Welcome to our 2020 Sustainability Report! Here we give an update on how 2020 went for Freesound in terms of sustainability, and present our plans for 2021. You’ll see that most of the information is very similar to previous years’ posts, but still, we think that this will be interesting for you. As usual, the report is split in a number of sections discussing specific aspects that contribute to the sustainability of Freesound, and a final section with a summary, conclusions and future perspectives.
Sound uploads are an essential part of the sustainability of Freesound. Now that Freesound is reaching 500k sound uploads, it becomes even clearer its immense value, making Freesound an extremely useful resource, attracting many new users every year (both downloaders and uploaders) and certifying the world-wide impact of the Freesound website. Such a big impact is also a great motivation for the research we (and others) carry out around Freesound, and for helping us obtain funding to support it. In 2020, 46,441 new sounds were uploaded. That number is quite similar to previous years (check the evolution of total number of sounds uploaded from the 2020 in numbers blog post). Other related statistics of activity around sounds (ratings, comments, posts) also feature numbers similar to previous years. All in all, we can conclude that Freesound follows a stable (and healthy!) trend in terms of sound uploads.
Contribution from UPF
Freesound is an initiative of the Music Technology Group, a research group of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain. In 2020, the UPF contributed to Freesound similarly to previous years. UPF provides the necessary IT infrastructure and basic maintenance (15 servers, 4 TB monthly data bandwidth, IT support staff). As we calculated for the past edition of the sustainability report, the expected cost of such infrastructure if Freesound was hosted in external services (such as Amazon Web services or similar), would be over 20,000€/year (only for hosting costs). Researchers from the university also dedicate time to Freesound related activities (either research, development or administration) and are paid by the university. In 2021, we plan to move all our servers to a new infrastructure also provided by UPF. This should allow us to deploy a much faster and stable Freesound, and solve some of the availability and speed issues we’ve been experiencing in the last year. As you can see, the contribution from UPF is huge, and it is only thanks to the combination of the different aspects discussed in this post that Freesound is sustainable.
Contribution from research grants
Research is at the very core of the Freesound philosophy and, in fact, it is where it all started. We have carried out lots of research activities around Freesound (see some details below), but in 2020 we did not get any new big research grant with a primary role for Freesound (like the AudioCommons project that we coordinated a few-years ago). However, we recently received a 36,000$ grant from the Grant for the Web call to experiment with the application of Web Monetization technologies in the Freesound Licensing project that we’re starting and discussed in a previous blog post. This is funding for development of a prototype, and so it’s not like the projects that we normally do, but we still consider it a research grant. If you’re interested in learning about the research that happens around Freesound (i.e. using Freesound data) not only at the MTG but also around the world, be sure to check the papers section of the Freesound Labs website. But, summarizing, the main research activities that we carried out in 2020 in relation to Freesound are:
Further development of the FSD50k dataset and publication.
Further development and maintenance of Essentia, the audio analysis library that powers Freesound sound analysis.
Research on methods for automatically classifying audio events.
Research on the analysis of urban soundscape sounds from Barcelona.
Further research on clustering methods to be potentially applied to Freesound search results. This is getting much closer to release now.
Commercial usage of the Freesound API
Freesound has an API endpoint which allows third parties to develop applications that incorporate Freesound content. Usage of this API is free for non-commercial purposes, while commercial use of the API requires a commercial license. In this way we make sure that commercial applications using Freesound also contribute back to the community. Note that this is independent from the license of the sounds themselves, which need to be respected regardless of the API usage agreement. In 2020 we slightly increased the number of license agreements and the income they generate (~3,000€). We spent this money in the same development efforts described in the User donations section above. We’ve observed growing interest for the API so we expect this number to grow in 2021.
Summary and perspectives for 2021
As you can see, in 2020 we improved, in terms of sustainability, compared with previous years. This was been mainly due to the increase in user donations. Thanks to that, we have already started spending more efforts in Freesound development and that will allow us to greatly improve the platform during this year. Freesound is more sustainable than ever, and we have plans to further consolidate our model with the addition of the Freesound Licensing sister-project (which should advance considerably during 2021).
We’d like to finish this post by saying thank you to everyone who contributed to Freesound during 2020, in particular to those who donated and those who uploaded and moderated sounds. We’ll let you know how things go next year in the 2021’s sustainability report.
Welcome again to our traditional year in numbers post in which we give you some statistics about last year’s Freesound activity. As usual, we will show some general statistics similar to those shown in previous years’ posts, and also extend a bit on a specific topic which, in this year’s post, is about… you guessed it… COVID19 and Freesound! But let’s start at the beginning. The number of new sounds uploaded during 2020 was…
46,441 new sounds!
which corresponds to…
772 hours of audio!
That is roughly 5,000 more sounds than 2019, but 30 hours less of audio. This can be explained because the average sound is about 8 seconds shorter compared to sounds uploaded in 2019. I have an idea about why this might be the case, I’ll let you know below.
What about the license distribution for these 46k newly uploaded sounds? Here it is:
Again, this is similar to previous years distribution, and Creative Commons 0 is still by far the most used license. However, the percentage of CC-BY-NC has increased a bit with respect to previous years. We’ll see in coming years if this is indeed a tendency or just normal variations.
With the new additions from 2020, Freesound now currently hosts an amazing total of 483,213 sounds. 🎉 Here is the evolution of the total number of sounds since the beginning of Freesound, and our prediction for the future:
In 2019, our prediction for the number of sounds showed that we would reach the 500k mark at some point in 2020. As you can see we are very close to the 500k mark but we’re still not there. However this was to be expected because, as I explained in previous year post, our prediction was biased by the upload of large sample libraries in previous years.
The topics of the newly uploaded sounds from 2020 can be summarised with the following tag cloud:
The tag cloud is again very similar to last years’ one, with the big tags (field-recording, ambient, synth, music, loop, effect, …) remaining unchanged. However the interesting thing is to look into the the tags that come after those big ones. Last year I found a big number of sounds being uploaded as part of some assignment in an educational programme in The Czech Republic. This year however, the unusually big tags are yamaha-cs80 and cs80 (and some others related to this). This is because user mogigrumbles uploaded a collection of 1,800 samples of the almighty Yamaha CS80 polyphonic analogue synthesiser introduced in mid 70s. Thank you! I think this is the reason why we see the average sound duration to be shorter this year. The CS80 collection of 4 second long samples seems to be affecting our general statistics. And this is actually interesting because it means that, even if Freesound is huge, individual contributions can still make a big impact on the community.
