SFX Experiences Pt. 5 – How to be a Sound-Designer…
As you know, we are recording the SFX for the benztown libraries ourselves. But we are not the only ones who are recording in Stuttgart! Saro Sahihi is a full time sound designer and field recordist, who’s based in Ludwigsburg, close to Stuttgart. He’s the founder of SoundBits and a former SAE lecturer of Max and Jan. He drops by now and then, so Max took the chance to ask him some questions about his work and professional life. Learn how to organize your SFX Libraries, how to get started in field recording and much more – Meet Saro!
Saro, give me a bit of background on yourself – what is your career path, where did you start getting into sound design and field recording?
My interest in audio- and music production came up back in the year 2000. I made the first tentative steps, tried this and that. I got deeper and deeper into audio production, did a lot of mistakes, good mistakes.
I came to Sound Effects Creation when I did the sound design and -editing for the feature movie “Bela Kiss: Prologue” in 2010. I met such great and inspiring people in that time. One day I had the idea to not just gather sounds for certain projects but to create my own specific sound effects library. This first library was the ‘Screams & Shouts’ sound pack. I got in touch with Brian Nimens from Sound Ideas and he liked it. So that was the time when i started to create and sell sound effects.
Which production system or tools do you use the most?
I am always questioning standards. I mean, sure most of the standards well deserve their status but I recognized that there is so much more interesting, cool and creative stuff aside far from the main route. This applies to synths, samplers, fx (all in hardware and software), DAWs and Mics. Standing still and always using the same stuff bores me.
I just got a ZOOM F8 for testing which also seems to be very good in sound, reliability and features although anybody’ repeating that ZOOM is only entry level. When it comes to fieldrecording I rely on my bag with a Sound Devices 744T + Sound Devices MixPre-D. And I always have my Sony PCM-D100 with me. The Mics I mostly use are RODE NTG-3, NT2000, NT1-A and Beyerdynamic MC950, MC836 and MC930 and a Brauner VM-1 in the studio.
My main DAW is Steinberg Nuendo 7 and RX5 Advanced + TwistedWave for Audio Editing. For Music Production and also Sound Design I use Presonus Studio One 3. But I also have and use Pro Tools 12, Ableton Live and Adobe Audition.
For monitoring I rely on my Event Opal Speakers and Beyerdynamic DT-1770 Pro and DT-880 Pro Headphone.
Is there a basic effect chain you use on sound effects?
No, it varies from project to project and from sound to sound. But there are some tools that appear most of the time. Like:
iZotope RX Final Mix and Ozone 6 Advanced, Fabfilter Pro-Q2, Waves Vitamine, Rbass, LoAir, MaxxBass, C4, Celemony Melodyne 4, SynchroArts ReVoice Pro 3, Ohmforce Ohmicide, many plugins from Sugar Bytes, NI Transient Master, Blue Cat Audio MB-7, Zynaptiq Unveil, D16 Sigmund, Audioease Altiverb 7, zPlane Elastique Pitch 2 and a huge collection of Softube Plugins.
Field Recording is always a special occasion to your environment and the people around you. What was the craziest story you experienced while recording?
Well there is no really crazy story. But no matter where I place a mic or stand there holding a mic / recorder, there’s always at least one person that approaches me with questions like „what are you doing there“ or „what are you filming“ (with mics, wtf). Sometimes I get send away (mostly not very nicely, as if anybody would have anything to say that I wouldn’t delete in post anyway :D).
Mostly elder people are really interested and not that sceptical. And it’s always fun to contact companies on the phone asking to record in their facilities. Meanwhile most employes from the junk yards around Ludwigsburg are sort of like friends 😀
What do you think is the advantage of using sound libraries from the perspective of a sound designer and what makes a sound library special/evocative?
I use many sounds from sound effect libraries myself (Pro Sound Effects – Hybrid Library, Sound Ideas – General HD Combo) when doing sound design for film or other projects. In most cases it’s not possible (due to budget and/or time) to record or create each sound by yourself/from scratch. They are also great for inspiration and to create something new by combining/layering sounds from libraries with own recordings. I mean a musician doesnt build a new unique instrument for each song either.
