This week’s Q&A is with SoundDogs founder and CEO Rob Nokes. With over half a million tracks recorded in some of the world’s most far-flung locations, SoundDogs has the web’s most extensive and eclectic collection of sounds. Rob talks to us about how much has changed in online content delivery since his site started in 1997 and the strangest sound in his collection.
SoundDogs went online in May of 1997. The internet was so much different then in every single way. Talk about what has changed and what remains the same in the search for sound effects online.
For the first eight years we did a lot of education and explaining to customers about downloading via HTTP or FTP. Saving a sound file was a major task for a lot of customers. Now it’s very common. Downloading a 25-meg sound file back then was difficult for a lot of customers. That began to change around 2001. Early on we would see speed spikes from T1 users. They were our best clients and we could see the service was working for fast internet customers. Our mantra has always been “speed and simplicity.” Find a sound, preview, pay for, and download quickly. Now that the internet is so fast we have developed a new web application that allows customers the same
Polyphonic 24/96 that we cut with in Hollywood. The only thing that has remained the same is that our customers expect quality service. Back in 1997 you had to provide traditional personal support to customers. Most companies have abandoned personal service and phone support, but at SoundDogs we believe that it’s critical to be able to trust in quality service. My cell phone is listed on our support page for mission critical support on weekends and late nights. Fortunately, SoundDogs’ support is so good that I only get a call about once a month.
Rob, you wear every hat in the sound department and have worked on over 120 projects, which include big titles like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Bones and Battleship. Why did you start SoundDogs all those years ago and what drives you to continue to grow and innovate your company, despite an obviously demanding schedule?
SoundDogs.com was a division of Sound Dogs Motion Picture Sound. We worked on Hollywood movies for directors like Michael Mann, Rob Reiner, Peter Berg, Ben Stiller, Billy Crystal, etc. We believed that recording and creating unique sounds for every movie was critical to our work. The creation of SoundDogs.com had two purposes; marketing SoundDogs editorial to directors and film editors, and creating an additional revenue stream to our enhance our sound library. What drives me is recording sounds – I really love it. There is no logic to why I love recording sounds, it’s just part of me. As far as innovation, that’s been a challenge. We’re sound people first, not software developers.
A year ago you launched the new SoundDogs site. What improvements
did you make?
The main improvement is Polyphonic 24/96 and detailed visual waveforms. We do a lot of multichannel (Polyphonic) recording so you can listen to up to twelve microphones used to record cars, planes, boats, crowds, etc. We want our customers to have the same power and control that Hollywood editors have.
People may be surprised to learn that SoundDogs is not just a distributor of sound but a creator of it as well. Where and what has SoundDogs recorded?
I would be surprised to meet someone who did not know that we are dedicated sound effects recordists, because I think it’s what separates us from most of our competitors. Recording is what we are best at. Do people really think of us as a distributor foremost? I hope not. I hope they read this interview and contact us to record something for them
Where we’ve recorded: Argentina, Uruguay, Cook Islands, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Norway, France, Mexico, Sweden, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Saipan, Tinian, Chile, Panama, Philippines, Japan, Brazil, Czech Republic and others I have forgotten.
What we’ve recorded: numerous cars, tanks, air planes, jets, boats, wave runners, horses, dogs, and guns. Sports FX and crowds of soccer, football, hockey, horse racing, boxing, etc.
There are so many highlights over the last 22 years: marching with Piqueteros in Buenos Aires, cell doors at a WWII concentration camp, a cavalry of horses charging me in Kazakhstan, a bull sea lion chasing me in Uruguay, recording in the caves of Bonzai Cliff, a chimp stealing my sound recorder, recording at midnight deep in the Everglades and hearing ghost voices, floating in the dark of night around the islands of Halong Bay, oh my….I could go on forever.
What are the top downloaded sounds?
I don’t know. We are focused on recording and creating sounds not marketing. I have always believed that a great catalog of sounds is more important than business acumen. The internet and word of mouth will take care of us.
What is the strangest sound(s) in your collection?
Camels having sex. A hoarse chocolate lab that sounds like a monster.
You provide sounds for the biggest names in computing. Avid, Apple, Microsoft, Google and others are listed as strategic partners. What is the nature of these collaborations and how have they evolved over the years?
We provided sound effects to Apple iMovie until George Lucas called Steven Jobs and asked that his company provide the sound effects for the next release of iMovie. CUE: sad violin sound. We’re working with a major music company on a new product and we’ve done several ringtone deals. We should ask Silvia Barreiro – she is more on top of that part of the business.
What are some of the latest media projects that have used SoundDogs and what are some of the unique ways they have been used?
TV shows and video games. We shot 1920s-era cars for a show called LA Noir, recorded horses for Uncharted 3, and I did something for Batttlefield 3 to receive a thank you credit. For movies: surfing and waves for Chasing Mavericks, CostCo recordings for The Watch, amazing desert vehicles for Gun Runner Billy Kane, and I am starting to record for a Korean feature film. We have clients in South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, England, and Sweden that contact us for custom sound recording for their projects. I am now a fan of Korean cinema.
Are there any new website features in the pipeline that you can talk about?
We’re working hard to bring the new site up to my standards as a professional sound editor. Until then the old site is still reliable and I continue to use it.
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you want to mention?
I’d like to mention the LA Sound Design Group, at 3rdstreetadr.com. We’ve been hosting monthly meetings and will be producing the footage for the public. The guest speakers are Hollywood professionals, peers that I respect immensely. Students and anyone interested in sound arts will be very happy to watch these episodes.