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Quick background

The sound I am referring to can be heard in this video, in the police radio at 0.26. It sounds like, "one-four-one celibacy". I've noticed this sound for a long time. So, the Internet has all the answers, I did a quick search and found this forum post. This person who made that YouTube video described the scenario that I share in my life. I also played SimCity 3000 for years and I also notice this sound in movies and TV shows all the time. I just heard it last night watching the X-Files.

Full question

So my full question is this, why is this sound byte used over and over when

  • movies & TV have huge budgets and will spend good money to add authenticity/realism
  • police radio chatter could easily be recorded in a studio or recorded off a police scanner
  • the clip is at least 20 years old

I have a guess that there is actually a legal issue here, in America. That would explain it. The police scanner equivalent of using a 555 phone number.

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I'd guess it's a combination of laziness and homage. –  Meat Trademark May 28 at 13:36
2  
For what it's worth, it sounds to me like "unit one-four-one, [something] at the scene". –  GalacticCowboy May 28 at 18:59
    
You don't even provide any further examples of this alleged reuse. It's certainly possible that you assumed incorrectly. –  user973810 May 28 at 19:46
    
I guess it is possible. –  Mr. Manager May 29 at 15:08
1  
I've been hearing the same children's laughter sound in movies for 10 years now. –  archpollux May 29 at 21:34
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3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

This is just an addendum to the other answers.

This particular audio clips is part of the Premiere Edition Vol.1 (released in 1990)

  Hollywood Edge

from the company Hollywood Edge, which

provides high end, professional, and royalty free special effects and music for all media use


It's a 2 min track that features:

Police Radio; Calls Received Through Radio From Female Dispatcher With Static And Squelch Pops; Close Perspective

[Click here to listen to it]

(it's also available on iTunes)


The Premiere Edition Vol. 1 contains 1,458 sound effects and currently costs $750.
This means that for a relatively low cost you get a sound effect library which you can use royalty free.

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+1 Very nice find! –  atticae May 29 at 2:53
    
I don't think this is an addendum. Based on your answer it seems reason this sound clip is used over and over, is because probably every sound effects studio owns this. People are creatures of habit. So when Bob is tasked with making sound track for a crime scene....again...bob thinks "I've used track 127 before, the clients are always fine with it. I'll use that one, then grab a coffee" –  Mr. Manager May 29 at 15:19
    
The one that drives me mad is the sound of the fire engine's horn - one long tone, then two short ones. It's been used in so many movies (incl. all the Die Hards) that it really breaks the immersion for me. –  Polynomial Jun 16 at 16:02
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Recycling effects is a very common tactic in post-production. Once you have an effect that works great, it's simply cheaper and faster to reuse it than to reinvent the wheel over and over again, especially when 99% of the viewers won't notice it.

You are one of the few people who noticed that this particular sound was recycled, but there are hundreds of cases of recycled sounds and other effects you did not even notice.

For example, here is a list of 10 common recycled sound effects, including the very famous Wilhelm Scream, which was used in movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdbYsoEasio&feature=kp

In cases like this, recycling elements can also be a tradition (e.g. a certain director adding his fingerprint) or a homage to previous movies.

Here is a list of recycled movie props, the most famous one being the newspaper that is used in a lot of shows and movies throughout screen history:

enter image description here
(picture taken from businessinsider.com)

The user raoulduke12 gives a good explanation on reddit:

When you make a television show, everything on it needs to be "cleared", as in, legal to show on television without getting sued. So everything you use, whether it be artwork, products or yes, newspapers, needs to contain photographs and text that are legally safe to use on television.

At some point in time, a company that specializes in manufacturing and renting props created a prop newspaper, using a photo that had been cleared. Since it was easy enough to just keep reprinting that newspaper and using it, that's exactly what Hollywood did. For 50+ years.

That being said, I doubt it would be legal to use a police radio scanner to capture actual police radio chat and publish this later.

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Just saw that same paper in tales from the crypt s05e01 –  DustinDavis May 29 at 2:45
    
@DustinDavis It's basically used everywhere, no point in starting a list. ;) –  atticae May 29 at 2:48
    
This is an excellent answer and I didn't realize this was done so much. –  Mr. Manager May 29 at 15:08
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Some Movies & TV have big budgets, yes, but why waste it on something so few people are complaining about. This is just a stock clip purchasable/usable in films, much like the sound made when a bad guy appears on screen, or the high pitch shrill noises made in horror movies at a scene where a shock is supposed to occur.

I would assume this clip is used simply because it's cheap, it works and it sounds authentic. Why spend more when you don't have to?

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All three answers are really great –  Mr. Manager May 31 at 2:28
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