In a recent episode of “MythBusters” on the Discovery Channel, show hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman worked with Meyer Sound to investigate whether the “big bangs” — specifically gunshots and explosions — heard in movie soundtracks are sonically faithful to the real events. The episode, entitled “Blow Your Own Sail,” was aired on May 11, 2011.
“MythBusters” often calls on Meyer Sound when it comes to investigating audio-related myths. The show, which features a team of special effects and science experts who put some of the most outrageous urban legends to the test, has turned to Meyer Sound to prove or debunk popular claims including the existence of the dreaded “Brown Note” and the ability of high-power subwoofers to set off a rifle. For the recent episode, Savage and Hyneman reunited with “Honorary MythBuster” and Meyer Sound staff scientist Roger Schwenke, with the goal to compare highly accurate, on-the-scene audio recordings to their Hollywood counterparts.
“Real gunshots and explosions are too loud to reproduce exactly in a theater and would damage people’s hearing,” said Schwenke. “So the question is: are movie sound effects simply the real sound played back at a safe level, or have they been changed in ways other than just level.”
To put explosive sounds under a sonic microscope, the team used gunshots both naked and as shrouded by silencers, a gasoline bomb, and a C4 explosive charge, with the assistance of audio equipment supplied by Meyer Sound. The recordings of actual gunshots and explosions were compared to movie soundtracks using Meyer Sound’s high-resolution Wild Tracks audio playback (32 bit floating point at 48 kHz), HD-1 studio monitors, and instrumentation microphones from Brüel & Kjær.
“We were dealing with extremely fast and loud transients, while real gunshots have extreme peaks of up to 165 dB,” added Schwenke. “They were quite a challenge to record, but we were able to get all the data we needed to discern different sonic characteristics.”