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How to make underwater sounds?

Did anybody of you ever work on a film with underwater FX? I will have to do the sounddesign for a film about diving (80% under  water) and I don´t want to use only the bubbling that you can find in every CD-library. Sounds under water are different than in the air.  How did (or would) you make them? filtered foley, hydrophone (if yes  wich effects sound great with that kind of mic?) I also want to get the sounds of motorboats underwater. How would you get that sound?  

 David Farmer:
 The actual sounds we hear underwater are drastically different than what we "enjoy" in our daily lives, or in a film experience.  There's no such thing as "stereo" underwater.  Since sound travels so much faster in water than in air, our ears don't know how to distinguish the timing difference, so we can't locate point of origin as being left, right, or the much overlooked up/down.  This is evident when diving, when  someone is trying to get your attention.  You're taught to tap on your tank with your dive knife, (since yelling "hey!!" isn't an option underwater, especially with a regulator in your mouth).  I can't tell you how many times I've heard this sound, and tried to locate where it's coming from, and not been able to.  Sometimes I can't even find the person doing it. 

It's a strange sensation, as we're in an environment that we're so poorly equipped (physically) to observe.  The sound, even if distant, sounds like it's taking place "inside" your ears (which isn't far from the truth, considering the density of water vs. air).  
 I've found the range of sounds underwater to be very "clicky" and bright. "Being" underwater is very relaxing, but if I'm in a theatre, I'd personally find those sounds very annoying.  Of course to each his own, this is just my opinion.  

 Historically speaking, underwater sounds are very muffled, as if water mutes high end.  This is of course exactly backwards from what water actually does.  But the audience has grown accustomed to hearing muffled sounds underwater, so they will expect that to some degree.  

 We're used to hearing the "dark" dreamy whale songs that have unearthly echoes.  These are beautiful, but they are also very distant.  Recordings of whales that are close will exhibit an entirely different "clicky" character.  

Randy Thom:  
 I agree with david. Everything i have heard done with a hydrophone or  similar is very pinched & hi-midrangey.   I've had the best luck with pitch shifting normal water down octaves for  ambient stuff and using a vocoder w/ chorus and reverb for "hard" effects.  
 really there is no hard fast rules because each source comes out to sound  differently through experimentation.   I suppose using heavy & drastic eq along with nice smooth reverb to  hydrophone stuff may work, but I always ended up going different routes in  the past without access to heavy eq (pre pro-tools days).  

 Frank's questions about underwater recording remind me that lots of  the the ground to be covered in this group has already been covered by other groups. In case anyone here isn't aware of it, there are at  least two other places on the web where people post questions relating to sound in media. 

 There have been quite a few questions and answers on the subject of  underwater recording at both of those sites.  

 Basically, Frank, most people use normal microphones sealed in (non  lubricated) condoms to do underwater recording. Just stick the mic  far enough under the surface of the water so that the open end of the  condom isn't submerged because there is no way you can make it  completely water proof. You might be able to find someone who has an  actual hydrophone and borrow it. (I wouldn't recommend buying one for  a single project, unless you are rich.) Hydrophones tend to be  noisier than acoustic mics.  

Harry Cohen 
 Some folks I know at a facility called EFX recently did some underwater recordings ;  they rented an underwater speaker , called a tactical transducer , from a company  called Clard synthesis   ( , which had a very wide freq response .  they borrowed a hydrophone , and played all kinds of stuff thru the  clark transducer for the hydrophone to record . They got some interesting results . Myself , I have used the mic in a condom method , and have played sounds back into a floor monitor layed on top of a plastic pool cover , over at my parents house . My father thought I was absoutely out of my mind.    

Charles Deenen:
 I think we've all heard the foley in Waterworld. I, for one, was  astounded by it's "reality" sound. Very low-tech sounding, very  solid and not overdone.   Are there any other movies that you know off that might have  similar "real" fitting sounds ? 13th warrior was mentioned as  one, which I agree with. Let me know.   2nd subject, anybody know how this reality sound was obtained  in "waterworld" ?   

I don't really recall the sound of Waterworld. As far as I remember  it was done in a large water pit at One Step Up by Dan O'Connell and  John Cucci. 
Edited excepts from
Message threads:  "Underwater sounds ", "underwater recording and avoiding the same old questions", and "Realistic" Design  

Read also "Sound Design of The Hunt for Red October" at

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