Post Production: Understanding Sound Effect Libraries

Adding a sound effect to your video can make all the difference. Sound effects are used to create tension or to enhance the action of the scene. Music is used to bring emotion to a scene but the sound effect will be remembered long after that specific event occurred think of the bass you hear in the movie Jaws. It is used to show importance and emphasize points. Because so many people are using sound effects libraries have been created that contain different sounds.

Should You Use a Sound Effect Library

There are several reasons why you should use a sound effect library. Mainly because getting the correct license for a piece of music or sound is very expensive. If you use a piece of music or sound without a license then you can face a very high fine as well as jail time. You can never show the film to anyone, sell it or charge others to view it. There are laws that are in place to protect music and other property such as sound effects. When you get a subscription to a library you will have effects and music that do not need licensing or have been licensed to be used through that specific library.


Most libraries will provide you with different licensing options. Most sound effect libraries use a buyout so you make one payment and then have unlimited use of anything in that library. However, not all libraries are the same. Many libraries will use electronic means to create the sounds whereas others will go directly to the source and record the real sound. Some of the best libraries will offer you up to 7500 different effects that are easy to find and use. Many times professionals in the film industry rely on these libraries for sound production. Some of the best sound effect libraries include BBC Sound Effects Library, Series 6000 Library, Lucasfilm library and others from different movie studios.

Key Factors

Some of the important factors to take into consideration when choosing a sound effect library is the sound quality. You can find different libraries that offer 16 bit or 24 bit sound effects. Most people will use 16 bit though high definition sound will require 24 bit and higher. The file type of the sound effect is also important as most will offer MP3. However, MP3 will reduce the quality of the recording. The best file format is WAV files though this type of file is larger than an MP3. Therefore most sound effect libraries actual will require their own drive or hard disk. You can also find different libraries in surround sound which adds depth and realism to your video. These are very effective sounds.

Search Tools

Besides just having the library you need to ensure that it has easy to use search tools so you can find the sound effect you want easily. These tools will index the different sounds so you can find exactly what you want. You probably already have a piece of software that accomplishes this. Some favorites include AVID, Net mix, iTunes, Pro Tools and Sound Miner to name a few.