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Sounds Of The Snow
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Sounds Of The Snow

March 20, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Fake vs. Real

Lately, I have been working with winter sounds and especially with snow footsteps. A pretty typical mistake in movies and games is snow footstep sounds. You can create those in your studio. People use salt, cornstarch, potato flour, and other substances. They are great tools for snow footsteps, but not in as many cases as you'd like.

That stuff will work if you have to do something like dry and crunchy sounds -- many of movies use those. Believe me, there's a pretty big difference if weather is 32F (0C), 14F (-10C) or -22F (-30C). And that is not all. Different types of snow have their own sounds. New snow, old snow, powder, snow on the ice -- each has its own unique sound.

That's why it is hard to make good snow sounds in the studio. You have to have the right temperature and right quality of snow. If you want to make fresh snow sounds that you can't make in a typical studio, you have to have a really large studio because if you step in same place on fresh snow, it doesn't sound as good as it should the second time. And how you can collect fresh snow to studio?

"Normal Foley" snow footstep sounds will bluff people who don't know winter sounds. But people who have that knowledge will be pretty stunned if you make a mistake. Lately I watched a movie. It had scene where two people speak to each other outside. They are acting like they're freezing.

They also wore winter jackets and their breath is freezing. Amazingly, the footstep sounds were something that you'd expect to hear in 32F (0C) which sounds like it has snowed and it is still wet.

Temperature is everything. Snow changes with it, and it definitely will change surrounding sounds. For example in -4F (-20C) snow will be icy and hard. Footstep sounds are very bright and light. The ambience is very echoing. You can hear cars, planes, runners, dogs from far away. In 32F (0C) everything is different. Footsteps are crunchy, wet and heavy. The same goes with ambience -- there's not so much echoing. It seems that wet snow "sucks" all the sounds.

And you also have to remember that vegetation and other surfaces freeze too. Sand and gravel will get wet and freeze. They become crispy; the same happens to grass and leafs too. These will affect sounds when there isn't so much snow. You can hear snow and the surfaces under it. The possibilities are endless. When there is more snow things go a little easier because you don't have think surfaces -- just the quality of snow.

I think that best way to record snow footsteps is record it in the real material. It will sound the best, and most realistic. I am aware that sounds don't have to be realistic, but they have to be unnoticeable. Of course, many people don't know how they should sound -- but to me it is pretty irritating. And why have to do everything same way every time?

Let's think about this another way. A nature film might have a night scene with a bird singing. To me, that is just a typical bird singing. To birdwatchers, that same song could mean something totally different. Maybe he or she knows that bird doesn't make that kind of sound in the night but it does it in the morning. Again, realistic sounds communicate more than fake ones do.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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