Here are a few sound examples from the aforementioned sound collection:
And now to another classic statistic from this series of posts: to listen to the whole Freesound recordings would now require 302 days and 20 hours of your life. If any of you is planning on taking a sabbatical year to listen to all Freesound, be ready for a year full of wind, explosions, birds, synthesisers and loops! Ah, and you’ll still get 2-months of vacation after 🙂
Also, those planning a sabbatical, you can take the opportunity to record many sounds so that next year you might enter the rankings of uploaders:
# uploaded sounds
uploaded time (hours)
Thanks everyone for all the contributions, you’re truly making the world a better place upload after upload!
And what about downloads? The number of sound downloads (including packs) during 2020 was…
That’s, again, a new record, 1.7M more downloads than last year:
All in all, users have downloaded more than 171M soundsand packs from Freesound! Here is the cloud of query terms that are used by Freesound users when searching for sounds:
It does not really change from year to year, but it is always nice to see these word clouds right? wind, music, explosion, rain, birds, fire, that’s what people need!
Some extra general statistics: In 2020, you sent 22k messages, wrote 1.1k forum posts and made 65k sound comments (18k more than last year!). Again, very similar numbers to those of 2018. The good news is that sound ratings maintain the increasing tendency of last years, with a total of 214k sound ratings in 2020, 45k more than last year. This is really great! In fact, what all of this seems to indicate is that, even though the number of sound uploads is similar to last year, it looks like there has been more activity around the sounds (ratings, comments, downloads…). I wonder if that is because, for some reason, this year Freesound has had more “casual” visitors. And well, could maybe this be a consequence of COVID19 and lockdowns? Let’s dig into that!
In the plot below you’ll see a comparison of the number of Freesound visitors per month in the last 4 years:
As you can see, in 2020 there have been significantly more visitors than in the previous years, specially during the – almost worldwide – lockdown periods of Spring and Autumn. This makes sense, because some people might all of a sudden have found themselves with more free time and decided to spend it on Freesound. In those cases, we could not be happier to have been able to provide a service in these complicated times 🙂 Furthermore, if we look at the number of donations, we also see that this year we got ~30% more donations than the previous year, which correlates very well with the increase of visitors and suggests that people have found Freesound to be a useful resource for them. Let me take this opportunity to thank again everyone who donates to Freesound and, in general, to everyone who makes it possible!
2020 developed in rather unexpected ways for many people around the world, and 2021 seems to be full of uncertanity as well. However, looking at our stats, we can be quite confident that Freesound will remain strong and that, at some point during 2021, we will definitelysurpass the 500k uploaded sounds mark! That’s it for this year’s post. Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy a 2021 full of sounds 🙂
Welcome to a new community update post! We just realised that we didn’t do any community update posts for the last year 🙁 However, we’ve had some activity in the blog through the guest blog posts (and we’d like to give thanks to the authors!). And well, what a year 2020 has been! Surely not the best of all times. In any case, time has come for a new update about how things are going in the Freesound world. Here is a summary of the things we’ve been working on during the last months and some plans for 2021:
Bug fixes, general maintenance and software updates: as usual, lots of work that happen without any glory but that are necessary to keep Freesound up and running.
New infrastructure: some of you will have noticed that the servers have been misbehaving a little recently, making the upload of large files quite difficult and generating some general slowdowns. The fact is that Freesound continues to grow and our current infrastructure is not easily scalable. In 2021 we’ll start to move Freesound to a new infrastructure that should allow us to scale much better and hopefully get rid of the performance problems we’ve been having this year.
New frontend: We’ve slowly been working on the new interface, but now we have a developer working exclusively on the implementation of the new frontend and we’re finally advancing at a good speed. If we are able to keep working at the same speed, I think it is safe to say that we can expect the new frontend to be finished during the first half of 2021 🙂
New features: we’re also working on new features, and have so many ideas in mind! Together with the new interface, we expect to release a new feature that will perform automatic clustering of search results based on sound similarity. This will provide an alternative facet with which to explore search results and find the sound you’re looking for (maybe that other sound that you were not really looking for but sounds similar and is actually amazing!)
In addition to all of the above, we would like to announce that Freesound has been awarded a Grant for the Web award which will provide us with some funds to explore ideas related to a Freesound-sister project that we call Freesound Licensing. The idea of Freesound Licensing is to provide a service to Freesound uploaders that will allow them to re-license the sounds to 3rd parties that need to use the sounds under terms not allowed by the original Creative Commons licenses. The goal is to provide a solution to the typical problem of someone wanting to use a CC-BY-NC sound from Freesound in a commercial project. Freesound Licensing will mediate between that someone and the sound author to generate a new license in exchange for a payment. This will benefit both uploaders and downloaders, but also, by keeping a small share of the license payments, Freesound Licensing will contribute to the sustainability of Freesound. More news regarding this project will come during 2021.
And that’s it for now, happy new year to everyone!
SIAS stands for “Information System about Sound Art in Colombia” (from the spanish “Sistema de Información sobre el Arte Sonoro en Colombia”). SIAS (http://uan.sainethost.com/) is a project that studies sound art and its cultural development in Colombia. This project was born as a research of the Master’s program in Sound Art (MAS) of the Faculty of Arts of the Universidad Antonio Nariño (UAN), based in Bogotá, and due to internal calls from the Institution and its Vice President Department for Science, Technology and Innovation (VCTI). An important collaborator of this project has been the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (PUJ), in particular the Industrial Design program. SIAS uses Freesound to host and share some of the sounds recorded within the project.
In 2016, a first stage of research was carried out which consisted in characterizing the state of the art of the artistic productions made in Colombia since the 1990s classified as Sound Art. During this process, we collected detailed information about more than 1000 works related to sound, and made 32 interviews to different sound artists who are present in the most relevant artistic circuits of the country, identifying the multiple conceptions of sound art and its relationship with experimental music.
