What do you find to be the greatest challenges when cutting historical period pieces?
What are the most advantageous resources / libraries when cutting these?
A few years ago I was brought on to cut backgrounds for a western that took place shortly after the civil war. It astounded me how polluted so many of my libraries were with modern sounds. Planes, traffic wash, air conditioning, all these ubiquitous sounds that I have become so accustomed to suddenly were grossly apparent and completely unavoidable. Even walla sounded too current to be very usable.
In a bind, I turned to Gordon Hempton’s libraries and also found Tonsturm’s Quiet Forest to be quite helpful for these backgrounds.
This fall I’ve been asked to join the team for an upcoming series that takes place in the Renaissance. I fully expect to put these libraries to good use again, but I anticipate sword fights and horses aplenty.
What else should I consider, either in terms of libraries or research resources?
What do you watch out for when cutting period pieces?
I think you’ve already hit the nail on the head, backgrounds are the biggest issue I’ve experienced…particularly on something set that far before the industrial revolution. I’ve found technology can be an issue too. The more outdated a piece of technology gets, the harder it becomes to find decent recordings of it. The Network sound library available from Sound Ideas has some good mid 20th century stuff in it…though quality can be a little hit and miss at times. I know that’s not exactly what you’re asking about, but it’s in the right vein at least. 😉
You might want to look for libraries that have good heavy wood movements. A lot of the technology from that period you’re going to be work in was still built with that material. So something with solid groans and dull hits might be useful.
Hi Steve, I’ll try to bring in some ideas.
I wrote a lot, you see, I think I did so because of a panic for a missing answer.
There are quite plenty of good resources to start with.
One initial option is to look at the most blasoned, general sound collections, such as those from BBC, Soundstorm, Sony, Digieffects or Hollywood Edge libraries, to name a few.
I am sure you already know, and if you are lucky enough to own some of these, it should be a good starting point. The BBC Historical Sound Effects Library, for example, is kind of a monument to me (yes, it’s also quite expensive).
Luckily more and more other specific libraries are being produced and published, often with a thematic approach, and at a lower cost for the user.
So, I have to proceed with some compilative stuff…
Following are my three favorite sites that collect libraries from different sources:
– Pro Sound Effects: http://shop.prosoundeffects.com/
– Sound Ideas: https://www.sound-ideas.com/Default.aspx
– A Sound Effect: http://www.asoundeffect.com
By the way, here are two specific packages from Boom Library, which refer to the content you anticipated:
– Medieval Weapons: http://shop.prosoundeffects.com/products/medieval-weapons
– Horses: http://shop.prosoundeffects.com/products/horses
Sound Ideas is powering also a useful dedicated search-engine site:
Here are other viable options for historical related contents:
– Historical Series Sound Effects: https://www.sound-ideas.com/Product/83/Historical-Series-Sound-Effects
– Foley Sound Effects: https://www.sound-ideas.com/Product/79/Foley-Sound-Effects
Here are more collecting sites:
And here a longtime established platform with a convenient Quick Sound Search:
Ok, you can find a lot more with further web search.
That’s enough for a compilation of more traditional stock library resources.
As a rule, the above sites offer the option to purchase single sounds too.
Anyway the Web exhibits also newer, alternative business/distribution models.
Here what comes to mind:
– a new platform with an interesting Subscription Service:
– a collective repository of Community Audio contents:
Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/opensource_audio
– a starting-up Crowd Sourcing platform:
Besides the specific categories or props of interest (armery, animals, backgrounds) I find that some valuable content can sometimes arise while searching for simple raw elements/materials (there are packages for these too), so for historical contents I would try to look for “metal”, “stone”, “wood”, “leather”.
Another little-bit-theoretical resource could be the public archives for the preservation of historical recordings, such as the British Library. This is kind of an idea or a personal ethnographic curiosity, I guess that such contents are not readily available in practice, and their quality often is hardly suitable for production purposes. Besides that, it looks like they are more concerned with speech and music of historical interest, than with ambience recordings or sound effects.
However, here we can listen to some examples related to Environment and Nature:
We can also find a first list of archives on Wikipedia, among others:
Now, I think that the more difficult task with historical contents is really what you hint at: backgrounds, ambience or environmental sounds.
I never had to fix with such things. But I think that we can only suppose how some historical places “sounded-like”. Assuming that natural backgrounds could be more or less similar to those of our time (but surely today they are far less numerous and untouched…), though the human environments and habitats sounded surely quite different. I figure of the daily and nightly soundscapes, of crowd chattering and markets and old shops. Not only no cars, no airborne noise, no motors, but also no ringing tones, nor electrical neither electronical buzz, and so on. Not to say about subtleties like the room tone of an ancient Renaissance palace.
At last, for all we cannot cover with stock libraries, I guess we have to resort to some well-thought location recordings or some custom foley practice, and rely on the editorial ingenuity and expertise of ourselves, or of the team we have to work with. As in every workflow, the mix of right choices in every step (production sound, re-recording, audio post) should get the job done, the best way.
Tell me well, if it isn’t.
Ok, I left out to mention of renaissance instruments/music, for diegetic or not-diegetic sounds, but that’s another story… I fear I have already bored enough…
I’ll be glad if you could post some tips about the options you’ll eventually cook up, when the hard work will be over, of course!
This year I worked for the first time on a few period film projects and backgrounds were the most challenging indeed. In my case the period was around 1850’s so steam power was already in full swing…so maybe a bit more to play with…But definitely natural sounds like winds,airs,fires,rains,etc… are one element to start with. (Not heard these yet but Boom’s Quietudes and Avosound’s Desolation Soundscapes look interesting for really dead airs).
Then wildlife and animals (birds, insects, dogs,horses) all add another layer to work with and then crowds/walla is another important layer to consider…Also machinery like clocks, mills, workshops,etc…in homes think of how cooking worked…open fireplace? Stove? Etc….
Other interesting libraries:
Tonsturm: The Fight, Clocks, Quiet Forest
Boom Library: Medieval Warfare, Historical Firearms, Horses and a lot of Gordon Hempton’s stuff they release.
I find adapting the past for the present ear the most challenging. Take out transport and industry and suddenly a lot less seems to be happening over the course of a couple of minutes. Narrative becomes central and when that is lacking or not going anywhere, it becomes challenging to enrich the backgrounds, or to sweeten on-screen movements. I’ve been to a fairly large scale reenactment, with historically accurate props, and the real sounds were just not exciting at all, except the ones up close, and also the walla; the rest is air and generic atmos and in the past they were pretty still in comparison. Picture and cut really make a difference; less is more. Wind and wildlife allow you some expression. Bespoke recorded walla is a great vibe source, worth spending on.
I found “making of” videos for such pieces quite valuable, among which the Lord of the Rings ones, the True Grit soundworks talk – sources of ideas on how to balance between factual and entertaining; Also, a cheat, but old libraries have a certain lofi sound to them, the bbc one especially, which sometimes works great alongside music, and at the same time asks the ear to forgive, so you might just get away with it 😉 Speaking of westerns, I’m going through the Dollars Trilogy right now and the sound makes me chuckle all the time, but I take it as a genre thing and find it enjoyable.