Creating believable monster vocalizations is perhaps one of the most difficult and exacting areas of sound design. Not only are you trying to create sounds that evoke emotions in your audience, but you also need to convey the emotions of the monster that’s vocalizing. What’s more, if, as in most cases, your monster needs to make multiple sounds to illustrate multiple moods and circumstances, you need to make sure that the sounds you create could plausibly come from the same fictional larynx, syrinx, mandibles etc. Obtaining source material yourself that is of sufficient quality and then processing it to achieve this range of monster sounds is a time-consuming and expensive task.
Enter Boom library
Sound effects producer Boom Library has earned a reputation for creating high quality assets in many categories. Their work has been used in many high profile productions including feature films. Whenever I’m creating cinematic production elements and feeling blocked, simply consulting the trailer for their ‘Cinematic Trailer design 2’ library for example can get me feeling inspired.
What’s more, they are no strangers to the world of creating creature sound effects. As far back as 2010, there work in this area was being praised by the likes of sound designer Daan Hendriks in this article.
Given that monster sound design is one of the aspects of the craft about which I am most picky, preferring to avoid monster sound effects that sound like this unless I’m going for a retro feel.
I was pretty excited to hear about Boom Library’s latest release, ‘Monsters and Beasts‘. The trailers really caught my attention and so I was very happy when they generously gave me a copy to play with. Here’s what you can expect.
The library is actually two collections in one, though you can purchase each separately. The bundle version consists of a construction kit comprising over 4600 sounds and a set of 320 ready-made monster sounds totaling 4957 assets in all. Seeing as you can purchase these libraries individually, they are covered separately below.
Monsters and Beasts Construction Kit
What the Blurb Says
Draw from a vast pool of clean, crisp and lively animal vocalizations featuring alpacas, baboons, camels, seals, crows, dogs, donkeys, elephants, foxes, pigs, badgers, owls, hyenas, lions, loris, otters, parrots, raccoons, griffins, kestrels, sheep, tigers, caracals, leopards, chicken, cows, goats and horses. Being a comprehensive realistic animal sound library in its own right, the Construction Kit gives you a varied, flexible tool-set to come up with incredible, daunting creations.
Flesh out your designs with additional elements from human recordings and various objects and materials offering bestial snarls, hisses, air releases, squeals, creaks, growls and more.
The construction kit offers a great balance between breadth and depth with a comprehensive tour of the animal kingdom covering creatures great and small while managing to give enough attention to most of them to ensure that, if your project calls for the presence of any of the animals covered here, they will be able to play far more than just a cameo role. This collection definitely is, as the product description says, an animal library in its own right. The human and props sections provide an imaginative and inspiring addition to the library and the fact that the whole thing comes in 192 KHz fidelity is very welcome as it means that the sounds are far more resilient to post-processing.
Looking through this library, I really was very impressed. The files are descriptively named, including details about the exact breed of the animals captured as well as their emotional state. We have aggression, exhaustion, distress, stress, begging and more besides. There are different breeds of dog and, most notably, two different breeds of pig. What’s more, as well as vocalizations, we have the sound of animals eating, which could constitute an excellent basis for creating lip smacking sound effects etc to flesh out a monster’s sonic performance.
The list of animals includes the usual suspects – dogs, lions, elephants, pigs etc, but the construction kit goes far beyond that to include animals whose sounds I didn’t even recognise. In fact, I must confess to having never heard of a lori at all before acquiring this library and I never new raccoons sounded so bad-tempered. Having this rich pallet of field recordings gives sound designers more options and inventive new directions to go when crafting their creatures.
Having more obscure, less easily recognised animal sounds means that it’s simpler for sound designers to create something that doesn’t affect an audience’s suspension of disbelief. How many times, for example, have you heard a monster in a film or game that is easily recognisable as having a pig in its recent ancestry? The best monsters are mongrels, sonically at least. This toolkit gives you all the iconic power of an elephant or lion or the raucous abrasiveness of a squealing pig while incorporating enough other elements to make something completely new that even its own “parents” wouldn’t recognise.
The humans section is great too. Many sound designers rely on their own vocals to serve as ingredients for creature sound design, but if you lack the equipment or an acoustically appropriate space to capture high fidelity recordings or the privacy to avoid embarrassment while doing so, the array of human sounds here will serve very well indeed. Once again, this collection goes beyond the roaring, growling and snarling you might expect to include hisses, snorts, throat clicks, breaths, burps, tongue-flutters and more. Some vocalizations are performed through a tube, horn, kazoo or didgeridoo, which lends a different character to the final result.
Given that these sound effects are described as source material, you might be surprised to learn that many of the human sounds have already been pitched down for you. I actually think this is pretty helpful. The sound of a human trying to be a monster at normal speed can seem comical rather than inspiring as far as monster creation is concerned. Slowing the sounds down makes them more impressive and solves this problem. It also highlights the value of working with assets at such a high sample rate.
Earlier in this article, I cited monster sound effects that were clearly just human roars slowed down as examples of monster sound design that I prefer to avoid and here we have human roars slowed down. The crucial difference is that the extreme fidelity with which the sounds in this construction kit were captured means that they lack that tell-tale muffled quality characteristic of older monster sound design that loudly proclaims, “look at me. I’m a noise that a sound designer has pitched down.” Plus, this is just the source material. These human sounds need only be the start of whatever you create, although I must confess that I’d be happy to use some of these sounds with very little added.
