A couple days ago a friend of mine made a post about the advantages of using bird chatter over music in films. I thought there were some excellent points brought up, especially regarding the financial and legal costs that are involved in using music in a film. It seems like the advantages of using bird chatter completely outweigh that of using music. So this got me thinking, how come more people don't take this route? Well it turns out that there is a lot more that goes into using bird chatter than some would like to think.
I stumbled across an article a couple of days ago that talked about Hollywood's bad rap when it comes to using bird chatter, and it turns out that a lot of birders are disappointed with Hollywood's effort to use bird chatter properly.
Let me give an example: Lets say you are an avid birdwatcher. You love to explore wooded areas in search for birds, not only to watch them, but to hear them as well. So imagine you are watching a movie about some murder case that happened in a small town in Minnesota. You are completely sucked in, almost as if you are in the movie yourself. But then out of nowhere while the protagonist detective is examining a body left in the woods, you hear the chatter of a California Towhee, a bird indigenous only to California and parts of Oregon.
To a hardcore birdwatcher, this would instantly ruin the mood for them. It would be almost as bad as seeing a boom mic enter the frame.
“In my experience, inaccuracy is the norm,” says bird guide author and Audubon magazine field editor Kenn Kaufman. “It’s typical and expected for films to have the wrong bird sounds in the background. Which is sort of bizarre when you consider how much birdsong lends to a sense of place. Even if you don’t know what the birds are, you still might associate the sounds with the place if you’ve been there.”
I find this funny because Hollywood spends millions of dollars to try and create realistic atmospheres and to avoid any continuity issues, and then they just brush over the tiny details like bird chatter thinking that no one will realize.
David Sibley, the author and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, a person that Tom and I personally reached out to for help, commented in this issue.
|David Allen Sibley|
Sibley: “One of my personal favorites is in one of the Indiana Jones movies. The opening scene in a steamy tropical jungle includes the sound of a displaying male Willow Ptarmigan [a bird of the Arctic tundra]. Another, like many other examples, was a movie set in the Colorado Rockies in winter that included Alder Flycatcher and Mourning Warbler singing, both extremely rare in Colorado at any season, absent from the US in winter, and I think the scene had them singing at night!”
It's apparent that Hollywood's mistakes haven't gone unnoticed and I think it is a great opportunity to learn from their mistakes and make sure to put the proper bird noises in our film.