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September 2014
Issue: March 1, 2008

SOUND LIBRARIES

By: Randi Altman
The need for canned sound effects and music never goes away, and not only are the offerings becoming even more diverse, but the quality of these files are getting better as well.

Delivery methods are also becoming more flexible, with CDs giving way to DVDs, the Web and hard drives. And while requests for 5.1 are still few and far between, many companies are preparing — even if it’s just mentally, at the moment — for when the need becomes a reality.

KEEPING IT FLEXIBLE

Co-founder of Partners in Rhyme, Mark Lewis, a former visual effects artist who spent six years at Weta in New Zealand working on Lord of the Rings and King Kong, knows what clients want from a sound and music library.

“I know what kind of mindset they are in,” he explains. “They are often freaked out and losing it by the time they get to the music and the audio, so there is a lot of hand holding and grateful clients afterwards. I have a lot of experience from both sides of the coin” and that has helped him and partner Mona-Lia Ventress achieve success.

While Partners in Rhyme (www.partnersinrhyme.com) is a US company, they are physically based in Spain, boasting a full studio set-up in Barcelona. “We have Pro Tools TDM 7.0 running on a dual proc G5 with lots of outboard gear, vintage keyboards, synths, lots of software plug-ins and mics from Audio Technica and Shure,” he explains. “We used to do a lot of the writing here, but our sites are becoming so popular we don’t have time for that anymore and now we just distribute for other composers.”

Royalty-free Partners in Rhyme is broken up into three sites. The main site (www.partnersinrhyme. com), targeted at the film studios and production studios, offers large collections of sound effects and music packages available on CDs, DVD sets or via download. They also have break-off sites — one dedicated to sound effects (www.sound-effect.com) and one dedicated to music (www.musicloops.com) — that are set up in a more a la carte way.

Partnersinrhyme.com sells collections — by March there will be about 125 of them. “Our sound effects site has 10,000 individual sound effects on it,” explains Lewis. “On the sound-effect.com site they go in and audition, add it to their cart, they pay for it and download it instantly.

Musicloops.com was developed because we had many requests for individual tracks. You can get full-length tracks, you can get :30 edits or little music loops for $9.95, or combine the entire edit package for a cheaper price. There are many different ways to mix and match whatever you need.”

Lewis says that composers and SFX artists are constantly uploading to the two a la carte sites, keeping those offerings fresh. “The files are 48kHz/16-bit WAV stereo files because we deal a lot in music loops and we can’t deliver an MP3,” he says. “We’d rather deliver a high quality file and if people want to downrez they can do it.”

He says that none of their the material is 5.1. “We’ve never had a request for it; and I haven’t had any submissions from composers.”

Examples from the collections on their main site include Action, Opera, Rock Star, a section of mellow ambient music suited for yoga and meditation, a Piano collection, Reality Show with Tension and Plastics.

Lewis says that most people opt to download full collections. “As soon as they buy it, they are given a link, they log in and download from there.”

Some of his collections, like their Classical Music Greatest Hits, featuring 540 classical tracks performed by an orchestra, are a couple of gigs. “Download is extremely popular and people don’t seem to mind the download part of it,” he reports. He even contacts people ordering the larger collections asking if they want it shipped, but most of the time they say no, preferring just to download.

But Lewis has been considering delivering the Partners in Rhyme catalog on hard drives since their offerings are getting much bigger. “Some of the orders coming in are so huge — like 10 CDs — it almost makes sense to go with hard drives after a while.”

A NEW WAY TO SEARCH

The MasterSource Music Catalog was started 15 years ago by Marc Ferrari, lead guitarist for the ‘80s hair metal band Keel. During this time he started collecting music from his friends and Keel b-sides that were not part of the label deal and soliciting them for television and film. That evolved into what became Volume I of the MasterSource Music Catalog (www.mastersource.com), says MasterSource senior director, creative, Joshua Kessler. “They provided real songs from real artists, with vocals, to film and TV as a one-stop-shop. It hadn’t been done before; everyone else was doing only instrumental music.”

Fifteen years later, MusicSource has evolved into a catalog of over 6,000 original compositions from award-winning artists, equaling about 200GB. “Our intention is to continue to build this catalog as a place to go for real songs that are immediately clearable and sound like what the major labels are putting out,” explains Kessler, adding that their tracks are often used in films, including recent offerings such as American Gangster, Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, SuperBad and Alvin and the Chipmunks. They have also had success on broadcast television, with placement in Lost, CSI, Friday Night Lights and Entourage.

MusicSource offers full songs and instrumental mixes, which are available in :60, :30 and :10 edits. They offer files as 192kb/MP3s, AIFs or WAVs, depending on client needs.

“In terms of delivery, we have been sending out standard CDs and DVDs, and we have a 250GB hard drive that goes out to some of our larger clients,” reports Kessler.

“It’s on a license basis, so a lot of our clients, mostly cable networks, have blanket licenses that allow them access to the entire catalog. We’ve been a go-to-library for Viacom and the MTV family.”

While the catalog doesn’t offer tracks mixed in 5.1 they can provide that on request via their Pro Tools-based studios in New York and Los Angeles.

MasterSource, which prefers being called a catalog instead of a library, recently introduced MasterSearch, an online search engine that eliminates the need for CDs, DVDs or hard drives. “Once a user is approved, they can search the catalog in a very efficient way to find music and download,” describes Kessler. “You can search in a number of ways: there are drop-down menus that provide you with categories, keywords, tempos and even a certain key of song. You can also search lyrical themes, as well as era’s and BPMs.”

He says you can also put in a feeling or the name of a band and if it exists in the metadata of a song, it’s going to pull something up.

“The site is hosted by Amazon, so the pipes are massive,” he reports, adding that it’s as fast as the user’s Internet connection will allow.

