glass scrape 04 half speed IR’d mp3

Beautiful huh? Its almost symphonic.. but what is weird is how the first 3 ‘notes’ of that glass scrape obviously belong to a musical scale. The impulse response is adding a lot of tone to the sound, but the melody is there in the initial recording…

Sounds like…

Plan B doing homage to Buchla

I really hope the creator of this video used this random youtuber comment to name (or at least metadata tag) his soundfile:

“Sounds like a skeleton playing the hambone backed up by parrots playing rubber bands stretched across cigar boxes in an empty swimming pool while superballs are synchronously fired at them.”

Picture Editing

In film sound editorial one of the most important people we deal with, aside from the director & producer, is the picture editor and their assistant/s… they are our conduit into the project & I have been lucky to work with some very talented picture editors over the years. With the ever changing workflow involved with recording sound on Hard Disk recorders, metadata & the various ages of the NLE workstations it is also very challenging territory for assistant editors. The skills they must possess are a critical mix of technical & creative – this video goes a little way to illustrate the fundamentals, heh heh