Hi, everyone!

In the studio where I do some tasks, we are seriously considering the production of some SFX library. I'm wondering, as sound designers, what kind of sounds do you feel we should have in hand most of the times that might be not that common to find at a reasonable price?


4 Answers 4


First off, go read the jetstreaming blog for tons of insights. Given everything that Paul says there -

I'd rate the value of a library on three different scales:

1) ability to use out of context:

Tim prebble's contact mics library and his tortured piano library are just overflowing with sounds that beg to be sped up, slowed down, and otherwise manipulated beyond their starting points. This springs from the out of context mentality from recording those sounds, as well as the dense and layered content in the recordings themselves. The more flexible a library's source material is, the more useful the library is in other contexts.

2) difficulty of record:

Things that occur rarely, or in difficult to access locations are generally prized recordings. Animal libraries, weapons, electricity and explosions, and certain ambiances and weather conditions fall into this category. If I don't have access to a mountain lion I'm certainly more likely to buy a library that does.

3) quality of record:

the quality of boutique sfx libraries varies wildly. Those that are of higher recording quality are of higher use to me. Quality is more than which gear you use - its also which environment you're in, the level of variations in the sound, mic positions and technique, mastering, metadata, and other factors.

some libraries rate very highly on all three scales. some do not. those that do are more likely to generate money IMO.

  • And thanks for pointing out that great site, that for some mysterious reason, I didn't know about. Sep 16, 2012 at 0:24

Hi Melissa,

Rene has covered the bulk of it (thanks for the mention, Rene!). If you produce a library with his three tips, you can't go wrong.

There's a few other things I'd add to supplement his post:

  • Distinctiveness: I find these categories do well: cars, guns, multimedia (whooshes, buttons), materials (water, wood, ice, fire), weather (rain, waves, wind), dogs. The problem is that they're covered quite well already by the existing Indie/Boutique libraries. You'll have more impact if you record something rare.

  • Audience: Yours is a tricky question to answer without knowing your target market, or "audience." Game audio people use clips differently than the film crew. Radio producers are different than multimedia people. They all have different sound effect needs and delivery specs needs. Choosing one will strengthen your library. Work these needs into your library and you'll create something solid. Caution: targeting everyone diffuses your library's impact/success.

  • Expressiveness: I like Rene's point about Tim's contact mic library and utility. That library is also useful because it is very expressive. Part of this comes from the mic type, the subject, but also from the performance. Expressive sound effects libraries always do well because they convey character, which augments the projects in which they're used. They're more fun to cut in, and also better appreciated by other listeners. Whatever subject you choose, I'd suggest recording with expressiveness. It also makes recording more fun.


  • @Airborne Sound Thank you for your answer, that made me think better on the subject to make things more unique, and not just 'record and go'. And thanks for your site, it's great, great, great. Sep 16, 2012 at 0:23
  • @Melissa Pons my pleasure, let me know if there's any other info I can help with. All the best with your recordings. Sep 20, 2012 at 12:54

Maybe some endemic ambient libraries? I mean like nature, cities or rural countries. In your profile you pointed that you are from Portugal. How about a library like "Sound of Portugal"? :)

  • @Conant, thanks for the suggestion. I guess it could be a nice and interesting idea but I don't know about selling, who'd want to buy such specific library? And that involves a lot of travelling, which would be amazing, but there's no budget for such. :) Sep 11, 2012 at 13:28
  • @Melissa I surely would buy such a set. DigiFX and BBC are a wealth of foreign ambience but they've been around for a long time to the point of beginning to be canned and we could always use a fresh injection of new ambience material. Speaking of which I saw that Tonsturm just released an ambience set of Morocco... Usually ambiences of 3-7 minutes in length (depending upon what they are - the more complex/dynamic, the longer) would be considered ideal in my opinion to give the editor creative options. Sep 12, 2012 at 4:32
  • @Stavrosound Maybe there are some interesting things that one can relate to Portugal; as a Portuguese myself sometimes it's not easy to recognize those, as we are so used to them. Thanks! Sep 12, 2012 at 18:44
  • @Melissa the things which stand out in my mind for forgein ambiences are traffic (city and smaller town/villages), markets (where you can get some clean wallas where we can hear the language and not a wash), airports and train stations (especially for the PA announcements), and urban specifics like sirens (blurps and bys), car horns, church bell tolls, and so forth. One way to consider it is ask "if I had to cut on a film which took place in the US (or some other country foreign to you), what would I look for to give it that signature sound". Sep 12, 2012 at 20:02
  • I'm guess by answering that question, you'll likely find that a lot of what I mentioned are the kinds of things you'd be seeking out. Check out that Morocco set Tonsturm released for inspiration because that is an EXCEPTIONAL example of a properly diverse and intriguing electric selection of ambience textures - the kind of textures a sound effects editor usually wants because of their uniqueness and specificness to the locale in question (such as the minaret prayers). I'm about ready to pounce on that set with my wallet :) It perfectly fills an Arabic/Middle Eastern sonic void in my library Sep 12, 2012 at 20:06

Animals. Recordings of animal sounds are always really useful, include everything from walking, running, jumping through to vocalisations.

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