How to make audio sound realistically "distant"?

Are there any specified methods or EQ settings to make things sound "far" from the percepted distance in a scene? Say, I had an animated composition with one character speaking from a percepted distance of 5-7 feet away from the camera, and another character speaking back from a 11-13 feet away from the camera, in a room size of about a suburban house garage(not the actual place, just the room size)--what method would I apply to it to make their conversation sound realistic, and what software best provides capability for that?

Here... Say, I had recorded the sound of a pistol being cockedback directly near a microphone, and had a scene with that action appearing to be done about 4-6 feet away from the scene's camera, how would I do this? From what I've learned from a tutorial, the most intuitive way to make it sound distant is to make the audio a bit quieter, and since "sound travels through the air, it can't get very far, especially of a high frequency" so lowering the higher frequencies and the mid frequencies a bit, adding bandpass at 1100, and a reverb--some of this I don't understand, my intuition in carelessly conjuring up what I need for this would be to make the audio quieter and add a reverb, that's all.

Another example would be yelling in a field far away, or a basketball hitting the floor at the end of a basketball court(again, not real plot setting, just room size).

Is there any way you could somehow simply describe all of what I need to first UNDERSTAND in summary, what software is and sufficient, and so forth what to specifically do one after the other... Thank you so much, this will really be so much help to me.

1 Answer

  • 7 years ago
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    Mostly it's a combination of the following:

    1) A little quieter (obviously).

    2) Reverb that matches the space it's supposed to be taking place in. So if it's a living room, then use a room reverb. If it's a gym, then use a concert hall or some other large reverberant space. If it's outside in a field, you actually won't hear much reverb because there's nothing for the sound to bounce off of. So it'll just have to be quiet and EQed to sound upper middy. Maybe adding background noise like distant traffic or birds can help set the atmosphere.

    3) EQ where the lows are rolled off quite a bit, the highs also but not as much. The human ear is most sensitive to the frequency range of 2,000 to 4,000 Hz so if you have an EQ that's shaped like a gentle hill with the peak somewhere in that range, that'll get you started. The mids are not lowered, they should be more prominent than the lows and highs.

    4) If the source is a little to the right or left, then you need to either use panning (making volume louder one one side) or better, the Haas effect to make it stereo and seem like it's coming from a specific direction. - - The Haas effect is simply this: when you're looking straight ahead and someone's 45 degrees to your right some distance away, when their voice reaches your head it will hit your right ear sooner than your left ear. The brain uses this to tell that the source is off to the right. So in your case, the audio needs to have a delay on the left channel that's anywhere from 5 to 30 milliseconds (ms) long.

    The order to do it in: EQ -> Haas/Delay -> Reverb -> Volume.

    So you'll need an audio editing program that has effects plugins built in or that can load third party ones.

    Sure, Audacity has that, but I prefer using a pro-oriented "digital audio workstation" like Reaper: to layer tracks and add FX plugins to each track.

    For windows, these FX plugins are in the VST format. It's a .dll file that you drop in a certain folder that the program can then load. For mac, they are AU format and have extension .component and go into the Library -> Audio -> plugins -> AU folder.

    Thus you look up "Free VST reverb plugin" or "free AU reverb plugin" and there are lots of free ones out there. There are also stereo or haas type plugins you can download and try for adding directionality. The audio editors should come with a basic set of FX plugins though.

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