Hey guys,

So I have done quite a bit of recording of voice talents. Many of them for sound effects I call "Vocal Effects" where they do anything vocal - walla, screams, laughs, breaths, etc.

I have a friend who is an actor and he went in to record a newscaster voice for one film, but gets residual checks from another film entirely separate to the one he originally recorded it for because they used his vocal effects in that other film.

Who keeps track of this?

Do I need to keep track of every effect and who it was that did it if I want to use those effects from my library from the talents?

I am fascinated by the fact that they can keep track of residual checks to actors in movies, which is great and all, but for audio? It seems extremely complicated and time consuming.

The reason I ask is that I have all this great material that I am afraid to use if I will get in trouble for it.

That brings up another question: I heard you need to pay the library creators every time you use a sound effect from them if what you are working on is meant for commercial use. Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge, etc. If this is true, I have never seen anyone keep track of this or do this. Do you know of anyone or do you yourself keep track of this and do this?

Does anyone know the protocol for this type of thing? If they ever do find out who did the Wilhelm Scream, will that guy have a massive check in the mail?

Thanks in advance!

  • Ryan

2 Answers 2


There is no such thing as residuals for sound effects, I'm sorry to say. (I so wish there was such a thing!) I believe what you're talking about is a voice talent that comes in to do special sounds for a film/video game/whatever and are paid out under the AFTRA/SAG agreements. This is akin to how actors are paid their daily rates and residual payments.

Regarding usage of material in your library, I would advise you NOT to use anything that you haven't been given permission to use. PERIOD. You could find yourself embroiled in some serious legalities that way, especially if something you used without permission made it to air or theatrical distribution.

I suppose there could be exceptions to this (and I'm no expert), such as when somebody is called in to perform for a buy-out type of project, but the best approach if you're not sure is just not to use it at all.

  • Thanks and that's exactly what I needed to hear. I knew there was something fishy about using other actor's work. Thanks Jay!
    – Utopia
    Jul 27, 2010 at 6:38
  • Sorry - one more thing. Does that also apply to whole libraries? Like Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge etc.? I guess you have permission to use it once you buy it...
    – Utopia
    Jul 27, 2010 at 6:39
  • You're welcome! And, like I said, I'm not an expert on the whole AFTRA/SAG agreement, so, fellow SSD'rs, please chime in with more info. Regarding sound effects libraries: For the most part, they are free to be used at your discretion once you've purchased them, royalty-free. Jul 27, 2010 at 7:27
  • @Ryan you can use them all you want once you buy these libraries. They are royalty free. Jul 27, 2010 at 9:50
  • So if we record someone for a sfx, say a P.A. announcement in an airport, and they get paid through AFTRA/SAG you can't use that again without reporting it? But if I record my receptionist reading the lines I can use it in any production I work on for the rest of my career? Jul 27, 2010 at 12:33

I worked at a movie and television advertising company for three years where I learned a little bit about how this works in that arena. My knowledge is probably rudimentary and may not be applicable to your arena but I think it will be helpful anyway.

I agree with birdhousesound don't ever use anything without permission!! If you get permission get it in writing. As for VO talent getting residuals for the sounds: most VO contracts for are made so that the company hiring the talent can only use the VO for not only that particular project but for that particular version of trailer, tv spot, sizzle, promo, etc. Companies can get in serious trouble for trying to get a VO actor to say a line that is for another project or script for an alternate version but it happens all the time anyway probably unbeknownst to the VO actor many times.

As for the SFX used in tv spots and trailers, there are residuals and they are very fat for the limited few at the top of the game!!!!! Robert Etoll is a giant in this field; I would say almost every tv spot or trailer you see will have at least one (if not 30) Robert Etoll sfx. How do sound designers get these residuals? Well every spot and trailer is submitted with a cue sheet that a music supervisor assembles which must contain every music cue and sound effect used. I'm not exactly where that gets submitted (maybe the MPA) but someone goes over it with the project file and makes sure nothing is left out. The studio hiring the ad agency pays the bill in the end and some of these simple sfx cost around the 10K mark (most are between $500-$3000). And that's for everytime you use it! One trailer we worked on had this one gunshot sound 11 different times so the sound designer got paid 11 times on each version that was released! I am pretty sure that you don't get paid every time the spot plays (maybe someone can chime in), rather you pay the high license fee to be able to use the sfx for that particular version of that spot. So if their is an alt where they change one line in the spot but keep all the sfx the same, you get paid for both!! Many popular libraries are royalty free once you buy the library itself (Sound Designers Toolkit, I think Hollywood Edge?) I'd love it if someone had more information and details on how they do keep track of paying the sound designers...

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