Basic Outdoor Sound Effect Library Recording and Editing Checklist

Pre-Production

First up, decide what you wish to record and try to organize what you can in advance. Setting up a sound book might sound overkill, but will give you a great understanding of what you need to achieve your goals and will help you staying productive when actually recording. Things I like to arrange during this stage are:

  • Sound Book listing assets I wish to record
  • Microphones and recorders I am planning to use
  • Any other gear or props I should bring
  • Setting up my equipment to make sure everything is operational
  • Selecting a suitable location
  • Preparing low noise and location appropriate clothing

Recording

  • At the beginning or end of every take, leave a healthy chunk of noise floor. This will help you out in de-noising your files later on. When recording outdoors, birds, cars and other sources like body movement can negatively impact this, so be mindful of your surrounding and make sure you got enough empty ambience.
  • Get into the habit of naming your takes before recording. This makes editing and naming later on easier and helps you organize your performances.
  • While recording, try not to change either gain level or microphone position, as it can make it harder to quickly de-noise and categorize your takes. If you wish to re-position and gain your mics, finish your take and start a new one with the desired configuration. Extra points for calling the changes at the beginning of the take 😉
    • Sometimes you wont have a choice but to adjust on the fly to avoid losing or ruining great material. My point above mainly focuses on increasing productivity in editing and executing recording sessions.
    • The level of gain you set itself depends on the type of microphone and recorder you use, and the type of sound you record. In general I try making sure to hit a usable level of gain without clipping, while leaving a bit of headroom for future processing.
    • Microphone placement depends on the type of sound you are recording as well, for detailed and clean recordings with a lot of punch, the closer the better. Be aware however that impacts and debris can hit your microphone or create rumble, so make sure you are hitting the correct distance.
  • Be aware that airplanes, cars and some bird songs can be incredibly hard/impossible to remove from your recordings, so pay extra attention to your environment and pause a take if need be.
  • When recording performances such as movements, impacts and foley, make sure to leave silence between your takes. I ruined many recordings by punching/whooshing away rapidly without leaving enough tail for the sound to breath and fade out. Being consistent and controlled here will again be super helpful when editing later on.

Editing

After finishing the recordings, I usually follow this editing workflow:

  • Import files, leave raw recordings backed up in your archive (Backup Drive, NAS, etc.)
  • First pass De-noising using RX (alt. Reaper Reafir)
    • This step hugely benefits from gain consistency and a usable noise floor on each take, as you should be able to just analyze a clean section of noise using RX’s Spectral De-noise or Reaper’s Reafir and extract the noise from your recording. The required amount of passes and settings depend on the amount of background noise and other individual factors, but in general I use these settings (Reduction amount depending on level of noise)
  • Editing and Arrangement
    • Once the files are de-noised, I import them into Reaper and start to spot my usable takes, arranging different types of sounds on individual tracks while leaving markers with take descriptions. This will be helpful for Metadata injection on Export. Don’t hold on to material here, if something sounds unusable, ban it to the end of your session and move on.
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  • Once all takes are faded, edited and arranged, I group the takes into regions while making sure my metadata description markers are included, and export. Reaper’s Metadata tool is incredibly helpful here, see settings below.
  • Naming your regions after the final filename saves you further troubles, the naming scheme I usually follow is:

LIBRARY NAME – SOUND CATEGORY – Sound Type – Performance Type – MIC USED
FOREST FOLIAGE IMPACT Tree Trunk Drop Hard USIPRO

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After the files are rendered out, I usually follow up with another RX pass of Spectral Repair, De-noising, De-clipping or anything else that might be needed individually. It is worth mentioning though that RX seems to clear metadata information when simply saving and overwriting the file you are working with, so make sure you export into a new folder when doing this. Alternatively you can use tools like MP3Tag to quickly batch edit Metadata.

Lastly it can be fun to create a set of designed impacts, whooshes and whatever else you can think of, using only your new Library you just created. Go nuts with processing chains and see what you can get out of your source while creating some truly original material for your next project 🙂

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