SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — The sound designers who make our videogames, plays, movies, television shows, and so on face a Herculean task when it comes to finding the right door slams, thunderclaps, and so on: They have to trawl through massive sonic databases looking just the right scream or creaky door sound, to enhance scenes on all of those mediums, in real-time. This not only takes a really long time, but all that listening fatigues their hearing, which makes the job even harder.
As with many tedious tasks, technology can come to the rescue — this time, in the form of an app being created this weekend at Music Hack Day Sydney, called “freeScreeeaaam!!!!!!”
“The plan is to pull audio from FreeSound — it’s like SoundCloud but for sound effects,” said sound designer and indie developer Stephan O’Hara. “If you’re a sound designer, it’s great, but the problem is that you look for a door slam sound or the sound of a cityscape, there are probably a couple hundred. I’m going to filter those and have a little search engine, so you can say ‘collect 50 water bottle sounds’… so that rather than listening to all 50 sounds, you can have them in a particular order depending on their sound quality.”
His app, which uses a nascent API from FreeSound that O’Hara discovered around 3am during his all-night hackathon, takes into account timbre, pitch, volume, density, and other factors, essentially providing an extra set of artificial ears to aid sound designers in their quest for sound effects and foley. And as with many of the most interesting technologies, it’s primarily designed to solve a problem faced by its creator.
“It’s for me,” added O’Hara. “I’m a sound designer for theater shows. It’s also for game designers. If you’re going through a big sound library — people now make collections of sticks breaking, or footsteps, hundreds of them footsteps on all sorts of surfaces — it can be quite tedious to go through all of that material. If we can use some of these tools, because they are so fast and can do quite good analysis, you can filter them down to a size that is more friendly for you and your ears. Because the more you listen, they way you hear changes, and you’re affected by it.”
To use the app, a sound designer would start with one sound that’s in the ballpark of what they’re looking for, and then have the app play samples that are higher or lower in pitch, longer or shorter, and so on, until they find the one that’s right for their videogame, theater production, or television show. It’s a fine application of technology, which after all, should aim to free humans from the tedium of rote processes.
Read Evolver.fm’s full coverage of Music Hack Day Sydney.