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Old February 21st, 2006, 03:15 AM   #1
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Explain "room tone"

Can someone explain "room tone". Why do I need to record it? It what situation would I use it in editing?
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Old February 21st, 2006, 03:33 AM   #2
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"Room tone" is a generic term for environmental sounds when no one is talking and nothing specific is taking place (footsteps, phone ringing, gun shots, etc.).

You want to get some of this ambience to cover up "holes" left in your sound track if you end up having to edit out unwanted noises or dialogue.

Every situation always has some sort of environmental sound. At the beach it'll be waves. At the airport, it would be airplanes. On the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise it'll be whirring and soft pinging noises....
Dean Sensui
Exec Producer, Hawaii Goes Fishing
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Old February 21st, 2006, 08:04 AM   #3
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Traditionally, room tone is captured at the end of the shooting sequence on a set. All the actors and crew are asked to remain in place, and "Room Tone" is announced. Everyone remains quiet untill thirty to sixty seconds of tone is captured. The reason for the people to remain on set is because the presence of their bodies can alter the quality of the tone itself. (Room acoustics change when the room has fifteen people in it, as opposed to one)

Some sound guys like to capture 'up front', before shooting, just so they don't have to ask people to hang around after shooting.

(And no, I don't think they ask A list stars to hang around, but you get the point. Keep some bodies present.)

There's a funny scene at the end of the movie "Living in Oblivion". It's a quirky Indy film about a quirky Indy director (Steve Buscemi) that's shooting a quirky Indy film... At the end of the shooting sequence, they call for room tone. Everyone stands there quietly (mostly) and they fantasize about how they are going to get awards for the film. Funny film, I recommend it.
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Old February 21st, 2006, 09:49 AM   #4
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The bigger question, of course, is why do you want to capture room tone...

When you are editing there will always be times that you want to get rid of the audio. Like maybe we have a close-up of a characters face as they are looking at someone else talking. In post you want to use that shot, but not with someone talking. So you lay it down on the timeline and take away the audio. Now you have a big gaping hole in the audio that sounds like a dropout.

So.... you take your handy recorded room tone and drop that audio down on the timeline below the visual that you just did and boom... no audio gaps.
Barry Gribble
Integral Arts, IMDB
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