Because the project gathered enough information, we decided to continue with a second stage to create an open information system accessible to the public interested in the field of study. Thus, we established a plan to design, develop and implement a prototype information system about Sound Art in Colombia, as an academic and technological tool for information management. This stage was expanded to the following lines of work:
first, a large database with information about works and artists was created, including information about their circulation, creation, research and education;
second, the creation of a catalog (still in development), which visualizes and disseminates the works of sound art, from a component of joint creation with the artists;
third, the creation of an interactive Colombian sound map allowing to look at the city as an object of study based on listening. This last line of work has been taking advantage of the Freesound platform for the classification, organization and analysis of the soundscape.
Our study of the soundscape has been developing its own methodology through immersion in the city, listening, recording, classifying and analyzing sounds. We use the term sound object (from a Schaefferian perspective) to designate audio recordings that do not exceed 10 seconds, and the term soundscape to designate recordings and sound routes that exceed 10 seconds. We developed an instrument to collect data that allows the basic analysis and classification of each object and soundscape. It was structured based on listening as a mode of knowledge, taking as a reference the types of listening defined by Pierre Schaeffer and Michel Chion: reduced, causal and semantic listening.
We have taken advantage of the visualization of the sound maps from the platform My Maps where we establish routes and categories that classify the sound objects according to the perspective of the landscape recorders. In this way, the categories can vary between animals, machines, voices, background music, vehicles, etc. The following figure shows an example of our soundscape work shown in a sound map:
The purple lines represent the recorded sound routes with a duration greater than 10 seconds (what we denominate soundscapes). Along these routes, you can see icons of different colors, which represent sound objects. On the left side, there is the name of the map with its description: in this case, the city of Bucaramanga, Colombia; below is a list with the exact names of each of the colored icons (sound objects) and the respective categories that classify the sounds on the map.
In this other figure, it is shown that when clicking on each of the colored icons or the routes, a popup appears and shows the name of the sound and the Freesound URL so that the sound record can be listened to (with all the features that the Freesound provides). Here are some maps from Palomino, Bogotá, Ipiales and Pasto that you can check.
The SIAS project, from its soundscape line of work, has registered more than 30 maps of different cities in Colombia: Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Pasto, Palomino, Palmira and Ipiales. The sounds from these maps are uploaded as packs in Freesound, and include a approximately 1273 sounds. All sounds are uploaded under the proyectosonidosias user account. Here you can find the sound packs organized by city.
It is worth mentioning that the soundscape line of research also works from three fronts: the first, takes recordings of city-based sound environments as a study object. Second, it considers a heritage perspective which works on the hypothesis that there are sounds that could be valued by the community, both in the field of sound art and cultural heritage. Thus, not only places cataloged as national cultural heritage are valued, but other places not cataloged as such but that its context has that valuation potential given by communities that recognize it. The last sub-line of work consists in the recording of objects that we call sound artifacts, which highlights the sound artifact as sound matter within usability contexts, from an industrial design perspective. The recordings from this line of work are also hosted in Freesound, in the pack Objeto Sonoro. For this pack, we have started with the bicycle sounds as an initial case of study.
Currently, the SIAS project is developing its own platform as an integrated information system that allows open consultation on sound art in Colombia to all those people interested in sound. Finally, I want to thank the Freesound platform, which has allowed us to work openly with all our sound records and has been the repository hosting all our soundscape audios, facilitating open listening for all our researchers and students who have been interested in the project.
About Jorge Mario Díaz Matajira:
Jorge Mario Díaz Matajira is a University professor and researcher in the areas of education, humanities and arts. Master and specialist in university teaching, and, Professional Musician. Jorge Mario Díaz Matajira is the coordinator and curator of the Master in Sound Art at the Universidad Antonio Nariño in Bogotá, Colombia.
About the SIAS team:
General direction and state of the art: Jorge Mario Díaz Matajira (UAN)
Soundscape: – Expert advisor: Roberto Cuervo Pulido Ph.D., researcher at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (PUJ). – offices outside bogota: Sandra Cecilia Mesa García and Juan Carlos Floyd Llanos (UAN) – Sound Object Sub-line: Juan Fernando Parra Castro (UAN) – Heritage Sub-line: Liliana Fracasso and Bernardo Muñoz (UAN)
May we introduce Barcelona Confinement Soundscape, a collaborative soundmap and soundscape-related network of researchers, artists and neighbors who stay home and actively listen, record and reflect on soundscape during confinement by Covid-19 in Barcelona.
The confinement experience has changed our social practices and soundscapes. It is a turning point that will leave unpredictable consequences and will certainly be the subject of studies and reflections.
It is thus important to document -collectively, but from individual intentions and sensibilities- the sounds and sensory experiences of these days and to promote information exchange network in order to facilitate future discussions and reflections on the cultural and sonic dimension of confinement. We therefore promote an open participation project that collects sounds recorded from the balconies, windows, houses of Barcelona during the confinement by covid19.
In the framework of this project, we are creating a sound map which includes the different listening points of the participants. You can watch it and listen to it here:
We would like this map to become a useful resource for research, teaching and artistic creation; a tool to strengthen networks and exchanges between people and initiatives that work around listening, soundscape and field-recording in Barcelona. If you live in or around Barcelona, pleasebe welcome to join the Barcelona Confinement Soundscape project with one or more recordings, and if you wish, by providing bibliography or other information related to the practice of listening during confinement (link).
In order to appear on the map you must:
Record a sound (or more) from your window/balcony/terrace
In your sound description you can add information about the author, and possible links to texts, websites, social, sound archives and related projects. See examples here and here.
If you already have a Freesound account, you can also simply add the tagsbarcelonaconfinementsoundscape, confinementsoundscape and covid19 to the recordings you upload to your account.
In case you don’t live in Barcelona, you are still very welcome to build or share your confinement soundmap, sounds and packs as well as to get in touch with us and contribute to expand the network of confinement listeners. Make sure you use the the tag covid19 so all confinement sounds will be easy to find 🙂
About Ilaria and Gianni:
Ilaria Sartori is a researcher, teacher, creator and disseminator in ethnomusicology and sound anthropology. She holds a PhD in History and analysis of musical cultures and a MA in Conservation of cultural heritage with a specialization in Intangible heritage. She is professor of Ethnomusicology at Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC) and leads interdisciplinary participative sound workshops for Phonos / MTG focusing on bioacoustics, art and interculturality. She is a member of Sons de Barcelona sound pedagogy team, directs Barceloneta Sonora sound art and anthropology project and collaborates in a variety of cultural, scientific, academic and artistic activities and productions related to sound, music, silence and listening.
