Futurity's Metropolis Science Fiction Toolkit ($99) is a new collection of 16-bit, 44.1 kHz sound effects on audio CD. Upon listening to the first selection, Metallic Whoosh/Long, I wondered if I was hearing Star Trek: Voyager, because this track would certainly fit well in that show.
Future SoundsAll of the CD's sounds are named for their sonic characteristics. For instance, Metallic Shimmer is a high-pitched, heavily processed effect that has a glistening quality. Similarly, two versions of Storm Release (again, heavily processed) sound like water racing through a large tube.
Futurity chose to cover considerable aural territory in a distinct and varied palette: deep harmonic booms, ethereal bell accents, flange/distortion sweeps, aggressive synth warbles, sirens, random holds, lasers, buzzes, screeches, bursts, hits, ambient pads, and much more. Many of the CD's 99 tracks include a few variations on a given effect, so in fact you get 188 sounds. The tracks range in duration from 1 second to 1 minute and 14 seconds; most tracks are short cues that are 1 to 5 seconds long. Many tracks do not have a definite pitch, and therefore they work best as effects. Some tracks do have a pitch and could be used as musical cues or washes.
I like the two Clean Ambient Wash tracks (one lasts 9 seconds, the other 19). Both have a rich, glossy ambience and a glassy vocal texture, not unlike the effect you hear when a person is beamed up in '90s Star Trek episodes. Both versions of Low Pulsing Ambience are striking for their resonant, eerie qualities; one offers a cool sample-and-hold element.
The three Noise Impact sounds on track 75 are very effective, as are the three Alert Siren cues. Metal Sweep Ambience sounds like a gargantuan, pulsing cymbal or gong and creates a broad, sustained backdrop. Low Voice Detuning is especially good-a long, deep, spooky effect with synth chords that drift in pitch.
Sci-Fi ToolsThe sound sources for the disc's effects include guitars, water, metal, and machines-such as a 1912 Pierce Arrow and a 1911 Stanley Steamer automobile-as well as a stationary multipurpose engine that was often used in agriculture in the early 20th century. These sound sources were recorded with a Crown SASS-P stereo PCM microphone into an HHB Portadat. On the lo-fi side of things, some old 12-bit Sequential Circuits Prophet-2000 samples were recorded with a Shure SM57 microphone and imported into Digidesign's Pro Tools.
The source sounds were processed with Eventide H3000 and Lexicon 480L and MPX 1 processors along with some Roland synth modules, a Prophet-5, and a variety of '70s and '80s stompboxes. Symbolic Sound's Kyma, Digidesign's Pro Tools/24 Mixplus, BIAS's SFX Machine, and Waves' TDM Bundle were also used. The effects are applied tastefully, but I would like to have additional versions with no reverb or extraneous processing so that I could apply my own.
Future ThoughtsThe documentation for Metropolis Science Fiction Toolkit is sparse. The effects are listed on the back of the jewel case by track number, description, and duration, and are continued inside the single-page front sleeve. Aside from company information, copyright warnings, and a few thank-you credits, that's all you get-but that's really all you need to make use of this disc.
The collection is on the expensive side-$99 is a little steep for an audio CD. Using Metropolis Science Fiction Toolkit with a sampler or importing its tracks into your DAW is more of a hassle than it would be if this were a CD-ROM. That notwithstanding, the sound effects here are all well crafted, and some are superb. All of them would work well as effects for sci-fi, horror, or action pieces.
Metropolis Science Fiction Toolkit's producers obtained the Kyma sound-design system toward the end of the CD's production, but they were unable to tell me specifically which sounds they used. I've never heard Kyma, but this program won an EM Editors' Choice Award (see "1998 Editors' Choice Awards" in the January 1998 issue of EM), and I'm told that it will be used extensively on Futurity's next disc.
You can hear sample selections from Metropolis Science Fiction Toolkit, as well as other products, on Futurity's Web site. If you need post-production sound effects for film or video, or if you like having esoteric sounds in your library, I recommend perusing these samples. You may just find the effects cues that you're looking for.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 3.5