mardi, juin 02, 2009

About Sounds


A big and sometimes tricky part in doing animated Films is to find the appropriate sounds. But not only Movies need sound, short Flash animations, Youtube Videos and computer games, too. So if you are involved or simply interested in this particular creative process, the following may interest you.

We have three kinds of sounds: The voices, the music and the sound effects, i.e the sound of footsteps and so on.

As for the voices, I advertised on specialised forums for young actors who are often willing to collaborate for free. The problem is that the actors will have to do the recording themselves, since they often live far away from you and therefore, will have to send you finished wav files. The difficulty with that is, while the quality of the dialogue is mostly good, the technical quality of the recording isn't. Of course, you cannot expect everyone having a professional recording equipment. Often, the voice files you get are of very different amplitude and quality and need to be cleaned out and normalised by someone who owns a good equipment. Fortunately I know such a person.

Still, the voice track will remain a patchwork of most different sources and the final result will not be the same as if all the actors had recorded their parts together in a professional studio.

The second thing, the music, is even a bit more difficult. First of all, beware of copyright infringement. A lot of people tend to think that it is okay to just pick up a tune or song they like as music for their video. From rough guessing, I would say that more than a half of the videos on Youtube are in some way or another a copyright violation. You may get away with it when you are just doing a little video, but by no means should you use copyrighted music on a project intended to be distributed, be it commercial or not.

So what are the alternatives? There are royalty free music loops on the web. A good resource is Flash Kit. Some real good loops to be found there, but do carefully study the rules of each artist, some of them require that you ask their permission or even pay a little fee. Those Loops are perfect for Flash animations and perhaps little videos or as intro for a game.
For a film, I think they are less suited, because often, the music will not really match with the Film content. A film with a music that doesn't follow the content is cheap and has the feeling of trashy porn movies.
In order to get a more individual music for your film, the next step is to look out for a young band or singer who is willing to let you use a song or tune for free. Such musicians can be found on communities like Mp3.com or Mp3.de The advantage of those communities is that they are really huge and chances are that you will find a musician whose work you really like and fits your project. AND who is willing letting you use his/her work.

Another solution is to find a music composer who is willing to create the music for your project. Of course, this is best but most difficult to find. If you cannot pay him the usual wage for a professional Job, the composer will REALLY have to like what you do. It is a good idea to start with the search only when you already have several scenes of your movie done, because nobody wants to start creating music for a project that is just an idea in your head.

Now lets talk about the sound effects. Especially a movie needs a lot of them. There are free sounds that can be downloaded at no charge on several websites. But they have three main problems:

1. Often, the quality is poor.
2. They are everywhere and heard about a hundred of times.
3. They may be stolen from another website and are not really free.

So the best way to go is to purchase professional sounds on specialised libraries. A real good one is Sounddogs. The price per track is relatively high and therefore, if you need a lot of sounds - and if you are working on a movie you surely will - this can quickly evolve into a huge expense. But they almost have anything you can imagine. If you are looking for something very particular, you may find something worth purchasing.

Audiosparx is another good resource, with the advantage that you can pay per track and buying a subscription (39,00 USD) with allows you to download as much as you want for a month. But beware: There are a lot of tracks labelled "premium" which are not included in the subscription-mode and therefore, have to be paid individually. Most of the music loops listed are "premium" but also a lot of sound effects. Of course, always the better ones. So you may find it pretty frustrating.

But since the library is really huge you can digg out a lot of "part of the flatrate" tracks you probably like. Considering the average track price, which is around 3,00 USD, you need to find only 13 subscription-tracks useful for you, in order to have your subscription worth done.
I always take the opportunity and download as much tracks as I can during that month, even those I cannot use in the actual project, in order to build an own library, also for further projects.

Last but not least, you can buy yourself sound collections on CDs. That's what most people do. I always found that they are very expensive and that the sounds are too average. I prefer looking for individual creations. But that is a mater of taste and what you need, after all.

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