I know the topic of exterior BGs for interior scenes has already received a lot of attention here. However, my question is more specifically related to how to mix them.

I'm working on a scene that takes place in the living room of a fairly nice house close to the beach. One of the backgrounds are distant ocean waves, recorded at what I believe to be the right perspective in terms of distance (e.g. there are no close-up water laps). However, no matter what I try, the waves still sound very much exterior and not at all like they would sound when perceived from the inside. I've tried various degrees of Hi-Cuts and Roll-Offs, compression (so that quieter parts don't get lost completely when I play everything very low), I've played around with the stereo image, heck, I've even blurred the sound a bit by convolving it with a bit of noise. All to no avail as it seems.

Any suggestions? How do you deal with exterior backgrounds in interior scenes?

3 Answers 3


recorded at what I believe to be the right perspective in terms of distance

I believe this is why you are hitting a roadblock. Just because something was recorded according to reality does not mean it will translate in a mix the same way. In cutting BGz, 95% of the time this has proven true for me. We 'cheat' sounds all the time. It's all "what sounds good, is good". The crisper and more defined your sound is (versus blurred by distance), the better it will read when played low.

A good example is wind. Wind in a forest usually sounds boring, even when recorded. but that's why build in layers with different types of isolated wind recordings to create a texture which both fits the mood, and is hyper real enough that it cuts thru the mix, but realistic enough that the audience will buy it. My feeling is that you're getting stumped because your approach is too literal.

But even then, it's all about layers. One track of waves likely won't do it. My guess is it will take 2-3 of the right ones to play off of one another, maybe even 4. Also, try panning them toward the middle t be about 50% width - I do this sometimes with traffic for interiors when it feels too wide. Usually too this stuff will play low against roomtone, just to tickle the ear.

So I guess what I'm getting at here is that before even asking the question of mixing them, the more important question is: did I choose the right source to begin with?

  • Interesting. I did try a variety of wave recordings, and the closer onces all seemed worse to my ears than the more distant ones... I'll play around with more recordings, but I do think that my problem is more in the mix than in the edit.
    – Alex
    Dec 12, 2012 at 5:56
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    Ocean waves are actually one of the toughest in my opinion, tied with subtle/calm (but 'pop-thru-the-mix' tasty) winds. I was on a show a few years back where we were at a beach house overlooking an oceanside cliff. We needed an distant ocean presence throughout, and I found that I actually had to construct the waves by hand to get the right sound. Using a variety of sources I built all 4 movements of the wave crash: the roll, the crash, tide rush, tide recede. This way I could get a deep/boomy roll for distance, but have tasty percolating water on the tide, with a MCU white noisy crash. Dec 12, 2012 at 7:37
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    About 10-12 different wave crashes were made, and then the whole thing was comp'd down and laid in/chopped up throughout the show where I wanted wave crashes like a dynamic knockabout track. It both saved A LOT of time, but it allowed me to create the extact balance of distance versus clarity for the right feel because no source was good on its own. Sometimes one has to roll up their sleeves to create these BG elements 'by hand'. I've done it with dangling chain knockabouts, wood creaks presence, frat party beer clink tracks. Just food for thought if you're open to some inspiration. Dec 12, 2012 at 7:41

For a quick and dirty solution, try using a convo-reverb to the approriate room size, set to 100% wet to start, and then adjust filters and mix to taste. MCDSP's Revolver has a great preset called "upstairs-1 floor" that I often use when I need to quickly "interior-ize" an exterior BG.


When I have the time, I worldize every chance I can get.

In my experience, worldizing does a much better job than any plug-in I have tried.

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