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I recorded room ambience at -50db and I'm not sure how loud it actually should be (in relation to other sounds). I realized that I started to use this to mask the noise of foley recordings, then I started noise reduction of foley so I can lower the ambience cause it was too noisy with everything combined. So, my question is: how should I record ambience, at what levels, and how is noise treated in those recordings?

  • I'd set up some pre-mixed/bounced examples of a single scene then talk to the Director, if you have that direct line of communication, or best line-of-communication otherwise. That opinion could save days of wasted effort. – Tetsujin Apr 3 '15 at 19:20
  • I have a friendly relationship with the Director so that's not a problem. I finished the whole thing a while back and it was some kind of draft thing, and concluded that it has too much noise in soundtrack in quiet scenes. But when I lowered the ambience down, foley noise started to punch trough. So I'm not sure what exactly am I doing wrong. Maybe I'm monitoring in a wrong way, or the recordings are bad (even though the foley noise floor is around -50db), maybe the S/N ratio is not good enough. I'm a beginner at this thing so maybe there is something else to do with it that I don't know. – lakistrike Apr 3 '15 at 19:38
  • You could use noise reduction on the speech/foley track; ducking on that track against your ambient track so your ambient track doesn't cover dialog - too many ways to list – Tetsujin Apr 3 '15 at 19:50
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    Not to mention figure out why the foley is noisy for next time... – christiancoriolis Apr 3 '15 at 20:30
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Get your dlog levels right, and everything else gets mixed according to that. There's no specific level for ambience (or foley for that matter), it is simply mixed to sit naturally in relation to the dlog. It always frustrated me when people gave me that answer, but it's pretty much the only right answer for that question.

If you're struggling with noisy recordings, you probably need a new location to record in, or new preamps/cables/mics (depending on what sort of "noise" you're dealing with). A noisefloor of -50dB isn't all that low/great.

Noise reduction is generally not a very good solution for foley, as the sounds can tend toward the delicate side of things, and denoise algorithms generally don't "do" finesse terribly well. Unless a very light denoise pass will suffice, I would suggest just rerecording.

If noisy preamps are the issue, then grab a FEThead from Triton Audio. It's an inline mini preamp, inserted into the signal chain, that provides around 23dB of pristine gain. It's a great and easy way to significantly lower your noise floor.

If you're dealing with location noise, try recording during the night. Whenever I'm doing foley for projects, I just switch my schedule to working nights for a week or so... It's a lot easier/better to shutoff HVAC, eliminate traffic noise, people and pet noise, and have a solid 6+hrs to record - completely uninterrupted.

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I would record room tone at the same level as I have recorded the dialog or whatever I was recording in that room. Then the room will sound the same as in the background of the thing I wanted to record.

Makes sense?

  • Definitely a good practice! Be sure to grab roomtone for each different location, and sometimes it's wise to grab new roomtone for the same location, if the room setup has changed significantly. Just be sure to keep semi-detailed notes, as to which recordings, matches what roomtone, for which scenes/shots. – Joseph Santoyo Apr 18 '15 at 6:40

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