Tim Prebble has announce the release of SEAL VOCALS, a new great sound effects library for HISS and a ROAR, this time featuring lovely Seals talking to a microphone.
My primary goal was to isolate the seal vocals from the ambience, for use in creature vocal design, so this library was recorded using a Sennheiser MKH70 microphone due to its “excellent directivity… particularly suited to applications undertaken in difficult conditions, such as high background noise & distance microphone positioning. Its frequency-independent directivity prevents sound colouration from off-axis sound sources.”
The adult fur seal vocalisations include gutteral growls and roars, heavy snorts, strange rhythmic shrieks, bites and sudden jaw snaps, all of which have the scale and tonality of a large mammal. The adolescent seals have an almost dog-like growl, very sharp snapping jaws and a piercing shriek, which is incredibly evocative from a distance but up close is seriously disturbing.
These recordings were all made in an exterior location (Cape Palliser) as per the video, to differentiate from the recordings I have heard in other libraries that were obviously recorded in an enclosed/reverbant zoo environment.
There are three species of seals which visit New Zealand’s coastline but it is the fur seal (Kekeno) which is the easiest to find, with three colonies relatively close to Wellington. But if you really want to get close to them, there is always the option of travelling to the South Island and swimming with seals!
Me? I prefer to keep my distance – apart from the smell, fur seals can grow to a size of 160kg and are fearsome sounding creatures. Accordingly I made these recordings using the longest mic boom that I could find – I wanted close up recordings for use as components of creature vocals, but I sure didn’t want to get bitten (my Rycote survived at least a dozen bites though!)
The library is available in four different options with different qualities, and also there is a free version available for download. All libraries are provided as a collection of .WAV files, carefully labelled & tagged with Metadata compatible with the ProTools workspace, SoundMiner, Basehead, Snapper and AudioFinder sound library software.
Q&A WITH TIM
Designing Sound: Was it dangerous recording the seals?
Tim Prebble: I definitely had to be careful – I think their oral hygene isn’t so great, so I can only imagine how infectious a bite would be! But despite being very wary they were generally more afraid of me than I of them. Some of the larger males were protecting the baby seals and as I crept closer they would not back off at all. So I was happy to be on the end of a boom! The seals also blend very well into the landscape, so I had to be constantly vigilant not to surprise one – with headphones on, they can sound like they are right beside you….
DS: Any new techniques you used recording?
TP: I wanted to isolate the vocals as much as possible from the ambience & the ocean, so I put a lot of thought into how to achieve this. First was getting the weather, tides & swell right. I used the excellent swell map site which predicts swell and managed to get a weekend immediately after a big storm, so by being out recording at 7am I managed to record a lot when the tide was right out and the swell was very low.
I also used a Sennheiser MKH70 microphone which is very directional, and monitoring using headphones I was very aware of minimising the ambience by the angle I was recording from ie if the mic was pointed at a seal I made sure the rear of the mic was not pointed towards the sea. But the best recordings were in amongst the rocks – the area I was recording in is a huge outcrop of rock, with many crevices which lead out to the sea. So I climbed all over that outcrop and I found that the sea was very muffled when I was down inside these crevices.
DS: Any anecdotes from your recording?
TP: After spending most of a weekend with the seals I felt like I had been to an alien planet or a very foreign country, where I couldn’t speak the language and didnt know how to behave. And the locals were not very friendly…
At one point when recording I heard this deep throbbing sound and both myself and the seals looked up as a rescue helicopter approached and flew over, and I remember wondering what the seals made of this strange sound from the sky!