Let’s start out with what to listen for in a recording location. Naturally, we’re always going to be looking for a space that isn’t going to introduce too many environmental and human generated artifacts into the recording, but the physical layout and acoustic properties of a location can contribute as much character to your recordings as microphone selection…sometimes even more. On top of that, recording vehicles and weaponry (what you’ve specialized in) isn’t something you can do just anywhere. So, what do you listen for when scouting potential recording sites?
The biggest problems I face when searching for a recording location is traffic, especially airports and expressways. I’ve scheduled multiple jobs where I had to find ideal locations away from these environments. Fortunately I live and work in a quieter area away so I don’t have to travel too far. However, that rare Ferrari I need to record is located in the middle of a downtown so it’s crucial to make generous car owner friends who are willing to drive an hour or so to a quieter location. Most microphones I’ve tried are quite sensitive in capturing unwanted background sounds. This is why I often use my Sennheiser MKH-418s M/S shotgun mic. For isolation with a mono mic I use either my Neumann 82i or the Rode NTG8. On bigger budget jobs I will rent the Neumann RSM-191s mic (probably one of the best field recording mics ever made).
Guest Contribution by Stephan Schütze
Why I am not going to tell you which microphone to use
The simple answer to this statement is, because we don’t have time. The exact choice of which microphone to use for each situation of recording a vehicle is a detailed exercise and would take more pages than we have space for. Even then, there is a major flaw associated with the idea. What I hear and what sounds good to my ears may not work for you. Suggesting Brand X or a Model 2B, stuffed up the exhaust pipe of your Honda, may only serve to encourage you to spend more money than you need to. As much as we all love to buy new equipment, I think there is value in stepping beyond the tools and toys. I’m going to be more general and share a more conceptual approach to capturing good vehicle sounds.
What I will do is take you through some of the essential lessons I’ve learned when recording vehicle sounds for Sound Librarian. In creating our sound libraries, I’ve recorded motorbikes, cars, tanks, boats, airplanes, pretty much every vehicle I could get my microphones near.
R. Murray Schafer at “listen” short film
“One can look at seeing but one can’t hear hearing” – Marcel Duchamp
As you may know, silence is the topic chosen for this month here at Designing Sound. One may think silence is not existent if we value it as an absolute sonic absence, but here I’m going to examine its role and possibility towards the act of listening to sound, silencing, not as that state of complete sonic deletion but as a force able of letting sound to be. Here’s not about asking “what is silence?” but just creating an invitation to be silent and just listen.
Guest Contribution by Ivo Ivanov
Take a moment to think about the magnitude of all the rejected material that disappears during your editing process. Material with unwanted artifacts, discarded without much further thought, as it is rendered useless due to a number of auditory issues or location-specific problems. Now imagine if those discarded bits of audio were actually what you were truly looking for. Welcome to my world: I search for the sounds in between sounds.
While on a recent field recording trip with a few local colleagues, the day’s conversations and varying points of interest illuminated intriguing differences in our technical goals. While we all had essentially the same equipment (the usual field recorders, mics and accessories) and we were recording many of the same subjects, our focus and subsequent approach turned out to be significantly different. This raised some interesting discussions about perspective and context, which got me thinking about how much time I actually spend trying to deconstruct things and harness the “broken”.
Gordon Hempton has a new article up on his Quiet Planet website talking about recording waves.
Find a beach exposed to the open ocean (high-energy) with a large tidal change (higher latitudes) at least several miles from the nearest frequently used road (wilderness) that slopes sharply, so at low tide you encounter diverse substrates (sand, gravel, cobblestones).
Head here to read the full article.