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September 2014
Issue: December 1, 2005

REVIEW: MEGASONICS SOUND DESIGN PRODUCTION ELEMENTS

By: By Phil Price

The business of music and sound effects libraries has exploded in the past few years. Whether for TV shows, commercials or practically any other type of production, sound design is essential. While clients may not expect editors and post companies to have full music libraries, they do expect them to have a range of sound effects and atmospheres to add to their productions, even for rough cutting. Finding a well-rounded library that doesn't break the bank is tough, that's why I was intrigued by the Megasonics Sound Design Production Elements package from Megatrax Production Music. It seemed to have a large cross section of sound design material for the fairly modest list price of $495 to license their usage.

The Basics

The Megasonics 4-CD package is described as "the ultimate producer's sound design toolkit," and has been specially designed for film, TV, radio, post, gaming, Internet and multimedia. It was produced by some of the top sound designers and engineers using state-of-the-art technology according to the brochure, and features over 12,000 atmospheres, drones, musical beds, stagers, sweepers and transitions.

The box set contains four audio CDs and a data CD.

Disc 1: Hits, Risers, Fallers, Sweepers, Flybys, Whooshes, Transitions

Disc 2: Drones, Atmospheres, Textures

Disc 3: Noise, Pulses, Loops

Disc 4: Magical FX, Sci-Fi FX, Spooky FX

Data Disc: All of the above as 24-bit/48kHz WAV files.

You (or your client) can listen to the audio CDs to pick out the effects you'd like to try, then import them from the data disc. Of course, depending on your workflow, you can just copy all the sounds from the data disc to your hard drive and use them as needed without ever using the audio CDs.

Disc 1: Underscore and Punctuate that Visual

I happened to be editing a two minute game trailer that really needed an effect to emphasize a product shot that appeared every twenty seconds or so. I wasn't sure if the sound I wanted was a Hit, Riser, Sweeper or Whoosh – but it certainly should be one of the elements on Disc 1. Opening the disc, I initially opened the "Hits" folder and found six subfolders entitled Chimes, Doors, Explosions, Gongs, Metallic and Thuds. Each of these subfolders contains several effects, except the Explosions folder, which contained 28. I listened to the effects in this and many other folders on Disc 1, eventually trying several in my cut. I finally found a small section of an effect that suited my purposes in a subfolder of the Hits directory entitled "Doors." With all the various sound effects on the disc, I expected to find more that were appropriate for my purposes, but I liked the one I chose. I noted that many of the effects had a science fiction or comical nature to them, and that wasn't what I wanted at all for this project.

The Other Discs

As I sampled the other three discs, both as a part of an edit and just listening singularly, I realized that trying to categorize, name and store these various effects was a tough proposition for the creators. I think they did a good job in organizing the discs, but I kept finding sounds in folders that worked in other categories as well. I guess one man's Drone is another man's Texture. My overall impression is that the package provides a wide selection of backgrounds and effects that would be helpful to an editor building a library, that the effects are a bit skewed toward sci-fi, horror and comedy, and that many of the effects are heavily synthesized.

I find sound effects to be like fonts. You can have a thousand and can't find one that's just right. With that in mind, if you already have a wide variety of sound design material, then I wouldn't rush out to buy this package. If, however, you are starting with a meager collection, this may be a welcome addition.

The creators certainly had the video game market in mind. Many of the sounds like Spooky Atmospheres and Explosions are a natural fit. There are also some really scary, ominous sounds that must be pretty good because I found them somewhat frightening to listen to. There's also a lot of comical, over-the-top whizzes and transitions.

In very general terms, sound effects can have a natural quality or what I call a synthesized feel. Either type may be appropriate depending on your project, but I generally prefer natural sounding to obviously-synthesized sounds. These discs have their fair share of synthesized, but many of the sound design elements were quite natural and realistic sounding.

Conclusion

Overall, I feel the Megasonics Sound Design package provides a good cross section of sound design elements that will be useful in both rough cuts and finished productions. I was a bit disappointed in the Hits, Wooshes and Sweepers – but liked the Atmospheres and Drones. At $495 it seems reasonably priced, especially if you have any science fiction or horror projects coming up. Check out a video demonstration for yourself at www.megatrax.com in the Sound Effects section.