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Getting in to Sound Design on a budget

Working from home has meant trying to get new business avenues up and running. I've been offering some post production services to low budget and short films. Having not done a lot of sound design before now (my first attempt ever is included as a video below), it's made me painfully aware that I needed practice when it comes to even the most simple realistic sounds being placed for the video. The two main projects I've been working on have both been documentaries of two very different styles. One an hour long, the other five minutes; both take you on a journey through some interesting topics and with engaging subjects. To help sell the story and the shot selection it's important to have the right sounds running alongside them.

Here are my key bits of software for getting to work on Audio Post and some reasoning behind why I've chosen it:

Reaper is one of many incredibly powerful DAW's. It has been embraced by the audio community since it's inception and especially among the low budget user. It's licensing model is very nice as all versions are the same, you get a fully featured free evaluation period (with a prompt to purchase at startup once it expires), then you should buy a license!

My main reason for using it was that I simply wanted to try the workflow with Vordio. It's nice to have a backup option when Final Cut users can't export an OMF or AAF for typical Pro Tools sessions. I've also enjoyed getting out of Pro Tools and using all of my plugins. Reapers 64 bit client supports VST and VST3, in both 32 and 64 bit formats, which is very handy, and has a very capable video engine, based on open source codecs, which avoids the pitfalls of the Avid Video Engine...

One note I will include is that if you are working alongside a major post studio or in a team, then honestly (and somewhat sadly) Pro Tools is still the industry standard for audio post work. That means that a Pro Tools session is much more likely to be the main DAW used by the majority of people working in film and TV, and it's still important to have that available to you if you think your work will be moving on to another studio. From what I've seen, other industries are changing over. The games industry for example likes Nuendo a lot.

I believe you can do almost anything in Reaper that you can in either of those. Reaper will just need a bit more configuration for things like surround and multichannel projects, which can be done by checking a box in the settings menu in Pro Tools HD or Nuendo...

Reaper costs $60 for individuals using it non-commercially or generating less that $20,000 per year from use of Reaper, or the full commercial license, which is only $225 anyway (which makes it cheaper than most other DAW's with this level of capability).

This is a relatively new bit of software to me, but has proven very reliable in translating projects from both Final Cut X and Adobe Premier. It takes an XML export and delivers a fully loaded folder of transcoded audio from the project and can create a Reaper project from the XML. There are some other cool features too, like re-conform, but I've not had to use those yet.

Vordio costs £60 for the license to create complete Reaper project files from the XML exports. It is free for editors to build a transcoded audio database following my guide also in this blog - here's a LINK.

This is my go to software for removing unwanted noise from any audio source. I know RX 7 is also around now, but I tend to only upgrade once every two versions as the incremental updates aren't really justifiable if I'm only doing this relatively occasionally. The noise reduction algorithms in RX have been getting steadily more intelligent for a while and the new dialogue isolate and de-rustle modules are incredible. I also get a lot of use out of the spectral repair module, which is amazing for fixing short noises. Ambience match is also very handy, and recently found some novel ways to use it to cover up gaps in the audio created by over zealous spectral repairs.

iZotope RX Advanced latest version is 7 and in it's full form costs $1199. It's entirely plausible that Standard would do enough for you at $399 or even Elements at $129 covers a lot of ground.

Again another recent discovery to me; I've been using a free license for Soundly to organise my modest local sound library and also browse their limited free to use library in the cloud. You can browse your sounds in Soundly, select the element of the clip you want then send it directly to your timeline in either Reaper or Pro Tools. This has saved a lot of time clipping audio down on my timeline.

Soundly has a handful of licensing rates. Free for the limited free tier and $14.99 per month for Pro. There's also a $9.99 day pass

Not software as such, but a library of audio that is free to access and the majority of which only needs to be credited for it to be used in projects. There's an awful lot of content to scroll though in there, but it definitely holds some gems if you know how to take advantage of the search filters. I like to sort by most downloaded, as it gives a very good approximation of the sounds that people are actually using.

I also have a library of plugins from a variety of companies that I like to use. Some of those include iZotope, Valhalla, Solid State Logic, SoundToys, Waves, Native Instruments and Zynaptiq.

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