ana monte sound recording Asbjoern Andersen


In field recording, preparation is always key – but when preparing to record in a war zone, where do you even start? Freelance sound designer Ana Monte shares her experiences working on Picturing War, a Film Academy Baden-Wüttemberg student documentary directed by Konstantin Flemig.

She and the production team follow journalist and war photographer Benjamin Hiller as he captures images of a YPJ all-female fighter unit, a refugee camp in Erbil, the Murambi Genocide Memorial in Rwanda, and Kurdish soldiers fighting in Northern Iraq.

Now back in Heidelberg, Ana Monte was kind enough to share some of her experiences working on such an ambitious and perilous film:


Written by Adriane Kuzminski



 

Hello, Ana! Please introduce yourself:

Hello there! I’m Ana Monte, a freelance sound designer from Brazil living in the beautiful city of Heidelberg in Germany.
 

Recently, you worked on the film Picturing War. Could you tell us a little about it?

My graduation film Picturing War was a life-changing experience, professionally and personally. The movie was shot in Kurdistan (Northern Iraq and Syria), Rwanda, Holland, France and Germany. It follows photojournalist Benjamin Hiller on his quest to capture photos and asks the questions, ‘Which conflict is worth reporting? Which war might interest the consumers of media outlets? And how do pictures travel around the globe, from zones of conflict to the worldwide public?’
 

Could you tell us about your role in the production team?

My role for Picturing War was Production Sound Mixer and Sound Designer. I was in charge of planning all the audio for the movie from pre-production to post-production. I decided what equipment would work for each country, and since we went to areas of conflict, I had to look into things like what equipment would be the lightest and most compact to carry around and what frequency band I could use with my lavalier microphones so I wouldn’t interfere with military frequencies. This was especially important when we were planning our trip to Israel/Gaza – which didn’t end up happening, but they are very strict about who is “picking up” their military frequencies, even if it is by accident.

For choosing equipment and survival tips, I counted on the support of my highly experienced teacher, Ed Cantu (Sound Mixer for Homeland in 2015, among other movies). On one of our trips, we were supposed to secretly record a market that dealt with human trafficking and he gave me tips on how to hide my recorder in my bag. Big shout out to Ed Cantu for his amazing support!
 

Ana walks along a road in Rwanda with four excited young boys

With so much travel involved, I can only imagine the coordination it took. Did you run into any issues during the production?

The whole production process was an undertaking from the start due to so many obstacles we as a team had to overcome. The woman who was our first protagonist was killed in Afghanistan. We also had to end our contract with our second protagonist because she required business class plane tickets (which we couldn’t afford as a student production). Plus, a military coup started one week before shooting in Thailand, and we had to deal with the filming permit bureaucracy in Rwanda and more. We (the team) still joke about the “curse of Picturing War”, and the director later wrote an article called “How Not to Shoot in War Zones”.
 

Especially after such troubling events, how did you prepare for these risky journeys, both as a sound recordist and as a non-combatant in a war zone?

When you are dealing with dangerous locations, it is important to do your research and to focus on safety. This was our film school’s main concern! They even got us bulletproof vests, which we eventually only used to take selfies in the hotel room :D

Planning is also a very important part of movie-making, be it for feature film or documentary. You can avoid a lot of trouble if you have things planned out and a back-up plan for when things go wrong. Because they will.

You can avoid a lot of trouble if you have things planned out and a back-up plan for when things go wrong. Because they will

I admit I did not fear any moment during our shooting, because our director, Konstantin, is an incredibly responsible young man and he put our security ahead of everything else. I always felt safe because he let us know if we felt unsafe at any point, we could stay behind. One of these moments happened when he chose to go alone to Afghanistan because he felt it would be unsafe for the team. This is how the woman who was our first protagonist was killed. She went ahead to check out the location and was later shot and killed by a sniper. Thank God Konstantin wasn’t there!
 

 

How was the production team able to navigate around conflict areas?

