Reading: Room tone

Following on from issues with atmos sounds in my Assignment 3 moving image, I found an article on room tone by sound designer Woody Woodhall.

‘Room tone, sometimes called room noise or fill, is simply the recorded sound of a particular room that a scene is being shot in. That sound is caused by many factors – lights, refrigerators, air conditioning, people, furniture, as well as the “sound” of the microphone, the “sound” imparted by the recording device and the specifications of the recording’ (Woodhall, 2018).

No two rooms have the same room tone.

The main function of room tone is to cover unwanted noise and fill gaps in the sound.

A dialogue editor can fix problems with sound by adding a bit of room tone over the offending noises and adding a precise edit and some cross-fades.

If room tone has not been recorded, you have to create it from the audio clips you have:

  • take parts of the scene that are quiet
  • you can also find it in the handles of the audio clips – the longer the handles the better
  • put it all together and apply some noise reduction software to get rid of some of the issues
  • then double the length of your tone by copying it and reversing the second half

When editing location audio, besides creating a seamless dialogue track, the dialogue editor also creates a track that is called production effects (PFX) – any useful location recording that does not have dialogue in it (e.g. breaking a glass, knocking on a door, working in the kitchen, running water, chopping vegetables, etc.).

Editing the location PFX onto non-dialogue tracks helps create the final sound effects stems and sub-mixes.

Room tone is needed when PFX are removed or when bad lines are muted and replaced by ADR.

Room tone is also needed when you get busy noise in the middle of what should be silence. You can cut out the noise and replace it with room tone, if it matches.

Room tone can be used to keep the dialogue track filled with audio from start to finish, while other sounds might be happening in the sound track.

Room tone can be useful in allowing sound effects editors to enhance the PFX in the sound design and help blend foley recordings with the PFX and with the dialogue tracks for the final mixing.

‘Room tone is the glue in the sound editing that creates the continuity from edit to edit.’

Every room sounds differently according to its shape and contents, what machines are running, what traffic is passing outside, even what natural sounds can be heard such as birds. These things change throughout the day, so getting room tone at different times of the day can be useful.

Even one shot can have completely different tone than another shot in the same room, depending on what direction the mic is facing.

On-set room tone recordings are important because creating usable room tone from scraps of location recordings is difficult.

The most essential room tone to record is that in odd places.

Movies that are quiet or that have sparse music score and minimal sound effects leaves the dialogue track bare and audiences will be aware of this.

Room tone is an inevitable part of the filmmaking process.

30 seconds spent recording room tone on location can save dialogue editors hours in post production trying to create it.


Woodhall, W. (2018) ‘Room Tone – 28 Weeks of Post Audio Redux: #2 Do we really need it?’ On, July 02, 2018. At [Accessed on 10 November 2018]

A3: Rework

Password: PeterS

There wasn’t a lot to rework for Assignment 3. Both Matt and I were happy with the way in which the conflict is portrayed within the narrative. I trimmed the start of the kitchen scene in which the mother sorts through the laundry by a few seconds, to help tighten up the pace of the scene. I also tried making the editing a little snappier in other places. Though some cuts had to be reinstated again as tightening up the edits reduced the effect of the long, lingering scenes. I also cut out the second shot of the meringue seen from over the mother’s shoulder, as it was superfluous to the scene.

Matt suggested that the letter should be withheld until the pavlova is served, which would help in gradually revealing the mother’s nastiness. So I cut out the over-the-shoulder shot of the letter. I also tried to reduce as much of the letter in shot as possible, to suggest she had found something in her daughter’s jeans pocket without giving too much away. However, as I did not have a close-up reaction shot of the mother, I was unable to cut out as much as I would have liked. Unfortunately, we still see her opening and reading the letter, which reduces the element of surprise later in the film.

The next thing to do was to fix the inconsistent sound in the car interior scene. In order to fix the abrupt audio edits and help create a more natural background sound, I created a new atmos track using the ambience match feature in Izotope RX5, one of the Media Composer audio plugins, to help smooth things out across the entire dialogue scene. I have never tried this before. The result is better but not perfect. I also added fades to the front and back of each clip within the dialogue scene, which also helped smooth things out.

I then attempted to fix the lack of contrast in the daughter’s bedroom. This was quite tricky, as brightening it too much would reduce the overall mood of the scene. I made a few slight adjustments by raising the gain (highlights) and reducing the setup (shadows) slightly. Raising the gain introduced quite a lot of noise into the picture, so I added some noise reduction using the NeatVideo plugin, which has helped clean up the image.

I wanted to make a moving image that utilised the main characteristics of the short film. So, there are the usual elements: characters, plot, one main idea, title, end credits, etc. I also wanted to make a short narrative film that bore the imprint of a personal style – which I feel is evident in the long, lingering shots that allow room for the viewer to reflect on the characters and their predicament. If I was to continue with this approach, which I think I am quite likely to do, I would need to refine my technique further, particularly in terms of camera movement, lighting and recording consistent atmos tracks.

