HISS and a ROAR Release Their First Ambience Library: Blow Holes (Q&A Included)

Tim Prebble has released Blow Holes on HISS and a ROAR, opening a new catalog of ambience libraries.

Ambiences play a crucial role in every film: literally, emotionally and physically they define the world that the film exists in. Accordingly we endeavor to provide characterful multichannel recordings of dramatically interesting locations.

The ocean has an infinite range of moods, but when the power of an incoming tide becomes constricted it can lead to some awe-inspiring sounds. This library was recorded on a Sound Devices 744 recorder using a Sanken CSS5 stereo mic along with Sennheiser MKH70 and MKH816 mics. Four locations were chosen specifically for their unique sonic properties:

  • Punakaiki Blow Holes – West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
  • Alofaaga Blow Holes – Taga, Savai’i, Samoa
  • CastlePoint The Gap – East Coast, North Island, New Zealand
  • Muriwai The Gap – West Coast, North Island, New Zealand

Blow Holes Library | 24bit 96kHz | 1.52GB download | 2.17GB uncompressed

Here’s a Q&A with Tim, talking about the library and his projects.

DS: What was the inspiration behind this library?

TP: Ever since I first started working as a sound effects editor I’ve loved recording and editing ambiences for films. Its such a lovely subtle area to be working in, and is also somehow personal as you tend to draw from your own experiences and memories of how specific locations sound, how they affect you and how you can recreate them, while also retaining control so as to impart meaning and emotion to them. So it was inevitable I would start releasing ambience libraries. Living in a small island nation I guess it was also inevitable my first ambience libraries would be of the ocean. I’m not going to wax lyrical about the ocean but I love its many moods; there is nothing more relaxing than the gentle rhythm of a calm beach, nor more terrifying and life threatening than a storm at sea. The BLOW HOLES library is the first part of a trilogy of ocean ambience libraries that I am working on, the second library will be STORMY SEAS and the third CALM BEACHES, so that between these three libraries a vast range of situations can be catered for, with really unique & dramatic character.

DS: Tell us about the locations.

TP: Well the first location, Punikaiki I have been to literally dozens of times. It is on the West Coast of the South Island, only a couple of hours drive from Christchurch, where I grew up and went to University and then Film School. Punikaiki is always visually stunning, but sonically you need some local knowledge. Years ago I went there with friends during the day and it was impressive but the tide was out and it was calm, and I think my friends wondered what I had been so excited about. We were staying only a half hour way walk away so after dinner & a few drinks that night, we wandered back – I distinctly remember the full moon and the subsonic rumble as we approached the area. But the sound I will never forget is the first vented blow hole. This vent is maybe 200m from the sea, so there is no water, just a large hole in the ground surrounded by flax. You hear a distant boom and then a huge rush of air. The Maori of New Zealand have a term ‘Taniwha’ which refers to beings that live in deep pools or in the sea. Some taniwha are considered protective guardians while others are predatory. When we came across this vent, in the middle of the night, I could easily see how you might think only an angry sea monster could be creating such a sound! When we finally got out to the viewing area, the blow holes were blasting spray 20m into the air! It really is equal parts awe inspiring and scary! I’ve recorded at Punikaiki a few times, but I figured it was worth another visit armed with the tools I now have.

The second location was a side trip when I was in Samoa, recording ambiences for the film O Le Tulafale (The Orator) – I stayed an extra weekend & took my rental car on the ferry over to the larger island of Savaii. I had read of the Taga blow holes at Alofaaga, but again describing them is nothing like experiencing them. There were a few times when I had to really quell a surge of andrenalyn caused by being so close to such a powerful and unpredictable force of nature. As you can see in the video a local guy appeared out of nowhere and took a bag of old coconut husks, and would throw them in the blowhole just before the wave surged in, and the husk would fly like a cannonball such was the pressure (I had to ask him to stop shrieking with laughter every time he did it!)

The third location, Castlepoint, is a lovely summer resort for swimming and surfing, but also has a treacherous reef that has claimed the lives of a number of fishermen. I wasn’t quite aware of how dangerous it was until I went there to record a few months ago, and driving from Wellington I only got there an hour or two before high tide. I started to walk across the reef to the gap that I wanted to record and could instantly see how evil that sea was. It literally rose and fell three or four metres in a few seconds, a wave could easily sweep me & my gear off into the open sea in the blink of an eye. A little shaken I went home and planned to return, and when I did I rented a nearby holiday house for a weekend so I could stay and easily track the tide and choose my moment to record.

The fourth location was Muriwai, a vast open beach, on the west coast from Auckland. Muriwai is well known for its surf but also for its treacherous fishing spot: The Gap. The waves pound into a narrow rocky inlet and the containment really amplifies and focuses the powerful relentless sound of the ocean.

All in all, many fun and scary days at the beach were involved! And best of all, using a boom I could put the mic where it was completely unsafe to be… and listen.

DS: What’s next for HISSandaROAR?

TP: I’m half way through recording TORTURED PIANO which involves the total destruction of an old bora-ridden upright piano, along with some rather strange manipulation of my baby grand piano. Its going to be a multi channel library as I am recording with two contact mics as well as condensor mics. But it is not a music library – I am specifically after sound design elements: strange textures, resonant scrapes, cracks, hits, metal creaks & groans. While it is kind of sad to see a musical instrument destroyed, this piano was long beyond saving before I got it, so in a way I am paying tribute to its life by immortalizing its final sounds. After that will be a new creature vocal library – the SEAL VOCALS have been so well received that I am going to follow it up with a smaller, nastier creature, capable of some truly viscous sounds.

DS: How about THE DOORS library?

TP: Its definitely in the schedule, but the drives are literally still traveling around the world to all of the contributors. So it will be another month or so before I am able to release it. Its a little frustrating, we really need the speed and data limits of the Internet to catch up with our use for it, to make this concept more efficient.

DS: How are the film projects going?

TP: Great but very, very busy. We started predubs at Park Road Post for the Cirque De Soilel 3D film this week. So in 4 weeks time it will be finished, and then I start back into O Le Tulafale (The Orator) with another field trip to Samoa. After we mix it in July I’m taking a long overdue break and will head to Japan and hopefully South Korea. I’ve also started planning a field trip to Papua New Guinea for a film (Mister Pip by Andrew Adamson) that I’m starting near the end of the year. No rest for the wicked!

2 Comments on “HISS and a ROAR Release Their First Ambience Library: Blow Holes (Q&A Included)

  1. Pingback: Designing Sound TV – HISS and a ROAR – Ambience Library 01: Blow Holes

  2. Pingback: SFX Lab #1: Experiments on Pressure, Blow Holes

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