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99% Invisible

Sounds Natural

In most wildlife films, the sounds you hear were not recorded while the cameras were rolling. Most filmmakers use long telephoto lenses to film animals, but there’s no sonic equivalent of a zoom lens. Good audio requires a microphone close to the source of the sound, which can be difficult and dangerous. And so many of the subtle movement sounds — a chimpanzee rustling through leaves, or a hippo squelching in the muck, or a lizard fleeing snakes — don’t come from animals at all. They’re made by Foley artists. Sound recordists and Foley artists go to great lengths to give us accurate and satisfying sounds. But both know that nature documentaries are not reality. As much as people want to believe it’s all real, nature documentaries are still movies, and they need a little movie magic just like any other film. Emmett FitzGerald reports.

Sounds Natural

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