Gianni Ginesi is professor of Ethnomusicology at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC) in Barcelona, holds degrees in Art, Music and Drama by the University of Bologna (Italy), Ethnomusicology by the University of Valencia and a PhD by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Formal member of the research group “Les músiques en les societats contemporànies” at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, he worked on some Mediterranean’s musical traditions and on popular electronic music. His researches focus on the relationships between music and society in a historical perspective and through cultural processes and the development of Ethnomusicology, notably its epistemological settings and ethnographic methodologies.
This was a Freesound guest blog post. Do you have any project or something you’d like to share in the Freesound Blog? Let us know using our contact form
Today, 5th of April 2020, is the 15th anniversary of Freesound. Incredible, isn’t it? we couldn’t have imagined, when it all started back in 2005, that Freesound would become such a reference website for sharing Creative Commons sounds, worldwide.
Freesound was created by the Music Technology Group of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, and we’re still the ones developing and taking care of it. Here you can see Bram and me talking about Freesound past, present and future at the BCN Music Technology Forum. But Freesound would be nothing without its community and the more than 445k sounds you all have uploaded. Thanks to everyone. Thanks to the people who record and upload sounds, people who download, people who comment and rate, and even people who spam – they remind us that Freesound is an important place. Well, spammers are not really welcome. Thanks to the moderators who do an amazing job, in a volunteer way. Thanks Sam for taking care of support requests! Thanks to the people who contribute to software development and to the technical support staff from the university. Thanks to the researchers that experiment with Freesound and share it with the world, and also to companies and individuals that use the Freesound API to make great sound applications. Thanks to the donors who give money which helps us cover part of our expenses. Thanks to everyone who says nice things about us on Twitter, and to everyone who complains as well 🙂 Above all, we are especially proud of being able to offer a very useful service to a huge community.
To celebrate the anniversary, you’ll see some balloons and a new temporary banner that appears next to the Freesound logo (thanks Bennett Feely for letting us reuse your balloons animation!). Also you’ll have seen that these days, the random sound of the day, is not so random. Thanks Merlijn Blaauw and Jordi Bonada for creating this nice birthday song for Freesound! We encourage you to upload celebration sounds adding the tag Freesound15Years 🙂 You can also add this tag to an existing sound of yours that you feel representative or special or would like to highlight for the anniversary. We’ll make a new post with your anniversary sounds!
There are so many things we want to do… we’ll keep you posted as new developments happen. Until then, keep on Freesounding!
– frederic, on behalf of the Freesound team
ps: nice logos huh? most of these are tests that the graphical designer of Freesound 2 (the current design) did when designing what was going to be the new look back in 2008. Bottom right is the new official logo which will be released when the new interface is ready. I know, we said in the past that it should have been finished by now and it is still not there, but eventually will come and we’ll all enjoy it 🙂
Last year we started the tradition of publishing a sustainability report to give you an update about how things are going in the Freesound world sustainability-wise, and to give you more insight about how do we work and what makes Freesound possible. This is the second edition of the report, updated for 2019. You’ll notice that most of the information is very similar to previous year’s post but, especially for those who didn’t read the previous edition or don’t know much about Freesound, this should be an interesting read to get to know more about us.
The report is split in a number of sections discussing different aspects that contribute to the sustainability of Freesound, and a final section with a summary and some conclusions.
We believe that a very important aspect of the sustainability of Freesound is the continuous uploading of new sounds by the user community. These sounds bring real value to Freesound and make it a useful resource for many users around the world. Specially good-quality sounds. The fact that Freesound is a valuable resource for many users is what is making the donation campaign a success, and what ultimately enables other types of contributions to the sustainability such as those from the university and from research grants (see below). In 2019, 41,450 sounds were uploaded. We consider this to be one of most important contributions in terms of sustainability. Similarly, other user actions like rating (168,000 new ratings in 2019) and commenting sounds (47,000 new comments), writing forum posts (1,100 forum posts) and doing sound moderation, are very important and also contribute to the sustainability of the platform. For a summary of Freesound user activity during 2019, please check the 2019 in numbers blog post that we recently published.
We spent the donations in the following development tasks:
Improvements in the Freesound platform. For a detailed list of developments check the Community Update blog posts of May, July and December. Also you can check our the development at our source code repository. This year we have been less active in the writing of community updates. This is partially because we have been doing less user-facing development (so lots of optimizations and very technical things), and also because we’ve been spending more efforts in research activities which have not been transformed into Freesound code but that some of them eventually will 🙂
Work on the new Freesound front-end. As I mentioned in a couple of posts this year, we are working on it but things are taking much longer than expected. We’re a very small team and have to divide our time into many activities. New frontend often does not take preference.
Software licenses and cost of services for the help desk (Zendesk), email services (Amazon), maps services (Mapbox), and site monitoring (Site 24×7).
Contribution from UPF
Freesound is an initiative of the Music Technology Group, a research group of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain. In 2019, the UPF has continued contributing to Freesound similarly to previous years. UPF provides the necessary IT infrastructure and basic maintenance (15 servers, 4 TB monthly data bandwidth, IT support staff). As we calculated for the past edition of the sustainability report, the expected cost of such infrastructure if Freesound was hosted in external services (such as Amazon Web services or similar), would be over 20,000€/year for only hosting costs. This price would be about 5,000€/year by using a cheaper dedicated hosting provider, but we would also have to pay additional IT support costs in this case. Also it has to be considered that some people from the university who dedicates some time to Freesound related activities (either research, development or administration) are also paid by the university. Hence, UPF contribution is huge and we could not live without it.
Contribution from research grants
As being part of a university, research is an important element of the Freesound philosophy. During 2019, the amount of income from research grants which could impact Freesound has been drastically reduced, mostly due to the fact that the AudioCommons project finished last year. We are participating in some research grant proposals in which, if granted, Freesound related activities would take place, but this is not known as of today. However, in 2019 we got awarded a new Google Faculty Research Award which partially funded research on the development of a big dataset made with Freesound content (see this blog post). This is a continuation of a line of research that we started around 3 years ago and that had already been awarded a Google Faculty Research Award. Contributions from research grants resulted in:
Further development and maintenance of Essentia, the audio analysis library that powers Freesound sound analysis
Research on methods for automatically classifying audio events.
