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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.