Stock sound effect

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A stock sound effect' is a prerecorded sound effect intended to be reused with an entertainment product, as opposed to creating a new, unique sound effect. It is intended to work within a sound effect library.


From at least as far back as Ancient Greece, sound effects have been used in entertainment productions. Sound effects (AKA sound FX, SFX, or simply FX) are still used to enhance everything from theatre, radio, film, and television to video games and online media.

Sound effects were originally added to productions by creating the sounds needed in real time for each production. Various sound-making devices and props (i.e. coconut shells for horse hooves, a sheet of metal for thunder) were used in place of the real sounds. With the advent of radio and specifically radio dramas, the role of sound effects increased in importance. Cinema went from silent to "talkies" sound effects which also became a large part of this new medium.

Audio recording technology continued to evolve, making recording and playing back sound easier and more accessible. As this happened, the more commonly used and harder-to-replicate sound effects were prerecorded to make them easily available when needed. Prerecording also allowed the same sound effect to be used many times.

Both producers' and listeners' sensibilities also began evolving with technology and the need for more realistic sound effects or using the "real" sound increased, so the need for these prerecorded sound effects become even more urgent.

As the quality of audio recording and playback increased with time, so did access to a wider variety of highly specific "real" sounds that enhanced the quality of productions. For example, rather than a replicated gunshot a producer might select a real gunshot from a certain type of gun, shot under very specific conditions. This increased access to "real" sound effects recordings became increasingly important to producers.

These collections of prerecorded of sound effects, both "real" and artificial, began to be referred to as stock sound effects, and were organized into "sound effect libraries." Stock sound effects became widely used and valuable assets of sound design artists and production companies. Some stock sound effects have been reused so many times that they have become easily recognizable and some even clichés, such as the scream of a red-tailed hawk (e.g., red-tailed hawk screaming on YouTube), castle thunder, or the Wilhelm and Howie screams.

Many of the original sound effects libraries originated from film and television studios that employed the artists who created them, such as Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera. Over time independent companies such as Sound Ideas and Hollywood Edge became involved, both distributing the major studios' libraries as well as making their own available to the public. The Internet ushered in a new generation of technology, entertainment mediums, and sound effects libraries. Sounddogs became the first to distribute sound effects libraries over the Internet and Soundrangers became the first to create an all new sound effects library for Internet-based entertainment. Dozens of other websites now provide sounds stock sounds for use in movies, video games, and software. Others such as aim to provide free sound effects under the public domain.

With the evolving sound recording technology and formats over the years, sound effects library formats have evolved, too. Sound libraries have been available on many types of media over the years, from vinyl records, reel-to-reel tape, cassette tapes, compact discs to hard drives and now the Internet. Sound effects libraries' content has also grown and evolved, with more complex, layered, and mixed sound effects, as well as a wider variety of incidental real world sounds.

Often-used examples[edit]

Howie Scream[edit]

Audio file of "The Howie Long scream"

The Howie scream (also known as the Howie Long scream or Screams 3; Man, Gut-wrenching Scream And Fall Into Distance) is a frequently used film, television, and video game stock sound effect for a scream. Often compared to the Wilhelm scream, its prominence in a number of movies has given it a few nicknames such as Howie Long Scream, in reference to Howie Long's death scene in the movie Broken Arrow.[2] It appears to have originated from a fight scene in the 1980 film The Ninth Configuration.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee, Steve (2004). "The Universal Telephone Ring",
  2. ^ "Top 10 Movie Sound Effects We All Recognize". Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "A tribute site to one of Hollywood's best sound effects!". Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 

External links[edit]