Several years ago I was working on some ambiences for an urban setting. It was quite the desolate scene and required a bit of a darker, emptier vibe. It needed to feel like an abandoned city where everyone left in a hurry, much like I am Legend, the Walking Dead or even the movie Bird Box on Netflix.
For scenes like this I like to go to some of my favorite types of urban sounds including:
Distant Automated Traffic Crossing Beeps
Wind blowing Trees
Dry Leaves blowing on the Ground
Metal or Debris Blowing/Rattling in the wind
Flag Pole Metal Rattles
I like to use sounds like these because they are all subtle, detailed sounds that you would not likely hear on a busy street. If you do hear these sounds clearly on a (usually busy) street then something immediately feels off. I am not sure if you have ever walked around a city at night on a Holiday but there is something about a quiet, empty city that makes it feel like you are in a Zombie movie.
I wanted to try a new sound for a scene like this of a large amount of paper blowing in the wind. At first I thought to myself "this should be easy, it is a pretty simple sound." But I was wrong. The library lacked anything like this that worked for the size and thickness of the paper I was going for. The paper needed to be light, breezy and somewhat constantly moving. I even tried to Foley it, using light envelopes and paper. But it just did not seem right. Eventually I had to accept the facts, make do and come up with something different.
Then one day I was walking to my car at night when I stumbled upon this empty construction site. The construction workers had just finished installing new windows so there was a lot of paper liners still on the walls. The strong winds were causing this paper to move constantly and I thought this sound was perfect. I grabbed my Mikro Usi Microphones from my bag and used my Sony M10 to record them.
The sound itself is not perfect as there is a freeway nearby. But it is a great reference.
I now know what the sound should be like and what conditions I can look for in the future so I can record it and use it next time I need desolate Urban Ambiences.