How to fake a forest?
January 16, 2010 9:58 AM   Subscribe

How to record (or possibly fake) forest ground, roots and moist dirt in an arctic climate?

Maybe the hive thinks of something I haven't:

I am doing sound design for a video art installation, probably surround. I need lots of very high quality (24 / 88) sounds of the following; person digging in mossy forest dirt with bare hands, tearing up and snapping large roots, shuffling dirt around, stamping and thumping on forest floor, etc. Very organic and "wet" sounds.

This would usually be no problem - very easy to record myself in the local forest, any time of the year, except for the unfortunate fact that most of northern Europe is frozen hard, has been for a while, and it does not look to thaw! I've checked multiple places, everything is frozen stiff.

I'm on a deadline. Currently my only (and expensive though comfortable) solution, is to travel a few hours south on a cheap charter-holiday, somewhere the ground is not frozen, and do my recordings there.

But! There must be something local or artifical I'm overlooking? I'm in Bergen, Norway, a rather small town, all herbariums are outdoors and frozen. There's a few green-houses here but they'd rather not have me tear up their roots, and they are too small anyway.

Maybe fake it? Anyone have any experience with similar sounds and know about possible indoors replacements? There's a lot of bass and "thuds" in rooty forest floor, which I haven't been able to fake. The digging I can fix, but not the roots. There's a kind of boominess to the forest floor, in the snap of roots, tricking me all the time. Or maybe I'm just doing it wrong...
posted by gmm to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about using a sort of hollow wooden platform for the base (to get the boomy sound) then adding a couple big sacks of wet gardening soil and bits of leaves or paper (for the rustling) and maybe breaking wooden chopsticks or stick candy for the root sounds?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:18 AM on January 16, 2010

Echo Pseudostrabismus and then mix in some ambient forest sounds to get background layers. I'm sure you can find the ambient sounds somewhere online.
posted by jlowen at 10:39 AM on January 16, 2010

Best answer: Have a bonfire. Then clear away the fire remains and dig in that spot.
posted by Babblesort at 11:09 AM on January 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sand makes better digging sounds than dirt. Make a little sandbox with wet sand. In general, to get a cinematicaly convincing effect, the actual sound of the action does not work as convincingly as foley effects do.
posted by idiopath at 11:44 AM on January 16, 2010

Do you have to produce the sounds yourself?

Search on SoundDogs, Soundsnap, or Freesound for "digging" and you'll get a bunch of possibilities.

Either way, layer things together to get the effect you're looking for.

You could try breaking smallish sticks of carrot or something for root snaps, maybe scratch / scrape on radishes or some ginger or something. Just go play with what you have on hand and listen to what it could be, not what it is.

As an aside, sound for video tends not to be done 44.1 or 88.2k, it's usually 48 or 96k.
posted by jjb at 9:16 PM on January 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all, in particular Babblesort for suggesting a head-slappingly obvious solution.

I think a combination of all this should fix it nice and easy. What the forest won't provide itself I can probably do with the other ideas. Thank you so much guys!
posted by gmm at 4:16 AM on January 17, 2010

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