How "natural" sounds are faked for nature documentaries

Originally published at: How "natural" sounds are faked for nature documentaries | Boing Boing

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This always drives me nuts when watching nature documentaries… Especially slow-motion footage that somehow has regular-speed sound. Or underwater sound that is clearly NOT captured underwater. Once you know you can’t unknow :frowning:

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I understand the need, and usually it’s not too intrusive, but sometimes they really overdo it, like the jet swooshes when a shark swims by.

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Professional Fart Sounder, that’s my super power.

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Yeah, it feels ridiculous, it’s sometimes so egregious it’s highly distracting, and yet I suspect it also creates expectations in viewer’s minds that the animals really do sound like that as well.

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Today on bbs career day… foley operator for nature films? Was the porn choreographer too busy?

You mean mushrooms don’t actually make sound when they grow?

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Le Pétomane, is that you?

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this video had TOO MANY SPIDERS 0/10

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I generally like the “Insider” videos, but this one lost credibility when the narrator called telephoto lenses “macro lenses”, with an accompanying huge graphic asserting the same.

Surely somebody in the post department has to know what a macro lens is…

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Forced rhubarb squeaks when it grows. Its weird.

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Tis I, says I.

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This may be hard to believe, but I saw my first BBC nature documentary less than a week ago. The first thing I noticed (after the nice photography) were these phony sound effects. Set against the gravity of Attenborough’s narration the result was often ludicrous. Sharks whir past like Amazon delivery vans and sea cucumbers burble like clogged toilets. I guess it’s just giving the viewers what they want. They expect things to make noises and wouldn’t settle for the nonstop gurgling of an underwater microphone.

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It hardly reaches the level of, White Wilderness creating a myth of lemming suicide… but if education is really part of their agenda, it would be nice for an extra commentary track to talk about all of the artistic distortions used in the film.

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Story sez:

He has even had to do sound for the northern lights, which don’t actually make noise.

But wait!

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My brother regularly chastises me for “ruining” (pointing out the hyperbole in) documentary sfx for him many years ago!

Audio post-production for any film is full of decisions placing feeling ahead of realism and as a viewer I’ll admit it often irks me.

So much fun though. I may be projecting my personal experience a little but I swear foley artists appear to have the most fun out of all us audiophiles.

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@pesco @tgarretteaton @Ratel @Shuck @DonatellaNobody @Skeptic @NukeML @foxwhowood @glenblank @inactivist

This post speaks to my biggest bugbear (pun intended) over the lack of microphone and recording technologies when it comes to the very quiet. Quite simply, because it can be faked more efficiently, we have not seen the development of macro equivalent in microphone capture technology… We can see the very big and the very small but we can’t hear it!

Perhaps it’s not possible by conventional means i.e how small and sensitive can you make a microphone diaphragm?

I’ve worked in one of Australia’s best natural history audio archives and to suggest you can’t record clean wale sounds is bullshit. We lowered technicians via helicopter to place hydroponic microphones and capture their amazing calls, to have a foley artist give it their best shot is just insulting.

Not having a go at foley artists as their realm in fiction film is something I admire, it’s just that the focus on vision over sound is way off the scale! On the upside Alfred Hitchcock was dogmatic about the dramatic functions of sound and music… noted it in his screenplays.

When ‘foley’ comes into play in natural history documentaries, we as sound producers are being lazy in not trying to actually document a part of natural life.

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Well, you can make a microphone, or a speaker, with a diaphragm made from a single layer of graphene, one atom thick. Note that graphene is also a zero-bandgap semiconductor, which means if it is pure enough, it should essentially have a completely uniform response to all frequencies, and extreme sensitivity to low volume sounds. No idea what people actually use for very low volume sound recording, though.

This for me is the :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: Wilhelm scream. I loathe it, and movie makers continue to “sneak” it in everywhere because of some stupid long-running joke/tradition/whatever. But it’s the most ridiculous noise and instantly ruins that scene for me. Breaks immersion completely every time.

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