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When I was watching the Transformers: ROTF Sound Profile for the Reedman Scene (about 5 minutes in), there was the sound of the little steel balls rolling around on the floor and it sounded, to me, like the sound of a drinking glass or a glass bowl rolling around -- then I had to stop and figure out whether I was remembering the actual sound or just the sound that I've heard associated with that image in various films.

I was wondering, just out of curiosity, whether any of you have a hard time remembering whether a sound was real or designed, specifically when you're writing up your list of things you'd like to record that day or when you're trying to separate source elements in a film you're watching in a "how did they do that?!" moment?

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When I watch a film I can't help but analyse the soundtrack. Since working in sound I have gradually lost the ability to be totally taken away with what is happening on-screen as I am constantly thinking, ah that ambiance is amazing or is that a Euler's disk layered in that effect? The same thing happened the first time I started to DJ (back in the late 90's). Before owning a pair of 1210s I used to go out to clubs and have a wicked time, no matter how well the DJ could mix. It was all about the tunes he would drop. Then, as I started to learn to mix I realised how badly some DJs would clang out a mix and it totally changed my way of enjoying a night out. Then I got into producing music and started to realise that a lot of the big party tunes were actually not that well produced and many, very under-rated tunes were examples of top-notch production. And then it happened with film. It's great when you go and watch a movie that has an excellent sound track but equally frustrating when you go and watch a movie where a typical Hollywood music score abrasively dominates everything and destroys any of the sound effects and ambiances.

Anyway, going slightly off-subject there, sorry! Back to the question: I find it very hard to remember whether sounds were "real" (i.e. a recording of the actual object the sound is matched to) or designed (something completely obsolete) the first time I watch a movie. It is only when I watch a film for a second or third time that I seem to be able to remember specific sound moments in detail. I guess in my first experiences all my senses are discovering new things and I'm following the story, usually as the director wants me to.

  • lol sounds just like me, although I don't go to clubs but when I went to my first electronic music festival show here in Dubai I wasn't really dancing or enjoying myself (mainly because some of the people there were a-holes) I was just listening to how the DJ would mix since I was getting into the DJ thing a couple years ago. – Stephen Saldanha Apr 9 '11 at 20:01
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Ahhh, memory, she is a fickle one.

Lately, I've been trying not to worry so much about whether a sound is really real or not. In a certain sense, any sound that isn't part of the original location recordings done on the day isn't a 'real' sound. It's all very literally designed, in the sense that you may choose one glass shattering over another because it has more impact, or sounds sadder, or something of that ilk.

But, yes. I have a miserable time of it as far as that goes. It's the same problem that I have with music (particularly bothersome since I'm a hackislash-musician), I cannot for the life of me remember a melody, progression, or song until it's being played back to me. Then I know it back to front. Same goes with SFX.

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