Further research on clustering methods to be potentially applied to Freesound search results.
Commercial usage of the Freesound API
Freesound has an API endpoint which allows third parties to develop applications that incorporate Freesound content. Usage of this API is free for non-commercial purposes. Nevertheless, the commercial use of the API requires a commercial license. In this way we make sure that commercial applications using Freesound also bring something back to the community. Note that this is independent of the license of the sounds themselves, which need to be respected regardless of the API usage agreement. In 2019 our license agreements generated an income of 2,500€ (same as in 2018), but we are in negotiation phase for a couple for API clients so we hope this number will increase a bit in 2020. We spent this money in the same development efforts described in the User donations section above.
Summary and perspectives for 2020
As you can see, 2019 has been a very similar year to 2018 in terms of Freesound sustainability. It is great that we consolidated our model and know we are better aware of the expectations that we can have. We’re still far from our sustainability vision that we discussed with the community back in 2017, but we are in a good position to continue advancing. For 2020 we expect to continue in a similar line, maybe being able to turn some of the research results of last year(s) into Freesound website features and therefore spend a bit more time in development as well. If we’re able to get new research grants in which Freesound takes an important role that’d be a game changer and would allow us to do more 🙂
We’d like to finish this post by saying thank you to everyone who contributed to Freesound during 2019, in particular to those who donated and those who uploaded and moderated sounds. We’ll let you know how things go next year in 2020’s sustainability report
With this post I’m aiming to try and help anyone who wants to start recording foley sounds and doesn’t have a huge budget. It’ll be a simple list of do’s and don’ts that I’ve gathered from my experience on the field. I’ll try to be as down to earth as possible because I realize that there isn’t a lot of organized information out there on this subject. If you’re a beginner, besides the “best mics” or “coolest sounds” articles on the internet, you’re not going to have much luck finding good foley recording tips unless you scour dozens of old forum threads. But don’t worry… I already did that for you!
For the sake of timekeeping, I’m going to assume you’re already acquainted with the basics of sound recording and editing, so I won’t have to explain what recording a sound is or what a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is. There are already a lot of great threads and articles on the internet about the basics of audio production you can educate yourself with. So let’s get started!
Note: All prices listed from Thomman.de except where stated and are correct as of time of writing.
The biggest concern of recording foley on a budget is the cost of the specific equipment itself. If you’re a beginner and you already have some kind of a home studio set-up, you probably already have a microphone lying around somewhere, so you’re all set if you want to record something in your studio. But the challenge here is when you want to record something outside your studio, which realistically is what you’re going to do the most unless you have a big studio and budget, which if you do, I don’t know what you’re doing reading this!
For field recording on a budget, what you want to do is get a portable recorder, which is a device that’s usually battery powered, with built-in microphones, preamps, and internal memory storage. Pricing usually ranges from relatively cheap to very expensive. The best-bang for your buck is going to be the Tascam DR-series and the popular Zoom recorders. For the entry-level models, prices start at around 100$ and can go up to 200$. But you have to be careful when choosing one of these recorders because sometimes the product specifications you find online don’t tell the whole story. You should look for a recorder that can record stereo at a 48 kHz / 24-bit quality because that is the industry standard. You should also look for one whose preamps generate a low self-noise level as it can make a world of difference especially later during the editing process. You’ll find it described as EIN A-Weighted (check this list out: http://www.avisoft.com/recorder-tests/). The lower the number the better, for example -120 dB is better than -110 dB. This is what sets apart the cheaper recorders from the mid-range recorders in my experience. You might spend a few extra bucks on a recorder – but trust me – it will be worth the extra sound quality. In terms of the type of microphone itself it doesn’t make much difference because most recorders have internal small diaphragm condensers anyway. Later on, you might think of expanding your field recording arsenal like getting a shotgun mic, which has an extremely unidirectional polar pattern useful for recording very specific sounds in a “crowded” area. If you want to future-proof yourself, get a portable recorder with extra XLR mic inputs, so you can record using your devices internal mics, pre-amps with potentially any other consumer microphone, all at the same time! Just be wary that some microphones (typically condensers) require extra voltage power to operate so you’ll have to get a portable recorder that comes with a 48V Phantom Power switch. Besides these, any complementary features like internal mixing options, effects or wireless file transferring are just welcome bonuses. And in practical terms, storage and battery life shouldn’t be a concern. Just keep an extra SD memory card and batteries on hand if you’re out in the wilderness recording hours of ambience or if you’re using more than two mics.
Headphones & Accessories
As for other equipment, you should get a good pair of closed-back headphones to check what sounds you want to record and to balance the gain levels without outside interference. If you’re field recording (or sometimes even indoors) you definitely have to get a wind jammer/shield or else you’ll find that, more often than not, your recordings will be all unusable. I also advise getting a mic stand. Any stand will work better than having to improvise laying the recorder on some unstable surface. You can pick-up a lot of unwanted rumbling and noise this way.
PC Hardware & Workstations
At this point, I’m going to assume you have a computer, as pretty much everyone in the 21st century has one. Any notebook or gaming PC will work fine, and if you already are an audio/music production enthusiast, chances are you already have your personal workstation. For foley editing and mixing, computer specification requirements are minimal, and you’ll even get decent performance with a 2-core CPU and 4 GBs of RAM. That is unless you’re working with dozens of audio tracks and stuffing each one full of insert plugins. But if you’re in the market for a budget PC, my minimum recommendation would be a quad-core CPU and 8 GBs of RAM. If you got an extra $100, get an eight-core CPU and 16 GBs RAM. Stick to AMD, as they are today the best value for workstation parts.
The audio interface is an essential part of any producer’s workstation but starting out you’ll get plenty of mileage using your computer’s integrated sound card. There is a slight difference in quality though and I recommend you get one when you can. Without one, you also won’t be able to make quality recordings directly to your computer’s DAW using a traditional XLR microphone. Meanwhile, just use your portable recorder, which basically is an audio interface in itself. I would recommend an USB powered audio interface with at least 48 kHz / 24-bit recording/playback ability, a headphone jack output, a stereo output and two XLR inputs/pre-amps with 48V Phantom. You can find this setup for dirt cheap and it will last you for years and years, unless of course, you feel like you need to upgrade.
