Recording Sound Effects

L'Amour Ranch
Near Durango

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We spent nearly five weeks total at my mother’s ranch in Colorado and then in the Tehachapi and Gold Country areas of California recording about 90% of the sound effects for this show. The final 10% came from recordings that we did for Merrano of the Dry Country and a few sound library cues. We tried to record all our outdoor sounds actually outdoors and in stereo. All of our effects were recorded in moments of silence with no wind or aircraft … it is remarkable how few and far between these are. Sometimes we would wait 45 minutes to an hour for just a few moments of actual silence.

We miraculously chose the weekend when some 50,000 Harley Davidson Motorcycle aficionados held their annual Iron Horse Convention. The same exceptional quality of the echoes and reflections we get when we create our sound effects on the L’Amour Ranch, worked against us with every passing motorcycle gang, group or family. We would spend many a long hour waiting for a moment of silence where the roar of a passing hog wouldn’t interfere with our desire for the perfect footstep.

The Eurika Steam Train near Durango, Colorado

We spent several days chasing the narrow gauge train from Durango to Silverton and back, recording two different engines.

Horse effects were some of the hardest to record because many years of drought had left behind a muffling dust, but we did finally get a fair set of horse effects, we also did a number of wagons and stage coaches provided to us by the Mancos Valley Stage line.

Gun shots were another challenge, as you need both the extremely loud explosion at the onset of the sound and the delicate echoes at the end; often these had to be recorded at different times. The action of the guns cocking, being loaded, shells being ejected, and holster business, was also done at other times. Much of it was done twice, once for indoors and again outside because of the differences in sound. Bullet hits were recorded at an abandoned house with fresh panes of glass placed in it's windows … if you ever wonder what it sounds like to be shot at in a wooden building, the effects in this show are the real thing.

One of our best effects is that of a bullet whizzing past the microphone. For this we loaded a very large caliber muzzle loading rifle with a weak powder charge, so that the bullet was moving well below the speed of sound. Occasionally, engineer Howard Gale said he could actually see the ball go past.

A Word of Caution: I don't want to encourage anyone to try this stuff on their own. I have had a good deal of training in this kind of modest pyrotechnics from the days when I worked in the film business. Paul and I are both very, very, careful dealing with firearms. While we were recording we used two way radios, several thicknesses of sand bags for additional protection, and always shot into a nearby backstop.  No one was ever anywhere near the line of fire and we always had fire extinguishers and shovels on hand. Setting up to record a dangerous effect could take a couple of hours. No one was hurt in doing any of this and I always made sure that I was the person most exposed to any injury.

The stuff that did hurt was doing the dozens of body falls, slides, and rolls, on just about every surface but linoleum. I was my own stunt man and for months I was bruised and battered. I harnessed myself to the winch cable from my truck to take falls from Ben's wire bridge, in fact just moving along the twisting, wobbling, wires was back breaking. I nearly set my self on fire with a Molotov cocktail and discovered just how hard it is to swing a chair at someone (in this case a pole covered with carpet) and break the chair. On about the fifth swing the chair started to go to pieces rather than my arms. When you see this in the movies the chairs are, of course, made to break away … in the interest of accuracy we tried the real thing and I sure wouldn't want it to happen to me!

The hundreds and hundreds of footsteps were the worst … so boring to do, it nearly made us insane. The thing that was perhaps the most uncomfortable were falls from what was supposed to be Molina's horse into the river. I wanted to avoid this so much that I put it off until October … when the La Plata river was both shallow and ice cold. So cold, in fact that I didn't feel where I had hit the rocks until hours later. Many other effects were recorded in the dead of winter. It’s a great time for it because there are no birds, no running water in the streams, and very little wind. It was, however, very cold. Paul, a native Coloradan, nearly froze to the bed of my truck.



Son of a Wanted Man

Home | The Story | The Perpetrators (Crew) | The Co-Conspirators (Cast)

The History and Making of Son of a Wanted Man
The History | Novel to Script | Pre-Production | Recording Dialog | Recording Sound Effects
Editing the Dialog and Sound Effects | The Musical Score | Mixing and Mastering | What's Next?

Photo Galleries
Location Photos | In the Recording Studio | In the Field (Recording Sound Effects)

Audio Sound Bytes
Trailer | Music

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