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

Silos

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!

Silo_base

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

starterpistol

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

Silo2

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…

sheeptruck

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.

sheeptruckbits

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…

metalplate

next was this heavy metal plate thing…

sheeptruckbits2a

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…

sheeptruckbits2b

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

diggerbucket

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….

metalstack

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…

metalGatebox

Here’s the setup at home for comparison:

homegate

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:

44gallondistortion

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…

foleymetaldrum

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:

PTmetal

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.

Opinions?

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:

 

37 Responses to An appreciation for empty grain silos

  1. The bigger the better! 3 hours to download a library is normal for me. If it took 16 hours I wouldn’t complain!

  2. Mrst says:

    I’d buy this one just to listen to it as if it was a record. It’s not the first time I think of your libraries like this, and it is the main reason I follow you on Facebook and Soundcloud and read your blog – I’ve never used a library but yours usually have an interesting and unique theme, and are spectacularly well recorded. Good luck with this one!

    • tim says:

      hah thanks 😉 will bear that in mind when i make the soundcloud preview!
      (& I figure sooner or later I am going to make some opus of music & sound, using nothing other than my own libraries 😉

  3. Lee Banyard says:

    30 gb is fine for an SFX library download size, to me. I’d rather have the information than not. 🙂

  4. Hey Tim. Very cool topic. In quite interested in this library personally. I’d definitely wouldn’t complain about downloading such a vast collection of bangs and booms. Looking forward to hear it.

  5. Thanks so much for the story Tim.

    30 GB downloads shouldn’t pose a problem as long as they’re split up nicely into smaller chunks. As for price, I think $149 is the lowest you should go for such a massive library. The ROI on this will go through the roof anyway if anybody thinks of it in these terms.

  6. +1 for the bigger the better, although sometimes I think the difference between the different mics is not that huge that it’s worth adding Gigabytes. But that’s my personal opinion. Could be different with the heavy metal library, wich I’m looking forward to. Those sounds will definitely be very useful in film and music. I’m sure about that. That said I think your thoughts about pricing it higher are reasonable.
    Besides it was again very entertaining reading your post. Reminded me on my own first sound reception experiences. Thumbs up. Unbelievable you do all that stuff alone. i mean recording, editing OK, but then video editing, marketing etc etc.

    • tim says:

      thanks Gregor – I agree re mics, for some people having the 8040 stereo files might be all they need. But while editing its fascinating to drop out of solo on the 8040s and suddenly hear what the composite sounds like – sometimes its similar but other times it is quite radically different (eg when the contact mics, or the 8050 is picking up a whole different element)
      The other thought with the mono channels is that they are useful for C and LFE channels ie 8040 = LR, 8050/D112 = C & LFE (with some LowEnder processing)

      While the stereo 8040s are always the primary image/sound, the other channels contribute on a prop-by-prop basis, as eg sometimes it simply wasn’t possible to use contact mics…

      I will include a ProTools session with everything loaded & in sync on tracks, so it is easy to audition mics/channels…

  7. 30 gigs from your sounds means a lot of troubble to pick one when designing because everythink you submit is godamed cool!! 😉 I vote for a large library and seeing the excited you are, for sure it’s going to be totally worth it. And yeah, a PT session with all sounds and markers is something I will also appreciate! Thanx Tim.

  8. Kemal Amarasingham says:

    hey Tim…sounding great as usual. I’m sure you are doing this, but it really helps when sounds are single hits. It’s also vital IMO, that there are several takes of the same thing, so that (in video games at least) we can create variations of the same sound for one action within the game. This is a huge problem with some of the other sound libraries out there. You find a sound that is great, but then there is only one version of it, making it unusable for a video game. I understand it for some sounds, but for things where a sound designer is the source of the sound it doesn’t make sense.

    anyway, keep up the great work! I met a team of people from Japan this year who loved your stuff – in particular the contact mic stuff

    cheers

    -kemal

    • tim says:

      Thanks Kemal, definitely lots of variations – even the most difficult sounds to capture in this library (the 5 ton concrete block impacts) I am going back to get more, as have maybe 8 huge hits already but want 20+

  9. Yann says:

    Another +1 for the bigger the better. I don’t care it will take lot of hours of downloading and couldn’t complain about it. I prefer to have the better quality and just leave it downloading all over the night for example.
    And thanks for the story!

