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Tim Nielsen Special: On Microphone Addiction

Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 | 42 comments

[Written by Tim Nielsen]

My name is Tim Nielsen, and I’m a micaholic. It has been four months since my last microphone purchase, an adorable little Neumann XY set in a Mono Rycote. I bought them from a friend, because when I saw them I just had to have them. Trust me. They’re really cute. You’d want them too.

I probably won’t be writing a lot of technical articles here on Designing Sound. There seem to be plenty of those already. I don’t have much interest in sharing endless plugin settings, or even mastering chains. I don’t much care about fade file type preferences, or your scheme for color coding tracks. I have those too, but explaining mine in depth won’t really do you much good.

But maybe with regards to recording sound effects, I might have some advice that some might find useful. So today I want to write about microphones.

I bought my first microphones from one of my professors while still at USC film school. It was a Schoeps MS Rig, two CMC4 T-Powered bodies, with an MK41 mid capsule, and an MK6 side capsule. By the time I bought them, they were already 15 years old or more. Over the years I swapped out the T-Powered bodies for phantom powered ones. About three months ago I finally parted with them, selling them to a friend at Skywalker for her first rig. That’s the first thing about recording equipment, and in particular microphones. Buy good ones, as they will last you a long time. Plugins, software, computers, will all become obsolete very fast. But a good recording rig should last you a long time. I have no doubt those Schoeps mics have another 20 years in them.

So this in article, I thought I would give a run-down of the mics in my personal arsenal. It’s a bit of a running joke around the ranch, my mic collection. I’m sure Charles Maynes has beat by a long shot! :) But the truth is, every one of these mics has a purpose, even if they’re not used all that much. So here it is, a list of the mics that are currently in my possession:

  • Schoeps MS Rig: CMC6XT Bodies with MK41 Mid and MK8 Side
  • Sennheiser MS Rig: MKH50 Mid with MKH30 Side.
  • Sennheiser MKH416 Shotgun
  • Schoeps CMIT-5U Shotgun
  • Sennheiser MKH816 Super-Shotgun (x2)
  • Neuman XY Rig: KM00 Bodies with AK40 Capsules
  • Schoeps CMC6XT with MK2 Omni (x2)
  • Sennheiser MKH8020 Omni (x2)
  • Telinga Stereo DAT Parabolic
  • DPA 8011 Hydrophone
  • Sennheiser MKH800
  • Rode NT1A (x2)
  • C-Ducer Ribbon Contact Mic (x2)
  • AKG C411pp Contact Mic (x2)
  • Sennheiser MK421 Mark II (x2)
  • Countryman E3 Lavalier (x2)
  • Crown SASS Mk. II


The Sound of “Need for Speed: The Run”

Posted by on Aug 8, 2011 | 7 comments

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Electronic Arts has started a 4-part series dedicated to explore the sound of “Need for Speed: The Run”. The first episode features product manager Jeff Sharma and audio directors Charles Deenen and Rich Adrian.

HP and Need For Speed present a 4-part series covering all aspects of sound in the latest entry into the Need For Speed franchise: Need For Speed The Run. We will take a behind-the-scenes look at how the team captures everything from a super car engine to the sound effects of a tense action sequence to create one of the most well-respected soundscapes in gaming.

Reminder: 5 Days Left in SDC011

Posted by on Aug 6, 2011 | 0 comments

Just a short reminder, that the 11th Sound Design Challenge closes in 5 days (5PM on August 11th, U.S. Eastern Standard). This is your chance to win a free copy of McDSP’s Futzbox plug-in. All five sounds in the Scavenging challenge have been revealed, and here they are again for your convenience:

  1. A “dry” toilet flush (meaning little to no reverberation). The challenge with this one is how reverberant the rooms they’re in usually are. ;) Good luck.
  2. A babbling brook. If you don’t know what that means, just have a look at this video.
  3. A galloping horse. Try not to get trampled.
  4. A bullet ricochet. Don’t put your eye out!
  5. A LARGE rocket launch. We’re talking ICBM, Apollo 111, NASA shuttle…

We could still use one more judge. So if you’re interested, please leave a comment below.

Remember to get your entries uploaded (as one continuous file) to the SoundCloud group before the competition closes on Thursday.

