Good day everybody!

As an aspiring sound designer I used to do my sound design based on different sound libraries mostly. I would say 70% of stock effects, 15% my own sounds(sampled, recorded, synthesized) and 15% of effect plugins on the top and it all layed in hundreds of layers. I thoroughly enjoy this process. Neither I have those mics nor the access to locations that those big guys use to record their sounds, so I wont be able to source my own sounds in the near future.

I would like to ask your opinion on a few moments:

1) Professional side. Some clients are genuinely concerned whether the sounds designer uses are his own custom created samples. Some are not and judge by the result.

What share of both do you use for professional work and how each variant affects your salary, job application and all sides of a business?

2) What is your personal opinion towards using custom sounds or stock sounds?


9 Answers 9


It really depends on the specific sound in question, since for some props or vehicles it may simply not be possible/affordable to access them to record, & library use is the only option.... It also depends how prominent the sound is in context eg if it is a signature sound for a scene then I would definitely aspire for it to be unique. (I saw a plugin the other day that described itself as a 'go-to for signature sounds' - not on my planet!!!)

But one factor in this is that (in my experience) very, very rarely does any sound effect in a film actually consist of a single sound - careful layering & editing are required for everything, even the apparently simplest of sounds. So it also really depends how you use library sounds...

There is also a lot to be said for getting a temp version of FX created, using whatever is at hand/available and then assessing your record list and prioritising. If time & budget allows then you record everything, but that still may not result in the best outcome. Commercial libraries, your own personal library and new recordings are all resources that it is your job to make the best use of....

FWIW the ambiences for a film THE ORATOR I did last year were the closest I got to 100% new recordings. I did 2 seperate recording trips to Samoa for it, and at the ambience predub the source material was 95% new recordings.... Editing those ambiences was also far easier than having to wade through my library trying to find elements to recreate locations. Sometimes recording the real thing is a time saver later in the process...

  • +1 Couldn't have said it better myself. Wish I had budgets to work with to allow for more field recording than currently/ I agree with the layers, when used appropriately they add dimension, depth, and character to a sometimes otherwise 'flat' single element. Assuming all layers are working together on harmony and not just there for the sake of being there :) Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 20:02

Before getting into the business I read a lot about the pride of using your own sounds. But I think that was comments by people with big budgets and years of experience. Many of the projects I've worked on has a limited budget and limited time.

I guess by stock you don't actually mean that as in Audiojungle, Pond5 and Audiomicro but more Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge and other libraries.

It also depends on how your recorded material looks. If you have 5TB of audio nicely structured with metadata then surely you would use it. If you don't, then you'd have to start recording in the beginning of every project.

I find myself getting more and more of my own recorded material in the productions. But to be fair it's only about 5-10% so far. The rest are library effects that I've somehow manipulated. I will even be honest enough to say that sometimes when the crunch has its worst hold on me I'm just happy if something works out of the box.


If your own sound works better than a library sound, then use it. If the library sound works better than your sound, then use it.

What matters is the whole composition and how it works, not that much individual sounds.

I would still try to avoid using commonly used library sounds as very exposed sounds in the mix or relying too much on library sounds "as they are".

And yes, there are many sounds that you just cannot record or create, because that exact sound has been recorded or designed by someone else.


In my case, the choice between creating/using original, custom made sounds and using stock FX is always made by the budget of the project.

Some directors are not only concerned about originality, but also the copyrights though most of the stock FX are royalty free. That's why when I'm giving a quote, I give a lot details about the recording&editing process besides royalties. I explain how this reflects to end-price and finally leave the choice to them.

Nowadays, even if you don't have any gear, you still can rent them, so anything is possible with enough budget.

Good luck!


I agree with @Mviljamaa the end result is more important than process. To quote Mr B. Minto from DICE "if it sounds good it is good". Having said that there is also the practical reality of time and budget, and expected quality. for Example when working on AAA gaming projects the expectation is to have something exciting and new sounding, so budgetting time and money for original recordings can often push the bar that little bit higher than using stock effects.

Having said that my 2 most recent projects, Death Rally for iOS - 2 weeks audio time, no budget - used exclusively libraries and a couple of favors from friends. Alan Wake American Nightmare for XBLA - a few months audio time and a small budget - uses almost exclusively library effects some brought for the project which were carefully choose as the best bang for the buck Libraries to get the job done. Both of these games have received quite a bit of positive attention for the audio, more than any AAA project I've done - go figure...

So the conclusion to this rambling is - it's how you use the sounds you've got rather than how you got the sounds you use ...


I love making and recording sounds. I will always start a project with a list of things I might record. For me the recording process and getting creative in what materials to use is a lot of fun!

I don't have a problem with using sound libraries and often use them myself. But if you want to be a better sound designer then I would advise taking more control over the process. The more input you give a project the more it will sound like your own.

And as mentioned already, it's far more rewarding completing something where you've had such direct control over the material used.

It's definitely not something you should assume only comes with big budgets. Recording and experimenting with sounds is fun and relatively cheap.


Yes, but Hollywood Edge "touched it" first. I guess I'm simply talking about the pride of making something only you could make. That's what makes Sound Designers artists of a sort. I use libraries all the time, but I also record...then my own library is recycled.


It is not that simple. You can just edit stuff from FX libraries, or you can use those as only raw material that you use to sculpt sounds or parts of sounds you need. It is not that black and white.

Bye / Tumppi

  • This was supposed to be under the following post :)
    – Tumppi
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 9:39

I was told by Nigel Holland, if you're using someone else's library, you're not a sound designer, you're a sound editor. It's that easy. Go get a Pcm-D50 or zoom and have fun!

  • creating new complex sounds layering library sounds certainly can be a design process. a design using recycled materials. Commented May 4, 2012 at 18:22

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