Adventures In Audio

Bad Audio Diary BAD8: Nature documentaries - Are they making monkeys out of us?

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Are the sound effects in nature documentaries real? Are 99% of them real? Or are 99% fake? This video reveals all with examples from the BBC's 'Primates' and commentary from a top dubbing mixer.

And what if they're not real? Does it matter if they tell the story correctly and you hear things as though you were there? What if sound effects editors exaggerate the sounds? Will the documentary still represent the real world, or will it enter the world of fantasy?

Judge for yourselves!


Automated transcript

Welcome to another episode of pad audio dari this is where I look at audio this bad audio that could have been better an audio that is actually quite good but could easily have been bad so all of those options are available we're going to watch a few clips from a new show that's been on the BBC just yesterday in fact and it's called primates and it's all about primates is a fascinating nature documentary but is the sound always accurate that's the question so Natural History documentaries or nature documentaries are they trying to make monkeys out of us well let's watch a little clip okay so it's some kind of a monkey cracking open some kind of a nut it's I've just got it down here somewhere it's a beard capuchin monkey maybe something to do with capuchin monks maybe something to do with cappuccino or coffee I don't really know I'm not an expert on these subjects sound wise though it looks good to me and it sounds good to me let's just listen to it and watch it again that sounds fine I'm watching this this monkey and I'm listening to the sound that it's making and it sounds perfectly believable well you know not all of these sounds are actually recorded on the location and apparently 99% of them made a funny noise apparently 99% of them are added later in post-production well who'd have thought it but that really does work and if it works it works and I'm satisfied with that let's listen to another example so here we go you know I'm not so bad with that either that really does sound believable I really can't believe that monkey is hitting that nut with that stone that's what it would sound like in real life maybe that is the real sound you know it's not impossible it depends were thing put the microphones how low the lens is whether it's going to scare the animals how many different setups they've got to try before they get something that's usable usable there must be so much to go wrong in this kind of filming and audio recording let's look at another example with the same monkey I'm sorry I call it a monkey it might be a monkey or a primate or a lemur I don't know the difference but um you know in the comments in the comments let's look at this one and take a listen okay let's just take a look at that again

yes and once more I'm not unhappy with the sound itself the sound sounds fine it sounds like it doesn't look like a nut actually puts it's something being hit with something it does sound like that but the the video it looks slowed down so either is shot at a higher framerate so that it would be it's there left so that it would playback its slow motion at a normal frame rate or perhaps they shot it at a normal frame rate and slowed it down in post-production it looks a little bit slowed down in post-production to me but then I'm not particularly any kind of video expert but it does look slowed down so if you try to match audio real like reel speed audio with slowed down video that's not really going to work very well you know you can change the speed of audio but it's either going to change the pitch or it's going to have artifacts which make it sound a little bit distortion less believable so I'm going to say that there is either some clever editing going on here well yes I'm clever editing going on here some clever clever fakery going on here and it's not that it really is not bad let's just listen to listen to it again and watch it for that slow-mo yeah that's definitely slow-mo this monkey lemur or primate or whatever it is is such a star I'm going to play all of those examples again in sequence and enjoy

okay that's a good example I'm very happy with that I think it is believable in the context of what they're trying to do and bearing in mind how exceptionally difficult it must be for sound I'm not saying it's not difficult for the video but I think it's more difficult for the the sound to be honest I think that really works well it I can watch that and I can believe it and the slow motion okay it's a little thing but yeah who's bothered about that let's look at another monkey lemur or primate I'm just gonna call them monkeys can I just do that just go just call them monkeys you can call me a monkey if you like a great big pod I don't mind let's watch this oh sorry I should explain it first what's happening here is there's a a jackfruit apartment is what it is hanging from a tree and the monkey has competition from a squirrel it's a great big brightly coloured squirrel it doesn't look like any of the squirrels I see around here but apparently it is a squirrel so the squirrels trying to get to the jackfruit and the monkeys trying to get to the jackfruit and the monkey is a little bit more intelligent than the squirrel and he's trying to award the the squirrel off so I just watch and see what happens here oh and listen as well

can you relate that the monkey is giving the squirrel a rock in the face to make it go away so apparently there's some benefit in the mountain the squirrels being around so the monkeys tolerate them because they give them access to then the squirrels know which jackfruit so ripe or something like that I learned that from watching the program so I've learnt I've learned something today let's just watch that again it's his really good one okay so I'm gonna say here that did they get a microphone up in that tree even if they did get a microphone up in that tree I'm gonna think it would have to be a directional microphone to get as clear as sound as that and if it's a directional microphone it's got to be pointed in the right direction the chances of that happening even have they got a motorized mount for the microphone like the hot headers they'd call it in them in the camera world and could it move that quickly I don't know I'm really really suspicious about how how true this is but it looks okay I'm gonna say it doesn't quite sound okay it sounds a bit exaggerated to me so it's a little bit over the top from reality but sometimes that's what the audience wants they don't want actual reality they want something that feels like reality sometimes that's more important I certainly learnt that when I was still working in theatre many years ago with his sad face and they're like let's have a look at this same there's not this exact same monkey an exact same squirrel but it's the same group of animals let's see what happens here