Digital Audio Workstations
In terms of software, you’re going to want a DAW with good editing capabilities. On paper, even a free audio editing program like Audacity can handle the worst foley editing session you could throw at it but you’ll want use a DAW whose strong points will enable you to maximize your workflow. When editing big foley sessions you’ll want to be as effective as possible to save time. And time is money. So I would recommend investing in a tried and tested DAW. Pro Tools is the industry standard but it is very expensive and unless you’re aspiring to work for a professional studio you can bypass it at this stage. Any one of the popular DAW’s like Logic, Cubase or Ableton Live (the one I use) will work fine, each one with its advantages and disadvantages. For the budget-minded, I would recommend Reaper (60$) which is a powerful and versatile recording software with amazing customer support. There are some other free options to consider like Pro Tools First, Cubase LE or Ableton Live Lite, but you’ll be quite limited in one way or another.
Effects & Plugins
As for mixing/editing plugins, you can easily make a living out of your DAW’s stock plugins or the tons of free plugins available (check out vst4free.com). Realistically, for foley, you’ll only need some Equalization, Filtering, the occasional Gating or, if you need to get more creative, some Reverb, Delay, or other time/pitch-based effects.
What you should look into is getting a good de-noising software plugin. Izotope’s RX series is the industry standard and it comes as a package with other audio treatment plugins, but even with different options at different price points, it can be a bit pricey ($129). There are some free De-noiser plugins like ReaFIR by Cockos or Redunoise by Voxengo that will get you the job done though. Be it the pre-amp’s self-noise or a random unexpected sound, you could easily run into issues on your recordings. While some purists despise relying on post-processing software plugins to get a perfect recording, you as a budget-minded person without the best equipment around, should adopt a middle-of-the-road approach to field recording and always have your trusty de-noiser on hand. It will take care of the issues that will eventually arise because of your inexperience and or just plain bad luck.
Preparation & Approach
Now that you got all the equipment, the first thing you have to do is make a list of what sounds you want to record and assess the location itself. Good preparation is the key for a productive field-recording session. Constantly check the weather for anomalies – wind and rain are your enemies, unless that’s exactly what you want. Also try to choose a spot that’s far away from anything that might ruin your recordings. Bird chips might ruin your “Urban City Ambience” just like distant car traffic and horns might ruin your “Nature Ambiences”. It all depends on what you want to capture and a good trick is to always record primary sounds. Depending on what you’re focusing on, there are always primary and secondary sounds in any given soundscape. A good example is when you’re recording your washing machine and you hear your next-door neighbors arguing. The washing machine sound is your primary, and your neighbors are secondary. If by any chance you do want to create a soundscape of people arguing next to a washing machine then you can always add those separate elements later. This will allow for a larger degree of control and thus better sound quality. So, always record specific sounds in isolation and then combine them together in post to create the perfect soundscape! A sound-clip of a cat meowing during a thunderstorm would be useless… but awesome.
As for the recording itself, it’s quite straightforward. Put on your headphones and place the recorder somewhere secure where you can perfectly hear the source of the sound and don’t have any other interfering sounds or noises. Then set the gain as high as you can without it peaking, then lower it a couple of dBs to find that sweet spot. If the gain is too high, it will distort and create unwanted artifacts. If the recorder is too far away from the source, the pre-amps self-noise will ruin your recording (more on that later). After all that you can press record and do your magic!
It is wise to record as many variations as possible on the same sound so you can have the luxury of choosing the best sounds later on. You’re also going to be surprised, especially starting out, at the amount of recordings that get ruined by things you didn’t even notice at the time. If you’re recording sounds that you know are going to be repeated a lot, like footsteps or weapon sounds, it’s best to get slight variations as well. If you use the same sounds over and over it will sound robotic and create what’s known as the machine-gun effect.
You should also name your clips appropriately so later on when you’re editing them you know exactly what you’re doing. I didn’t do this myself at the beginning, and trust me, when you record hundreds of sounds, you’re not going to remember whether this sound came from a wool sweater or a polyester shirt. So just record yourself saying what you’re about to capture at the beginning of each clip.
Space & Acoustics
I also want to mention something about acoustics and reverberation. Whenever inside, try to record in “dry” places. This means rooms with little echo. If you don’t have an acoustically treated room, usually a small room filled with furniture will do great as all those materials will absorb and diffuse those nasty reflections and create a dryer sound with a more even frequency response. The idea here is to give your recording a blank acoustic canvas so later on you can just add your own digital reverb to make it match the soundscape you’re looking for. If you record different foley in various rooms with drastically different acoustics, your final mix is going to sound off. But of course, this all depends on what you’re going for.
After you’re done recording and you’re back in your studio, you’re going to have to edit and mix all those sounds. This is considered as the worst part in foley recording as it can get quite boring and monotonous. So, there are a few things you should do to make this task as fast and pain-free as possible.
Workflow is king! Workflow basically means your method of work and your micromanaging preferences which over time impact your efficiency. It differs from person to person but there are a few universal things that you should abide by. You must know your DAW inside out! This means its strengths, its flaws, and more importantly, its shortcuts! You’re going to be doing a ton of cutting, zooming in/out, fading in/out, crossfading, exporting/bouncing, consolidating, creating tracks, deleting, grouping, you name it. You should know all this like the palm of your hand so you can be as efficient as possible with your time.
In your DAW, drag each clip inside an audio track and name them accordingly so you don’t get lost. After that, you’re going to edit out all the stuff you’re not interested: bad recordings, secondary sounds, artifacts, weird noises, etc. and you should be left with the good stuff. If you want, you can do an extra screening and pick the variations you like best. When editing, a good use of fades and crossfades goes a long way on making a recording sound clean. If you’re editing longer recordings like ambiences and you end up with multiple splits because you had to cut out unwanted artifacts or sounds, you can seemlessly re-join these clips by overlapping both ends and creating crossfades. With short clips, you can also easily control the attack and release of a sound by simply playing around with the fade in/out. Check out the picture below.
