REVIEW: 'THE SOUND EFFECTS BIBLE' - BY RIC VIERS
PRODUCT: "The Sound Effects Bible" by Ric Viers
- In-depth and well-organized information
- Inspires creative thinking
- Website examples
Detroit Chop Shop (www.thedetroitchopshop.com) founder Ric Viers has written a comprehensive and well-organized book on how to create Hollywood-style sound effects. He points out there are no books that deal with the art of Foley, and in some ways, the mystique of it. Now, that void has been filled.
I must praise Viers' willingness to share and pass along his 20-plus years worth of knowledge. It reminds me of the recording engineer tradition of apprenticeship and passing down knowledge person to person. It is like the ultimate private lesson from the author.
Admittedly, creating sound effects, and especially the creativity involved, is difficult to put into words. The Sound Effects Bible does a nice job of blending both recording basics with advanced concepts. It is very educational from a real-world perspective, with most information being the type you could only get from on-the-job training. There's a little bit of audio science and theory along the way, but it's mostly real-world experiences.
Much of the book focuses on how to create your own custom and original sound effects, from Ambiences to Zombies! If you ever wondered how the sound of blood dripping or an elevator crash was done, wonder no more.
Viers is not afraid to tell you his "secrets" because his goal is to inspire people to create sounds themselves and to find their own voice. The details of these secrets cover everything from field recording to building your own sound effects stage (Foley pit) and even your own recording studio. At times, some things are basic or obvious, but it would be impossible to write a sound effects book without touching on things that are common knowledge. In all cases, covering basic and sometimes obvious information is used as a foundation to help inspire peoples own creative approach.
For example, Viers points out that the sound of what you need is not always the literal sound that something makes. Sound designers have all learned this creative lesson at some point, which results in them viewing, or hearing more specifically, the world much differently. I have a newfound appreciation for junkyards and hardware stores. The sonic possibilities are endless!
And the importance of organization and good work habits are strong themes throughout the book. Most professionals know that cutting corners early on during any process could easily balloon out of control down the line. To help avoid any pitfalls, Viers offers two sets of Ten Commandments: one for recording and one for sound editing. He shows the practical applications of proper working habits, or commandments, and how they should never be underestimated. For me, this is one of the stand-out features of this book.
My only real criticism of this book is that it is a little self-serving at times. Viers uses this book to plug the Detroit Chop Shop, which seems out of place for my taste. On the flip side, I was pleased to see the acknowledgement of some of the true masters and pioneers of sound design, such as Ben Burtt, Walter Murch and Randy Thom. Viers recognizes that a sound designer, or anyone for that matter, should be aware of the accomplishments of the past before building upon them in the future.
GENERAL AND SPECIFIC
Let's face it… there is no way to write about an audio topic without being a bit too basic or too advanced for some readers. Viers uses the fundamentals to help readers understand the more complex ideas. For example, he touches on common audio file formats, such as .WAV, .AIFF, and .MP3s, but he also details three separate ways to destroy a TV set when in need of the sound of a television exploding. He explains what a DAW is, but he also gives some tips on recording real military tanks, firearms and explosions. For best results, go to your local desert!
Some specific things, like the details of how to make the sound effect of a werewolf transformation, seemed a little impractical, of course unless you are working on a werewolf film. But, understanding how the unreal is done in reality touches on the concept of creativity. I suspect these impractical examples were designed to teach, or at least spawn, a person's own creativity.
The truth to that may lie in the author's philosophy, which is worth quoting, "There is more than one way to make a sound effect. Make it anyway you can — just make it better than what you have heard before." I feel this concept can be applied to all aspects of audio and possibly many aspects of life.
This book is a wealth of knowledge, but I must admit I am not sure for exactly who. There is a catch 22 here; if you are really into sound design, then you probably know this stuff already. If you are not into sound design, then you may not comprehend or be able to apply this knowledge fully. Regardless of who might benefit the most from this book, I feel there is something to be learned from "The Sound Effects Bible," no matter what your level is.
Ron DiCesare is the Senior Audio Engineer at Ultra-Sound Audio Post/The Napoleon Group in New York City.