I am mostly a sound effects editor and sometimes designer. However, I find myself on crazy short deadlines and low budgets far too often. In 4 years, I have never had the time or budget to record and catalog sound effects.

So how much time on a project do you normally spend field recording? Are you just donating this time?

3 Answers 3


Whenever I have down-time at work, I spend it either experimenting/trying to learn something new or adding to our library. Ignoring that, I also spend hours each week working on my personal library at home. If I need something at work and know I have it on my personal system, I'll bring it in without hesitation.

I don't see it as "donating" my time. Most of the effects recording I do is on my personal time, with my own gear. So, they're truly my sounds. Recording and maintaining your own library is an investment in yourself. It helps your technique and gives you more "on hand" resources for those times when you're on a tight deadline.


From the first time I read a script or first watch a cut I start thinking about what sounds in the film I would like to record, so that I can prioritise those & start organising time & access. I simply don't believe in the 'I dont have time to record' line - I've worked on plenty of low & no budget projects and it is your choice how you spend your time. If you really want to record something then there is always the evenings or weekend (which are often the best time anyway!)

I can give a good example: many years ago I got called in to help on a film that was having trouble with the sound team. An important sonic character in the film was a particular V8 car - there was a chase sequence & it also crashed into a petrol station which caught fire & exploded. I checked out what had been edited, the impacts, fire & explosion were good but car was very underwhelming & I asked what recording had been done "Oh we havent had time to record anything" - I didnt say anything but I thought, really? What they meant was either they hadn't prioritised it... or maybe there was some kind of psychological barrier?

So guess what? In less than half an hour of phone calls I tracked down a car with the same engine, I explained to the owner we didnt have big budget but I could cover petrol & some beers - the guy was keen. I drove to a quiet street, rigged the mics for onboard recording, did half an hour of driving. I then hopped out & gave him a list of moves I needed - passbys various speeds, up & stop, take offs etc... An hour later we were done.

So in under 3 hours total I did what the sound team had been putting off for literally months . And the really fundamental part of this is & what you maybe need to consider: it is FAR EASIER to edit a scene when you have material specifically recorded for it, than trying to piece it together from a library. The end result has so much more character and because you recorded it you were there & remember all the funny interesting sounds that add character... Especially vehicles where action is specific to picture cuts etc...

Access to gear isn't an excuse any more either - that car recording story was back in the day when I only had a DAT recorder, a 416 and two dynamic mics.... Recording great specific unique material, even with a single mic is far better than nothing, and you learn a lot in the process

Sometimes I will have a go at cutting a scene or sequence of FX from my library, or do a first pass of ambiences from my library & then think: what elements would really benefit from new material.

But remember above all else, it is more about priorities than 'not having time'

  • exactly. My experience has shown field recording to be both faster and higher quality than searching through libraries as well - especially regarding vehicles.
    – Rene
    Nov 20, 2012 at 23:25
  • @tim prebble - this is a great story thanks for sharing - like you being there when it is recorded is so important.
    – RedSonic01
    Nov 21, 2012 at 6:22
  • Nice story @Tim. I totally agree with what you and @Rene have said. Library sounds may appear to be an "easier" option but it really does take a significant amount of time to search through the library, then to cut and edit the sounds to match the scene. However, when location or availability of the required sound source become problematic we often have no choice but to fall back on library sounds. Nov 21, 2012 at 11:00
  • Thanks, @ Tim. I guess that 'not having the time' is just completely an illusion. I feel like I barely have enough time to finish what I need to do in the edit room, but that is mainly because I am wasting a TON of time digging in the library. Especially for cars. Nov 21, 2012 at 13:40

At work we tend to try and batch all our recording during down time, these tend to be the bigger more complicated session that requires time and energy to set up and execute (guns, car drops, explosions). When we do these we tend to try to pack them close together so we can be recording every few days over a period of a month. This happens maybe every 6-9 months or so. we tend to end up with Gigabytes of data which can equal a few weeks editing.

However I try to record something at least once a week outside of work, it can be anything, not specifically for any project but more just cause I like the idea or the sound. - I keep a list of stuff I want to try or capture. some of it is really simple and takes maybe a few minutes to record, e.g the beep of my home microwave, or cars passing down the street on a rainy day. Others I have to think a it more about how to capture e.g. other things on the list are Tesla coils, The local sea defence military exercises.

Like @Shaun says recording is an investment and should become a habit - but one note only record as much as you have time to edit.

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