Room tone is literally how the name sounds. It’s a recording of the room’s tone. Its background noise. What’s going on when people are quiet. It’s the hum of the air conditioning unit, the hum of a PC fan whirring away in the background, the dull roar of traffic driving by outside the window. It’s used to help fill in the background of silence and audio dubs recorded elsewhere in a clinically noise-free studio as well as help to transition audio from one scene to another.
It’s one of the most boring parts of filmmaking, visually speaking, but The Criterion Collection made a short film out of it anyway. Called The Gift of Room Tone, this almost three-minute video shows people doing what they do when told room tone needs to be recorded. While the video below shows quite a few relatively unknown faces, it also includes some popular famous ones like Christopher Walken, Martin Scorsese, Frank Oz and Jake Gyllenhaal.