Industrial Rhythms: How we create our foley packs (process, plugins, hardware, etc.)

Since first releasing our packs, I've gotten a lot of questions regarding our process. Today, I want to share with you how we put together our newest library, Industrial Rhythms.

For those who haven't checked it out yet, Industrial Rhythms is a huge foley project we put together. A free sampler download is available here.

In this post, I'm going to go through:

  • Our process of recording, editing, processing, and a organizing our packs.

  • The gear and plugins in we use to take rough gathered sound to polished samples.

  • Mistakes we've made in the past, and how to avoid them yourself to save time and energy.

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If you take the time to check it out, I'd love to know if it was at all helpful or inspiring. Please reach out and let me know what you think (byron@sistinesound.com). Sistine Sound is built on feedback from our supporters, and every opinion matters.

If you're thinking about creating your own sample packs, or just want a deeper look into the process for creating ours, I hope this scratches that itch.

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The Concept


Coming off of Nature's Rhythm (our previous foley project, a sample library captured from Nature), we wanted to push ourselves to do something a little different. The idea for this pack was to capture a library of grungy, rough and industrial samples, that could be used as interesting percussion layers in our tracks. With this spark of inspiration, we decided we were going to check out abandoned buildings, factories and garages in our area. Opening this pandora's box began one of the most fun projects we've put together thus far.

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After a 10 minute trudge through the woods, the horizon opens to the gorgeous sight of an abandoned factory grounds. This was my favorite spot to record. Fort Orange used to be a small-town paper processing plant. It has been shut down for 14 years, and has since become a haven for beautiful graffiti and mischievous deeds.... and sound design, apparently.

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The Recording Process

After getting there, we found SO much material to record. The factory grounds is made up of several buildings, which allowed for a super wide variety of recording material. We could have made 10 packs from this location alone. From huge bricks, to glass, chains, metal, & rusted pipes, we began smashing and stomping everything in sight.

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As our field recorder for this project, we used our handy Zoom H1. This is my favorite device to record field recordings with, simply for the quality of the recordings and the portability of the device. I recommend anyone who is interested in building their own sound libraries to start here.

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When recording samples, there are a couple things I like to keep in mind.

Firstly, I always try to be mindful of ambient noise in the area. Due to the nature of recording in the field, things aren't going to be perfect, but I do my best to keep an ear out for obnoxious birds, bellowing sirens, brewing winds, etc. Avoiding these things will save you tons of heartache down the line.

Secondly, I'm always playing with the distance between the microphone and the given sound source, as well as the input volume. This is something that you can experiment with for yourself, but I like to vary these things to get a few different takes that I can play with when I'm back to the workstation.

Finally, being mindful of what you play to do with specific recordings is crucial. To give some context, when recording previous projects, we made A TON of mistakes that we could have never predicted would end up hurting us. For example, when recording one-shots, we would let one longgggg take run as we gathered 50-100 one-shots. This became a huge pain when bringing the audio back for processing, forcing us to meticulously comb through and chop huge files of mixed sounds. With this in mind, we were much more deliberate with our recording for this project. We made sure to limit audio files to like-sounding one-shots, of only about 4-5. This saved soooo much time down the line at processing.

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Chopping

Chopping the audio is pretty self explanatory, but it is often the longest and most labor intensive part of these projects. This involves combing through the raw audio gathered from recording, and creating individual files for each one-shot. For our projects, we use Maschine as our DAW of choice, thought any DAW will work. Though I may be biased, as I'm a card-wielding Maschine fan-boy, I think Maschine has huge advantages for projects like this, as it's built simply and intuitively for chopping and bouncing audio files.

Below is a before and after of what chopping and tweaking the audio looks like.

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In the before image, we have a raw audio file, completely untouched. I first took the very first one-shot in that recording, and isolated it by cutting the excess audio. Depending on the nature of the sound you have, and your preference, you can leave as much of a run up and tail as you think is necessary. For this sound, I wanted a little time ahead and after the hit. I tightened up the selected area, fading the front in and the end out, to remove any implosives. I then normalized the file, to bring the amplitude of the sound wave to the desired level. This allows the sample to be louder, while maintaining the signal-to-noise ratio and relative dynamics.


Processing

The processing for this project was straight-forward, and is something we've refined over previous projects we've done. In our grand search for the perfect plugin to take away ambient/background noise, our bread and butter has become the Noise Suppressor 1 plugin, by Waves.

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This is a really simple to use plugin, as there's only one knob, that allows you to filter out any background noise that you pick up in your recordings. The degree we applied varied for each sample. If you use too much, you begin to take away from the character of the sample. If you use too little, you will still hear background bleed.

For this project, we decided to leave other effects to the side, as many of you guys just requested the dry samples for your own application of FX. Typically, we like to EQ and reverb the samples, but we won't go into that in this breakdown.


Bouncing and Organizing


This is one of the final steps in every pack we create, and one of the most time consuming as well. While bouncing each individual sample, we try to have an idea for how we want the final pack to be organized. This is more of an art than a science, and grouping like-sounding samples to create cohesive folders is a bit tricky. We definitely have a long way to go on this front. With that said, if we have a group of sounds that are all derived from glass, we will simply bounce them as 'Glass 01,' 'Glass 02,' and so on. To avoid renaming every file individually, we found this awesome software that helps us with this process.

Here is how an example group would look, in a particular folder, before renaming;

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Using Advanced Renamer Portable, you simply drag and drop all of your files in, and use different methods on the left-hand side. The methods include adding, removing, replacing, and several others. With this, I simply wanted to add our Sistine Sound - Industrial Rhythms prefix (for easy sample location and recovery), as well as mark it as DRY samples (no effects). 

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Wa-laaa, all of the files are renamed. 

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Conclusion


Here's a look at the final folder structure of our pack;

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This pretty much concludes how we put together our newest pack, Industrial Rhythms. This process is by no means perfect. I'm sure it will evolve as we continue to create, but I wanted to give those who are interested in creating their own packs an idea of what goes into making them.


I hope this was helpful or interesting for you guys. I'd love to know what you thought. Would you like to see a similar walk-through of our melodic packs as well? Shoot me an email and let me know.


Until next time,
Byron