BBC Opens Up Massive Sounds Effects Archive for Download

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Sound effects can be one of those post production tools that can really add production value to your video. But all too often, the effects we choose are either overused, overpriced, or simply not what we’re looking for. But the BBC is here to help, with a vast collection of over 16,000 effects that have been recorded over the last 100 years, and you can use them for free. But there is a caveat.

“One of the fascinating things is that sometimes archives are collected for one reason, but they find another use later on for a completely different reason,” said  Simon Rooks, the BBC’s head of archives. “This would be a really good example of that — that these things collected for a program resource have suddenly found another outlet.”

image credit – BBC

Made available under the BBC’s RemArc License, this collection of 16,016 sounds which have been recorded from over the last century by BBC Radio dating all the way back to the 1920s. We’re talking some serious foley work here. There’s busy offices like a Belgian post office, a South American parrot talking and screeching, and even the inflating of a rubber life boat.   There’s also downloads of live sporting events including the 1966 FA Cup Soccer final, as well as air raids during World War II, and animal recordings from the jungles around the world, and even some creepy talking dolls.

“Right from, say, World War II, we have some examples of people going out during air raids to record the sounds of bombs falling,” Rooks said. “That’s kind of very sobering really because people were putting their lives at stake to go and do that.”

The archive, known as the “Acropolis,” is currently in “BETA,” and was created as part of an Reminiscence Archive, to help trigger memories in people with dementia, but the BBC is making it available to anyone to enjoy. “They found that they spark memories and spark conversation and more sort of improved social interaction between dementia sufferers and their carers,” Rooks said.

The archive is completely searchable by keyword tags and comprises 641 web pages with listings by category, samples to listen to, and download links.  The sound effects are recorded in high fidelity WAV format, and sound like they’ve been remastered for digital download.

When you consider that the BBC charges about $5,000 for the official, royalty free sound collection, so getting these for free is an absolute bargain. But being under the Beeb’s RemArc license, they are only made available for personal, educational, or research purposes. No commercial use is allowed.

But if you’re doing a short film for competition, or just to get practice with sound design, this is a great place to have bookmarked. Check out the expansive BBC archive on their site here.


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Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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