I need to record footsteps in sand, but I can't take sand into the studio. Is there any not-so-messy materials that would make a convincing substitute?
I once had to add 'sandy foot-steps' to a silent piece (no location sound at all) at 3am the other night - so understand that you can't always just run out to stock a foley pit!
Besides, walking in sand makes very little sound in reality. - but we are rarely dealing with "reality" in audio post...
I ended up recording pouring rice into a wooden bowl - varying the velocities, amounts, steady vs. scattered, ect.
applied a global pitch up (a couple steps) and a sharper eq.
cut up the resulting files into small varied chunks. They can be taken from the middle of the 'pouring' and don't require and an 'attack.'
applied varying envelopes (fades:in/out) there really isn't much, if any 'impact' sound on pure sand
applied slightly varying micro pitches & EQ to each I did this in realtime with slow random modulations of various plug-ins
randomly choose files to spot to picture. Though I soon learned where/how to pick appropriate sections for changing scenarios.
I then tweaked and honed the results if needed.
Some of the steps required more impact (running) with more attack on the fades. Stumbling/sliding required a bit longer tail fades in areas. etc...
Obviously: results will vary and need to be customized to your particular situation(s).
This worked out for me in this situation and the client was happy (which is what really matters!) Just hoping this might inspire a creative approach for yours.
In case you haven't already, you should read this post - very similar topic, and some of the answers may actually work well for simulating sand (or at least dry sand).
I agree with @Christian van Caine on this one; a recording of someone actually walking/running in real sand in a real location will most likely yield the most convincing - and thus most useful - performance. Think of it as foley, just not recorded on a foley stage.
I once had great results with a similar situation, the difference being that it was snow and not sand: Just me, walking around after a record-breaking snowfall in the middle of the night, with my Zoom H2 on the end of a tripod facing down at my shoes. IMO, they are some of the best "footsteps in snow" that I have in my library, simply because that is EXACTLY what they are! No corn starch or other product of simulation, just the real deal and a decent, versatile performance.
If you're gonna go with the foley way my best recommendation would be to build a big though not necessarily higher than a few decimeters sandbox in wood (you don't want reflections from the sides), and rob the nearest beach of lots of buckets of sand. I can't really see any other ways in i studio. An easier way in preparations, and in my highly personal opinion better sounding (I like more worldized and acoustically living sounds!) though more time-consuming when editing, is to bring your recorder, a nice mic, and a good friend, and take a trip to the nearest sand-beach you could find with the least people possible to have at least as much as you think you'll need and then some just in case :-) /CvanC
I would turn on the Randy Thom commentary he did for the Castaway DVD when Tom Hanks lands on the beach. He goes into detail about how he made the waves crashing from scratch but I forget if he talks about the sand movements and what he did. I think it would be worth referencing if not just to hear how it sounds in the mix and try to duplicate it.
A brand new chunk of astroturf works well for getting real footsteps with bare feet, flip flops etc. That would be my first choice. There will probably be more high-end than necessary, but it's easy to EQ/muffle later. If you put it on top of something dense, like a thick piece of rubber it will be closer out of the gate.
A closely mic'd tub of brown sugar might work in a pinch too.