Recording sound affects can be lots of fun, and the results are limited only by your imagination. You can set out to capture natural sounds that surround us in our environment, or you can use your own clever approach to create unique sound affects.
Keep in mind that if a sound is easy to get, it’s likely already available on most microstock sites. So if you’re recording sounds to sell as microstock, try to create sounds that are new and different from what’s already out there. These will be more likely to attract the attention of potential buyers.
Some environment sounds like traffic, car horn, wind, birds, and home appliances are pretty easy to get. And some require more planning, patience, or luck, such as sirens, unique animal calls, and construction sounds. Creating your own sounds often takes experimenting with different props to hear the results. Some more common examples of using props to create sounds include coconut halves to make the sound of horses clopping, wadding up cellophane to make the sound of crackling fire, or using an old chair or door to get a great creaky sound.
No matter what type of sound effect you set out to record, the following basic tips will be important to getting the best results you can.
- Use a good quality microphone or recorder. The quality of the sound you capture can only be as good as the equipment you’re using. Your recording situation will determine what type of mic set-up you’ll need. If you’re recording outdoors, a high-quality hand-held recorder with good stereo mics might be all you need. I use the Zoom H4 for my sound effects away from home, and there are several other good units on the market as well. The Zoom H4 also allows me to add my higher quality external mic when recording at home.
- Avoid any background music. Anything with even faint music in the background such as at a restaurant or store, will not be usable for microstock because this music is copyrighted. I always make myself aware of this as a first step, because it’s often easy to overlook ambient music when you’re concentrating on your specific sound.
- Minimize unwanted background noise. Unless you’re going for an ambient sound like traffic or a carnival where background noises enhance your sound effect, do your best to remove or reduce background noises. If you’re recording at home, close your windows and move away from a humming computer or refrigerator. Do your recording in a room where the sound is most dampened. I use a walk-in closet that has clothing hanging all around me dampening the sound in all directions.
- Avoid wind. When shooting outdoors, be sure to shelter your mic from wind. Wind will absolutely make a recording unusable. Some hand-held recorders and mics come with a wind protector. If the wind picks up unexpectedly and you don’t have a wind protector, you can always cover your mic with a sock or mitten.
- Monitor the sound. Set the recording levels to be as hot as possible, without clipping or overloading the microphone. Wear headphones so you can listen to exactly what your recorder is picking up. This will allow you to make needed adjustments right then and there.
Have you tried creating sound effects? What equipment do you use? Let us know with a comment below.