Recently I was at a trade show here in Chicago, doing field recordings of the crowds milling around. As I walked from the food court area to a spot near the registration desk, a young woman spotted me and noticed the large microphone and digital recorder I had hanging around my neck.
“That’s cool,” she said, and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was a sound designer and that I was collecting sounds for my library.
“Do you do sound for movies?” Yes, movies sometimes, and also theatre, advertising, and so on.
“Wow,” she said, “it’s awesome that you have your own sounds to use. I get so sick of hearing the same baby cry sound in every movie! It really wrecks the film for me.”
That was an important thing for me to hear. I hear sound designers talk all the time about sounds that get re-used ad nauseam, and I imagine we tend to think we’re the only ones who are bugged by it. But this woman isn’t a sound designer. She’s not a sci-fi fanatic picking out every instance of the Wilhelm Scream. I’m sure the sound effects probably aren’t first in her mind when she’s watching a movie – so if she’s noticing it, there’s a problem.
Like other sound designers, I certainly rely pretty heavily on my commercial sound effects libraries. Time and budget and a whole host of other factors dictate that I can’t make a fresh new sound for everything I work on. But I do try to build and maintain my own personal library (and she was pleased to hear that I do have my own sounds of a baby crying and rarely use the library babies), and use those sounds instead of library stuff whenever I can. And every now and then, while I’m standing there with the mic in my hand and the headphones on, I get a really great reminder of why I’m going to the trouble of doing it.