Well its been a long time since I have updated the journal because I have been really busy uploading data and sound files to the server and testing out the Sound Librarian search tool. As well as all that I have been trying to get the web page all finished ready fro launch. Well, Phase one is complete and the sound library is up and running. 13,000 sounds at launch which I am really happy about.
We have had a minor issue with proxy server comparability which should be fixed in the next few days, then we will get to work on the Mac version of Sound Librarian which we hope to launch later this month. Also later this month we will be launching the DVD set for users who want the convenience of having the entire library at their fingertips. There is still lots of ongoing work, but soon I should be able to get back to what all this is for, which is recording new sounds to continually add to the library. Keep an eye out for new information and you may even see us in the media as I try to get as much coverage for Sound Library as I can. Its going to be a busy year, but I am really looking forward to it.
I now have the database tool in my hot little hands and after some tweaking will be ready to start inputting all the data for the current library sounds. That's nearly 13,000 sounds to be added to the database. As soon as that is done the full Sound Library website will be ready to go live. On target for a February launch. I am very happy to be so close to finally going live with the full site.
As part of preparing the library for launch I have been going through and checking all the sounds, making sure they are levelled well and generally have no problems. Initially I did not included many stereo sounds in the library, but I have been going through all the raw material and where available replacing the sounds I down mixed to mono with stereo versions.
Initially I think I was trying to reduce file sizes as most of the ambiance sounds were already quite long, but the ambiances also benefit more from being stereo than most other sounds. I really need to get a stereo shotgun mic so I can record the majority of my material in stereo initially as currently most of my samples are recorded in mono. I would not always choose to include stereo versions of all sounds, but I do think I should increase my options when recording raw material. Over the years I have evolved the way in which I record my raw material with a wider range of microphones available and better equipment to capture sounds, but there will always be room for improvement, so this year I plan to add both stereo and surround sound versions of a range of material.
Well for the first time in nearly 6 months my sorted folder is empty. Perhaps this is a good time to explain the process of how I categorise the material in the library.
Firstly anything that I record on any of my equipment will get put through the process of being sorted, edited and categorised for the library. A lot of the raw material will never get into the library itself for various reasons. Firstly, if I record a series of events then there will always be a lot of useless sounds while I am waiting for events to occur, or the sound levels were too low or too high, or if I am lucky enough to be able to record a lot of the same material then I will select only the best material to be included in the library. Also, sometimes some recordings just suck. The material is bad, or there is too much back ground noise, or the levels were way out.
The first step is to upload all the material to my laptop. This is either done through a direct cable link to the device or by removing an SD card and plugging it straight into my laptop. Everything that comes off my devices goes into a folder called “unsorted”. I do not delete the material from the devices until this first copy of the raw recordings has been sorted. I go through each raw Wav file and work out roughly what is on it and then label it appropriately. Mono files are given a straight descriptive name, stereo files from the R09 are prefixed with R09 so I can tell them apart. This is because often I use the R09 as a backup for recordings done with the H4 or other gear, it also lets me know quickly where my stereo recordings are. All of these files are saved into a folder called “sorted” and the raw files are placed with their original names and formatting into a labelled folder such as H4_japan_baseball_oct_08. This is my raw material and its now archived away. Once this step is done and I have both the archived version of the raw material and the sorted and renamed version I will then feel comfortable about deleting the source material off the devices.
Backup is essential for any serious project. As I’ve already indicated I work under a process of backing up right from the first instance of dealing with the files. The end files for the library as well as all the raw source are located on at least two active hard drives at different locations as well as regular DVD backups burnt and stored at a third location. This may seem excessive, but anyone who has ever suffered from data loss on a project will understand my caution. I spend a lot of time organising, recording and cataloguing my sounds, and I will always take the time to make sure the data is safe.
Once files are committed to the sorted folder they wait there until I go through them and sort each file carefully. This requires listening to almost the entirety of each file, selecting appropriate sound material and then copying it out to another file and trimming it as necessary. Very occasionally I might boost the sound or clean up some hiss or low frequency hum. In general I try to record things clean and get them in the library as close to original as possible. Created sounds are the obvious exception to this rule. Because of the amount of time it takes to sort and categorise sounds there tends to be a constant backlog of unfinished material in both the unsorted and sorted folders. I have made a concerted effort recently to get up to date before I make the next big push in recording new material.
At this date the website does not even exist, but I believe I am well on track to have the site up and running in the first half of 2009. (if you’re reading this you will know whether I was right or not :-) ) The library is sitting just under 8000 catalogued sounds, with a target of 10000 set to be reached before the site goes live. I have 3/10 video journals completed and 6/20 tutorials ready to go up. Many of the other features are well under way and it will simply be a case of getting the work done and getting everything completed.
I have decided, after some considering the issue, that I am going to change one of the core aspects of the library content. I had initially planned on only including mono sounds in the library, as from a sound designer point of view I would most often use mono sounds and create a stereo or surround environment when I created the final project. This is also fairly common in a lot of industries that deal with sound. I recently finished a tutorial on how to create basic and complex stereo environments out of mono sounds, and I realised that often the basic stereo effect was just not as good as a true stereo recording and that creating a complex stereo effect could be very time consuming. This was further highlighted when I stumbled across an old recording I made in Japan when I first got the R09.
I was in the forest in summer recording insects on the R09 when it started to rain. I continued to record for sometime and got quite a good sample of a summer rain shower. Listening back to the recording I realised that true stereo has such a complex mix of panning depths that it is far more satisfying to listen to than basic stereo mixes created artificially. After thinking about this for some time I have decided to go through all my source material and pull out the best examples of stereo mixes and add them to the library. This should add another dimension to the environments category as well as adding more useful material for people to use. I will keep the mono versions of the relevant sounds in the library as well as they may also be useful (although most people could just convert from stereo to mono I guess) The stereo files will of course be larger in size and as such be a bigger hit on downloading, but I do think in most cases they will be well worth the time spent. I am trying to implement a process of recording both mono and stereo samples whenever I am out recording but this is not always possible.
Stephan Schütze has been recording sounds for over twenty years. This journal logs his thoughts and experiences