How to.....sound effects for nature? at
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Old November 6th, 2007, 09:30 AM   #1
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How to.....sound effects for nature?

Watching "Life of birds" by D. Attenborough to get some inspiration and understand audio for nature film, I came to realize some obvious things...
The audio is comprised of the following :
The narration
Music going in and out to compliment the scene
Ambiance sound for the location, part of it is general for the place, like wood, swamp, tundra and so on, and the sound of the actual bird (or other animal).
Most of the ambiance sound is not necessarily recorded simultaneously with the film.
But last layer of audio is my interest in this post, the effects added mainly to the closeups.
They all are some kind of interaction between the bird and the environment,
and they give a huge impact.
Flapping wings when taking on to the air or down,flapping of small birds or large ones,
on slowmo or rushing speed and so on.
Bathing in the water, walking in water and picking a twig on the ground.
I think the idea is clear.
Take them out and at most times the impact of the closeup is severely reduced.
As I spend a lot of time watching birds I can comment that almost all of the effects are added at post production.

Do you know of any commercial library of effects for nature? (I guess not.)
Does the sound man of such a film records his own effects on controlled conditions and collects them on his privet library for future use ?
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Old November 6th, 2007, 10:25 AM   #2
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I don't know a lot about Life Of Birds, but I do know a lot of nature films are totally foleyed and wildtracked.

For libraries check out Hollywood Edge or - I'm sure there are many more offering nature sounds.
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Old November 6th, 2007, 11:05 AM   #3
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Are you sure about that, Mike? I think someone as dedicated to nature as Attenborough would want to use artificial sound effects.

Sassi, there are lots of animal sound libraries. Try Sound Ideas' Birds & Animals FX Collection.
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Old November 6th, 2007, 12:15 PM   #4
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I am sure that all the natural sound on any series made by Attenborough are genuine.
As for me I don't need the ambiance because I can collect it myself from the same session of filming the video or a similar one. Also the species (bird)sound I can get from previous recordings.
I am talking only of the effects that are most likely recorded off location.
The camera can get you very close to the bird and a parabolic dish can get you the bird calls. But the steps on the grass or the sound of Gannets (Booby) diving (no such sound !) or the rubbing of a wing against a twig are not real. Or are possible to record only if you are extremely close to the action (inchs away).
Those are the effects I am talking about.
Attached Files
File Type: wav flap.wav (509.9 KB, 167 views)
File Type: wav digging.wav (599.5 KB, 168 views)
File Type: wav bath.wav (1.85 MB, 150 views)
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Old November 6th, 2007, 01:22 PM   #5
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Very sure.

The truth is that, with the exception of those shot in which David Attenborough addresses the camera crouched behind a bush, most of a nature documentary soundtrack is deliberately and meticulously constructed in post production. Atmospheres and sound effects may be recorded on location, but these are virtually never captured simultaneously with picture. A few might find this disappointing, but upon closer inspection what is revealed is the incredible creative machinery that makes for a first-rate nature documentary,
I also remember seeing a documentarty showing the making of a nature documentary where everything was shot in a studio (I think it was an insect one).

Media is creative, it is not reality.
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Old November 6th, 2007, 03:52 PM   #6
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thanks for that link, interesting to read!

as a fellow wildlifephotographer I try to do as much ambient sound recording as possible when shooting. But often it's just me on the team, so often sound are second priority. The biggest problem with collecting ambient sound on location is sounds that should not be there, traffic, aircrafts, stillphotographers! etc... then I have to use some from my files or find some thing to buy.
Sometime you are lucky as the scene in "Pond of Bears" where I could use much of the ambient sound, even if the closeup scenes where the bear scratch himself and the swimming bear was impossible to get any decent sound of!
- Per Johan
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Old November 6th, 2007, 09:32 PM   #7
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Foley artists have been faking 'sounds of nature' since the radio dramas in the 1920s-30s....

Flap a magazine in front of a mic for flapping wings.

Swish your hand in a bowl of water for animals in river sounds

Break a pencil or celery for twig snapping (or bones snapping!)

You just have to use your imagination.

(I did a short animation for my kids Robot Team last year and my son and I spent an evening banging on pots for construction sounds, slowing down electric kitchen mixers for submarine motor sounds and even slowing down low moans for whale songs... lots of fun!)
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Old November 7th, 2007, 02:12 AM   #8
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We had a series of fantastic Radio 4 programs about how specific Foley guys recreated the sounds for these programs. Say of a bird flapping it's wings when caught on a zoom lens. The guys had a kit bag of things such as actual severed bird wings that they waved, a glove for the fast flap that they flapped themselves, a telephone directory name it. Was brilliant and hopefully someone somewhere recorded it.

All done in post though. That's How they get it to sound 'real' when working at such long distance. Al the illusion of TV.

Same with a lot of insects which basically would be unaudiable unlesss they were actually walking on the microphone.
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