At some point you can have too much coverage of a vehicle, but it takes quite a lot to get there. The question is how much is enough without being too much?

Lets assume that we want to put together a record list that includes complete coverage of 1 specific car - all at 24bit 96k. Here's where I would start as far as listing deliverables:

onboard stop and go and highway driving (~10 minutes of each)

  • interior stereo
  • onboard muffler mono
  • onboard tire mono
  • onboard air intake mono
  • onboard engine compartment mono
  • mastered onboard mono mic mix (for quicker spotting)

starts, stops and bys at 5mph, 10mph, 20mph, 40mph, 60mph, and 80mph

  • interior stereo
  • onboard muffler mono
  • onboard tire mono
  • onboard air intake mono
  • onboard engine compartment mono
  • mastered onboard mono mic mix (for quicker spotting)
  • ext x/y
  • ext tracking or dual wide angle shotgun

stationary sounds

  • int stereo door open and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • ext stereo door open and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • ext stereo distant door open and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • int stereo hood open and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • ext stereo hood open and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • ext stereo distant hoodopen and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • int stereo trunk open and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • ext stereo trunk open and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • ext stereo distant trunk open and close soft/medium/hard x 3
  • int mono transmission shift x 5
  • int mono parking brake pulls x 3
  • int mono key in ignition x 3
  • int mono pedal stomps x 3
  • int mono door locks x 5
  • int mono alarm - key in ignition
  • int mono alarm - lights left on
  • int mono glove compartment open close x 5
  • int mono console movement x 5
  • int mono seatbelts on and off x 5
  • int mono sit in seat x 5

now, to get that much coverage on a car you'd need about two full days of recording not inclusive of prep, and probably 3-5 days of editing depending on vehicle and recording conditions. You'd also end up with a pretty big package with regards to file size for this single vehicle. You're looking at about 1 gig for the onboard highway driving package alone, so the entire thing will probably be in the neighborhood of 5-8 gigs of finished files for the single car.

that all seems perfectly acceptable, but it also seems like it would cause one to be a little selective about which and how many vehicles get the "full coverage" treatment.


what did I miss?

do all of my assumptions seem correct?

how much space would you put aside in your library for full coverage of vehicles?


  • Just throwing this out there: What about: Electric seat movement - forwards, backwards, tilt? Gas cap shield popping open? Sun roof open/close? But like Tim said, it's sometimes much easier to watch the pix and match your actions to that specifically, than to try to match something with generic movement pre-records.
    – Utopia
    Nov 25, 2010 at 21:38

7 Answers 7


Vehicle coverage is a tricky topic....

I think a collaborative library of the stationery vehicle FX could be possible, but the issue with actual vehicle movement is that (a) every vehicle is so particular and (b) full coverage is not really possible

For film use, accessing the right vehicle usually is not a problem - they had it for the shoot & if it is unique, you request/insist on access to it. If its not unique, then usually you can rent one locally for not too much (eg I usually find someone selling it & pay them $100/hour to drive for me - it usually doesn't take too long to find someone willing as its kidna fun and easy money!)

But having the right specific vehicle make, model & engine type AND that sounds "good" is crucial... So how many vehicles would you need to make a group library worthwhile? I think LOTS, literally hundreds!

But its also worth thinking about the use for the sounds:

For TV use I could see the need, as they rarely have time or budget to record and I have eg generic Japanese 4 cylinder car moves etc in my library that have definitely been useful...

For game use, I have no experience but its seems the requirements are totally different & are often recorded on a dyno - others can provide details

For film if the moves are fairly easy, then it is also an easy recording to do, to match the specifics. If the moves are complex/unique then you probably won't be able to match it as well from generic coverage as you would from accessing the vehicle and performing it to match.

And re getting full coverage, first I'd add reversing - the drive shaft makes a different sound when a car is reversing. I've also found it valuable to get slow circling & stop, and slow manouveurs as these can be difficult to create without coverage.