In Kurdistan, we relied on a great fixer who is Kurdish and lives in Germany. A fixer is a person who knows his or her way around and knows the culture, the language, and has political connections. They are extremely important in these dangerous locations, and journalists rely heavily on them. Through our fixer, we were able to interview General Najat Ali, the Peshmerga Commander of the Makhmour front, which is a 40-kilometer frontline roughly one mile away from an ISIS-controlled city. We interviewed him on the frontline, so this was probably one of the few times I considered using the bulletproof vest, but the thing was so heavy I left it in the car. One week later, Makhmour was attacked, leaving several people dead.

 

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With so much risk in this production, what was your biggest challenge working on the film?

For me, personally, it was the humanitarian side. Documentaries are exciting to me because you get to meet so many interesting people and hear their stories. Unfortunately, this also involves tough stories. It was extremely difficult shooting in the refugee camps. We visited two camps and heard the stories of many people and saw the faces of many children. How can you see something like this and not be moved?

As our movie states, we are bombarded daily with thousands of pictures which almost make us immune and indifferent to them. But meeting one of these refugees changes your life: parents concerned about their children missing school; families separated because there was not enough space for the whole family in one camp – and yet, through all the suffering, so much generosity! Children without toys, without proper clothes, running up to you and offering you candy and fruits and whatever they could give you. It brought tears to my eyes!

Ana and her production team stand in front of a demolished tank.
 

This humanitarian awareness is very apparent in your ambiences. Though the film has not yet been broadcasted, you released your ambiences for Picturing War in your SFX libraries, Atmospheres of Kurdistan and Atmospheres of Rwanda, which capture the human experience in ways that many libraries overlook. Was this a goal? How do you approach ambiences in this way?

Yes, that is definitely a goal. It didn’t start off as a conscience choice; I knew finding ambient sounds online for places like Kurdistan or Rwanda would be challenging, so I tried capturing as much as I could while I was there, and it later just developed that way. Now I try to make it my “signature sound”.

Sound has the power to transport you to places, so when I record I ask myself, ‘Is there a certain fauna characteristic related to this place? Can I find a place where you can hear a bit of the local language?’ Acoustical authenticity is really important to me when it comes to background sounds. These are sounds that subconsciously guide you through the film. In the case of the Kurdish language, it’s not your everyday language, so it was important to record good walla ambiences that could be used in the movie. It might not be important to us non-natives, but for a Kurdish native, he or she will distinguish the language rhythm or subtle music being played in the background of a tea shop.

The best thing about the movie’s shooting schedule was that we had different shooting blocks, so every time I came back from a certain country, I would listen to my ambient sounds and see what worked and what didn’t, including the equipment and the miking techniques. The concept that worked well was to pick sounds to record that were acoustically specific to the country or city. Most people record ambiences that are so neutral they could be from anywhere. These are useful for certain situations, but when I record sounds that will be attached to the image of a country or city, they need to be personal. Think NYC and sirens. I know, it’s a sound cliché, but anyone who has been to NYC knows that sirens are an important part of the city soundscape.

When I record sounds that will be attached to the image of a country or city, they need to be personal

Another wish I had while shooting was to record local musicians. I remember talking to a musician playing a tanbur at the music store where we recorded. He was happy Kurdish music would be played in a movie, as they have been persecuted for playing their music and speaking their language. His recording became the soundtrack for the Kurdistan Teaser:

Video Thumbnail

Also, on the last day of shooting in Rwanda, we found out our translator was a talented singer-songwriter. She wrote a beautiful song for us in only two hours while we were packing to leave. Before we left for the airport, I built a sound booth in the hotel room with the room drapes and recorded her beautiful voice. This became the soundtrack to our Rwanda teaser:

Video Thumbnail

Here is the beautiful text roughly translated into English:

By Ndimbira Shenge

Please come with me,
So that I can show you Rwanda
A country of a thousand hills
The Rwanda of King Gihanga
That everybody is amazed of
Wake up very early so I don’t go without you
We already know about its bad history
Where Rwandese killed other Rwandese
But after they cured themselves
And healed their own wounds
Even the scars are disappearing
By changing into small beauty signs.
Get ready to dance girl
Get ready to dance boy
Your heroism is beyond the limits
Your heroism is beyond the limits
 

What do you enjoy most about field recording?