that poor girl it's never gonna get his dinner is it likewise it doesn't really look possible to me to capture that sound in real life but I do appreciate the fact they've they've used a different sound to the previous one it's a more subtle sound and I think it really is suited to what we are seeing and I've got another example as well which is another good one there we go so we can hear this monkey I'm getting the squirrel to go their way so let's have a look at all three examples in sequence and just just enjoy them take them in

okay so what we've got is firstly we've got an example which really does apart from the slow motion it really does sound believable it sounds like there's a microphone right there capturing the actual sounds as they were made the second example it kind of feels believable it's not really a hundred percent there but it it suits the purpose and it delivers what the audience expectations are but are these sound effects editors ever tempted to go a little bit further than this and create sounds which and not realistic well yeah in fact sometimes they are okay did you believe that do you really believe that let's have it again let's just focus in on it just to make sure that we can hear it and see it and hear it properly

no way did that monkey make that noise it's what is it some a lesser Bush baby apparently did not make that noise that animal did not make that noise so and there's no way I'm believing that was it just a one-off maybe it's um maybe it's a sound editors joke maybe they like to slip in jokes every now and then see if it gets past the the director let's look at another example no way no way no did that monkey back that noise let's focus in no and one more and it really is getting to ridiculous proportions here so brace yourselves well we're getting into the realms of complete fiction here so let's just look at these three of them in turn okay it's fun it's not realistic but it's fun and it's meant to be entertainment so it's meant to be a realistic photo a realistic portrayal of nature to a certain extent but also entertainment to a certain extent because if it wasn't entertaining then we wouldn't watch it and to be honest these these animals they are probably doing really boring things like 23 hours and 59 minutes over the day and it's just every now and then they do something that we would really appreciate watching just to finish off I'm going to play a clip of he's not the dubbing editor for this program but this is Graeme Wilde and he was the dubbing mixer started to be mixer his title was he's the dubbing mixer on planet earth too so what he says is illuminating one of the things with Natural History is that we are we're trying to create what you think you should hear but I'd say 99% of the time it's shot mute okay so there we have it who doesn't watching a monkey's having fun and we have examples of good audio the first one was good the second one was good but a little bit questionable the third one come on come on we're not believing that so there you go for a bad audio diary how is that answers in the comments whatever you think about it whether you think it's good bad they shouldn't have done it like that should be more realistic should make more effort with the audio should get themselves a parabolic reflector microphone look that up answers in the comments and tell me what you think I'm David Miller course director of audio masterclass thank you for listening

Comments on this video

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SkR0nYtbe:  Documentaries esp. Natural documentaries are fascinating but my not be all the time. So, very similar to another commercial movies, these also should engage the users to the content and most of the time, the sound should be complement to the sound and not a compromise. So, obviously they have to use Foley artists to create certain sounds to make them complement to visuals. Forget about the Live telecast. When these documentaries comes to home video through Bluray and 4K Bluray with Dolby Atmos/DTS MA/Hi-Res track, what they can fill-in if they don't dramatize the sound. I myself having most of the BBC documentaries in Bluray and 4K bluray and never felt anything uncomfortable. I personally feel that, this is just a dramatized way of sharing the knowledge to the common world and not to a group of sound engineers!

Audio Masterclass replies to SkR0nYtbe: I agree with you if sounds are recreated that would have occurred in real life. The 'swish' sounds of the animal jumping are not to my personal taste since they are obviously fake. But if it means that the general audience gets more pleasure and satisfaction from the programme, then that's more important than my pernicketiness. DM

smpiggy.com玩屁小猪:  That sound editor definitely used some Kung-Fu SFX pack on this documentary. As a sennheiser 418 owner, I don't think a shotgun mic can record such detailed sounds in that distance, but for viewer aspect, exaggerated sounds will add more joyful watching experience, I really like those sounds, and thank you for this interesting reveal video!

smpiggy.com玩屁小猪 replies to smpiggy.com玩屁小猪: @Audio Masterclass I totally agree, after I've meatured and calibrated my studio sound enviroment, I found myself just can't stop analysing every single video sound, this one maybe lack of mid, that one seems too bassy, but painful😭.

Audio Masterclass replies to smpiggy.com玩屁小猪: Thank you for your detailed comment. It isn't so much a reveal video as something I just happened to notice while watching TV. Sometimes I have to switch myself off from analysing the sound so I can enjoy the program. DM

Justin Nelson:  The fact that youu acknowledged that audio also is meant to heighten the viewership and sometimes not quite be accurate was spot on! Something we always lose touch of when your new to audio

Audio Masterclass replies to Justin Nelson: Thank you for your comment. The producers made interesting decisions on the audio here and I look forward to watching, and maybe commenting on, the next episode. DM

Garrett Glass:  Can honestly say that until today I’d never seen a monkey swat a squirrel.

The Bush babies swoosh was pretty funny.

Audio Masterclass replies to Garrett Glass: @Garrett GlassI'm looking into audio augmented reality for that. DM

Garrett Glass replies to Garrett Glass: Audio Masterclass I bet even they don’t swoosh!

Audio Masterclass replies to Garrett Glass: Never seen it either. The best I get round here is seeing the occasional rabbit. DM

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Thursday March 10, 2022

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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