On a deadline or not, what do you do when you hit a wall trying to realize a certain sound effect, but can't find the material nor edit/process it for the right end result?

Outsource, go with the second best sound or just keep pushing until you nail it?

Or is this kind of struggling just for amateurs and beginners with no access to sound libraries that cover everything and optimal sound sources and recording conditions :)

4 Answers 4


Typically, I'll drop a marker and keep moving forward. On most projects that I'm on I don't have the luxury of spending hours on a specific sequence, let alone a particular effect. If it's not coming to me fluidly at that moment, I keep making progress on the rest of the project. Eventually something, a clip down the timeline, a phone call, a daydream, whatever, triggers my subconscious to go, "Hey, you know that part you skipped, have you tried this?"

If I simply don't have the material I need for it, then I try and think laterally. What do I have in terms of a matching frequency and timbre? What's it's character: Is it an aggressive or soothing sound that I'm looking for? What do I have that fits into those slots? If that still doesn't work, then I look into either buying a sample (because I need it now) or I setup to record it.


Well, that depends on the client. Is the client happy with what you consider 'second best'? If so, make the deadline and quit struggling. Repeatedly missing deadlines even if your work is amazing and perfect won't win you much more work.

Does this happen often? Maybe you need to re-consider your process and spring for some gear or SFX packs that will ease the way. Yes, stuff is expensive, but time is money, especially if you are working for a set fee. If it takes you two hours to build a cue that you could do in 20 minutes with the right tools, then streamlining the process means that you could take on more clients and the extra gear pays for itself ;)

  • I usually have a clear idea of what I want something to sound like and the sound that I want to create and I consider 'second best' to be something that works, but it's not the "ultimate and beautiful sound" that I was thinking, so I may not be personally fully satisfied with it. Also, I'm never comfortable with using sounds or recordings "as is" unless I can really sprinkle some of my own creativity to them in a way or another. Work is work and deadlines must be met, but I think everyone of us has the creative thirst that has to be satisfied by greating something truly great and original. Apr 16, 2012 at 17:07
  • So this whole question is really about asking "where and when do you compromise with your 'creative thirst'", if there's simply no time or sometimes possibilities for making everything perfect and just as you'd like them. I've found that having someone else's or the client's opinion usually gets rid of over perfectionism, but the original question is still about the methods for balancing the work that you do. Apr 16, 2012 at 17:14

I ask advice of my friends, sometimes I buy new source material to work with or plug-ins to process with...but, essentially, I just keep plugging until I find it. This is the fun experimental part of sound. Sometimes you find the sound you had imagined is not even as good as a completely different sound you created while struggling.

  • So, how do you cope with the deadlines then if you always continue trying to achieve "just that one sound"? When do you give up, where do you compromise? Apr 15, 2012 at 19:45
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    I usually get everything that I know I can nail quickly done first. Then the experimental sounds come next. At this point, I know all my time is left for experimentation. So, when I need to be done is pretty clear. I often have an idea of what sound I want. But, as I struggle and play, I often find something completely different works even better. I just keep taking a step back every time I come up with something I think will work or is interesting conceptually. At the end, I usually have a few different directions to choose from and have never missed a deadline Apr 16, 2012 at 18:22

As mentioned above, I avoid and come back later. Sometimes you're clutching at something so hard you don't realise it's slipping through your fingers. Go away and tackle it later. Normally it will just 'click' with time. And if time has gone and it needs to be submitted, I go with what I've got. I guarantee what's sub par to you, is fine for your client.


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