The traveling. My ultimate dream is to get sponsored by someone and just travel the world recording ambiences. Did you hear me, rich millionaire sponsor? I’m ready when you are! ;)

Now for the serious side: I love going on this acoustical treasure hunt, keeping my ears open to specific sounds that I’ve never heard before. I remember being overwhelmed the first time I heard the call of prayer in the old citadel of Erbil. There were many towers spread around the city where you could hear the voices crying out and it was really cool. This summer, it was a lot of fun recording the stadium crowds while watching the Olympic games in my hometown of Rio.

Ana wears her headphones and drink tea as a YPJ female soldier holds her boom mic.

At A Sound Effect, we’ve noticed you are currently the only woman who has submitted sound effects libraries. Do you find this to often be the case in your work life?

First of all, this is really crazy! And surprising, considering there are so many talented women sound designers out there! Yes, we do exist! Unfortunately, women in sound are like unicorns; but like in other professions, we want to be recognized for our work based on our capabilities and not our gender! With that being said, yes, it is a male-dominated industry. Thankfully, I have not experienced any discrimination while working in Germany. The usual reaction when working with me has been for men to treat me like one of the guys or treat me like their sister. For Picturing War we were a team of four guys (protagonist, fixer, DOP and director) and me, and I seriously felt like I had four bodyguards! It’s not every day that you are 5 km from the ISIS frontline and still feel safe! I guess the bulletproof vest also helped.

Regardless of gender, we are all people and we have our insecurities, especially in a business that has so much competition

For my Master’s studies, I was the only girl along with six others guys. They had my back throughout the whole program and there was never a problem with ego between us. I think ego wars can sometimes be more common among guys than between a guy and a girl. Regardless of gender, we are all people and we have our insecurities, especially in a business that has so much competition. My advice is to be a team player, respect your co-workers and let your work speak for itself!

Ana stands with his boom mic and gear on a dirt road in Kurdistan.

Ana, thank you so much for sharing your insight and your experiences! It has been very interesting to hear about them. Do you have any advice for sound designers who are looking to get into documentaries?

• Read a lot, watch videos, and join forums. With the internet, there are no excuses to not find the information you need.
• Getting involved with local student films or no-budget productions could be a good way to start. These are productions where you can afford to make mistakes because everyone is still learning.
• Contact experienced sound designers that can mentor you. You’d be surprised by how excited people are to give tips and help out.
• Finally, be a well-rounded professional and not, as Germans say, a Fachidiot (a one-trick pony). In documentaries, the teams tend to be small, so all of your skill set will be appreciated. Don’t just stick to your department; be ready to contribute to all departments. This could include carrying heavy camera equipment or helping translate with your broken high school Spanish.
 

Great advice! And what projects are you currently working on?

Right now I am editing hours and hours of ambient sounds from the Olympic games. I got a bit too excited. They never end! The problem is they play a lot of music during the breaks, and we all know music is a big no-no. So I’m cutting out the music every time someone scores a point. It’s monotonous, but I don’t want Taylor Swift suing me. ;)

I’ve also started an audio post-production company that focuses on spatial audio for VR, 360° film, games, and installations called DELTA Soundworks. We believe spatial audio is the best technique for a fully-immersive experience, and with ambisonics technology, we are able to simulate surround sound for headphones and provide rotating audio that follows the video.
 

Sounds like you have your work cut out for you and exciting stuff in store for the future! If people want to get in touch or hear updates about your company, how can they reach you or follow you?

People can contact me regarding sound libraries at ana@montesound.com, and for any questions regarding spatial audio for VR productions at ana@deltasoundworks.com. They can also follow our Facebook pages www.facebook.com/deltasoundworks and www.facebook.com/montesound.
 

Thank you very much, Ana!

 
 

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  • Environments Rare Winds Play Track 102 sounds included, 233 mins total $149 $74.50

    From all 4 earth’s corners, air streamlines the environment and shapes our stories. Discover the cinematic world of rare winds!


    This sound library is the ultimate achievement of a really ambitious project of recording winds from very remote places across the world.

