Adventures In Audio
Impossible audio

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.

Thursday November 30, 2006
FREE EBOOK DOWNLOAD ►

Here is an interesting question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

How can I pick up the sound of the air displacement of a small stone falling down from 2 meters high? This is for a dance act, a dancer drops the stone. It will be in a live performance.

This is a tough one. Let's take it in stages...

Firstly, does the stone actually make any sound as it falls? Clearly it will make a sound when it hits the stage, but while falling?

Well yes, very probably it does. If you take a thin stick or twig and move it quickly through the air, it makes a swishing sound. This is the sound of air being displaced and forming complex currents around the stick.

The stone will undoubtedly do the same. But since it is moving much more slowly, the sound will be very quiet.

You could try attaching a miniature microphone to the stone. Let's ignore the cable for now.

This just might pick up the sound of the stone falling. But there would be a much higher level of noise caused by air moving quickly past the diaphragm.

My conclusion is sadly that either this sound is impossible to pick up and amplify, or it would take the entire science budget of a developed nation to find a way.

So it's impossible?

No... you could fake it. This is theater remember. It's all fake apart from the skills of the actors, dancers and everyone who contributes to the performance.

So, you could think hard and imagine what the sound of a falling stone is really like.

Think, think, think and think. Use all of your sound engineering experience and skill to conceptualize the sound, then lock yourself in the studio for a day so that you can recreate it.

Now, all that is necessary is for the sound to be triggered on cue. In my experience, this depends entirely on getting the dancer to realize how important it is to perform to the cue, in whatever form it takes, with absolute precision. Or the dancer can give the cue by incorporating a small but noticeable movement into the dance, just before the stone is dropped.

One last finesse...

You have applied your years of experience to determine what the sound of a falling stone should be like.

But the audience hasn't got a clue what it should be like! So actually, you have to come up with a sound that will be totally convincing to the audience, within their terms of reference and experience. They will have less than a second while the stone drops to fully assimilate the sight and sound presented to them.

So the sound you create has to be immediately convincing to the audience, rather than faithfully naturalistic.

Let us know how you get on!

Image credit: Mission Impossible, the TV series

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

Come on the Audio Masterclass Pro Home Studio MiniCourse - 60 great hints and tips to get your home recording studio MOVING

It's FREE!

Get It Now >>

Electric guitar - compress before the amp, or after?

How to choose the best key for your song

What is comb filtering? What does it sound like?

NEW: Audio crossfades come to Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9!

What is the difference between EQ and filters? *With Audio*

What difference will a preamp make to your recording?

Watch our video on linear phase filters and frequency response with the FabFilter Pro Q 2

Read our post on linear phase filters and frequency response with the Fabfilter Pro Q 2

Harmonic distortion with the Soundtoys Decapitator

What's the best height for studio monitors? Answer - Not too low!

What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Will floating point change the way we record?

Mixing: What is the 'Pedalboard Exception'?

The difference between mic level and line level

The problem with parallel compression that you didn't know you had. What it sounds like and how to fix it.

Compressing a snare drum to even out the level

What does parallel compression on vocals sound like?

How to automate tracks that have parallel compression

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue

Clipping and compressing a drum recording to achieve an exciting sound texture

What can we learn about room acoustics from this image?

Can you hear the subtle effect of the knee control of the compressor? (With audio and video demonstrations)

What is the best studio microphone?

What is the Neve sound? (Using the Slate Digital FG-73)