Dear fellow post people - sound designers, picture editors & musicians
Today, I'd like to let you in on a secret. I'd like to tell you about a project of mine that has been in the works silently for many years. It kind of accompanied my whole career as a sound designer and I always dreamed about taking it to a releasable state and making it a real product. This year, this dream is very likely to come true and I'm completely thrilled about this opportunity!
The project I'm talking about is called Selekta and it's a professional audio asset management software that I wrote for OS X. I have been using it actively and exclusively for more than eight years now and it served me well on a large number of productions, mostly feature films. It runs on my studio machine and on my laptop and it always helped me find the right sounds very fast - even under harsh conditions (like on the mixing stage when a producer was breathing down my neck).
So if you're a sound editor/designer, musician or picture editor, this might be for you. Selekta sports features tailored especially for those media professionals that have to manage a large audio library:
- it helps you find sounds super fast with its search-while-you-type database
- it assists your memory by an auto-tagging mechanism that associates sounds with a project
- keeps track of where you have been before with a unique playback history widget
- lets you play material creatively with shuttle & scrub, both in "tape" and "stutter" style
- lets you explore a sound's potential with varispeed & reverse playback
- is compatible with other librarians and field recorders thanks to BWAV metadata support
- works with multitrack interleaved files to support field recorder footage
- supports many file formats and audio codecs
- lets you spot directly to ProTools or drag&drop to other DAWs
- plays MS encoded sounds with a built-in MS decoder
- helps you being tidy and neat with batch data processing
Selekta is in the final development stages and will be released thru Sonocaine. It will be very affordable with the goal to give newcomers the ability to manage sound libraries on a pro level.
And now that we've got the obvious stuff out of the way, please let me explain how this all came to be.
The short story...
When I started my career I didn't like the audio librarians available so I learned programming and wrote my own. Now it's finished and ready for the world. Here's what it looks like:
The slightly longer story goes something like this...
When I started my career as a sound designer, hard drive based sound libraries where just becoming state-of-the-art. But since professional asset managers like Soundminer or NetMix represented a significant investment, I still had to look up sounds with the infamous Filemaker databases from Sound Ideas or Hollywood Edge to find the CD it was on, then go to the folder where that CD was ripped to and listen to that file.
It was instantly clear that searching in a text database wasn't gonna cut it and that this workflow screamed for auditioning the sound right there, preferably with a waveform overview. Especially for me being a bloody beginner, searching the libraries ate up a lot of my time and it soon was clear that library knowledge was very critical.
During these first years I learned how my brain works regarding sounds. The best way for me remembering a sound is by the project I used it in. It works like "I remember using this sound for project X" or "I went thru so many rain sounds for project Y". It wasn't just about what sounds where recorded for or actually used in a project, it was also about what sounds did I search and what sounds did I listen to during that project. The relationship between sounds and projects became quite important to me and I badly wanted a librarian software that took that into account automagically.
I also realized the importance of chance. It's great when you find exactly the sound you were looking for. But it's way more exciting to find something even better by coincidence. I learned that chance may play an important part in the process of handling raw material. That's why I really wished for a librarian tool that let me handle this raw material in a playful and creative way. A way that allows for unexpected things to happen. For instance, I wanted all types of playback options: pitched, reversed, stutter scrubbing and reel-to-reel-type shuttle, both with mouse and keyboard shortcuts. When there's enough room for random things to happen, playing around freely with source material can yield great new ideas.
The possible solutions at that time didn't really satisfy me. For my taste, they where either too unintuitive or too expensive (or both). Nothing was near those applications that I admired for their simplicity, their elegance and their usability regarding professional creative work.
Another thing I struggled with was getting lost in my own search history and not knowing what I already had been listening to (my memory really sucks). I knew, I wanted to come up with a really nice UI idea to let the user know what already had been auditioned (I ended up with a widget that reflects the user's mid- and long-term memory in the UI. I'll be happy to share this at a later point).
Apple has tradition of making it very easy for "non-professionals" to get in the game of software development. They know that highly innovative ideas may come from this direction. I already had some knowledge in programming and I didn't had too much trouble learning Objective-C and understanding Apple's frameworks. Whenever there was a spare evening or some idle time between film projects I continued working on Selekta. Soon, I had a working prototype that I actually could use in the studio. Over the years, I refined it, bug-fixed it, added new features and polished the UI. All in very small steps and little pushes.
And now the time has come to release it. But there's still a lot to do so right now, I'm figuring out the financing of this last push.
But in the meantime (and that's essentially the reason why I'm writing this) I would like to reach out to the post production community, to YOU. It would be really helpful to hear your thoughts and ideas about this. Selekta has been living a long time in the cosy security of my own studio workflow and the time has come for a reality check.
If you have any thoughts about this please get in touch and shoot me an email!
At this stage it's very important to me to collect feedback and to do the last steps right. I'd be very happy about any kind of reaction, be it feature requests, critique, encouragement, etc.
And if you're just generally curious about the future of Selekta you may subscribe to the newsletter to be informed about what's going to happen. Also, I'm already looking for beta testers, so if you're interested, again just subscribe to the Selekta newsletter here:
Thank you very much and hopefully talk soon!