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.
As Designing Sound’s month devoted to Silence comes to an end, what better time to take a look at a remarkable video course that delves into the vast and interesting world of effective sound recording.
The Sound Recording Workshop (video/audio series) comes to us from Sound Librarian and presenter Stephan Schütze.
I 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.
Stella demonstrates how cat recording NEVER happens.
About three years ago, on a whim, I adopted a 6 month old kitten. I had dealt with cats before at friends’ and family’s houses, but had never owned one, and Luna (short for “Lunatic”) was full of surprises. After her initial “moving in” period, in which she hid under the bed for nearly a week, I discovered that Luna was an exceedingly outspoken individual that needed to make sure everyone knew that she was here and ready to conquer the world (or at least the apartment):
There’s something I’ve noticed about recording animals over the years. Even if the animal is being cooperative, it can be damned difficult to really catch an individual’s personality. If the animal is trained, that’s wonderful. You may be able to get a variety of sounds out of them with the handler’s help…BUT…vocalizations recorded from trained animals can often sound rote. They seem to get into the mentality of reacting to commands. You may get lucky and get some more interesting sounds between the performed ones, but take a step back and think about how situations affect YOUR behavior. Do you act differently when your boss is around? Your parents? Your significant other? Your best friend? When you’re by yourself? Your situation tends to define which sides of your personality come out.