In post production, many people will tell you “when you get stumped, get up and get some fresh air.” It’s good advice- forcefully taking your mind off something you’ve been hyper focused on for hours can help freshen up your perspective. But perhaps even more important is taking a giant step away for a few days or even a week.
I just returned from a week long journey across France after many months of frequent late work nights and tight deadlines. Naturally, the trip was re-energizing, but perhaps even more importantly it provided some unique opportunities for real world sound monitoring.
What does a downtown Paris street sound like during a rainy afternoon?
How about an abandoned chateau on the French country side?
Or various hallways in the Louvre on a busy day?
All intriguing questions that lack real world, specific answers if you haven’t actually been to France. Sure, you could dig through libraries and imagine it, using what’s available on YouTube for reference…. but many details will surely be missed if you want it to sound accurate and, perhaps more importantly, your own.
Here are a few things I noticed by being there in the flesh:
– More than half the vehicles there are manufactured by French car companies many Americans have never heard of. They are also primarily manual transmissions.
– There are tons of scooters, vespas and motorcycles- way more than in US metropolitan areas.
– Church bells reverberate through rural areas and small towns throughout the day.
– Many birds, while the same species as birds in the US (i.e. seagulls), sound VERY different there. If you simply heard calls without seeing them, you might think they were some other exotic birds.
– There’s an incredibly old, island fortress cathedral called Mont Saint Michel. Think Alcatraz but instead of a prison, a much older stone castle that shoots into the sky. As I walked inside the various impressive rooms, everything was drowned in eerie, endless reverb.
– Around Memorial day and the anniversary of D-Day each year, many modern military planes fly overhead on the beaches of Normandy. They made for some excellent plane by recordings!
Those are just from a few days around France. Imagine how much could be learned by visiting just a few more cities worldwide.
Granted, it can be exceedingly difficult to break away from work on a regular basis, especially when things are busy. But to learn and improve at any craft, it’s important to remember that we need to face new experiences. It’s easy to burn out in such a demanding field, so open your door and go see what’s out there!
Pro tip: Bring a Zoom recorder to record some of the sounds for your growing library. It sort of makes it a business trip, right? ;-)