Especially since the Independent Sound FX commnity is growing so fast, there are so many great, new sound libraries. One is not bound only to the huge sound libraries from the big companies like Sound Ideas or Hollywood Edge (but still they are a great). It’s a lot more variety of sounds to choose from. And it’s no problem to buy some new smaller sound packs for each job. As I said before, I can’t got out two days. Rent a sports car and record it with like eight mics just to get the sounds for an Image Film or commercial.
Of course sound libraries can’t and should’t be the only source for sound effects. Very often it’s crucial to record sounds that fit exactly for an action in a film or video game.
Footsteps for example should be recorded synchornously by a Foley Artist since it’s such a apin in the ass to place and align pre-recorded footsteps one by one.
For most people its hard to imagine a field recordist’s life. Can you describe a typical day of work?
That’s not that easy to describe since there is no typical day of work. It’s the variety. One day I am out in the field, in the city or maybe in a forest or a junk yard. The next day I am in the studio editing sounds or I am sitting in a beergarden updating my website. And I’m also giving workshops or teaching several audio-related topics to audio- and film-students at SAE Institute.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
It’s exactly what I wrote above. It’s not just one thing that I enjoy. The diversity of all different tasks. Working with many different people and companies all over the world. I couldn’t imagine doing the same day by day. And beeing my own boss (in most cases) is great too. This doesn’t make it easier – on the contrary – it requires a lot more discipline. Especially when it comes to something like metadata sound libraries.
If I had to choose I’d say I most enjoy the fieldrecording and sound-editing/-design part (and giving interviews of course :D)
You’ve done several tracks by the use of sound effects. In your eyes, what is special about the use of sound effects as a part of musical productions?
I think it’s a great possiblity to extend the sonic spectrum. This doesn’t mean that a track has to be created only using sounds effects but it always adds a nice organic texture. Especially when a song is made fully “in the box“.
With today’s tools like Celemony Melodyne 4, NI Kontakt and Reaktor (or Sampling anf Granular Synthesis in general) or iZotope Iris 2 and Breaktweaker it’s so easy to create very interesting rhythmic sequences, versatile pads and soundscapes from just anything and tune them harmonically.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/56399841″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/231057193″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
How do you plan your work? Do you first finish a project before beginning another, or do you record several projects simultaneously?
I only do some rough planning when it comes to my sound effects libraries. Whenever I have an idea for a new library i’m writing it to a list or mindmap. Then I check where the required sounds can be reocorded and ask for permission (if needed) or where I can get the objects that I need for creating the sounds.
I often work on several libraries at once, depending on when it is possible to record the appropriate sounds.
So I have several sessions in my “Work in Progreass“ folder. As soon as I think that I have enough sounds for a new sound effects pack I start with the cleaning and editing and/or sound design. In this phase I mostly concentrate only on that particular pack unless there comes any unforseen recording opportunity.
Having thousands files on your hard drive is often hard to coordinate. Can you share tips about organising sound libraries as a user?
All sound effects (about 200.000 files, third party and my own) are organized on an external Thunderbolt harddrive (with additional Backups on two other drives. The SoundBits libraries are also on the local harddrive of my macbook. Then there is the already mentioned “Work in Progress“ and additional folders for uncategorized recordings. For example recordings that were created for other projects or random fieldrecordings that might come in handy once or could be extended to a new library.
All sound effects can be easily accessed with the Nuendo Media Bay or Soundly. These are search engines which allows one to search and edit metadata. Especially Soundly comes to action more and more frequently. Without such tools it’s nearly impossible to find the right sound in the blink of an eye. The most popular search engine for this is Sound Miner. Also Basehead and Library Monkey are great.
Are there any advices for people who are new to Field Recording and want to start recording sounds?
I think the most important part is that you really have to love what you do. Like in most creative fields. It’s a lot of fun but also a big fucking lot of work. There are also parts that are really annoying but that have to be done too.
You should also perfectly know your gear. This applies to microphones and their characteristics, recorders, cables and connectors, FX and DAW. Learn at least the analog and digital audio theory basics.
Listen carefully to your environment. There are so many great sounds that are ignored. This also applies to sounds that appear when you try to record something else like a distant highway or plane crossing when you try to record e.g. a quiet ambience in a forest for a medieval movie.
Don’t save money on the wrong things like too cheap recorders and mics. On the other side don’t waste money on things you don’t really need. Train your ears and use every second for practicing.
For more information about Saro check his channels