Is "room tone" dead?


Over the last year I've done shoots where, when I ask the client if they want room tone...I get a blank stare. They have no idea what I'm talking about and after I explain it...they shake their head and tell me "no"...with a laugh. Like I am asking for something silly. These are corporate clients doing quality, high end interviews...and paying for it too.

It got me to thinking about other always labeling the time code as we did in the days of tape. The hour becomes a 01 for tape one and so on. That too seems like a dead practice. Not that I mind not doing it because it saves me from wasting time.

Just thought if others had run into this "rejection" of practices which used to be the norm for professionals and now...are not.

Ben Longden

Well-known member
I think its a situation where the client does not have the foggiest idea what you are talking about, and so to give themselves an air of authority they say no.

I was taught to record room tone regardless... had to use it a few times as well...


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Gone or going at many places, hopefully not yours:

Standards - Audio, Video and HR.

Discipline - Time Code, Labeling, Media and Professional.

Soundies - Booms, Multiple channels and isolated audio sources, Editorial diversity, Grip help, Wing/Flank/Back coverage.

Engineers - A body to deal with transmit, Cables, Power and Grip help, a truck to escape the rain.

Training - Fill in as applies.

Pay and Opportunity - Debateable.

Don't mean to seem that bleak. I still enjoy what I do. Thrilling between bout of nonsense and boredom. Always challenging. I wish it was more than a personal bar to clear.
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Necktie Boy

Well-known member
This has been discussed on the Sound board. Most film production don't have the time to it. Post production can grab a bit of "room tone" between takes and loop it.

As for TC, most is TOD. You can label the metadata before the shoot.

But some producers don't know what room tone is. LOL
Room tone is not dead. Some need to be reminded of it and realize the need. At times we have the young beginner producer on location who needs to be educated. Most are willing to take the additional 30 seconds it would take to capture.

Time code: dead for single-camera recording. We usually start from where we left off on the last job. Use some time-of-day to help log the recording with a watch or sync with other cameras set similarly.


Well-known member
We will still try to give room tone from at least one of the interviews(if multiple from the same room). Years ago I had a producer tell me that they weren't really asking for it anymore because they could grab and loop from any break between Q's & A's.

TC: Single cam shoots it's more for my convenience(keeping track of how much I shot), now. Press conferences or anything where the producer or reporter needs to/should log, I'll go time of day. Hour one/tape one, etc. doesn't really work like it used to since most cards will allow you to go over an hour, sometimes several hours depending on frame rate and bit-rate you're recording. On P2/DVCProHD i get 70 mins @ 60 frames and I think a little shy of three hours @ 24 frames. More if you shoot AVC50. Multi-cam I still sync and jam. Whether it's just random set TC or time of day depends on the type of shoot.

But as Omar alludes to and has been said countless times, it is a race to the bottom and those of us that still care are left feeling like dinosaurs on what feels like an ever shrinking island.
Call sheets seem to be on the way out too. At this point I'm lucky to get the slightest hint of info about the shoot until the night before.


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The night before? You lucky bastard. I thought it was normal now to get the info when you arrived, and even then, only a little bit at a time as the day progresses.

I like to set timecode to 1:00:00 at the start of a day just so I have an idea later how much time we rolled. Plus it just seems neater. All of my memory cards can hold more than an hour of material, so there's no way to sync the TC number to each card.
I am mostly rolling time of day unless it is multi camera or I am jammed to a recorder these days. My feeling on this is that in most cases the producer can just look at their watch and get a feel for when something was. And everything ends up as clips in a bin so if you sort said clips by date than it should be easier to at least approximate where something was recorded to. As for room tone it is still rolled on most of the jobs I do camera and sound on, my experience here is that the ones that say they don't need it don't know enough to know that they will need it. and it can be used for more than just filling the uncomfortable silence between edit points, assuming the editor knows how.

Capt. Slo-mo

Well-known member
We still do room tone when we can, under the theory that you don't need it until you really need it...and then it's an emergency. But yeah, lots of blank looks these days when you ask if they want it.