After the simple but tedious editing stage you can start mixing. This is where you gain-stage, filter out all the frequencies that don’t matter, and de-noise. You’ll often find that most recordings have a low frequency rumble that just serves to muddy up your mix. This is mostly caused by wind and distant noise and can be rid of with a simple High-Pass Filter. Always leave a bit of silence or background noise on your recordings for the de-noiser algorithm to use (if you’re using RX7). You can also use time and pitch-based effects like reverbs, delays and pitch-shifters for a more creative approach. Go crazy! This part is definitely the most fun and you’ll be amazed by how many different sounds you can create by simply turning a few knobs.
Now back to the tedious part. If you’re creating foley packs for other people to use, exporting your sounds is more important than you think. This is when you decide how people will first see and interact with them. There mainly two approaches here: either you export every single file separately; or you consolidate sounds together and export them as bigger clips with the variations together. Obviously, exporting separate files takes a lot more work but in the end it is down to how you want people to see your work. The industry standard is to group sounds together so you get the different variations in one file, but personally, I prefer to upload my sounds separately on Freesound and create packs afterwards so people can download the specific variations of the sounds they like. Appropriately naming your exported files is crucial. There is a great article on this subject which elaborates on the importance of naming better than I can. You can check it out here.
As for the file format, the standard is a .WAV file at 24-bit bit-depth and 48 kHz sample rate. But if you’re working for someone else on a project ask them what file format they want. Often times, companies that work with limited hardware like handheld devices will ask for a lower quality format (16-bit 44.1 kHz) or sometimes even .MP3.
And that’s it! You can now call yourself a successful foley artist and sound designer. Just keep at it you’ll eventually get even better results. I hope this guide helped you in some way or another but remember: There are no strict rules; these are just guidelines to help you on your way! Your motto should always be: If it sounds good, then it is good!
João Janz’s biography:
João Janz is a professional music producer with a passion for post-production audio design such as video games, film and television! Throughout his career, his aim has been to combine his sensibilities as an audio professional with his devotion to art and the creative process in an effort to produce something akin to the wonderful pieces of art that inspired him to take on this path.Between recording nature soundscapes and composing epic orchestral pieces, João has made a carrer as a versatile music composer, sound designer and foley artist. He enjoys spending his free time uploading random foley sounds on Freesound hoping to help people with their passion projects!
Based in Lisbon, Portugal, with spanish, austrian and italian roots, he currently holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Popular Music Production from the Southampton Solent University and looks forward to continuing his studies with a Master’s Degree in Music Composing as part of the many challenges to come!
This was a Freesound guest blog post. Do you have any project or something you’d like to share in the Freesound Blog? Let us know using our contact form
Ambient Waves/Soundscapes/Elementary Wave: These types of sounds are mostly designed to add color or atmosphere to scenes in film, music, or many other possible scenarios. Objectively, they can universally fit into almost any project or musically add color to any mix. If you listen closely to some films or music you can hear stretched audio/sounds being used. Stretching audio is strangely immense if you listen closely for it in films and music.
Over the course of the next few months or so I’ll be detailing my sound adventures and describing the process of which on how I make my sounds and hopefully so you can too deploy my simple techniques on making some interesting sounds yourself.
For this blog post I’d like to share with you a detailed description/tutorial on creating ambient waves/pads/soundscapes. It is a relatively easy process and I’ll try to be as thorough as possible. Alternatively, you may watch this Youtube video I made detailing the process quickly.
These types of sounds such as ambient waves are technically called Pads or, Soundscapes but for all intents and purposes I wanted to have my own original name for a sound that would still sound like it would fit in that ambient waves/soundscape/pads category.
When I started uploading to Freesound, I started experimenting with piano recordings I made and cutting them up, rearranging them and applying basic effects/VSTs that came bundled with the purchase of FL Studio. There are many excellent methods to chopping up sounds and I would recommend using Kontakt or in FL Studio, slicer or sliceX. If so, I would highly recommend searching the web for ways of chopping/slicing audio into small segments in your preferred DAW of choice. You can create your own sound however you like if you have the equipment or sounds to do so and go straight to stretching.
The best way to start experimenting with chopping up a sound for an ambient wave sound is to start with something that has no distortion, over saturation or any sound artifacts for that matter, as in the end, the sound will be odd and messy in the final process of stretching. You should however, experiment with any sounds you can think of that would sound good stretched, you would be surprised by what the results can be.
Find a piano loop, Rhodes piano, soft ambient pad synth or anything you can think of that would sound simple when stretched, it could even be a guitar, a man or women singing, a passing car, the possibilities are endless. The sound must have clear note hits so that the chopping software knows where to chop the sound at each note or you can manually play a rhythm on a keyboard and record it.
Apply reverb to the sound if you wish and begin creating a rhythm. Be sure that when creating the rhythm that you do not leave notes too far between each other unless you want a long silence between them when stretched. Do not over do the reverb or you will loose the bassy-ness and clarity of the sound when stretched. Use delay if you wish but do so somewhat sparingly as that to can affect the sound somewhat negatively; depending on the type of sound. Obviously the best method is to just go wild and experiment, randomly press a bunch of notes even if it sounds odd.
Once you have found a nice rhythm or an experimental sound then you can go on to stretching the audio. There are many ways of stretching sounds obviously, but the best and most effective way to make an interesting stretched sound is to use Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch. Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch is free and is very simple to use. It can look intimidating at first based on first appearances, but is a easy program to understand.
I will be stretching this sound as it is. You can find the original here:
On the top left of the program click “File”. Then click “Open Audio File”. Navigate to where your sound/loop or whatever sound you have that you wish to stretch is and click it. The program will immediately have it stretched already and you can just click play on the bottom left of the program to hear it. Sometimes this is enough for the sound to be stretched but if you wish to have it stretched more then you can go ahead and do so by dragging the slider to the right where it says “stretch” under the parameters tab on the top left.
This program has processing features that can apply Harmonics, pitch shift, octave mixer, filter/bandstop, tonal/noise, compressor, freq shift, spread, bandwidth, and volume. I recommend just finding what sounds good and leaving it at that, I rarely use any of these extra features.
