Article by: Erling Hoff — Aug 05 2023

The Legendary Wilhelm Scream: Now in Soundly!

The world of sound design is filled with valuable discoveries, waiting to be found, revived, and brought to life in our digital age. One of these treasures is the Sunset Library, a collection of sound effects that has been carefully digitized and made accessible through Soundly.

Operational from the 1950s to the 1980s, the Sunset Library was a treasure trove of sound effects, stored in many cardboard boxes filled with small rolls of 35mm magnetic film. Each roll had a description of the sound on a slip of paper, showing the meticulous process of sound editing before digital technology.

Among the 1,022 sound effects in the Sunset Library was a very rare recording: the original Wilhelm Scream. This iconic sound effect, a high-pitched screech of terror, has been used in Hollywood films since the 1950s. Interestingly, the scream is named after the character Wilhelm from the movie “Charge at Feather River” (1953), where the sound was reused. However, it was initially recorded for “Distant Drums” (1951).

The journey of the Wilhelm Scream to Soundly is a story of dedication and passion for preserving sound history. Esteemed sound designer Craig Smith discovered and restored the famous scream while converting the Sunset Library from tape to digital format. This meticulous process required technical expertise and a deep appreciation for the significance of these sound effects in the history of film and television production.

The process of restoration was not without its challenges. The tapes, which were on the brink of being discarded from the USC Archive, were in a fragile state. With the oxide layer falling off the plastic tape, the only way to recover the sounds was to bake the tapes in a convection oven - a risky but necessary step to ensure the preservation of these historical sound effects. Learn more about how the world’s most famous scream was recovered by watching our new video. It provides an in-depth look at this remarkable preservation process.

Soundly takes pride in supporting projects like the Sunset Library that preserve the history of sound effects. By making these vintage sounds accessible to a new generation of sound designers, film editors, and producers, Soundly ensures that the past continues to have an impact today.

In an ever-evolving industry, it is crucial to remember and honor our origins. The Sunset Library and the Wilhelm Scream serve as reminders of the rich history of sound design. By preserving and promoting these treasures, Soundly not only provides top-quality resources for today’s industry professionals but also ensures that the past remains an integral part of our sonic future.

We are excited to announce that you can now explore the Sunset Library in Soundly!

Download Soundly at