  10. Like Jack already said.. The bigger the library the better. Just divide it into smaller packages like you have done before and everything will be fine. As for the price $199 dollars is a small amount for the sonic goodness that is always present in your libraries. Heck if I would want to record these kind of metal objects here in Finland the 200 dollars would solely go to travel expenses. 😀

  11. Jenn Lewis says:

    Mics are like paint brushes, in reverse 🙂 The tones can vary so beautifully. Even if they don’t differ that much on all props, I’d rather have the option to explore. Especially for metal impacts.

    As for pricing, the step from $99 to $149 (or more) is significant but if the material is expansive (and not simply more mics), then you could certainly charge more.

    Also, I’ll pay more for a library that I need for an immediate project. A price of $149 or $199 definitely moves it out of the ‘beefing up my library’ category, into ‘need to buy’ only.

    Looking forward to hearing what you’ve got to offer!

  12. Rene says:

    my suggestion would be to include all Mics and break the library into two or three parts. One of just the silo, one or two of the other stuff. That way people can pay a lower price point for just the part that they need, or get a discount on a package including all three parts.

    I love the idea of shipping a protools session. 🙂

  13. Steve says:

    Honestly, based on what you’ve shown here, I think ~30GB is perfectly reasonable and expected. Additionally, based on the work you’ve put into the library, an increased price is also fair and justified. That said, as Jenn alluded to above, a library of this scope and price point will definitely put it on the list of ‘when a project can justify the cost’. Hopefully, I will have a project on deck so I can justify the purchase to myself during the early bird discount 😉

    Out of curiosity, while I know this is a library of impacts, any thoughts on tossing a brick of dry ice into one of those silos? 🙂 !!!

  14. Mark Fitt says:

    Bigger the better for me too, overnight downloads are a no brainer, you’ve always been good at producing smaller versions that limit the quantity of mics or higher sample rates for a reduced download size and therefore price.

    For me I like the maximum version to future proof the library and make it more flexible!

    You base prices for libraries are still some of the lowest around, so whilst no one wan’t to pay more, I don’t think increasing the cost for a library of this scale is unrealistic, or out of line with other boutique sound recordists.

    Cheers,
    Mark

    • tim says:

      thanks Mark – I’ve always aspired for the [quality AND quantity] vs [price] to be the best I can possibly achieve, same will be true for this one, even at a slightly higher price

    • tim says:

      thanks Mark – I’ve always aspired for the [quality AND quantity] vs [price] to be the best I can possibly achieve. Same will be true for this one, even at a slightly higher price… (and actually I phased out releasing the smaller, lower priced variations as 90% or more of sales were for the big libraries, so the extra work didn’t warrant it.)

  15. Jef says:

    I agree on everything above. A higher price because of the scale of the library is normal. Bigger download I will do overnight so this will not be a problem. I love the idea of a pro tools session. And if you could record some dry ice in the silo, that would be awesome 🙂
    Thanks Tim, I can’t wait to hear the final files of pure quality as always!

  16. georgi says:

    You said it yourself, Tim. 4 years, 2 people complaining. There will always be some sort of vocal minority to maybe skew your judgement.

  17. Size and price not an issue. What I struggle with (in general, not just your lines) is sound attribute organization vs. source or recording technique organization. For example, whether a hit is created with wood or metal is often irrelevant. Is the hit sharp/transient enough, and (this is important) *without* (what I call) “tops”, or sparkle, or chaos/aftermath? A big dry THUD (re: spectrally complete but no-frills) is very useful as I’ll layer character, sparkle, top, chaos, and aftermath. This is a tangent, but I needed to share it.

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