Film School Friday – What is room tone?

Room Tone Episode Summary

In this episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill discuss what room tone is and why it’s important.

Room Tone Episode Notes

Quiet on set! In this episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill talk about room tone.

“It’s kind of a fun game of, can everybody stay still and not sneeze and not cough and not move?” – Bill Cornelius

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Room Tone Transcript

Corey (00:00):

Welcome to film school Friday, I’m Corey.

Bill (00:15):

I’m bill,

Corey (00:16):

And together we host the InFocus podcast. Film School Friday is our special weekly episode where I get to quiz bill to see how much knowledge he retained from film school. In this week’s episode, we’re talking about room tone, what it is and bill, is it really that important?

Bill (00:34):

It is very important. And you know, I edit as well. I’m an editor and room tone is so important to your editor and post-production what room tone is, is basically as described it as the tone of the room. It is the tone inside the ambient tone inside the environment that you’re shooting in. And it’s something that’s generally recorded at the end of the shoot. Everybody quiets down, you give a minute or more to just have the recordist record, the ambient sound, and it might seem arbitrary. It might seem weird to some people, but believe me, when there are specific sound edits that need to be made in post, you will hear a gap in the ambient sound. If you don’t have that room tone recording to patch that gap. So it’s essentially ambient filler for the scene that you’ve shot that can be used in post later.

Corey (01:36):

Okay. Is it used for anything else? Like me Just, this is like truly a discovery moment. Like, could it be used from a like a noise canceling standpoint or like isolating noise?

Bill (01:53):

Yes, it can. In fact, you know, if some unforeseen sound occurred on set that you just, you, you had to use that specific take, but then you heard like a crash down the hall or someone’s phone going off heaven forbid. Yes. You could use the room tone then to mask that in post. You can cleanly extract that sound from background noise, replace it with this ambient tone that you’ve picked up from set and the audience won’t notice it. It’s if you’re a, if you’re really good at sound design, in fact, if you’re okay at sound design, as long as you have room tone, you can make those patches.

Corey (02:35):

Nice. Okay. Let’s so on the, like the opposite end of the spectrum there. What if I didn’t capture room tone on the day? Like, is it the end of the world or is there some way around that?

Bill (02:46):

You’re going to have a bit of a struggle when it comes to sound editing later in post, it’s really, really difficult to patch those problems that we talked about. Unforeseen noises, the stuff you hear in the background, you know, even actors that, that might pop or smack at the end of a line, you can hide a lot of that with room tone and different sort of cross fades and all the technical stuff that goes into sound design. But if you don’t have that room tone, you’re kind of, it’s an uphill battle. I mean, it really is. It’s, it’s hard to make those patches seamless. And a lot of times I, I have watched more than enough student films and indie films in my time and I listen and even more. So if I’m watching with headphones on, you can hear the drops and the audio, you can hear it in the ambience. You can hear it and transitions from one angle to another angle within the same scene. You can hear the cut cutoff. I mean, room tone is there to ease that, to hide that you don’t want your audience to notice the cut because there was some noise in the ambient sound. So you’re just, you’re asking for trouble if you don’t have room tone.

Corey (04:04):

Okay. Okay. I’m convinced that I admittedly I have been on sets where we’ve not slowed down to capture room tone and I feel terrible.

Bill (04:16):

And it’s worth noting too. That room tone includes having all the lights on that you had on for shooting the scene. You don’t, you don’t cut the lights before you do room tone because there is these ambient hums that, that even lights give off, you want to capture the real ambience of the environment as it was when you were shooting the scene. And that includes having all the lights turned on, having all the people that were on set still be there. It’s, it’s kind of a fun game of, can everybody stay still and not sneeze and not cough and not move? Don’t breathe please. You know, it’s, it’s one of those.

Corey (04:56):

To just recreate auditory ambience from the day. Right? Exactly. Okay, great. You’re so smart. And you clearly, you’ve retained. Plenty nice job.

Bill (05:09):

I hope I can pass the pop quiz later. The midterm,

Corey (05:13):

The midterm it’s coming,

Bill (05:14):

I’m not taking notes. It’s all from memory.

Corey (05:17):

Perfect. All right. I think that’ll about do it for a film school Friday this week, Bill great job as always, and please everyone make sure you feed your film crew. Yes. And we’ll catch you next time.

Bill (05:29):

See you later.

Corey (05:32):

We know you have a ton of podcast options and we appreciate you picking us. Come back next week to hear me put bill to the test, once again, check us out And if you liked what you heard today, go ahead and share us with your friends. We like to socialize.