If you’re late to the party and need more info on the contest, head here.

Good luck!

Tim Nielsen Special: Exclusive Interview

Posted by on Aug 4, 2011 | 9 comments

We’re starting off this month’s special with an exclusive interview with our guest Tim Nielsen, discussing influences, creative methods, techniques, and much more. Hope you enjoy it.

Designing Sound: How did you get started in sound design? What’s been the evolution of your career?

Tim Nielsen: I have to blame my dear friend and brilliant sound person Addison Teague. At USC in the graduate program, you have to crew on a student film in one of a handful of positions: director, producer, editor, cinematographer, or sound. Addison came to me one day, said “I’m thinking about crewing up in sound, but need a partner, are you interested?” To be honest until that point I hadn’t given sound a lot of thought. I entered USC sure I wanted to be a cinematographer, but quickly realized that I hated being on set, hated the energy and the insanity of it. So I thought, sure, I’ll give it a shot.

About a year later, while still at USC, I did an internship at Skywalker Sound with Gary Rydstrom. That was I believe in 1996, and actually I think I might have been the first summer intern Skywalker ever took. When I graduated a couple of years later, I was hired by a supervising sound editor at Skywalker named Tim Holland. His first assistant was going off to explore work in the picture department if I remember correctly, and he needed a new first assistant. I came up to the ranch in April of 1999 to work on Liberty Heights, a Barry Levinson film.

Tim Holland was about the best person in the world to work for, in the sense that even on that first show, when I asked Tim if I could cut something, he was totally open to it, and so I cut a reel. On my second film, Galaxy Quest, I cut more, and Tim being the incredibly great person that he is, went to bat for me and got me my first Effects Editors credit, on only my second film.

From there it’s been a combination of hard work, lots of luck, and having the honor of working with some really wonderful people who have and continue to give me incredible opportunities, even leading up to the project I’m involved with at the moment. I’ve certainly worked hard, and have a pretty good ear for this line of work, but I would be really foolish not to acknowledge the lucky breaks that I’ve gotten that plenty of others haven’t. USC led to an internship which led to my career. That needed have been the case, I had to do my part too, but I’ve been very lucky.

DS: Has working at Skywalker Ranch changed the way you think about sound and film industry in general?

TN: Since my first job ever in the professional world was at Skywalker, I’m not sure how it changed my way of thinking and working, as much as it forged it. I’ve been lucky to have some great opportunities outside of the ranch as well, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Journey 3D, and Prince of Persia were all projects done outside of Skywalker. But certainly my way of working was forged at Skywalker, and I’ve always carried that forward.

Certainly working at Skywalker, where the bar is set so high for all of us, continually reminds me what good film sound can do for a film.


SFX News: Windhowler, Sonic Beatbox, SFX Bible Kit, Tortured Piano Remix

Posted by on Aug 4, 2011 | 0 comments

— TONSTURM has released his fourth sound effects pack, called The Windhowler:

This Soundpack is based on the recordings of the very rare Mole-Richardson Windhowler Moleeffect Type 2281. During extensive recording sessions we captured every aspect of this inimitable sound effect instrument. All sounds are recorded, edited and mastered in HD Audio @ 24 Bit, 96 KHz. With TONSTURM 04 I The Windhowler you get 44 haunting wind sound effects. Split into 24 original and 20 carefully designed sound effects created by using the source recordings only. 4.21 GB (@96 kHz).

More details about the machine and the pack here. Available at 49 €.

— Daniel Gooding has released The Sonic Beatbox. As with the first release some of the money will go to charity.

Almost 300 recordings of different vocally produced sounds. Great for working with abstract sound design, or layering with other sounds for a human element. Over 100 designed sounds, produced entirely from the vocal recordings, and show many of the possibilities. For musicians, there are over 50 individual samples, of vocally produced drum sounds, just put them in your favorite sampler, and start playing instantly. Also included are some simple beatbox loops, that you can throw right into a mix, if you want a quick beatbox sound in your track. Each File is recorded in 24-bit 96kHz.

— The Sound Effects Bible Starter Kit is available during August at $699

This Starter Kit includes an autographed copy of the Sound Effects Bible, a Rode Blimp (the best blimps in the business) and the Sound Effects Bible Hard Drive with 5,000 sound effects!