On the surface, making a short narrative film appears quite easy to execute. But in reality it is a very challenging format to get right. Where feature films take the viewer on a journey and are designed to show transformation in the protagonist, the short film does not have the luxury of time, story arcs and character development. The challenge is to write something that is extremely simple and focuses on one main idea, explored over a few pages that are rich with subtext and strong in imagery.

I know there are still issues with this project, but I have reached a point where it communicates my idea in a professional way. Overall, I am happy with the result. I would like to return to the short narrative form of moving image making. Working with actors was particularly rewarding.


A3: Tutor feedback and thoughts

A really helpful Skype feedback session with Matt. He commended me on how I had thought carefully about all aspects of the filmmaking process and negotiated the difficult task of doing everything. This was a new venture for me and Matt’s positive response to my work on this project was a great boost for my confidence. He was also happy with the technical side, which is a relief as there was so much to get to grips with in making this film.

He thought the conflict I portrayed was subtle and psychological, and that I have achieved an underlying tension through the script and lingering, thoughtful shots. I am glad he thought this, as I felt I was taking a bit of a risk in leaving a lot of things unsaid and relying heavily upon the subtext in carrying the narrative forward. These are things I admire in the work of other filmmakers and look forward to exploring further in my own moving image practice.

We talked about the mother’s underlying nastiness and how it would be good to exploit this by slowly revealing information to the viewer. Matt suggested the letter need not be seen until the mother presents it to her daughter with the meringue. Registering that she had found something in her daughter’s jeans pocket rather than simply showing her reading the letter would have a stronger effect. I liked this idea. Though editing this may prove problematic as I did not film a close-up reaction shot of the mother as she discovers the letter. I can see now that there is a lot to be said for being selective in what I show the viewer throughout a moving image. I need to look closely at how other filmmakers do this in their work.

Matt said he thought the script was ok and that he liked the way I have chosen to tell the story visually, which fits with the way I have shot the film. I’m particularly pleased about this as I set out right from the start to tell the story visually and wrote the screenplay with this in mind.

We also talked about some of the film’s weaknesses, particularly in terms of the lighting in the interior night scenes. Lighting interior night scenes was considerably harder than I had expected. Though, as Matt pointed out, one very simple solution would have been to throw a light up into the ceiling above the dining table to help illuminate the room and the actors more naturally. He also suggested I paid close attention to where the actual light sources are and use them as the base for my lighting setups. I realise now that not placing the LED close enough to the lamp standing in the corner of the dining area has resulted in an inconsistent and unnatural look to the dining table scene. Matt also suggested I look at the daughter’s bedroom scene again, as it looks too flat and could do with adding more contrast in post production, if the image can take it.

We also talked about the abrupt sound edits in the car interior scene and need to take care when recording audio on location. When filming this scene, I had placed the microphone between the two actors just above the gear stick and filmed two close up shots, one on the daughter through the driver’s window and the other on the mother through the passenger window, and assumed the sound would be consistent when cutting the shots together in post production. As Matt pointed out, this had not worked out in practice. The shot of the mother was filmed through the passenger window and was open to the sea, which resulted in a very different, more prominent ambient sound than the shot of the daughter through the driver window which has noticeable less ambient sound. Matt pointed out the need for an atmos track to lay over the dialogue to help smooth things out. He also suggested adding gentle fades to the front and back of each clip in the sequence. All of which is well within my technical capabilities.

A4: Sound Spaces – ‘We are all figures (in a landscape)’

‘We are all figures (in a landscape)’ (2019)
Running time: 3′ 00″


Brief: To make a film that explores sonic atmospheres and perspectives

  • The goal is to create a strong sense of place, to capture the visual and sonic character of a location.
  • Write a story that is simple and requires several locations.
  • Use a variety of sound ideas in your script – a combination of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds: voice over, music, subjective sound, objective sound.
  • The story must explore different perspectives – things happening in the foreground and the mid-ground as well as distant events in the background.


The concept behind this moving image is the idea that we are all figures in a landscape – we exist, live our lives in a variety of different ‘landscapes’; both external physical landscapes through which we move, and internal conscious/subconscious landscapes within our mind.

I decided to explore this idea through a very simple narrative – a man wakes up from a dream, which leaves an impression on him as he travels to work the following day.

In keeping with the assignment brief to create a moving image with a strong sense of place that explores the sonic atmospheres and perspectives of several different locations, I set out to make something in which the story is also expressed within the film’s soundscape.

I drafted a script with five locations, each with a different a sense of place.

I then defined the sense of ‘space’ that was unique to each of the five locations:

  1. The Hellfire Club – a dark, shadowy space
  2. Bedroom – a silent, restful space
  3. Wilderness – a mystic, beautiful space
  4. Tram – a solitary, introvert space
  5. City – a busy corporate space

Having defined the sound spaces I would be using within the moving image, I then began experimenting with various ways of representing the visual landscapes and sonic landscapes.



List of references