by N. Halpern
The Sony Pictures Sound Effects Series is a ten-volume collection of sound effects, foley, and sound design elements. This wide-ranging collection takes its material directly from the vaults of Sony Pictures Entertainment; unsurprisingly, the quality of the material is uniformly top notch. Besides being a nice potential additional to a sound designer or mixer’s arsenal, this is also an excellent commercial library for quick access for editors, producers, theater producers, and even composers (more on that later) who need to take sound matters into their own hands. The disc breakdown is as follows:
Animals / Natural Elements
Home & Office / Impacts / Weapons & Explosions
Vintage Cartoon / Sports & Recreation / Vocals & Wallas
Fantasy / Sci-Fi / Horror
Explosions / Combat / Weaponry
Backgrounds / Weather
Period Effects: Devices / Backgrounds / Combat
Period Effects: Vehicles
This collection is variously comprised of each of the key elements of sound design: background/ambience and foley. All sonic aspects of everyday life (city, country, or suburbs), are covered, as are the various sonic components of cinematic action and adventure. Furthermore, various period ambiences and effects are presented, allowing for great flexibility vis-a-vis both contemporary and period productions.
The first key element in sound design is background/ambience. The diversity of this collection allows one to layer a variety of backgrounds/ambiences to create a properly dynamic sound for the needs of a given scene. For instance, “Suburban Street Quiet” from the Volume 8 collection of “Backgrounds” might be paired with “Wind Medium” from the Volume 1 collection of “Natural Elements.”
The second element is foley, and the various foley effects contained herein are fun, lively, and diverse. On the more dramatic side of things, you have a wide range of explosions, and violent impacts (“Bullet Body Hit,” “Sword Impact Through Flesh,” “Explosion Glass Debris”). On the other hand, you have all manner of animal, vehicle, home (i.e. doors, phones), and even office sounds.
The quality and diversity of these sounds allows for all sorts of creative uses in other types of audio productions outside of traditional film mixing and sound design. For instance, I was recently tasked with creating a series of musical “soundscapes” for a live theater performance/installation. For the different scenes, I layered long musical tones with some of the evocative ambiences contained in this collection (various winds, rumbles, fire sounds), to create abstract, evocative sound environments. To create a more unsettled atmosphere for one scene, I looped and processed various “violent” sounds (glass breaking, body-stabbings, etc), which bubbled up here and there in the music. By post-processing them and integrating them low in the mix, they no longer read as natural/literal foley sounds, but their visceral impact could nonetheless be experienced by the audience, albeit in subtler form.
These sounds can also be of use for beatmakers, songwriters, and music producers looking to expand their sound palette. Using sound effects as part of a song’s percussion bed is a time-honored traditions in recorded music, from the register and coins in Pink Floyd’s “Money” to the gunshots of any number of 90s hip hop tracks. This collection contains hundreds of sounds ripe for processing and looping for such purposes. A less literal, more expressive approach can be taken as well. For one recent project, a colleague and I used employed various natural sounds to serve as part of an overall percussion bed. By replacing the snare, hi-hat, and kick in a given beat with natural sounds, one can create a potentially infinite number of unique rhythm tracks.
The Sony Pictures Sound Effects Series is a wonderful addition to the tool-kit of anybody seeking to make creative use of sound.