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Hi,

Total newbie to sound design as its a new module im taking at university, so please bear with me :-)

Basically, I'm looking to recreate the sound of a first person perspective(?) of someone sumbmerging in and out of water. I have been informed of the condom trick, however, this isn't really an option as the equipment doesn't belong to me and have been told doing this isn't an option in case something goes wrong.

Is there any way of recreating this sound? I am currently using Pro Tools 8.

Thanks!

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Did you ever record it? I'm curious to hear. –  user3826 May 4 '12 at 21:13
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2 Answers

In your scenario, is this person jumping into the water or just gradually sinking in?

If it's the former, consider the stages of what's happening to your character:

  • We hear above water ambiences as you establish that scene
  • There's a sharp crack as the body enters the water, while the ears are still above it
  • That initial crack blends into a more muted, rushing water sound as the ears plunge underwater
  • There's an ambience transition as the above-ground sounds basically disappear (except for any particularly loud / transient ones, like a clicking generator or something)
  • There's extra bubbling/fizz that rushes up as all the water around the character kind of settles once the movement's done

If you have access to any decent libraries, I would really focus on finding the 'right' splash, making sure it has a good stereo width to it and feels more like a first-person splash than the deep ker-SPLUNK of a rock getting tossed into a lake from a different microphone. That's going to be the biggest piece that sells the first-person perspective.

Sweeping a low-pass filter (at 6-12dB per octave) down really quickly over some of the ambiences at the moment of submersion will help sell things, too. But it definitely won't get you all the way there so you should really have a totally separate bed of underwater ambiences that you can fade up.

I dunno, I've generally found that things recorded underwater with a hydrophone rarely sound like that cinematic underwater sound we've come to expect. What you're really going to be looking for is the sound of water rushing from an underwater perspective, to play at that moment when you sink under.. I got some good results out of using a hydrophone in a toilet flush, you may not want to go that far.

Also try ducking your head underwater (briefly, don't drown on us) and just counting up the layers of sound you hear. Try to identify stuff in each frequency range and get ideas for reconstructing them later. I'm almost positive there will be elements -- that omnipresent low rumbling, and the sound of bubbles, that you'll need to layer in there to sell the scene, in addition to whatever you want to record yourself.

That all should be a reasonable start -- let me know how it goes, and good luck!

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Luca has some wonderful suggestions. My other suggestion is this: Don't base your aesthetic decisions based on what microphones do, but what the human perception of the effect is. They're very, very different (I've found the same thing with hydrophones, mentioned above). I've rolled my sea kayak dozens of times with a camera on it, and the camera mic audio and what my ears experience are entirely different, though after adapting, hydrophones provide the best estimation. Luca's definitely right about breaking the surface tension of the water: It's like a small, very bright explosion. –  NoiseJockey Feb 19 '12 at 1:49
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Thanks for your advice, I did a bit of reading using hydrophones, and it seems that they pick up more of the mid-range to high frequencies, which as you say, is not the way sound is portrayed in film. I am actually recording this sound to reproduce and improve on a film (the Omaha beach scene from Saving Private Ryan), you'll probably know which scene I mean as I've been told it has won awards for its sound design! I am planning on recording tomorrow so I will take your advice on board and let you know how I get on. Thanks again :-) –  jen.r87 Feb 19 '12 at 2:05
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It is not right to generalize but here is "my" submerging/emerging formula which consists of 3 stages:

Submerge: Bubbles, crackles, splashes, hi-pass filtered explosions

Underwater Everything heavily low-pass filtered, time-warped bubbles for underwater movements, sonar-feel effects to enhance ambience

Emerge: Automate low pass filter to be normal at the moment of emerging, add heavy inhaling, support with a splash.

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