Preserving the Sound of the Pacific Northwest: A New Kickstarter Project


Well, it’s been a busy week for community projects. A few days ago I mentioned Paul Col’s new collaborative CrowdsourceSFX website. Barely a day later, a new crowdfunded sound fx project launched: The Northwest Soundscapes Project.

The year-long project, led by field recordist and sound designer Andy Martin, aims to capture 15–30-minute long 96 kHz quad ambiences from 72 distinct locations across the Pacific northwest at various times during the day. Interestingly, Martin plans to include impulse responses from each location as well.

The project is already well underway, having gathered over $2,500 out of a $9,450 goal. If you’re interested in nature ambiences, preserving the sound of northwest America, or want to grow your sound library, check out the project. Here’s the link to The Northwest Soundscapes Project Kickstarter page.

Learn more about the project in an interview on the A Sound Effect blog.


As field recordists, we all know that venturing out of the studio to capture sound effects takes thought, effort, and skill. Weather, network demands, and milestone deadlines highlight another challenge: time. Superior field recordings are diligent and comprehensive; neither aspect can be rushed. That’s a shame, since sound fx editing becomes easier when pros have multiple variations of similar sound clips. It just isn’t possible for a single recordist to gather ample variety on the tight schedules that are becoming more common in pro audio. So, how can someone stretched for time beat this problem?

One increasingly popular way is crowdsourcing. This approach combines the efforts of an entire community of skilled pros to create something bigger than a single field recordist can accomplish themselves.

Field recordist and sound designer Tim Prebble was one of the first sound pros to champion a crowdsourced sound fx collection. That became the respected "Doors" sound library of 2010.

Since then, there have been a number of other fx-themed crowdsourced projects: René Coronado’s trolley library and the Free Firearms library by Still North SoundFX used Kickstarter to help overcome the financial hurdles of creating a sound collection. Both Mike Niederquell’s Audible Worlds forum and Michael Maroussas’s The Sound Collectors Club draw from community submissions to create theme-based sound libraries. Just recently a new crowdsourced library website was launched with a compelling twist: CrowdsourceSFX.

Today’s article will explore this community project and its website. The post will explain how you can become involved in this intriguing new crowdsourced sound library, and how it can keep giving back to collaborators, years after their first upload.

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Nature Oasis

Early last month we met a fascinating sound recordist. Peter Handford was was a pioneer of the craft of field recording. The post focused on one of his most notable accomplishments: documenting the vanishing sounds of steam trains. He is deeply respected for the breadth of sound he gathered of a subject few of us will ever hear in person again.

Every day new technologies make older ones extinct. What other sounds are at risk? Only last month the Western Black Rhino was considered extinct. The World Wildlife Fund lists dozens of endangered animals. Without care, these animals, as well as the sounds they make, will be at risk.

One organization has dedicated itself to preserving sounds like these: the British Library. Its Wildlife and Environmental Sound Archive gathers, catalogs, and shares bird, animal, and atmospheric nature sounds from across the globe. Wildlife sounds curator Cheryl Tipp has the important task of managing these field recordings.

I’ve been curious about the British Library’s Sound Archive for quite some time. I reached out to Cheryl Tipp to see if she would like to speak about her work and the archive itself. She kindly agreed.

So, today we have a very special Q&A. Cheryl Tipp provides a fascinating look at documenting, preserving, and sharing sound recordings from the archive. She shares special clips from the archive, insight on bird and wildlife recordings from the collection, as well as bonus advice: tips to help you record wildlife sounds and organize a sound library collection of your own.

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The last article introduced a new sound design tool: Sound Particles. That post presented a quick look at the new granular spatialization software, as well as a bonus interview with its creator, professor Nuno Fonseca of Portugal.

That scratched the surface of the new sound design tool. Want to know more? You’re in luck. Continue Reading…

Sound Particles Screen Shot 1

Imagine you are sitting in the darkness of a mixing theatre. You’re attending a spotting session for a television series. The current episode features a gun battle. The director stops the playback and shares notes for a World War II flashback-style sequence. He is imagining a sound design tableau of explosions.

As the director explains, it begins to dawn on you what he wants: a dramatic swell of hundreds of explosions that surround the listener in a 5.1 soundscape.

You begin planning the edit in your mind. You’ll need to find and cut each explosion, spread them out on dozens of tracks, then pray there’s enough time in the premix to place them around the soundstage.

You glance at the calendar. You feel your stomach drop. The episode is due in two days. You just won’t have enough time.

Thankfully, there’s software that can solve this problem simply and creatively, in only a few minutes. Today I’ll share details about the software and tips for using it, as well as interview with its creator.

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Steam Train

Imagine you walk into work one day and discover you’ve been assigned to edit a television series based in the 1970s. The picture hasn’t arrived yet, so you spend the morning browsing your sound effect libraries. Will you have the proper police sirens, telephone sounds, or vehicle clips suitable for the period?

I had been thinking about this while watching the second season of Fargo. That’s based in the 1970s as well, and I wondered how the editors dealt with cutting authentic sound for that time. We’ll see an answer to that in the coming weeks. For now, though, the concept came with an interesting coincidence. Last week blog reader Martin wrote to me about British sound recordist Peter Handford.

Handford (1919 – 2007) was a pioneer of film sound, having worked with Sidney Lumet, Alfred Hitchcock, and Sydney Pollack. It was his collaboration with the latter director that earned him both a BAFTA and an Academy Award for his work on Out of Africa.

In addition to his mastery of production sound duties, Handford also dedicated his life to a fascinating mission: a urgent race to record the sound of steam trains before they vanished from British railways.

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Best Posts of 2015

Earlier this year I created a series of “best of” posts. The idea was to wrangle the growing amount of posts here on the blog with a snapshot of articles I thought would be the most useful to others.

I released one of these for each year the blog has been live: 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. That managed to catch up on 230 articles and almost 300,000 (!) words.

After all, even though there’s an archive page and a site map, the WordPress blog structure makes it cumbersome to sift through endless columns of posts. It’s also helpful for me to plan sound effects recording, writing, and exploring creativity for the year ahead.

I plan to continue with this tradition by recapping a selection of posts on the last Wednesday of every year. So, today I’ll share a selection of articles picked from throughout 2015.

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Sound Effects Article Roundup 6 - Hero

It’s been a while since I wrote a sound effects article roundup. Here are some articles about sound fx that I found interesting, and you may, too.

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Auto racing sound fx are some of the most difficult clips to capture. Last week’s post shared my experiences capturing field recordings at the Honda Indy and the Canadian Grand Prix.

Are you interested in recording sounds at a sporting event? Wondering how to work in a challenging environment? Want to inject personality into sound subjects you don’t control?

Today’s post shares tips for recording your own motorsports sound fx.

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