But even a passby is not a single type, for example consider how different each of these would be:

  • passby, accelerating, gear change after pass
  • passby, accelerating, gear change before pass
  • passby, decelerating,
  • passby, decelerating, engine breaking
  • passby, on incline
  • passby, no engine

Also the type of passby may be determined by the camera move, for example

  • passby with camera following away
  • passby with camera stationery & car exits frame

I don't want to be negative at all, but I do find vehicles is one of those categories of effects for films that are very particular and specific. Generic/general coverage can be valuable for bg action or to help problem solve, but I prefer to think of it as ADR - if you cast the right talent & capture the right performance, the editing is easy (or at least easier!)

  • @Tim, excellent, excellent answer! +1! Sep 20, 2010 at 7:41
  • I agree, the right source is nearly everything on doing vehicles. May 14, 2012 at 20:29

Just to give you an idea of what we need for games. But first a disclaimer, all games are different and use different methods of playback, anything from static loops to granular synthesis. So the requirements are different from company to company and from game to game.

Generally for a project I like to get exhaust, engine, interior + anything special e.g. turbos, intakes etc. recorded on a dyno or rolling road at idle then at evert 500 rpm right up to the limiter at full throttle and light throttle. Then I have some set driving simulation sequences that ensure that all the sounds are covered.

Rolling roads and Dynos are different beasts and what you can get the car to do on them is different - so the recording plan changes accordingly.

  • @Richard - out of interest, could you elaborate on the ways in which rollings roads and dynos are different in what you can get the car to do? Thanks, josh
    – deleted
    Sep 21, 2010 at 13:13
  • 1
    @Josh - a rolling road is a "rolling road". i.e. you keep the wheels on the car, and you can get the car to make most of the sounds it would on the road. e.g. gear changes, on/off load transitions, and also steady rpms accelerations etc. But you get alot of tyre noise which can be a real problem. Dynopaks are hub dynos i.e. wheels off. you basically program the dyno to e.g. accelerate 1k - 5k rpm over 8 secs. The draw back is you can't just 'drive the car' i.e no gear change or load transitions. However Dynopaks are silent so you can get pure engine sound. Hope that answers your question :)
    – RedSonic01
    Sep 22, 2010 at 10:52

For a sound library anything and everything is potentially useful. A full workup of a car would certainly involve all of the things mentioned above. We sound designers are pack rats of audio! It all comes in handy at some point. :)


Well, just my first reaction, windows should be added (and sun/moon roof if one exists) and any other mechanical device in the car that can be foleyed (i.e. center console storage, cup holders, emergency brake, etc.). I've been considering suggesting this kind of idea to Tim for the Hiss and a Roar collaborations, since most recordists participating in those probably have a car...I just haven't taken the time to read through all of the suggestions people have already put forward...I'm being lazy. ;)

Maybe I'll go do that now.

Update:Yep, someone did....cool.


Shaun, I agree that it would be a great collaboration library, but it involves a bit of experience, equipment, quiet locations and a lot of editing as you mentioned, in order to get good results. Maybe Tim should think later about that and maybe selects his recordists...

  • no doubt about it, there's a lot of work involved in that idea. i know he's gotten a lot of other good suggestions besides that one, ones that would be easier for a wide group of people to do. i'd be more interested in doing one of those first. ;) Sep 19, 2010 at 19:24

I think that Audi knows the answer.


Gets interesting at the 1:30 mark


  • that's kind of amazing. Man, I'd like to get my hands on one of those libraries! I wonder how well the zepplins did at wind protection though...
    – Rene
    Nov 18, 2010 at 23:49

I think it all depends on the picture you're working on. Different directors my want different things. Sometimes too much is overwhelming. I believe in sticking to the basics, and preserving continuity throughout with that given car in the film.

Additionally, depending on how you are recording your sounds....format, 5.1....etc.....an entire car section should be more than 10 - 15 gig. That would be getting just about every make. And most sounds inside of a car can be "utility" sounds, since they almost all sound the same.....like a rolling up window, power locks, Windows....etc.

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