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I'm working on a film right now where there are only 3-4 people left on earth and everything else is dead, but I'm having trouble finding the right ambiances for this piece because it's really unnatural to not hear bugs or birds in the environments I'm editing for.

I've been trying to fake it by using studio winds, then foly-ing the specifics of the environments, but with limited success.

Does anyone have suggestions how I can find BGs like this, or how to make/fake them from scratch?

  • Could you be a little more precise on the surrounding? How long have these 3-4 people actually been alone on earth? – Michael Manzke Aug 14 '13 at 20:17
  • Could you put a screenshot up of the environment? – Nicol J Craig Aug 14 '13 at 21:28
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Presumably its not a documentary, so what you are aiming to do is evoke the emptiness rather than document it. I would would work with winds, layers of sparse winds played quietly so they just feel like air, and maybe pitch shifting some ie slowing them down to evoke bleakness... Then add lifeless elements in the distance, slow creaking metal swaying in the wind, trees creaking etc.... spot ambiences (spotmos as some people call it) will contribute detail (cut it around dialogue) and will require localising ie panning and distancizing.... what a fun challenge!

  • The very first sentence really hits it on the nose. – Stavrosound Nov 23 '13 at 1:36
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It's not impossible to record ambiences that are near-silent, if you choose to go that route. You'll have to go out of your way to find them, probably very late at night or very early on a Sunday morning when the urban noise is at its lowest, but it can be achieved.

Even with a pristine recording of a silent background, you're going to have to manufacture the exact soundscape you're hearing in your head. No 1 recording is going to get you there. On many of the films that I've worked on that have a similar storyline, either I or someone else on the crew will go to great lengths creating the sound of a dead city. Depending on the environment around your characters, give some thought to what the trees, winds and abandoned buildings would sound like without human interference.

Or you could just go to Detroit and record anywhere.

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Kai, I have a vast collection of evocative winds and tonal backgrounds. if you'd like to get in touch, will tell you more. Would be happy to help.

annk@soundmountain.com

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    Oh wow! I never figured I'd get a response from Ann Kroeber. Your and Alan's horse recordings from black stallion are a huge inspiration to me. It's one of my favorite sound films pre-digital era. I'll send you an email once I receive a budget from my producer. – Kai Aug 16 '13 at 21:34
  • Thanks Kai! Really looking forward to talking with you about your film. – Ann Kroeber Aug 17 '13 at 20:17
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I live I the high desert, in a town called pahrump, 60 miles outside of Las Vegas. It's extremely dry & the dirt is white powder due to nutrients leached from it when cotton was grown. I unknwingly attracted birds, crickets & other life form to my yard via gardening & such. One evening my neighbor asked me how did I get crickets & birds come to my house because nothing came to his. There were were no sounds of any animals. I'm sure there's more desolate areas in Pahrump besides my neighbor's yard. You should come check it out. You may find just what you're looking for or should I say what you're not looking for. Ha! Dell

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Audio ecologist Gordon Hempton puts a new spin on the old phrase, "Silence is Golden" in his fight to preserve naturally quiet spaces.

For the past 25 years Gordon Hempton has made it his job to record the sounds of silence. The search for places of natural quiet has taken Hempton around the world three times over. Places in which the soft lapping of water rolling over river stones, the hum of crickets chirping in the night, and the tender flap of a butterfly’s wing can be recorded without the interference of mechanical vibrations are like gold to the audio ecologist. Unfortunately finding these areas is as rare as finding mines of profitable precious metals. Yet the benefits of finding a place to enjoy nature’s greatest symphony are priceless, and can be as effective as medicine in the treatment of disorders such as autism.

The increase in man’s mobility through the skies ruins quiet even in undeveloped areas. According to Hempton’s research, in 1984 Washington State had 21 places in which noise free intervals ran 15 minutes or longer--today there are only three. Additionally, the average noise free interval--if it exists at all--is 2.5 to 3.5 minutes. Despite the fact that natural quiet is a protected natural resource in accordance with the Organic Act of 1916 and the creation of the National Parks Service, thousands of air tours buzz over these areas each year. Hempton urges citizens to campaign for quiet by voicing concerns to congressmen and airline companies.

There are only 12 places left in the United States in which to experience natural quiet. Check out www.onesquareinch.org to find the coordinates of one such spot. The remaining locations remain anonymous for their own protection.

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