Unsolicited Advice: Panning for Gold in Your Sound Effects Library

Unsolicited Advice is a series of posts reflecting this sound designer’s views and may not reflect the views of other sound designers. Reader discretion is advised. 

I often find myself creating custom effects as well as discovering hidden gems deep within my library. Sometimes I will go to look for a specific sound and stumble upon an awesome sound which is so randomly labeled, I know I will never be able to find it again. Now maybe you have a photographic memory or an astounding talent for remembering trivial file names. If so, this post probably isn’t for you. But if you’re like me, and memory just isn’t what it used to be, here’s a bit of advice on how I handle labeling my library.

Custom File Codes

My solution is a system of codes which stand for different types of sounds. Whooshes become WSH, Special Effects SPFX and so on. The key here is to create labels that will NOT show up in your average search. For example, the code CART for cartoony effects is beside the point because any effect with ‘cartoon’ in the name will show up when you type CART in your search window. With me so far? I’d list all my personal codes but I think it’s best to pick ones you think you personally will remember. If you can’t remember your codes, all that work re-labeling is kind of a waste of time (I put up a sticky note with a key for the codes for the first 6 months or so to help me remember).

Exclusivity (like a VIP room for your best sounds)

I reserve this labeling system for custom sound effects as well as any extra special sounds I find in my library. And that’s the key. If you were to label everything in your library this way you’d be back where you started. The idea is to narrow your search down to the best sounds.

Now, why are we doing this?

This library method comes in handy for me whenever I need that extra bit of oomph in a sound effects build. Search with a code, find a killer sound. That’s the basic idea. However, this method is especially useful for cutting effects in a time crunch. I need an awesome whoosh and I only have 2 minutes before my clients arrive! My library is just too big to comb through right now. Well, you could search frantically and pull your hair out like one of those FAIL scenes from an infomercial (you know the ones, when it suddenly switches to black and white). Alternatively, you could search WSH. Now you’ve got only a handful of whooshes to pick from that you personally have deemed worthy of this special code. Problem solved. And as a final added benefit, once you have added the appropriate code into their file name, all of those great sound effects with super random names can actually be found and used again!

You didn’t ask for it, but you got it. What do you think of this unsolicited advice?

Image from the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County.

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One thought on “Unsolicited Advice: Panning for Gold in Your Sound Effects Library

  1. Doy..this is a brilliant idea. I’ve amassed a large collection (but not large enough!) of sound effects which makes it difficult to find “that one” that I’m looking for.
    I’ll need to look into this… meanwhile my search for clean versions of the classic hanna barbera gobots/filmation motu laser effects continues.

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