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Activity Forums Audio Ambisonic vs scratch for the ambience-layer of a 5.1-film?

  • Ambisonic vs scratch for the ambience-layer of a 5.1-film?

    Posted by Adriano Castaldini on January 2, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    Hi everyone and happy new year. I’m a newbie and I’d need some tips about “ambience”. I’m currently working on a personal project that’s a narrative film with 5.1 audio. Being mostly self-taught, I tried to figure out which could be a schematic layers-partition for the audio, and I imagine it’s roughly Dialogue, Music, Ambience and SFX (in which I’d include Foley as well). Now, dialogue should be recorded in mono, while music should be usually in stereo. Even foley sounds should be recorded in mono (then pan-placed in post), but my main doubt is ambience… I really don’t know if I’m wrong, but I imagine ambience as a sort of “base” for adding specific foley things, for example: “a walk in a forest” I think could be done with the recording of an actual forest ambience + foley of footsteps on the grass. If it’s true, I think could be useful for me having a basic ambisonic mic like Rode NT-SF1. With Rode I’d capture the ambience “base” in A-format, that through the plugin should easily become a 5.1 ambience “base”. On that base, I’d add the main “narrative” foley efx (like footsteps, or other specific sound-additions).

    But perhaps I’m wrong… Perhaps ambisonic things are used mainly for VR or games or documentaries, but not for films! Perhaps in films there isn’t an ambience “base” (too “flat” perhaps, not quite expressive, not controllable enough) rather the entire ambience is an empty canvas to be filled with everything! Everything (both foley AND so many ambience sounds) recorded in mono. So many different ambience sounds for a single scene: trees in the wind, grass, birds, a river far off… All mixed and panned to paint the “ambience picture”. This gives the audio-artist much more control on picture details’ expressiveness and narrative power. If it’s true, an ambisonic mic is not the way to go for my project, a waste of money. Instead I should continue to work with my mono mics.

    Could you kindly tell me which is the way commonly the ambience audio “layer” is recorded in most narrative film productions?

    Thanks really a lot.

    Adriano Castaldini replied 3 years, 4 months ago 3 Members · 5 Replies
  • 5 Replies
  • Ty Ford

    January 2, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    Ciao Adriano, and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum
    I think you’re spot on. You can use an ambisonic mic, but you don’t have to.


    Ty Ford

    Cow Audio Forum Leader

  • Adriano Castaldini

    January 12, 2021 at 2:53 am

    Dear Mr. Ford, many thanks for Your kind reply.

    Just a question: let say I’d start with an ambient recording in order to use that as a simple sound “base” for a scene, and over that “base” I’d add some mono-foley-sounds for the “main” objects in the scene. Now, moving a mono-sound in a 5.1 space is not so-difficult, but my question is about the ”base“: if my “base” is in stereo, and my project is 5.1, which are good/effective tips to “expand” the stereo-base toward the rear speakers?

    In this scenario, an ambisonic-base could be a better option, isn’t it?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

  • Ty Ford

    January 13, 2021 at 1:41 am

    Senor Castaldini,
    My answer would be I can’t tell until or unless I hear it.


    Ty Ford

    Cow Audio Forum Leader

  • Luca De sensi

    January 27, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    Ciao Adriano,

    As Ty said, I think you are right on the money.

    Going with ambisonic ambiences can ease some of the burden of creating a basic environment.

    You can then add, layer, pan and mix foley and additional sonic elements to enrich and better detail your ambiences.

    Back in the day, not having any 5.1 or Ambisonic sound library, I had to build my ambience track layering different stereo elements from SFX Cd libraries (Sound Ideas, The Hollywood Edge, etc.), or DAT recordings, and then duplicate all these elements and shift their timing in order to have different events hitting the surrounds…

    I still use this technique today considering the large amount of SFX that have been accumulated at the facilities I work with.

    Hope this helps.



  • Adriano Castaldini

    January 27, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    Carissimo Luca,

    thanks so much for Your kind reply. Your post is an appreciated confirmation of the decision I took very-few days ago: I finally bought the Rode NT-SF1. As You wrote, ambisonic «can ease some of the burden of creating a basic environment.» I completely agree.
    So, I’ll test the mic in these days and I’ll see.

    Thanks so much.



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