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Sound of the week #2

This week’s sound come from a recent low-budget production where sound was the least important thing, until they realized that without good sound, it won’t work. As you can imagine, the point where I got into the production is well after 24th hour. I guess the story sounds familiar from now on: no budget, everything needs to be done for last week, etc.

The main scene (and many other) takes place in a server/machine room, which need a kind of industrial feeling. A huge room crammed with computers. I won’t get into more details, but now there’s no possibility to go into such place and record it, so the task is to create this ”main” ambience from scratch.

There are many things happening in this particular server room, so my idea was to create a basic ambience, and then evolve it so it can add tension when the scene calls for it.
I was through many ideas when suddenly I had something concrete in my mind. More experimentation would’ve been good, but as I’ve mentioned it before, there are two things which this production lacks, time and money.
One of the places where I work, there is a really old PC (a prescott p4 if you remember these), which is still in duty almost daily. The coolers are terribly loud, and the noise is even further amplified by the cheap chassis. It has very good tone so I decided to record it. I’ve recorded from multiple perspectives, tried to capture the general tone of the machine and the cooler sound.

The other plausible idea was to record an old projectors’ cooler as it was available there. The key here was that the projector is really old, it has a very nice cooler tone. I mean disgusting if you would like to use it near mics, but very nice if you plan to record it.

The different perspectives give diverse basic sounds, which is good, as the actors move to different places in the room, we can change the room’s tone easily.

These are the basic recorded elements:

For the sake of efficiency, I created a basic room ambience, and varied that with the different recorded coolers, so different parts of the room really sounds different while still you can “feel” that you are in the same room. The additional cooler sounds can transform the basic room ambience not only to inform the listener about the position of the actors in the room, but they can add tension, or forecast some future event as well.

The final tones achieved by using a little pitch modification (elastic audio), a little reverb (TL Space) and a touch of Pitch Accum treatment. The combinations are endless.

A little example of the different places:

I know it’s hard to judge these sounds without the picture, but I think you get the idea.