KEEPING THE ZOO FRESH

According music supervisor Omar Herrera, Burbank-based Zoo Street Music Library (www.zoostreet.com), which began as the composing and music supervision department of New Wave Entertainment, currently offers 25 genres from 10 freelance composers, including Piano, Soundscapes, Jazz and Action-Adventure.

“It runs the gamut of styles from Orchestral, Comedy, Action, Vintage, we pretty much do it all,” he says, adding that they are constantly updating their offerings. “We work heavily with the home entertainment groups and the trailer departments, some of our clients include Cimarron and Trailer Park, and we’ve done broadcast spots for NBC Universal as well.”

During the past year, their music has been heard on HBO’s Tourgasm, MTV/Logo’s U.S. of ANT, HBO’s  first-look special Evan Almighty and the Alien vs. Predator trailer. DVDs that boast their music include the just-released The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, The Apartment special edition, Happy Feet, Balls of Fury, American Pie Presents: Beta House and House: Season 3.

The library recently added quite a bit of hip-hop and urban cues to answer the call of the many feature films now boasting inner-city scenes. “Those seem to be the most requested cues that we’ve had within the last year,” says Herrera.

The library is mostly licensed, but if a client requests it, they will do buy-out on occasion. “Our library is very accessible for those who want the instant deliverable,” he explains. “We have three music supervisors on staff who are ready to pick out music for any type of job. All the info is on zoostreet.com, so you can sign up there and preview all of our cues. We wanted to set up our Website so that the moment we would get any new cues from our composers they would automatically be available on our site.”

Zoo Street can deliver the library any way the clients request. “We do hard drives, DVDs, CDs, we can do FTP sites. We deliver it in 48kHz/16-bit, AIF native format. We can also include the MP3s and they all have the metadata on there, so if you plug it in, it will come up in iTunes.” WAV files can be provided as well, he says.

At the moment there are no cues in the  library that are mixed for 5.1, says Herrera. “Clients who are using our music in their HD projects are using the library in its current deliverable form. Many of these HD projects include Blu-ray DVD, HD-DVD special features, behind-the-scenes broadcast specials taped in HD, and the recent TBS comedy series Frank TV, which was shot in HD. So far we have not had any client requests for music mixed in 5.1. It has been our experience that if the client wants a 5.1 mix for their project, they create the mix using all the audio elements [dialogue, music, effects].”

IGUANA IN HIGH DEF

John Pellegrini’s Iguana Kitchen (www. iguanakitchen.com), based in Grand Rapids, MI, has been around in some form for about five years, but it just got its official launch in the summer of 2007. While most of the companies we’ve spoken to for this article haven’t been getting requests for 5.1 or the higher definition audio formats, Pellegrini has thrown himself into this area with the introduction of Quantum Audio Mechanics.

“I have 12 channels instead of six,” he says. “The reason is I’m encompassing all the surround formats that are available — 6.1, 7.1 and IMAX theatres as well — so I have a track for every single one of those different formats in the mix, and I’m putting everything in the 24-bit under 192kHz sampling rate, which is the highest available.”

So why go 12-channels before the need is there? “We are providing it knowing it’s going to come,” he explains. “It’s been a leap of faith on my part, but I feel that if you start with the highest quality audio possible you are always going to be in a better place then if you start with lower quality audio and have to work with that.”

Pellegrini also feels this is the way to give clients the ultimate flexibility “for manipulating the sound any way you want it. And hopefully that gives it a longer shelf life, too — with Blu-ray and the HD-DVDs — by going with the higher sampling rate like that there is more ability to adapt as the technology improves.”

He reports that 5.1 is primarily for the American home theater market. “In Europe or Asia it’s 6.1 or 7.1, and movie theaters have either 6.1 or 7.1, or in the case of IMAX they have a ceiling speaker. This library gives you the opportunity to mix for any format of surround sound that is currently in use.”

Pellegrini’s studio includes a custom-built Pro Tools rack that is entirely portable. It’s a full HD TDM unit and he does all his mixing on that. He also uses a mic array: “starting with Holophone Pro 2 and using some custom set-ups.”

Right now, Quantum Audio Mechanics features 110 different cuts, with 12 tracks of each cut. The library comes in both AIF and WAV formats. “That way the production companies have the ability to choose whichever one their clients prefer to use,” he explains. The entire library weighs in at little over 100GB, so Pellegrini is delivering on Glyph GT58Q drives that are kept by the client and included in the collection’s price of $695, buyout. “The problem with downloading online is the sampling rate is so big and it’s so many Gigs, I can’t even post it online for download.”

He calls the Glyph a standard of the industry. “What I like about this drive is there are four different connection ports on it: FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB2 and an eSATA connection. I’ve never seen an external drive that has so many ways different ways to connect to it.”

Iguana’s collection is diverse and Pellegrini  is always adding to it, trying to find sounds that aren’t easy to find elsewhere. “I went out to a local indoor shooting range recently and recorded a variety of pistols being shot. There are two galleries at this place and we recorded in the room with the guns and also set up in the next room over. I also recently recorded things being done on the floor above… footsteps, vacuuming, etc.”

He has also collected some environment recordings, such as urban traffic. “One morning I recorded a freight train going through my neighborhood, so you hear the train pretty loud and then you hear fire engines and ambulances as well.”

Pellegrini has been working with sound effects libraries for about 30 years and he  noticed the tendency for certain types of sounds, so he set out to get some he hadn’t seen offered before.

“A friend of mine is a mechanic who works for an emergency vehicle dealership,” he explains. “I recorded him working on this heavy equipment and recorded some of the fire truck diesel engines — even the sound of engines going indoors.”

For more details on the library’s offerings, the entire catalog is posted on the Iguana Website for download, with full descriptions.