TC resets pretty much disappeared when we left tape, for me at least. Most of what I'm shooting these days is two camera matched action, so we just jam sync in free run and are done with it.

Tv Shooter

Well-known member
Room tone now is about 10-15 seconds. Although lately, it's useless because producers seem to pick interview locations as close to the street, construction, airports and elevators that is possible.

Now, everyone wants discreet audio files, even if it's a single camera interview and they insist on doing a clap at the beginning.

Wanna see a deer in headlights look? Ask the producer..."drop or non drop frame?". Not that it matters but I ask just to see where we're at on the experience scale.

Time code, doesn't matter, nor bars and tone. Actually was asked awhile ago why I was rolling bars. My explanation runs somewhere between adjusting monitors to something involving the Freemasons, New World Order, and the Karsashians.

Call sheets? Like Doug, a lot of info is parceled out through the day, on a secrecy level par with the formula for Coca Cola. Location address? Oh just follow us. Start time? We'Re working on that, sometime between 8a and 2p. Oh we wanted to have a 2nd camera and a slider for this shot. Well, that would have been good to find out sometime other than 5 minutes before we are to roll.

Yep. The times, they be a'changin.......


The call sheet issue is another one I've been dealing with...but I thought it was just my isolated problem.

The last two times I've stopped to get room tone the producer/client just says "no".

But the funniest to I have one very good client who always sends this specific producer who insists on doing a five second countdown after we've already started rolling for record on sit-down interviews. She's not timing anything...just insists on doing the countdown. A very nice person who simply seems to like to make sure everyone knows who is in charge.

Sometimes, I've learned, it's just better to keep my mouth shut and let them do their thing even if it makes no sense. ;)


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Call sheets? Like Doug, a lot of info is parceled out through the day, on a secrecy level par with the formula for Coca Cola. Location address? Oh just follow us. Start time? We'Re working on that, sometime between 8a and 2p. Oh we wanted to have a 2nd camera and a slider for this shot. Well, that would have been good to find out sometime other than 5 minutes before we are to roll.

Yep. The times, they be a'changin.......
I don't understand the "secrecy", either. We're the crew working for THEM. "Help us help YOU". I've started to come to the conclusion that most of them just don't know what the hell is going to happen themselves. That's why the days are so long and we shoot so much, they don't know what's going on or what they need.

I had a corporate shoot a few weeks ago and we had our entire shoot schedule with times(and lunch for us was listed!)at least one or two days before, they asked for a grip(three man crew, woohoo!) AND the editor was on-site with us with the producer. I had been dreading it for days leading up to it and it was actually one of the best organized shoots I've done lately.

Flaca Productions

Well-known member
Room Tone? For a certain few, very professional clients it's mandatory. They know what's what.
Call Sheets? Same people.
Hmmmm - funny how that works.

My favorite things about room tone is that Barbara Walters calls it Room Service.
Love it.

The one thing I've seen go by the wayside is bars/tone.

The no-call-sheet thing has gotten out of control.
If only for the codec/frame rate info. I mean...come ON. Help me give YOU what you want. Unless they don't know....

oh - and let's talk about room location selection. Far too many producer just take what they're given and we're expected to pick up the slack. Many don't even attempt to get a quick iPhone photo or two from the people they're talking to at the location. ugh. They see the phrase "conference room" and assume it's fine when in fact, those can often be the WORST due to the fact that you may not be able to move the behemoth table in the middle. the end result is is that the useable space is less than a small office. sheesh.

I realize that site-surveys can be cost prohibitive - i get it. but garbage in, garbage out.


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I had an editor for a national cable network show tell me today that he appreciated the room tone we try to gather.

There are editors, good editors, and great editors....what each of them ask for or demand seems to be greatly different.


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call sheets ?!?! a rare occasion for this point I'm happy with call time and location preferably the day before but occasionally a text or call on the way in...