    Included are authentic recordings from the Boreal region (North hemisphere: in Canada and Iceland), from the Austral region (South hemisphere: Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and the Last Hope province in Chile), on Islands in Mediterranean region (Thira in Greece), in the Sahara desert (Marocco), Isle-aux-Grues (Canadian winter), and more (see file list for more details)


    These were recorded either in urban settings, countryside, or complete wilderness.

    Included is a set of useful synthesized, tonal, and designed winds.

    The sounds are categorized into 3 folders: Designed, Indoor & Outdoor.

    WHAT’S INSIDE:

    • 102 stereo files
    • Highly focused and meticulously edited sounds
    • Ready to use Loop
    • Urban area and Wild area
    • Useful Designed & Synthesized Wind Sounds
    • Recordings from the Boreal region (North) in Iceland & Canada
    • Recordings from the Austral region (South) in Argentina & Chile
    • Recordings from Islands in Greece & Canada
    • Recordings from the desert in Marocco
    • Abandonned houses and shelters
    • Marina, lake, forest, car, flags, arctic, metal pole, prairie, street, mountain, grass, …
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574463599
    Add to cart
  • City Life Nature Ambients Bundle Play Track 263+ sounds included, 683 mins total $160 $80

    This bundle includes 4 different libraries.

    The Baltic Sea sound library is compilation of 56 WAV files recorded with Sound Devices 702, Rode NTG3, Sony PCM-M10, two Oktavas MK012 set in MS, XY and ORTF setup. All the sounds were recorded far away from the cities and roads. Since most of the sounds were recorded in late winter, there are no insects or birds in background. There are few files that includes the sound of birds, but I left them on purpose, because of the overall feel of the files. In this library you will find beautiful sound of waves crushing on the rocks and shore, recorded from different perspectives in different stereo configurations, during calm and windy days. In addition to those sounds, there’s foley like walking, running and swimming in the water.

    The Harbours Of Norway sound library features 25 files with ambients recorded in Myre, Sto and Nyksund, very small towns with direct access to the sea. Most of the sound effects were recorded at night, but since it’s a polar day time of the year, it was very pleasurable to walk and look for convenient places to set up my gear. Everything was recoded with ORTF setup built from two Sennheisers MKH 8040. Inside this library, you’ll find a lot of seagulls, waves crushing on the rocks and plants, windy ambients from the cliff, industrial sound from port in Myre with ship unloading the cargo, walla with steam engine boat and additional sounds from boat engine market and air cooling aggregates from food containers. Every file was recorded in 96kHz, edited (i removed any unintentional bumps, pops and unwanted sounds). I limited EQing to removing harsh frequencies, or enhancing a little bit the good sounding ones. At the end of the chain there is a small compression, for louder sounds.

    The Summer Ambients sound library contains 33 beautiful WAV files recorded with Sound Devices 702, Rode NTG3, two Oktavas MK012 in MS and stereo XY pattern. All sounds were gathered in different and beautiful places like forests, lakes, meadows or swamps. You can expect amazing ambients, textures, different birds, insects, forest during rain, calm and windy days. It’s a perfect library for designing background sounds. Everything was recorded in amazing Masuria in Poland.

    Summer ambients Update – library got 2x bigger and heavier than the original library. 59 additional files, 123 minutes of high quality audio recorded with Sennheiser MKH 8040 ORTF setup, Rode NTG3, Oktava MK012 XY setup plugged into SD702 and Sony PCM-10. It features ambients from the forests, ponds, swamps, meadows, lakes and suburbs recorded is very quiet locations, mostly just before the sunrise, during the day and before sunset far away from the cities.

    Water Flow sound library took me about six months to record, consumed about 15 thermoses of tea and 42 litres of gasoline to get to all locations. It offers 90 BWAV files recorded in different locations. Huge part of this library is based on the recording sessions on the rivers. Two completely different locations, recorded regularly for the last 5 months allowed me to create this unique sound library. Most of the recording sessions took place during winter just before the sun was rising to reduce the amount of unwanted sounds. Almost all recordings are completely clear and only few have birds in background, since it was my intention to record some location ambients with natural backgrounds.

