Rob Nokes Special: Reader Questions
Wow, August just flew! Here is the final post of the Rob Nokes special, with the answers to the questions made by the readers during this month. Hope you enjoyed this month, and get ready for September! :D
Designing Sound Reader: How well do you take care of your microphones? Do you leave them out in the studio overnight or do you put them away the minute the recording session is over? And how often do you get them serviced?
Rob Nokes: I store my microphones in a temperature controlled room that also stores the SoundStorm library, 75F and 38% humidity. I don’t use the Neumanns in dangerous situations but I have placed an MKH-60 adjacent to a car’s muffler. Cheaper microphones are placed in harms way, such as the SANKEN CUB-01’s and AKH C4000B. I have lost some Sennheiser E835’s.
The studio sound proofing controls temperature and humidity so I don’t have a problem leaving the microphones out over night. Microphones get serviced when they have problems, it’s important to have backups available when a microphone starts to sound bad.
DSR: What type of headphones are you using to monitor while you’re recording?
RN: For field recording I have used the Sony MDR-V900HD Studio Monitor Type Headphones.
For studio recording I absolutely love the Sennheiser RS-180 wireless headphones because they are wireless. The sound quality is not “wired” quality but it’s very good considering the price ($300) and the flexibility of working wireless in the studio.
DSR: How well dampened or deadened is the ADR studio you worked in? Was it extremely dead like an anechoic chamber or was it slightly live? Also, how big was it (dimensions)?
RN: The reflections are controlled so there are no flutters or standing waves that cause frequency bumps. My ADR room is designed in such a way that I can control the liveliness of the room by exposing concrete or wood by quickly removing carpeting. The lower half of two side walls has baffles that can be removed to increase reflections. In the corner I have two 4 foot traps stacked 8 feet high to eat up a 300 HZ bump at the back of the room. The most important sound treatment happens on the front and back wall and ceiling. An anechoic chamber is not recommended unless you only need the sounds for pure sound design and even then that can be over done. The room is 17 by 19 by 10.
DSR: While recording ambiences, do you set the mics extremely still or do you like to walk around with them to get a constantly changing environment?
RN: Both. It depends on the situation and the desired effect that is needed. If you are shooting a moving POV remember to move slowly so that the perspective change is always minor (not jarring).
DSR: How do you think the Zoom HN4 compares to the 2? Specifically the preamps?
RN: I only used the H4 so I can only compare to that unit. The H4N was a significant improvement but let’s be clear that the H4N is great for general sounds, if you are recording pure tones or ultra-quiet sounds you’re better off with the Zaxcom Deva 5 or a similar quality recorder.
DSR: Do you also choose different preamps to work with for the right sound like you choose different mics? Or do you always use one type of preamp?
RN: I had two SoundDevices preamps for these purposes but I found the controls to be clumsy (very sensitive and easily altered when field recording) and the additional bulk was unwarranted for the quality difference. It’s really important to get to a good sound and quickly record it before the opportunity has passed. Now I don’t have any additional pre-amps, hold it; I forgot; I do have a EAA PSP-2 and BeachTek DXA-6A. Otherwise I use the onboard pre-amps on the Zaxcom Deva 5, Korg MR-1000, and H4N.
DSR: What sample-rate do you record/edit at? If you record at 96 or 192, what do you use to downconvert it?
RN: Depends on the sound and purpose of the sounds. If a sound can be recorded really clean and is for sound design: 192. If the sound is for editing only then 96.
DSR: Do you ‘master’ your sounds before you put them in your library (and the Sounddogs shop) or leave them as you recorded them.
RN: Always master them. Mastering is harder work than recording, by far! The good thing about mastering is you learn how your microphone sounds and most importantly you learn not to breath on the mic, shuffle your feet, crunch rocks, have keys in your pockets, have your cell phone, etc. By mastering the sounds you curse yourself for all the editing you’ve caused yourself to do.
DSR: Do you prefer mon sounds to work with in surround or stereo?
RN: This is more of a mixing and editing question. If you are moving a specific sound in a surround environment mono is practical. Stereos are good for ambiance and backgrounds.
DSR: How do you “clean” your takes from undesired backgrounds, specially when recording outside?
RN: “Backgrounds” suggests you are talking about a constant noise in the background of a recording. This depends if I am mastering a specific or background, if it is a background you’re kind of hosed, the three things you can do are: cut out the most offensive sections of noise. secondly EQ the offensive noise to minimize its perceptibility and noise reduction (Izotope). If the sound recorded is a specific, then shoot with your back to the undesired background and the good sound at the directly in front of the microphone. Also record multiple takes so that your chances of getting a clean sound is higher.
DSR: Do you always use a preamp between the mic and the recorder, or do you sometimes use the recorder’s preamp?
RN: See answer above.
DSR: How do you make recordings under the rain? I mean, covering the mic with an umbrella or something will produce undesired sounds!
RN: An umbrella will introduce too much noise from the rain hitting the umbrella. Look for an elevated canopy to help shield the microphone or record briefly with a jammer on your zeppelin to help protect from rain.
DSR: Do you use acoustics at all when you are field recording?
RN: Yes absolutely. Acoustics and near reflections can help color and build sound considerably. Clap your hands in the corner of a room and in the middle of the room, the difference is substantial. I like to elongate short sounds by adding near reflections.
DSR: Do you position your subjects for the best possible acoustics? Like if you were recording an elephant, would you go so far as to place him away from the side of a building to get rid of the echo slap-back?
RN: Yes, but it depends on what the need of the sound designer is. With the example you have given, a near reflection (close to the wall) might be less noticeable as a medium reflection that would be more noticeable. The initial sound blast will hide a very close reflection but it cannot hide a medium long reflection because the time difference of the reflection is longer and is not hidden by the decay of the original sound.
DSR: How do you apply acoustics to your recordings?
RN: Positioning the sound source or the microphone. Also physical reflectors (boards, metal sheet) can be positioned for desired effect.
DSR: Do you use compression in your recordings? Or do you apply it afterwards?
RN: No. I very rarely use a compressor.