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In filmmaking, presence (or room tone) is the "silence" recorded at a location or space when no dialogue is spoken [1]. This term is often confused with ambience.

Every location has a distinct presence created by the position of the microphone in relation to the space boundaries. A microphone placed in two different locations of the same room will produce two different presences. This is because of the unique spatial relationship between the microphone and boundaries such as walls, ceiling, floor and other objects in the room [2].

Presence is recorded during the production stage of filmmaking. It is used to help create the film sound track, where presence may be intercut with dialogue to smooth out any sound edit points. The sound track "going dead" would be perceived by the audience not as silence, but as a failure of the sound system.

For this reason presence is normally recorded - like dialogue - in mono, with the microphone in the same position and orientation as the original dialogue recording [3]. In the sound edit, presence occupies the same track as the dialogue to which it applies.


  1. ^ Sound for Digital Video by Tomlinson Holman (Focal Press) 2005 (p. 162-164)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures by John Purcell (Focal Press) 2007 (p. 148)

See also

Room tone (other terms are presence, ambient sound, atmosphere, or atmos) is a location's "aural fingerprint" -- the background sound when no discernable foreground sound is present.

Every location has a distinct presence of subtle sounds created by ambient sound sources and the reverberation of those sounds within the location. A microphone placed in two different empty rooms will produce different room tone for each.

The original sound sources can include wildlife, wind sounds, running water, distant traffic, aircraft and machinery noise, the sound of distant human movement and speech, creaks from thermal contraction, air conditioning and plumbing noises, fan and motor noises, and harmonics of mains power. Reverberation will further distort these already faint sounds, often beyond recognition, by introducing complex patterns of peaks and nulls in their frequency spectrum, and blurring their temporal characterisics. Finally, sound absorption can cause high frequencies to be rolled off, dulling the sound further.

Room tone is recorded during the sound recording of a film production. It is used to match the production sound track so that it may be intercut with the track and provide a continuous-sounding background. Use of room tone smooths out edit points and/or gives a feeling of "life" in an otherwise sound-deadened studio. The soundtrack "going dead" would be perceived by the audience not as silence, but as a failure of the sound system.

See also



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