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April 2014
Issue: January 1, 2008

REVIEW: THE SERAFINE COLLECTION

By: Ron DiCesare

PRODUCT: The Serafine Collection

WEBSITE: www.frankserafine.com

PRICE: Foley, $1,295; Human Animal, $995; Industrial, $995; Sci Fi II, $995; Vehicles, $1,295; and Water, $995.

- High-quality, clean and concise sounds.

- Provides missing elements that are fundamental and often overlooked by other sound effects libraries.

Well-organized files and names for easy searching.


Here’s a test for your sound effects library: does it have the sound effect of a brick being dropped? How about the thin metal snap sound made you when separate the slats of Venetian blinds? (In my library of more than 12GB of sound effects, neither did I, but now there is hope.)

Distinct-yet-commonplace sounds are often overlooked by sound effects libraries. Fortunately, Frank Serafine, who has been on the Hollywood sound scene for over 20 years, has covered these bases with clean and pristine sound files available through his own Serafine Sound Effects Collection, which he’s been amassing since 1992.

For this review, I used the following Serafine collections: Foley, Human Animal, Industrial, Sci Fi II, Vehicles and Water. Though the collections may not seem as exciting as “Things On Fire, Volume 5!!” what they lack in snaz they make up for in usefulness.

CRACKING IT OPEN

The collections arrived on data DVDs as .WAV 16-bit/44.1kHz files, which were easily imported into my searchable database. No copying, pasting or re-typing of the file names was needed. The file names were concise and well organized. If I needed a Pontiac peeling out of a parking lot, I simply typed “Pontiac” and “peel out.” Scanning through the file names, I saw all the essentials plus some essentials that tend to be missing: brick drops, hand taps on a basketball, bicycle pedaling without the tire sound, electric guitar power chords, chopsticks clicking and jogging on a treadmill.

Once I had everything organized, I took a listen. The first sound I wanted to check out was office ambience. Why is it that “office ambience” always sounds out-of-date? Who still uses typewriters or dot-matrix printers? Knowing that office ambience has fallen short in past libraries, I was surprised to hear that the Serafine Industrial collection had up-to-date office ambience with computer keyboards and electronic office phones.

Another ambience I use regularly is city ambience. I can never find the perfect blend of horns, buses, construction and pedestrians. Serafine covered city ambience in two of the collections I reviewed: Human Animal and Vehicles disc A-H. Overall I preferred the “Ambience Traffic Street City” from the Vehicles collection. It had a decent amount of buses and pedestrians, but I still had to add more car horns and construction sounds. There is one city ambience file worth noting from the Human Animal collection. Living in New York City, I often encounter street musicians and Serafine has a great city ambience, called “Ambience Crowd City Street Rap,” which really captures the feel of Washington Square Park on a summer day.

Another category of sound effects I use quite often is footsteps. The Serafine collections offer a large variety and combination of footsteps. Though most of the footstep effects can be found on the Foley collection, there are an interesting few on the Water collection, including rubber flippers in a boat. Beside the usual footsteps you’d expect to find, Serafine includes on the Foley collection footsteps for: sneakers in a wet sewer; multiple people together on a wood floor; hard shoes in a warehouse complete with reverb; boots on carpet, footsteps on dirt; dry grass and twigs; a fight scene in an alley; boots in the sand; and even horse clops made by a coconut, which sounds amazing. I used the coconut horse clops in a reality TV show for the Fox Reality Network, which featured horses. They worked so well you couldn’t discern which were the real horse hooves and which were the coconuts. In total, there are 157 different footsteps sound files included in the Foley collection alone.

I tried to use only the Serafine collections  on my recent projects and found that, though the sounds are amazing, these collections work better as supplements to my existing library. While working on a TV spot that required exercise sounds, I found that a combination of my existing library (13,500 SFX from various companies/collections) and the Serafine collections worked best.

The premise of the spot was to create instantly identifiable sport sounds over images of people brushing their teeth. So I started my search for basketball, tennis, bicycling, and various gym equipment workouts. The Foley collection had great basketball hand taps but overall lacked any kind of ball bounces. The bicycle pedaling sound from the Vehicle collection worked well with a tire sound from my other library. As for tennis, there were no sound files in the Serafine collections that I was using, so I had to rely solely on my library. If you are looking for the all-inclusive sound effects collection, this isn’t it. As additions to your existing library, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If I had only two words to summarize the Serafine collections I’d say clean and concise. It seemed like most things were recorded in a controlled environment with a close mic. Instead of having to sort through a two-minute long sound file searching for what I needed, the Serafine sound effects collections got to the point quickly. If I needed a dog barking, each related sound file had three or four barks; enough for variety but without wasting time. This is ideal for me, since I do a lot of advertising work where the key to success is quickness and precision.

I highly recommend these collections as a supplement to your existing library of sound effects. They are clean, concise, and provide missing elements that are fundamental. They are now integral to my sound effects library, and have been extremely useful as part of my daily workflow.

Ron DiCesare is a Senior Engineer at Ultra-Sound Audio Post in New York City. He can be reached at: ron@napny.com.