scene example, the ambience track is a continuous recording of waves lapping
against the piers, with a bit of wood creaking and some distant traffic.
That tells the audience that the scene takes place in a city, near the
water. The stingers include the distant foghorn and a breath of spooky
wind placed at just the right moment.
Room tone is a special type of ambience, typically a recording of the
atmosphere of an interior space with no specific sound. Its not
very dramatic, but room tone is important for creating a subtle undercurrent
that ties together the other elements in a scene. It is critical in matching
ADR (automated dialog replacement, which is dialog recorded after the
fact) with dialog recorded during the shoot. Room tone is mixed with the
replacement dialog, which helps conceal the fact that it was recorded
FROM THE TOP
There are various steps in the sound-design process, including ways to
find material, process sound, and combine sources. Keep in mind that sound
design is a post-production process; that is, it takes place after some
or all of the primary production work (filming and animation, for example)
In determining how to design sound for a project, you need to gather everything
related to the project that you can find. That might include scripts,
documents, footage dubbed to VHS tape, QuickTime movies of game animations
and alpha versions of the game, or rough versions of a Web applet in progress.
Whatever content your collaborators can provide is of utmost importance;
you need to see what is going on before you can design sound for the project.
(See the sidebar Preliminary Procedures for additional suggestions
about preparing yourself for the task.) Doing it any other way guarantees
a mismatch between the sound and visual elements and a mess at the end
of the project.
Also, because sound is added at the end of the process, all the delays
and late deliveries throughout the production, as well as all budget overruns,
will happen before you get to ply your trade. It isnt fair, but
thats how it goes.
ACQUIRING RAW SOUND
Once you have decided what sounds you will need, the next step is to acquire
the raw sound recordings. Those recordings are the clay from which your
sonic sculpture will come, and it is essential to pick the right material
from the start. Look for sounds that you think are interesting, rich,
and full of life; its difficult to breathe life into dull or listless
raw materials. The right well-recorded sound needs virtually no processing
to get the message across.
Field recording. Field recording is the process of taking a portable tape
recorder and microphone into the unruly world outside your studio. Field
recording is terrific for capturing ambiences, animals, airplanes, or
nearly anything else that you cant bring into your studio. There
is no part of sound design I love more than field recording. Its
supremely satisfying to strap on a bunch of gear and go out into the world
to get a sound you need. The results are authentic, unique, and your ownfrozen
moments in time and space that you have committed to tape.
Magazine, March, 2001
© 2001, Intertec Publishing, A Primedia Company All Rights Reserved.