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I was watching one of this year's screeners last night, on a calibrated system in a good room. 

 

In one scene of this action/drama, the protagonists are walking through a clearning in a large forest. There's a lot of snow covering everything. There are no mountains or large buildings in the scene; presumably from the plot, there aren't any nearby.

 

One of our guys hears the enemy's voices, coming from the side. They turn around and spot the enemy party - maybe half a dozen men - a great distance away. 

 

We hear the enemy soldiers' voices at a reduced volume but clearly, and with a lot of complex interior reverb.

 

If any exterior shouldn't have reverb, it's this one. Snow sucks up reflections, and the only things that could have been reflecting sound were tree trunks. Long distances in air cause high frequency attenuation from friction, which is why very distant thunder rumbles rather than claps. Perhaps the attenuation wouldn't have been as great as usual because the cold air was denser than normal... but there'd be some.

 

This wasn't a case of an unrealistic effect being needed because reality sounds strange, like the necessity to sometimes put a 'whoosh' under a rocket ship in a vacuum. (Or to ignore the speed of sound [in a vacuum?] when blowing up a planet.) Level and eq could have sold the distant dialog, just like it does in a lot of other films.

 

So, soundies:

 

1.  Is exterior wet reverb (as opposed to a few distinct slaps from buildings) becoming the new normal? Are we back to the early days of talkies, when outdoor dialog was pushed through the studio's echo chamber because "everybody knows there are echoes outdoors"? Are there other current examples?

 

2.  Has this come up when you're mixing a film? If so, what was the discussion? What arguments did the director have other than "just do it"?

 

3.  Or am I a curmudgeon for still believing in physical laws? 

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The snow was soft?  Or has there been a prior days melt and then refreeze overnight that caused the snow to have a smooth icy coating?  Also was there frozen snow up in the trees and icicles?  Sometimes when patrolling in a gulch or between fingers you can hear reinforced echoes from the walls, doesn’t have to be full on cliffs or mountains.  I mostly agree with you, just the curmudgeon former infantryman in me thinking out loud.

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I don't know if the snow was supposed to be soft or not. But it sure looked fluffy. And we didn't hear the protagonists' footsteps crunching. Not even cornstarch.

 

If there was a layer of ice, it'd expect it to reflect highs and absorb lows. Unless the ice were a couple of cm thick... in which case the scene would be about skating rather than walking.

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I'm sure your expert ears and sensibilities are correct, look forward to seeing the film myself when it is publicly available.  I was setting up an LFE system yesterday and played "Gravity" and was sort of cool to hear the LFE rumble a bit with the low end from the astronauts' tools - not big explosions or special effects, just the subtle reinforcement to the scene through creative use of the low frequency spectrum on a "mundane" scene.

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Hello from Finland. I've lived here all my life and listened to 28 winters now, and snow really does kill reflections. There's still slapback from buildings and trees, but much less than in the summer because nothing reflects from the ground. When it's really cold, everything tends to sound even drier, a bit more present, even if the snow is packed tight in a thin layer, it affects the reflections. I like how it sounds. It can also feel like sound doesn't carry as far, traffic seems quieter for example. Wouldn't put an SPL meter to it, though. I absolutely would not put reverb in a snowy exterior shot, maybe if the action is in the middle of an icy lake lined by trees.

Exteriors are hard to get right, usually a slapback delay feels more right to me than any kind of reverb. I've never had to argue about using a slapback instead of a reverb, the people I've worked with usually just want it to sound "right" and I try to do that by emulating physical laws. My ear hasn't picked up a trend of reverb being used in exteriors, I've mostly heard slapbacks if anything.

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Hi Jay,

I'm sure post had a hand in that!

I often listen to interiors that have had too much reverb added later

If I'm using lavs I will iso a boom for acoustic but then it's out of my hands

 

Cheers

 

mike

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So Jay do you think the dialogue you're referring to was ADR? Because if the reverb was on the original production sound tracks that would be an explanation, but in a forest with snow I don't think that's likely. If they added reverb in post I could imagine a scenario where the enemy soldiers would not be boomed because of the distance but instead recorded on lavs. That in turn might have sounded too close for the director, which is why he could have requested them to add reverb (probably actually meaning delay/echo).

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4 hours ago, Christian Spaeth said:

So Jay do you think the dialogue you're referring to was ADR? ...

 

It easily could have been. They were so far away, you couldn't see their mouths. Chances are likely they were recorded wild (I won't guess whether it was was during production or post, but post have certainly been cheaper). 

 

The verb was definitely added in post. I'd prefer to believe the director requested its wetness and wasn't happy until it sounded that way, because the rerecording mixer probably knew better.

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