    You can see the metadata and sound list below.

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  • Cars Cars In Motion Play Track 561+ sounds included, 340 mins total $150 $75

    The Cars In Motion sound library gets you exterior sounds of cars driving at different speeds, slow/medium/fast/very fast pass-bys, reverse sounds, accelerations, braking sounds and a lot of additional files. You’ll find different engines, and cars with different character.

    From a small BMW 114i through to a powerful Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 V8 with Magna Flow exhaust, up to a fast twin turbo BMW 640D F12. In addition to cars there are also files covering big machines like tractors and excavator.

    The library features 561 WAV files with total length of 340 minutes, recorded in 96kHz and 24 bits with a Sound Devices 702, two Sennheisers MKH 8040, Rode NTG3 and Sony PCM-M10.

    Here are the cars included in this library:

    • Audi A4 Allroad 2.0 TFSI – 73 files – 73 minutes
    • Audi A4 B8 2.0 TDI Avant – 11 files – 10 minutes
    • BMW 114i E87 – 20 files – 10 minutes
    • BMW 530D E60 – 55 files – 21 minutes
    • BMW F12 640D Gran Coupe – 87 files – 49 minutes
    • Excavator MF 860 – 30 files – 20 minutes
    • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 V8 – 62 files – 51 minutes
    • Renault Kangoo 1.6 16V – 71 files – 32 minutes
    • Renault Master II 2.8 dTi – 21 files – 13 minutes
    • Renault Master F3500 dCi135 – 30 files – 12 minutes
    • Tractor Case II CX90 – 15 files – 10 minutes
    • Volkswagen Golf II – 26 files – 13 minutes
    • Other Cars – 60 files – 23 minutes

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles Dirt & Asphalt Series: Motorbikes Bundle Play Track 365 sounds included, 305 mins total $116.66 $99.17

    Dirt & Asphalt Volume 1 is the first addition of vehicle and transportation recordings from Output Audio. This library contains a selection of recordings from 3 road bikes, with additional bonus content from other road motorbikes. The library also contains acceleration ramps for use in granular playback engines.

    Road bikes included:
    • Yamaha 450cc Thumper
    • Triumph 600cc Dual Fuel Injection
    • Aprillia RST 1000cc Futura
    • A selection of bonus pass-bys and externals from a range of high performance bikes

    Dirt & Asphalt Volume 2 is the second addition of vehicle and transportation recordings from Output Audio. This library contains a selection of recordings from two motocross events and two practise sessions, with additional bonus content provided as race atmospheres.

    Library highlights:

    AMCA Motocross Classes Included:
    MX1/MX2/Experts/Seniors Unlimited classes

    Engine Sizes Included:
    85cc/125cc/250cc/450cc engines

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  • User Interface (UI) Ui Two Play Track 377 sounds included $45 $30

    Ui Two is the sequel to our overwhelming popular Ui One collection, this collection contains 377 original sounds uniquely crafted for creating user interfaces, telemetry, gadgetry and more.

    Empty Sea’s Mark Camperell, carefully crafted these sounds using a variety of beepers, boopers and other sonic tools. A sample of which include synths, samplers, spectral editors and more. Each sound was recorded at 48k/24bit. Planned, processed, mangled and otherwise destroyed, every single tone was tweaked until it was something new, original, and exciting.

    As usual, we meticulously edited, mastered and embedded the files with metadata. This collection is priced to move, so don’t hesitate. If you’re tired of the your same old UI inspiration, Ui Two from The Library by Empty Sea is a great addition to your library.

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  • Cars Hyundai Kona Electric Car Play Track 428 sounds included, 98 mins total $100

    An electric car sound library with a range of FX from the Hyundai SUV, Kona.

    The library includes numerous driving FX on both gravel and asphalt including pass-bys, take offs, corners, approaches and skids.

    It also contains a large range of interior recordings from driving at highway speed all the way to buttons and switches.