Once you have the desired stretched sound then you can click the tab that says “Write to file”. Click/check box under Render Selection that says 32bit for highest quality. Then finally click “Render Selection…”. You will have to find a place where to put the sound and manually type in a file name in the new window where it says filename: at the bottom. Once done, just click Render and it is all done.
Here is the final sound:
You have now learned how I have been making Ambient stretched sounds for years. It is a very easy thing to do and there are countless experimental sounds to use in this program from field recordings, to voices/acapellas or any kind of instrument you can think of that may sound incredible if stretched. I really hope that this quick tutorial will be of help and wish to hear more amazing sounds from the community.
To finish this post, here is a personal note about how I feel about stretching audio and making ambient pads/waves.
I created these sounds for the purpose of helping me in my life to deal with depression, anxiety, stress, and basically boredom. I felt that if it helps me, I felt it should help whoever may feel the same. As Freesound continues to grow I hope to see more diversity in sounds coming forth.
Wish to say thanks to Frederic Font Corbera for giving me the opportunity to share this tutorial and to the creator of Pauls Extreme Time Stretch “Nasca Octavian” for limitless fun in sound design. Wish to finally say thanks to the Freesound community for all the sounds, feedback and inspirations. Freesound wouldn’t be here without you folks.
Keep on Freesounding.
Jordan Powell’s Biography
Jordan Powell has been uploading/sharing his sounds on Freesound.org since 2013. Sounds that he uploads mostly consist of the electronica/downtempo/lofi genre and have been featured in a small number of TV shows, documentaries, and shorts stories on Youtube and as well with aspiring musicians. He mostly self taught himself on making sounds and by watching many tutorials online to help shape the sound design style he has today. Besides sharing his sounds on Freesound.org, he is also in the crude oil trucking transport industry and drives at least 600 miles everyday enjoying the east Texas sunset and making sure you get the gas for your vehicle.
Jordan is also a Freesound.org sound moderator and helps out with making sure the right sounds get on the site.
When all is done, he just wishes to create that next interesting sound that hopefully will be incredibly useful to who ever stumbles upon it.
This was a Freesound guest blog post. Do you have any project or something you’d like to share in the Freesound Blog? Let us know using our contact form
In August of 2018, I uploaded 1,233 vintage optical sound effects from various Hollywood productions ranging from the 1930s to 1950s. I called the collection “the Gold Library” because of the color of the old Dyno label-maker tapes on the boxes.
Since then, I have continued to preserve the former USC optical sound effects library. And now I’m extremely happy to present the next collection of 1,554 classic sound effects: The Red Library.
Where did these come from?
To recap, I acquired these sounds from the USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive in 2016, just before they were to be thrown away. They are first generation full-track 1/4” tape transfers of 35mm optical sound effects. For more information on this project, Please see my February 2019 Blog post: https://blog.freesound.org/?p=901)
What’s the difference between the Gold and Red Libraries?
Although the specific origins of these sounds are mostly lost, It has become clear to me that the Gold effects were mostly clean “master” effects that were used to print copies to be cut into a film’s soundtrack. The effects in this new Red Library are not as clean, and have many splices, indicating they have been a direct part of the editing process. I’ve nicknamed this library “the workbench collection,” because these sounds are clearly leftovers from several Hollywood productions.
What’s the difference between master and working copies?
Until the mid 1950s, sounds for film were recorded onto 35mm film by modulating a beam of light.
This was a delicate process that required extremely accurate exposure and developing. These tracks could be either variable area or variable density. Both had advantages and disadvantages.
These master tracks would then be duplicated for editors, cut into individual sounds, and wound into small rolls held by rubber bands or paper tape. They were then placed into “trim boxes” for easy access.
The sounds could be retrieved by editors and edited on a Moviola editing machine As they cut effects, they would return the leftover bits, the “trims”, to the trim boxes.
The sounds were edited onto reels that were then put onto reels and loaded onto “dubbers” for final mixing.
This system worked well, except that every optical generation created more noise, loss of high-end, and distortion. Since the prints shown in theaters were many generations removed from the original recordings, precision in every step was incredibly important.
What happened in the editing room?
Sound editors loved to collect their favorite sounds so they could use them again and again. Sometimes they would print more copies of a sound than they needed. Everyone was fine with this, but making copies of copies could lead to degraded sound quality. They also would take the trims with them at the end of a production, even though they might be full of audible splices.
Another thing editors did was to install “portable” optical cameras in the edit room to speed up the process.
This was likely to introduce ground noise, and intermodulation distortion due to improper exposure.
So how does the Red Library sound then?
Pretty good, actually!
My original intent with this project was to preserve, not restore. But I realized that many of these sounds needed a little help. So I did some minimal restoration including hum and hiss reduction, reduction of distortion, and splice repair (gaps and clicks). Since there are over 1,500 effects in this library, the time spent on each effect was limited. But I’m happy with the results. These are very usable sounds that you won’t find anywhere else. And they layer very well with modern digital effects.
So what’s next?
There is a lot more sound to recover in this project. The Red and Gold libraries were the easy stuff. Beyond this, I’m dealing with tapes that are badly shrunken, and tapes that have sticky-shed syndrome. Since I’m the one doing the transfers, I don’t know when I will have more to share. But I know there’s good stuff in those tapes, and I’ll find a way to recover it.
Again, I want to thank those whose support has kept me going on this project: Peder Jørgensen, Christian Schaanning, Leanna Kaiser, Jesse Smith, Dino Everett, Ben Burtt, Frederic Font, Randy Haberkamp, and Lynn Becker.
And a reminder to tell all your friends: Whenever you record a cool sound, upload it to Freesound! It’s the quickest and easiest way to achieve immortality!
Craig Smith’s Biography
Craig Smith has been recording and manipulating sound since 1964. After graduating from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, he worked as a sound editor and production mixer in Hollywood, specializing in noisy action-adventure films that are blamed for the downfall of society. He left that world in 1986 to teach at California Institute of the Arts, where he is now Academic Sound Coordinator in the School of Film/Video.
Craig’s own work experiments with implied narrative and accidental sound design – putting together sounds & images that have nothing to do with each other to create unexpected stories.
Craig is a member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, and the Audio Engineering Society.
This was a Freesound guest blog post. Do you have any project or something you’d like to share in the Freesound Blog? Let us know using our contact form