Last, but not least, we have the props section, which is perhaps the most imaginative category here, in which the recordists have found inanimate objects that create sounds that make them seem very alive. Performances using balloons manage to sound variously insectile, serpentine, feline and plaintive. Also, should you browse this library yourself, beware the fearsome cello, don’t disturb the slobbering didgeridoo as it wallows, the squeaking quacks of the lesser spotted “glass squeak” mean that you’re getting too near its nest. Also watch out for the clucks and soft squawks of the crested “glass squeak”, a rare bird indeed, while the squeaking and ‘chitterings’ of the “glass bow” and “glass pressure” might have been responsible for all that trouble in H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘ the Rats in the Walls’. There are whickering kazoos, snarling textiles, accordion breaths and more.
Finally, this section features a host of sounds made with a humble sink plunger, sometimes used in water, sometimes in yogurt. The versatility of these sounds alone is really great. The bassy transients could be used as footsteps, all the slobbering and sucking speaks for itself, some of the airier sounds could work as ingredients in ghostly whisperings. There are sounds here that could be used to represent lava flows, sparks and arc of sci-fi energy and much more.
The quality and scope of this library is awesome and well worth the price. With such high production values, attention to detail and clean recordings, there are undoubtedly enumerable impressive sounds waiting to be sculpted from this exciting collection.
Monsters and Beasts Designed
What the Blurb Says
The DESIGNED package delivers cinematic sounds of varying sized animals existing only in legend or on the big silver screen, such as dragons, mammoths, sabre toothed cats, great bears, basilisks and more.
Each beast features an attack, death, idle, pain and scream sound with four different variations each, giving you a diverse, yet instantly identifiable and implementable set of sounds to set to your target medium.
You might think of the Design library as a demonstration of what can be done with all that source material discussed in the previous section, although it is far more than that of course. The product description says that, although the construction kit can be used to create alien or supernatural monsters, “it was specifically targeted at the mythical and real beasts accompanying human and pre-human history and fiction.” The design library therefore presents us with a number of monsters including a mammoth, phoenix, basilisk, cyclops, dragon and more. There is, interestingly enough, a monster that sounds like it was made using the tried and tested pig as its basis, but that’s a wild boar, so that’s okay. 🙂
For each monster provided, vocalizations in the design library are divided into pain, death, attack, scream and idle. There are four variations of each per file to help avoid things starting to seem canned. Another thing that works really well about the files’ organization is that the monsters’ size information is provided.
I really like the fact that all the different vocalizations in each set sound like they are truly coming from the same monster. What’s more, they scale really well, meaning that, for example, a creature’s expression of pain sounds similar to its death cry, just down-sized somewhat, but in a very believable way. Some of them have more than one stage, which makes them feel more organic. For the attack sounds, you can picture the monster bunching its muscles before springing, then subsiding for example. In the idle noises, you can imagine it shifting sleepily or peering at you.
An important thing to bear in mind, I think, when using this library is that the monsters are named for convenience. They could be anything. So if you need to provide basilisk sounds for a project and this one isn’t serpentine enough for the concept you need, being a growlier lizard-like creature in this version, simply substitute the serpent that’s designed here.
All the sounds are rich, full, intricate and have fine detail with a crisp high end and great, tight powerful low end. None of them sound over-processed. Ne’er a harmonizer to be heard I’m glad to say. Pretty much all the sounds have a stereo width appropriate to their mass that communicates size and/or ferocity while still conveying the sense that all that noise comes from one creature. There are one or two exceptions to this where the layers seem a little disconnected, most notably in the second variation of the pain noise for the great bear, which contains what sounds like a dog yelp far left, where most other layers are roughly centered.
Sometimes, to my ears, the sounds achieve their fullness at the expense of some cohesion or homogeny because the layers don’t quite blend to make one sound. There are monsters that growl, groan and/or moan while they are screaming at the same time, which I find does jar my suspension of disbelief a little. Whilst this does mean that not all the monster sounds are to my personal taste, there are still a great many sounds I do enjoy very much and would certainly use, my favourites being the great bear, yelp notwithstanding, mammoth and cyclops. The phoenix idle noises were also enough to make my girl-friend and I simultaneously exclaim “aw”, so they definitely did their job. Regardless of how some of them strike me, there can be no question that all the monsters certainly are larger than life and wonderfully cinematic, following the conventions very well without being derivative. They have great “cool factor”. I tried them out on my role-playing group as a prelude to what they had to face next and the reaction was a mix of awe and trepidation, which was just was I was aiming for, so again they delivered the goods.
‘Monsters and Beasts Design’ presents a very useful breadth and depth of sounds that are ready to be slotted into your projects with a minimum of effort. They are descriptively and well organized so that you can pick your power level and animal group quickly. If some of the variations don’t do it for you, other could be tweaked in a fraction of the time it would take you to design a whole pallet from scratch and they certainly have the power to thrill an audience.
The Whole Hog
I would thoroughly recommend the ‘Monsters and Beasts’ bundle. The designed sounds are modern, powerful and possessed of enough variation to make significant in-roads into a monster-heavy project. It’s the way they are organized and grouped that really sells it to me.
The jewel in the crown of the bundle is the source material. It provides a veritable grotto full of malleable material rife with inspiration and possibility for monster-building and has so many applications beyond that, from science fiction to horror to a simple scene involving a man feeding his dog. The whole thing taken together adds up to another great job by Boom Library.
Like what you hear? Go grab your copy from BOOM Library here