    Multiple FX on each track – recorded in Sydney, Australia

  • Cars Car Interiors Play Track 430 sounds included, 14 mins total $69 $38

    car interiors library is a great supplement for all the car engine sounds that you already own. That way the action on the inside of the car is not stale at all. Dashboard buttons, seatbelts, automatic windows, switches, switching gears, brake, clutch and gas pedals, vents, turning signals. They’re all here!

    Got a whole bunch of roaring car engine sounds but then realised that you’re not equipped with all of the boring stuff like:


    car door handles, seatbelts, turn signal, air vents, buttons and switches, seats, storage compartments, horns, windows, pedals (gas, brake, clutch), handbrakes wend

    and all other Car Interior sound effects? Well then.. look no further! This is just the pack for you.
    160 wav files with over 400 single sounds in total. Car Interiors will spice up that car interior scene with real, crisp sounds, recorded from over 6 cars in total!

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  • Destruction & Impact Cinematic Strikes Play Track Up to 4140 sounds included From: $119 From: $95.20

    ENORMOUS SOUNDING PERCUSSIVE HITS

    CINEMATIC STRIKES joins the BOOM Library Cinematic Series – and it focuses on big sounding drums. A whole world of cinematic percussive sound design lies a few clicks away: From devastating cracks and stomps over crisp swells and rolls to epic ensemble hits – you will be sure to find and build just what you are looking for.

    With the ultimate flexibility of different microphone positions, single and ensemble hits, flams and swells using various drums and beaters, you couldn’t be better equipped to design huge blockbuster and trailer hits – or simply place ready-to-use DESIGNED sounds into your timeline and feel the earth shake.

    CINEMATIC STRIKES – CONSTRUCTION KIT:

    FLEXIBLE SOUND DESIGN TOOLKIT

    The Construction Kit offers you one of the most comprehensive drum hit packages ever recorded. Carefully planned to satisfy and complement every spot in the frequency range, you will never run out of low end booms, aggressive cracks, mid-range body impacts, reverberant tails and excellent sweeteners to top it off.

    PERSPECTIVE & RHYTHM

    Not only are you able to produce impressive sounding hits, but also transition into, out of and between peaks. Control the attack and release of each sound, using rolls, flams, double hits and other meticulously performed techniques. Three coherent microphone positions make spatial adjustments a breeze.


    Files: 618 • Sounds: 3708 • Size: 13 GB


    CINEMATIC STRIKES – DESIGNED:

    MAXIMUM PUNCH – AND THEN SOME

    CINEMATIC STRIKES – Designed is what you get when layering and processing Construction Kit sounds BOOM Library style.

    From rumbling low-end BOOMS, soft and natural sounding WHOOSH HITS to aggressive, frontal CRACKS and PUNCHES, the Designed library showcases what’s possible, while saving precious time and budget on a tight schedule.

    This package is particularly useful for filmmakers and trailer sound designers.


    Files: 108 • Sounds: 432 • Size: 1.4 GB

    CINEMATIC STRIKES BUNDLE:

    THE BUNDLE – The best of both worlds at a discounted price.
    The Bundle gives you the full sound design power as it contains both – the DESIGNED and the CONSTRUCTION KIT edition at a discounted price.


    Files: 726 • Sounds: 4140 • Size: 14.6 GB
    Included sounds – keywords:

    BASS DRUM, BOOM, BOX, CAJON, CONCERT TOM, CRACK, CRASH, DAIKO, DOUBLE HIT, ENSEMBLE, FLAM, FOOT, GONG, HARD BEATER, HIT, JAM BLOCK, KICK, KODO, LOG, MALLET, BIN, PUNCH, ROLL, SINGLE, SNARE, SOFT BEATER, SPLASH, STICKS, STOMP, SWEETENER, SWELL, TABLA, TAIKO, TAMBORA, THUNDER SHEET, TOM, WHIP, WHOOSH HIT, WOOD PERCUSSION, WOODBLOCK
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One thought on “The Sound of War: How Ana Monte captured sounds of humanity in a conflict zone

  1. Thank you Adriane for bringing awareness about such an amazing lady with an amazing talent! You can really feel her warmth and humor in this piece.

    Keep up the phenomenal work!

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