As a motorbikes and films enthusiast it's driving me crazy to hear the wrong sound almost every time.

What's the point of replacing the real sound of the engine?

And it seems that there is no logic to it. Mono,2,3,4 cylinders have their sound randomly changed for each other, I don't understand why.

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    They may not be "replacing" it... a lot of exterior shots without dialogue are simply recorded without audio at all, which means a sound engineer has to pick the noise that the bike makes... which comes from a limited pool of sounds... and the sound engineer probably doesn't know the difference and assumes (correctly) that the average person won't either.
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 19:41
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    Same reason Bald Eagles sound like Red Hawks, because the original sound sucks.
    – cde
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 21:15
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    @Richard Same with phones in movies. Landlines usually go immediately to dial tone in movies when the other party hangs up, because that what other movies do. It's not realistic, but expected and more dramatic than reality. Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 21:21
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    @sanpaco not to mention that sound equipment is delicate and sound recordists often don't like risking their fancy mikes on loud machines :P
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 21:28
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    @cde I hate that Red Hawk sound-it is so cliched, like the "dong" when somebody dies. Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 22:40

1 Answer 1


Almost NONE of what you hear in the finished soundtrack of a movie was recorded while the picture was recorded. It is difficult enough to get professional-quality pictures on film or video without recording the ACTUAL sounds at the same time.

In more cases than you suspect, even the DIALOG you are hearing wasn't spoken while filming the scene you are watching. They do ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) in isolated sound studios to make "clean" replicas of what the actors said during primary shooting. They generally try to avoid this because it is expensive and time-consuming. But sometimes, it is the only way to get clean dialog tracks to work with.

Ironically, at both ends of the production spectrum, at the low, no-budget end, and at the very high block-buster end, sound recordists go out and record the ACTUAL sounds of what you see in the movie. In the case of low-budget productions, actual sounds are recorded because it is too expensive or otherwise difficult to find "stock SFX" (sound effects).

And in very high-end production, they go out and record the actual sounds for authenticity because they have the budget and schedule to do that. But for most Hollywood-style movies and most TV shows, editors have a very wide collection of pre-recorded SFX libraries to assemble the sound track from. And if the sounds are actually important to the story-line, hopefully they have content experts to help them make these kinds of editorial decisions.

But the majority of movie/TV sound tracks are put together assembly-line style in mixing studios. And the people creating the mix (and the "Sound Designer" on bigger movie productions) make pragmatic decisions about what stock SFX sounds to use. In many cases, they use sounds that do NOT equate to what you are seeing. For example we regularly see people being interviewed on the news and they say something like "I didn't realize it was a gun-shot, it sounded like fireworks." And that is because you almost never hear the REAL sound of a firearm because it is not "sexy" enough. You hear an enhanced sound with reverberation (even outdoors) and even ricochet sounds even where it isn't appropriate. Because that is what the audience EXPECTS to hear.

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    Anyone working with a sound library is likely to be crippled in this sense, also, since many libraries do not have all the details of the sound readily available. Using the asker's example, motorcycle sounds in a library are more likely to be named "Racing cycle, revving and peeling out" or "Loud hog idling and revving" and would not have any information about the number of cylinders or any other engine details or the recorded sample. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 15:16

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