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Posted by on Mar 12, 2014 | 3 comments

An interview with Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts has been a BBC natural history sound recordist for over 20 years. During that time he has explored some of the remotest parts of the planet. His career has taken him high into the Papua New Guinean rainforest canopy, deep underground inside Venezuelan mountains and even right into the heart of Indonesia’s volcanoes. He has been privileged to work with the world’s leading natural history film-makers and is the only member of the BBC’s team to have worked on every one of the nine Expeditions series, starting with Amazon Abyss in 2004.

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Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 | 1 comment

The making of Geosonics by Soniccouture

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Chris Watson is probably the world’s most famous field recordist. Without a doubt he has more recordings of animal sounds than we could listen to in a lifetime, However, we’re straying slightly off of animal recordings and into Watson’s collection of natural sounds – and how they ended up as one of the most unique and exciting sampled instruments: Geosonics by Soniccouture. Designing Sound chatted with Soniccouture’s James Thompson about the project.

DS: How did Geosonics come about?

We’ve made our name with unusual, niche, libraries. One of our first products was the Hang drum library. That’s what inspires and attracts us.

Over the last few years, there was a period where we were there were a lot of ideas flying around. People would email us and say “Have you seen this?” That happened with the Novachord synthesizer.  For the Skiddaw Stones – I think I saw something on QI about that – so we were always picking up ideas from the media, we’re quite attuned to that.

A couple of years ago there was a little bit in the media about the Wired Lab in Australia (where Chris Watson was then a resident artist), and I had never heard of this recording technique before; using huge runs of wires. I heard the BBC Radio 4 documentary and Chris Watson was the main part of the documentary, and we’d always been fans of his – I remember years ago Dan (Powell, the other half of Soniccouture) played me one of his wildlife recordings on CD.

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Posted by on Feb 24, 2014 | 3 comments

LA Underground – An Interview with Charles Maynes

LA-1-940I recently had a chance to sit down with sound designer and sound FX recordist Charles Maynes and chat about his new “LA Underground” sound library, available from Rabbit Ears Audio. Inspired by the gritty and seedy Los Angeles shown in countless films, “LA Underground” is a 10 GB collection of ambiences from all over the city, from the industrial centers near the LA River to the heart of Downtown.

Designing Sound: How did this library come about?

Charles Maynes: I had been talking to Zach Seivers and Justin Davey over at Snap Sound, who I had met through Dave Yewdall. Basically, a conversation I had with them last summer was kind of the seed for the conversation I eventually had with Michael [Raphael]. They had been hired to do a film in New York, and they were going to go out on location and record a bunch of stuff in the city and at the practical locations, and they were like, “Hey, this is a really big projects for us, so we’re going to actually invest in some Schoeps mics and stuff.” They were debating whether to go M/S or X/Y.

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Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 | 4 comments

Viviana Caro: A Career Working With Animal Sounds

100_2152Guest Contribution by Leonard Paul

You’ve worked a lot with animals as a sound engineer, could you give a brief history of how your initial interest in audio restoration of bird sounds has led to being the recordist for the Colombian Mountain Grackle in the mountains of Colombia?

My interest on animal sounds started when I worked on my audio engineering undergrad thesis. I paired up with a biologist that was building an animal sound archive at the Humboldt Institute in Colombia and he needed the technical help of an audio engineer to help him develop the archive. One of the objectives of this collaboration was to produce the first CD of Colombian bird sounds using the material he recorded in different locations around the country. It was a challenging project since at the time there were no local audio engineers working in this area. They were working in either music, live sound or audio post-production and all the tools available for sound restoration were focused on those applications. I tested out filters from different software including ProTools, Audiosculpt, Canary and Matlab. After a year of research, I ended up programming filters on Matlab and applying them to each recording, based on the information from their frequency content. I found, among other things, that audio restoration for animal sounds is very subjective; sometimes removing too much “noise” from a recording makes it sound out of context and it’s not pleasant to listen to. I came up to this conclusion after doing a survey to people from different backgrounds (musicians, biologists and the general public). They listened to the same recording filtered in different ways and chose the one that was more appealing to them.

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