Traditionally Room Tone referred to the recording of (near) silence on set, to help dialogue editors with filling their tracks/matching backgrounds to different camera/mic angles and/or extraneous sound. It’s also known as a buzz track presumably due to the various lighting buzzes also found on film sets.Filmsound.org explains “Each room has a distinct presence of subtle sounds created by the movement of air particles in a particular volume. A microphone placed in two different empty rooms will produce different room tone for each.” So while that description might appear very zen, in reality it is VERY practical. And my favourite local production sound recordists usually grab a buzz track for each location – even 30 seconds of ‘quiet’ can be invaluable, but especially when the ‘quiet’ is less than ideal eg if it starts raining half way through a scene, or a variable traffic background is present.
But it isn’t just dialogue editors who uses room tones; the sound effects editor in charge of editing ambiences also collects and uses room tones, since apart from making an appropriate and interesting ambience for every scene and moment in a film, they must also layer their elements so as to gel with the production audio dialogue track. I’ve always believed that no matter how ‘cool’ you might think your ambiences are, if I mute the left, right and surrounds then the remaining centre track had better still play really well with the dialogue! Accordingly anyone who has been a sound editor for a while collects room tones – as with any element of a soundtrack having a variety to draw from is the fundamental key to having options and making good choices.
I propose Crowd Source Library #2 be a collection of Room Tones and interior ambiences. To continue discussion and establish the specs here is the plan so far (see here for discussion too, and sign up here to take part)
- Each recordist to contribute 10 interior ambiences/room tones
- Each room tone must be a minimum 2-3 minutes in duration, 24 bit 96kHz .WAV
- Preferably stereo recordings (but mono is ok if only option)
- Photo of every interior (& I mean every one!)
- Multiple perspectives/mic placement and/or mic choices for each location are also welcome (see the discussion here for some very salient points by David Vranken & Charles Maynes)
For more information, please visit HISS and a ROAR Forums and Music of Sound, where you can find a lot of useful information on recording ambiences and room tones and also guidelines and notes for making sounds for the library. If you want to contribute, sign up here.