Stock sound effect
A stock sound effect is a prerecorded sound effect created for or contained within a sound effect library for the intended reuse within entertainment productions; as opposed to creating a new, unique sound effect.
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 theater, 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. coconuts shells for horse hooves, 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. Film went from silent to "talkies" and sound effects 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 sound effects, as well as harder to replicate ones, were prerecorded, so they would be easily available when needed. This also allowed the same sound effect to be used multiple times.
Both producer’s and listener’s 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 essential.
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 sound designed, 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, 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 web sites now provide sounds stock sounds for use in movies, video games, and software. Some such as AudioJungle Production Trax sell content to users. Others such as FreeSound.org, pdsounds.org, and FreeStockAssets.com 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 too evolved. 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 grown and evolved as well. With more complex, layered and mixed sound effects as well a wider variety of incidental real world sounds.