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I'm doing some sound design for a scene that takes place outside in front of a farmhouse, but all of the sound for it is being recorded indoors. I've got the outdoor ambiance sounds covered just fine, but the ambient reverb/delay is where I'm stumped.

Even though this is in a big open area, I know it's not just echoless and dead, because I know that if I shout in a field rather than in a padded room, it sounds way different. There is some natural echo (which has me leaning toward using a delay), but I'm having a hell of a time getting the settings right. Part of it is EQ, because I know that the echoed sounds would lose a lot of the high frequencies from the source, and I know it shoud be a longer delay, but everything I come up with sounds like it's happening in a cave rather than in a field.

Thoughts?

  • your ability to "sell" a faked outdoor sound is highly dependent on the amount of indoor reverb (from the recording space) that has wormed it's way into your recordings. obviously, the dryer the recording, the better your chances. – Shaun Farley Dec 10 '12 at 12:56
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To add to the other ideas here, it's often the layered complexity of outdoor reflections that gives them a natural feel. Real spaces, indoor or outdoor, never sound exactly like a reverb preset. I find it fun to design a bunch of options and mix-and-match—my usual strategy is to take 3-4 sends from the dialog/FX tracks and create corresponding aux tracks, each with a different spatial effect. Then I can use the 3-4 faders to balance those effects until I get something natural, or start with something new.

My best suggestion is to go for a walk and clap your hands a lot. It sounds basic (and potentially weird, depending on your neighbors) but it's a really good way to get a feeling for how sound actually interacts with structures and open spaces outdoors.

A few years back I heard gunshots from hunters while spending time near Yosemite National Park. It's so dang quiet there that I could clearly hear the characteristics of the echoes through the forest. Now when designing an echoey open space, I always make sure to have a low-pass filter in the feedback loop to mimic the continuous loss of high-frequencies over large distances and on reflections.

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    My parents live in the country, and it's not uncommon to hear hunters on the lake, on the edge of their property. Gunshots always sound like a staggered hard pan. Ba(L) - Boom!(R). Funny how I hear sounds in real life, and think about how I would recreate that in the digital domain. – MtL Dec 10 '12 at 18:06
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    I agree completely. I find it really easy to forget what the real world sounds like when I'm continuously working with delay and reverb plugins. – Matt Glenn Dec 10 '12 at 19:52
  • Interesting! I read this after finishing the project this morning. That's basically what I did! I created a four separate aux sends and automated the amounts of each track being sent to them. I also had subtle amounts of some sends being sent to others. – geekisthenewcool Dec 11 '12 at 6:24
  • Thanks for the help, everyone! Here's an mp3 of the finished product: dl.dropbox.com/u/1705617/rural_invasion.mp3 – geekisthenewcool Dec 11 '12 at 6:27
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Usually a convo verb can give decent results, as Dave mentioned. I find that even with that, it all comes down to the predelay and late delay parameters which 'sell it' though primarily, in my opinion. Predalys and late delays, and how they're used, are what give the reverb that character "slap" off the walls (or, the trees) that we recognize in real life. With convo verbs I tend to gravitate toward IRs of spring reverbs, followed by plates as a second, not often do I actually find an exterior IR that I like.

For what it's worth, a 0.9ms Predaly is good for a studio space, a 16ms or so feels nice for a big house room. Give something in the 70-150ms range anf see what happens. Or try keeping the predelay around 50ms or so and fire up the late delay to about 140ms - that gives an interesting lush slap reverb tail when I used it on TLSpace with a spring verb to verb some city dogs

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Have you tried any convolution reverbs? Most of those would have an outdoor sample. I know the stock one in logic has a few. Convolution is really IMO the best approach for recreation of a real space like this. Good luck dude.

  • do you know a place online where I can get a good outdoor impulse to use in a convolution reverb? – geekisthenewcool Dec 10 '12 at 6:42
  • @geekisthenewcool - many convolution reverb plug-ins come with at least one or two outdoor spaces. Altiverb is the most popular convolution reverb out there...you may want to check that. – Shaun Farley Dec 10 '12 at 12:53
  • Just looked it up. WOW. $1k for a single plugin. Dang. I definitely can't afford that. Cool stuff, though. – geekisthenewcool Dec 11 '12 at 6:21
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I've used the "Outdoorverb" by xoxos on a few projects and have had good results. It's a freeware VST plugin for PC, so unfortunately PT (and MAC) cannot run it. It's a tap delay-type unit which incorporates a pitch variance. It's an interesting little plugin. Recommended if you can run it.

http://rekkerd.org/xoxos-releases-outdoorverb/

Good luck with the project!

  • Thanks a lot! I just lost two of my most important plugins when upgrading to Win8 64, so this might be a good replacement while waiting for Altiverb to upgrade on PC as well :-) – Christian van Caine Dec 11 '12 at 14:58
  • I downloaded it and installed it, but it causes a bunch of errors when my DAW (Ableton Live) tries to load it. It says a bunch of libraries are missing. – geekisthenewcool Dec 11 '12 at 22:42
  • Hmm strange. I'm not overly familiar with Live, but the plugin should not have any libraries associated with it as it is simply a single .dll file (which should just be thrown in your normal VST folder). Do you use any other DAW which you could test it out on? I've used it in Win 7 in Nuendo with zero issues. – fuzzysounds Dec 12 '12 at 15:46

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