Organize Your Samples Better by Taking Less Responsibility

Have you heard of numbers stations? You know, those ludicrously creepy radio stations that just repeat numbers over and over?

It turns out that these stations stick to a strict schedule, repeating numbers every hour or half-hour. It’s often believed that these are used for spy transmissions, but no one can really be sure.

Well, no one but me. I am sure, and I know it’s spy related. Trust me. I’m a Master Spyman™.

What’s most fascinating is that no one is taking any sort of responsibility for sanctioning, maintaining (yes, even though many started broadcasting during World War 1, some are still doing their thing today), and using them. No government, agency, radio station, or company has come forward and said “oh yeah, we made these weird apocalypse cubes.”

In this case, whoever did create them decided to offload the responsibility of dealing with them to someone else. And in some cases, offloading responsibility can be a very good thing.

Thankfully, considering none of us are government agents, (except for you, specifically. I’m on to you) our offloading of responsibility can be far more wholesome. When it comes to organizing our sounds, giving the responsibility of keeping things organized to audio library software is usually the best way to go.

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It always pains me to see people finding sounds without an app
Especially when I see someone just open up the default finder or explorer on their computer and just start typing “give me that squishy good sound please thank you.”

Or god forbid a sound designer starts manually clicking through a complicated array of folders, previewing hundreds of sounds before they find one close to what they wanted.

So, an app like the free ADSR Sample Manager can radically speed up your workflow when it comes to finding all the samples on your hard drive.

There’s really no excuse not to use one
If you want a fire sound, and you can simply type in “fire” into your app and instantly gain access to all of the fire sounds you have, why shouldn’t you use one? This also prevents the need for a ton of extremely complicated organization in your library.

Seriously, just download it
Point it to where all your samples live on your hard drive, let it index them, and boom. You’re set. No more poking through folders for hours or relying on the god-awful file system of your OS.

The ADSR Sample Manager is great
So are other alternatives like Soundly and AudioFinder. Soundly is neat in that it comes with some free sound effects. It also has a paid-for subscription that will get you a bunch of extra goodies.

If you’re curious what the big game companies use, they tend to go with more expensive options like Soundminer and Basehead. Honestly, any of these options will work great.

Also, if you’re using a DAW like Reaper or Cubase/Nuendo, they already have sample managers built-in. In Reaper, it’s called the Media Explorer, and in Cubase/Nuendo it’s called the Media Bay. I’m sure other DAWs have something like this, too. Search around and see if yours has this feature.

I can hear you screaming now: “Akash, you steamy mug of hot chocolate, we should ALL be using an in-depth folder structure for our audio!”
And I don’t disagree. You should at least have some degree of naming conventions and folder structure set up to make things easier on you. I don’t think you have to go as crazy as most people say you do, but there are plenty of upsides to being at least moderately organized.

If you need a starting point on how to organize your sounds and what naming conventions to use, you can go here to see how Tim Nielsen of Skywalker Sound does it.

Just note that there are no industry-standard naming conventions. Use what works for you and your team/company.

No matter how in-depth you go, just make sure you’re using something
It may seem so obvious to you to use one of these apps, but you’d be shocked at how many sound designers simply don’t know that these tools exist. Now no one has an excuse not to use one!

So, to recap:

  • Use an audio library app no matter what. The ADSR Sample Manager is a great free starting point

  • There are other alternatives too such as Soundly and AudioFinder. The big-name companies use Soundminer and Basehead most frequently.

  • Your DAW might have a media manager built-in. Check and see.

  • If you want to start using a naming/folder convention, start with Tim Nielsen’s from Skywalker Sound.

  • I am the greatest spy who’s ever lived. Don’t you forget it.

Offloading responsibility can be good
Especially when it comes to building creepy sentient number stations or setting up a system to search through our sounds for us.

So get downloading
If you’re overloaded with options, just stick with the ADSR one and go from there. Or, if your DAW has a sample manager built in, then just use that. Either way, your workflow will be infinitely faster as a result.

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