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I am working on a short film that was shot in a middle-eastern desert. The visual scenery is mainly composed of dark sand, deep blue skies and a general desolated atmosphere. Unfortunately, all field recordings that were taking during film shooting are either damaged or unusable, and I need to build the entire ambience from scratch. Time and budget won't allow going out to the field for another recording session, so I need to find a studio workaround.

Attached is a visual taste of the sonic ambience I'm after. Could anyone please recommend on libraries of hi-res ambience recordings that could be suitable for this? Also, any references to existing films or shorts with similar ambience characteristics will be appreciated.

Thanks!

image 1 image 2 image 3 image 4 image 5

  • a film that comes into my mind as a reference is "untouched by the west". 'Australia' might also be a reference. – Michael Manzke Jan 4 '14 at 19:44
  • If I'd had to build ambiences from acratch, I'd start with some smooth wind and layer sand-sounds (sand on sand, sand on rocks, sand on plants) on top. If you have any plants or bushes in the scene you should also bring that in. – Michael Manzke Jan 4 '14 at 19:49
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I don't really have any specific libraries that I can reccomend, but I do have some ideas to share. My first suggestion would be to research wildlife local to the shooting locations. I've been to a number of deserts, and they are not lifeless places. There are tons of insects (individuals, rarely do you get swarms) and birds all over the place.

The next thing you can go for is shifting soil. There are lizards and rodents that live in some deserts, and they cause tiny little cascades of dirt and pebbles. Sometimes sand/soil gives way on its own, or a gentle breeze that you don't really hear stirs something loose. You'll want to go for subtle sounds to fill out the area. Wind in desert scenes tends to be over-done and doesn't really show a lot of imagination. So use it sparingly when the story calls for it.

Above all, talk to the director/producer and make sure you know what they want before you start building. If you have to build it all from scratch, better to not have to do it twice. ;)

  • Shaun - thanks for your thorough answer. After several sessions with the director, we came to realize that what we are actually after is ambience of a 'dead zone', a very dry landscape with very minimal life, no wind, hot climate, and a general feeling of humidity and "stuffed" / compressed air. I find these new descriptors even more challenging to work with. First thing that comes to mind is to experiment with filtered pink noise layered on top of field recordings of very quiet mountain terrain... I am wondering how would you go about interpreting this in sound? – Goren Berdichevsky Jan 25 '14 at 13:33
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I read about one not long ago. But i can't remember where it was. Maybe you head over to designingsound.org. They should know about it. There's also a catalogue of sfx creators. I think you'll find them there. You can also try asoundeffect.com. This is also a collection of indie sfx producers. Good luck. Andreas

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I recently had to do a similar ambience for a scene and I agree with Michael in building up layers of wind and sand.

I also agree with Shaun cause he'll beat me up otherwise.

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