— The deadline for HISSandaROAR Tortured Piano Remix Competition is approaching (Monday, August 8). More details here.

Rabbit Ears Audio Releases “Brooks Streams Waterfalls”

Posted by on Aug 2, 2011 | 2 comments

Michael Raphael has released “Brooks Streams Waterfalls“, the announced new library of Rabbit Ears Audio.

REA 007 is a celebration of moving water in nature. From small trickles to rushing torrents, Brooks Streams Waterfalls is for those who need a variety of water movement in their library.

Locations were chosen based on their variety of elements. Water sounds most unique when it has something to pass through that changes its flow. The brooks and streams in this collection feature currents that are shaped by rocks, boulders, and downed trees. The waterfalls chosen range from small falls fed by babbling mountain brooks to large rushing waterfalls fed by strong relentless currents.

This collection of sounds features 45 files that clock in at 68 minutes. It was tracked on a Sound Devices 744T with a Cooper CS-104 as the front end. Both Schoeps (MK4/MK8) and Sennheiser MKH (30/40) Mid-Side pairs were used. The Schoeps were the “go to” pair, but the MKH’s got a workout as well. Only one human back was slightly damaged during a river crossing and one Rycote back-cap was lost to a waterfall.

Brooks Streams Waterfalls is available at $50. Use this code to get $5 off: WATERSHIPDOWN

Rabbit Ears Audio

August’s Featured Sound Designer: Tim Nielsen

Posted by on Aug 1, 2011 | 0 comments

It’s a great pleasure to introduce this month’s featured sound designer at Designing Sound: Tim Nielsen. Mainly located at Skywalker Sound, Tim has a long, diverse and impressive credit list, working both as a sound designer, supervising sound editor and effects editor, and he will share lots of articles, tips and thoughts with us. Enjoy!


Tim Nielsen was born in 1971 and his fascination with film sound started at the University of Southern California where one of his student friends was Addison Teague who years later became a close colleague at Skywalker Ranch.

Tim Nielsen was actually Skywalker guru Gary Rydstrom’s first summer intern back in 1996, and since then there’s been no going back. Two years later Tim got his first proper sound effect job at the Ranch and has since then worked on a number of films and projects, of which the ones mentioned below are just a few selected highlights.

Tim’s fascination with sound effects recording has also led to the release of an iTunes-collection called ‘Natural Sounds for Sleep and Relaxation’. There’s not been much relaxation for Tim himself, though, as he’s been keeping constantly busy – at the moment he’s the sound designer for John Carter, a new action-adventure by Wall-E director Andrew Stanton.

Welcome, Tim!


“Limbo” – Exclusive Interview with Martin Stig Andersen

Posted by on Aug 1, 2011 | 2 comments

It takes a strong game to weave so seamlessly the combination of art contained within. Limbo was a game that so totally embodied itself that it found its way atop most “Best of…” lists the year of it’s release on XBLA. With the game properly ported and recently released on PC and PSN, took some time to catch up with Martin Stig Andersen.

When I saw Martin speak this spring at GDC I was struck by how well formed his concept of sound for Limbo was, not only that but how his formative years seemed completely in support of hit contributions to the soundscape. If you have played through even a section of the game you will know that this could be no small feat, as it’s not every sound designer that could inexorably link the flickering black and white images to abstract impressions of sound.

This is a story that follows a complete trajectory. From his days in University learning and experimenting with electroacoustic music, acousmatic music and soundscapes throughout the development and application of interactive audio gestures which help bring to life the action on screen.

Read on for further insight…


Coll Anderson’s Blog and Sound Effects

Posted by on Jul 31, 2011 | 0 comments

June’s featured sound designer, Coll Anderson, has been working on some new ideas for his personal site recently. The photo above comes from a short post titled, Idea of the day…

It’s a funny little collection of some workflow thoughts that are worth the read. So head over there to check out what’s going on in that photo.

And while you’re at it, check out some of the quality sound effects libraries that Coll has for sale. There are some very cool sounds available, here are some examples from his Gore library:EFX SD Gore Various by C. A. Sound, Inc.

Check out the rest here.