Much like a guitarist’s pedal rig or a superhero’s utility belt, a sound designer’s hardware and software are essential to their craft and efficiency. Recording and editing tools can also tell a personal story for the recordist who uses them – a timeline of their career path.

That’s the case with Big Room Sound’s J.R. Fountain, one of Soundsnap’s many beloved contributors. Like most in his field, Fountain has accrued quite a collection of devices that have been essential to his career. For our blog, he’s told us about 10 of his favorites.

 

Sony M10

sony m10

The Sony M10 was the baby in Sony’s line up of portable recorders a number of years ago, alas it’s discontinued now. I love it because it’s super small, the onboard mics sound great, and the batteries never run out. Mine lives in my laptop bag so I’ve got it wherever I go. I find it especially useful on the mix stage when I need to quickly record a voice or foley effect.

 

Neumann KM184

neumann_km184

I bought a pair of Neumann KM184’s after college and they have served me incredibly well over the years. I have one that sits permanently on a stand plugged into my Avid Omni for when inspiration strikes. I always keep a record channel in my sound design templates so I can quickly capture sounds directly into my edit. For less than $1,000 it’s an amazing value for a microphone.

 

Field recording rig

Every sound designer needs a field recording rig. There are always new sounds to record and I have discovered there is a tremendous amount of learning that accompanies the experience of recording in the real world that I highly value. It’s an indispensable tool and was the first piece of gear I bought. Back then it was a MiniDAT recorder and a pair of binaural microphones. Today my kit includes the other Neumann KM184 paired with a Schoeps CCM8 for an MS setup, 2 Barcus Berry contact mics, 2 Shure SM57’s, the Sony M10, a Sound Devices MixPre, a Marantz PMD661 and a Zoom F8.

 

Avid S3

Avid Pro Tools S3

I upgraded from an Artist Mix to the Avid S3 last year and plan to add an Avid Dock next. For a sound designer this is a fantastic controller. Ergonomically it fits really well into an edit suite, while functionally giving you a lot of control. It’s allowed me to incorporate mixing workflows like sends/returns, VCA’s, and plugin automation into my editing and design. Obviously you can do all of this without a controller but I really value getting my hands on the faders in certain situations.

 

Soundminer

Soundminer

 

I remember a day when there was no Soundminer. To manage our sound effects library we had a Filemaker Pro database and a closet full of MO cartridges. I think MO stood for “magneto optical”. But they only held about 650MB of data per disk so we had ton of them. We’d search the database, write down the MO’, grab the MO, load it up, copy the sound into ProTools and then finally listen to it…Ughh. Anyhow, if you’re reading this I’m sure you know about Soundminer. It’s not the only kid on the block but it’s the oldest and it’s awesome. My sound effects library has over 350,000 sounds in it which is probably big to some and tiny to others but Soundminer doesn’t break a sweat when performing searches. In fact it’s gotten faster with the new version 5 and there’s some wicked new features like watch folders, new ways to filter your search, and the new Radium sampler.

 

Doppler by Tonsturm

Doppler Effect by Tonstrum

This is one of my new favourite plugins. It’s a powerhouse for creating realistic movement in static sounds. The doppler effect is brilliant and the added modulation you can add through the LFO’s is great for adding extra texture. Recently I used it as part of my chain to create the sound for an intense magical fire swirling around two characters in a circle with amazing results. Highly recommended.

 

Soundtoys Native Bundle

SoundToys Native Bundle

 

Soundtoys’ plugins are awesome, that’s no secret. I’ve been using them since the TDM days of Pro Tools though I confess I didn’t appreciate them as much as I do now. My favorites include the Effects Rack, EchoBoy, Tremolator and more recently Radiator. There aren’t many shows that go by where I don’t use something from this kit to process a sound.

 

GRM Tools

GRM TOOLS

 

Another classic suite of sound design plugins is GRM Tools. These are the kind of plugs that you can put one sound in and get something completely different on the way out. They’ve been around for a long time but still give me great results. Keep in mind though that they are geared more towards otherworldly sounds like sci-fi and magic. My favourites are Evolution, PitchAccum and Shift.

 

SPL Transient Designer

Transient Designer

 

I love how simple this plug is. Two knobs, one for attack, one for sustain, decide what you want more or less of and you’re done. I use Transient Designer to quickly “de-reverb” door and impact sounds. It’s not super sexy but boy is it useful.

 

McDSP ML4000

 

When I’m mastering sound effects I prefer not to use noise reduction if possible, but when I do the ML4000 multi band dynamics plugin is usually in the chain. It’s endlessly tweak-able which makes it very powerful. Using the expander I can suck out a lot of the noise floor though I try not to go that far as you have to be careful not to suck the life out of your sound either. I prefer this style of noise reduction in mastering as it doesn’t leave any artifacts which can hinder a sound’s process-ability once you begin to use it in a design later on.

 

About the Author

J.R Fountain | Sound Designer | Big Room Sound

J.R. leads the company Big Room Sound which provides post sound services to the Toronto film and television industry. With a library spanning over 8,000 creative sound elements, from natural ambiances to transporation sound. His credits include Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Breadwinner and Pompeii.

 

Browse J.R Fountain’s Sounds

J.R Fountain’s Partial Credit List