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There is a short film I'm working on that has a 6 year-old child in a forest that's supposed to sound a little magical (not extremely magical, but the amount of magic you thought forests had when you were 6) and then a contrast later in the film when the kid grows up and comes back and is about 30 years old.

I wanted to use the tip of Randy Thom's where you place in ambiences as the character's viewpoint would hear them.

What sorts of sounds would you consider putting in for a "magical forest" ambience heard through the ears of a 6 year-old?

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VERY complex delays occur in a forest due to the reflections off individual trees & the canopy overhead - you could def use this to accentuate moments of pov....

But you could also potentially set up some contrasts when you actually are point of view (ie seeing through the kids eyes) versus wider shots where the audience see the kid in the forest..... So eg maybe when it is wide shots, have interesting textured sounds eg gentle wind through trees, discretely panned trees creaking etc... but when pov try layering slightly stranger sounds into the tree creaks, try convolving whispers into the winds, and play with very complex delays on more percussive distant bird calls, treat it all as though a little slow motion....

  • Perhaps taking a bunch of forest IR's could be useful. – Mark Durham May 4 '13 at 7:24
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I went through this exercise on "Road To Perdition". In R1 the young boy is walking through the halls of the huge house where Paul Newman's character lives. The director wanted us to create that sound as the boy would have remembered it from his memories versus what it really would have sounded like at the time. What we ended up doing was focusing in on individual events, ie. a floor creak, a distant laugh from someone at the party, a teaspoon stirring coffee and being set down on the saucer from the other room. Once isolated, each event was put into a pretty deep (but still appropriate) reverb. The results, I think, were convincing and nostalgic.

In your case, when you return to the forest, I would try introducing sounds that are not so "magical", ie. air traffic, road noise, distant construction or logging operations, etc.

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Oooohhh... I like these sort of questions. Makes you open your mind! :)

OK... My take. The sounds themselves wouldn't be "magical" in nature... i.e twinkly, or shimmery, but I would think that would all be hyper-real natural sounds that tend to align themselves with whatever emotion the "magic" is evoking.

For example if it's magical in the sense of wonder, than all the birds would be VERY bright and melodic... no crows for example. The water would always be babbling, the sound through the trees very light and melodic.

Conversely ( I don't think this is the case) if the magic was "dangerous" or "dark"... like thinking there's a monster in the woods, then the sounds would be natural, but very dark... Harsh birds, moaning wind in the trees, rustlings and so forth.

When the child returns as an adult, everything would just be "normal".

Curious what others might think of.

  • totally agree, bird trills and light wind and maybe even faint wnd chimes somewhere in the mix is what I imagined in response to the question – Pretaeperon May 3 '13 at 19:19
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From my memory it was always 'scale' that impressed itself on me when i was younger.. Perhaps make things sound bigger with hyper-real recordings and subtle reverb play. I remember thinking that the forest was like one big animal and all the wildlife were extensions of that 'one' animal. Maybe give the forest a voice, like a groan.. Drop some twisted wood in the mix so the trees are 'talking' to each other.

Then when he returns everything sounds 'separate' and dissociated from itself (maybe you can play with this in the way you mix down the two different scenes)

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I suggest making the wind through the leaves sound like it is speaking. There should be no identifiable words, but a definite impression of whispering from multiple sources. I would make the whispers more feminine if the child is confident and more masculine if they are afraid.

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I think the hyper real and scale angle mentioned by Danny is the correct one. I'll bet you could accomplish quite a bit by completely removing all bgfx and just going in your face big and dry.

Nothing washy - only focused, punchy, one off effects. No wind unless its a specific moment when the wind is in the foreground.

This will make the mix much more contrasty in nature, and will give you a simple mechanism to revert to when the adult returns to the forest. as an adult he can just hear normal washy and even kind of flat bgfx. The audience may both recognize this as their own current perception of the forest and simultaneously be disappointed by that fact. :)

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Big and detailed to a pair of very young ears, singing insects, rustling leaves, almost a hiss in the air. A quiet stillness to the mature person. An appreciation for all that detail 25 years later doesn't happen to everyone. Plus you can bring some of the magic back later in the mix if your narrative allows it?

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