WRITTEN BY JACOB COOK
ASSISTANT EDITOR, BOOM BOX POST
Few things can positively impact a sound editor's workflow like effective and thorough sound effects metadata. Having good metadata in your library will lessen the time needed to find the sounds you are looking for and speed up the process of finding new favorites in a packed library. If you are selling your sound effects, having rock-solid metadata is essential to creating a marketable product.
What is Metadata?
Metadata, specifically for audio files, is fields of text attached to the file that can be read by various applications and services. The simplest is the filename, but files can hold many other fields that are useful to sound editors perusing massive numbers of files. Some of my favorite metadata fields are Description, Keywords and Category.
Why use Metadata?
Whether you are an independent SFX editor, curating your own library for work on various projects, a recordist cataloguing nature recordings, or a sound effects designer trying to market your creations, good metadata WILL help you. Metadata apps like Soundminer will allow you to search a database using not only the filename, but various metadata fields as well. This lets you keep concise filenames, and include many layers of detailed information organized for each file. Increased search-ability will decrease time wasted digging through files, and increase productivity.
Filename: ROBOT EXOSUIT - NGAGE - HEADS UP DISPLAY - Power Up 02
Category: Robotic Creations
Sub-Category: Heads Up Display
Description: Robotic Creations - Heads Up Display - Robot Exosuit - Ngage - Power Up - Turn On
Keywords: screen on turn on booting boot up activate energize charge ramp ascend engage accelerate HUD Scifi sci-fi UI digital tech future synth chime screen alert VR virtual reality beep glitch robot bot communication AI machine computer
Designer: Jessey Drake
Manufacturer: Boom Box Library
This allows me to locate this file and similar files by searching a variety of things. By searching “robot” I would get a huge collection of files, but my metadata allows me to be more specific. If I search "robot on," Soundminer will show me all of my robot power ups. I can get a similar result by searching “boot up.” If I’m not sure what exactly I’m looking for, I can punch in “synth sci-fi,” and this file would be included as well. The trick with good metadata is to make it broad enough that the file is easy to search, but not so broad as it intrudes on unrelated searches and slows things down.
Also note that when creating the filename, we chose to list first the type of robot (ROBOT EXOSUIT), then the proprietary name that we gave that robot personality (NGAGE), the library name (HEADS UP DISPLAY), and a very concise descriptor of the sound (Power Up 02). This not only makes it easy to search for this sound with any aspect of this data that springs to memory, but it it means that when this library is combined with other libraries within the Robotic Creations Collection, each robot personality's files will be listed together in your search results window, rather than spilling results randomly.
Soundminer is easily my favorite metadata app, though other options are available, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. One of the most valuable features for metadata in Soundminer is that the data it imprints transfers correctly to a wide variety of other metadata apps. This means that the metadata you create in Soundminer will help users of another app search your files just as easily. Soundminer also offers many options for expediting metadata implementation, which we used recently for our Robotic Creations Heads Up Display Library. For more info on those advanced metadata methods, check out the links at the bottom of the page.
How to implement basic Metadata with Soundminer:
Implementing detailed metadata is a breeze in Soundminer. The first step is to import the named audio files into your Soundminer Database. You can do this by simply dragging and dropping the files into your Soundminer window with the correct database open. I like to create a new database for making and editing metadata but if you are just adding files to your personal library, you don’t need to do that.
Once you have the files in your database, you will want to show the metadata field you wish to edit. You can view your options by right-clicking the gray bar where you can see the current metadata fields, such as filename. For this example I am going to edit the Category, SubCategory, Description, Keywords and Designer fields.
To edit each field, simply select each field with the mouse, then press the ‘E’ key. You can then type in the desired metadata, and hit ‘Enter’ to lock it in.
Some fields will allow you to select pre-existing metadata for certain fields by right clicking. You can apply this to multiple fields at a time by shift clicking to select multiple files, making mass-assigning categories a breeze.
You can also assign artwork to your files, by right-clicking the artwork field and selecting ‘Assign Artwork.’ This can also be applied to multiple files simultaneously.
Once you are done entering the desired metadata, select the edited files, right-click and select ‘Embed Selected.’ This will print the new metadata to the files linked in the database, meaning you can re-add the files to another database or distribute them and the metadata will be intact.
Curating your sound effects library with high quality metadata can speed up sound effects editing, enhance organization and make your sound effects more marketable. Embedding metadata with these methods is just the tip of the iceberg. Soundminer offers many other methods for embedding and automating the metadata process.
For further reading on the topic be sure to check out the links below: