Just a quick one today. On the way to work I passed by a store that had its security alarm going off. It was an area of the city with very little traffic so it was a good opportunity to record a sample of an alarm. So a short break on the way to work and another sound to add to the collection.
Location Docklands Equipment Zoom F4 and R09 handheld
I've not done too much recording lately as I have been really busy getting a lot of the documentation for the website ready. I have finally got a name I am happy with and have registered it, but if you are reading this then you already know what the name is :-). The website is still pretty much on track for a release around the middle of 2009. (How did I do, did I get it up and running on time?) Anyway Anna and I went for a long walk tonight to walk off dessert, and on the way back the big show tent near our apartment was creaking in the wind. It has giant cables that tie down the tent and the wind was strong enough to be constantly pulling on the cable tension causing heaps of noise. I got out the R09 to have it immediately shut down from flat batteries. THIS is why I carry spares. 3 minutes later I was recording a good selection of cable creaks and groans. I have heard these cables making nose before, but tonight was the best example I have heard so far so I was glad to be able to grab it, and very glad to be carrying spare batteries.
Location Echuca Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom Pole and R09 handheld
First thing this morning we headed back to the Echuca Port where there was a slot machine museum that had a large range of old machines that used penny coins to operate. They ranged from skill testers to fortune tellers and games of pure luck. These were the precursors to modern video games and some of them were very clever designs. Because they were all mechanical there were a good range of clunks wires and clicks to record, not to mention the sound of lots of pennies being dropped into the slots. The museum also had nice creaky floorboards so I grabbed some samples of those as well.
Antique Slot Machines
Later in the day we drove out to a horse riding ranch, and despite my previous bad experiences with horses we went for a ride and it was fantastic. I’m going to have to try it again in the future sometime. I think I’ll set myself the goal of learning to ride well enough to record the horse running while I’m on it, so I need to be able to ride one handed and carry the boom pole a little like a polo mallet. I can’t see myself achieving this any time soon, but it’s something to work towards. Now all I need is riding lessons :-) I did record some horses walking when I was on the ground, and also got a few squeaks out of the local cockatoo. Another great day, now we just have to wash off all the dust from riding.
Location Bendigo Equipment Zoom F4 and R09 handheld
We arrived in Bendigo coincidentally on the same night as the Bendigo Parade which is the longest running parade in Australia. This year is the 149th parade. After we had dinner at a nice café we walked along the parade route as the parade went by. There were lots of fire fighting units on parade to say thanks for the excellent job they had done fighting the recent bush fires. I only took the R09 with me as I didn’t want to lug all my equipment to the café. I captured lots of sirens and people clapping as well as a few bands, specifically 2 different bagpipe bands. I don't know why but I’ve always loved the sound of a pipe and drum band, I think a lot of people hate the sound, but I really dig it, the sound of massed pipes playing Scotland the brave will simultaneously have me feeling 10 feet tall and crying like a baby, and no, I'm not Scottish, so go figure? I also recorded the fireworks after the parade. A lot of these types of sounds I have already, but you never know when more might be useful, or what might turn up while you are recording.
Location Echuca Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom Pole and R09 handheld
Last night we stayed in Wangaratta and then headed towards Echuca through the Rutherglen winery region. We stopped off at a winery and bought a really nice bottle of muscatel. None of the wineries in this area had tours of their facilities. I might have to track down a big winery sometime and get some recordings of the production machinery. The weather today was gorgeous and sunny; in fact we both had to make sure we had sunscreen on so we wouldn’t get burnt. I have become really cautious since I got badly burnt at the Avalon Air show last month.
As we were driving we came across a farm where they were burning off. This is very common in Australia as farmers want to keep their land clear of dried grass and leaves as this can become dangerous fuel for bush fires. It seemed a strange day to be burning off as it was pretty warm and quite windy. I thought there might be the risk of the fires spreading. I stood about 15 meters away from a large pile of branches that were being burnt. This was about the size of a small bonfire and I was amazed at how much heat was coming from it. A bonfire might be a nice thing on a cold winter night, but on a hot windy day it felt uncomfortable. It also gave me a small insight into how dangerous a big bushfire would be as this fire had flames about a meter high, whereas the bush fires in February had flames over ten meters high. I still have no idea how people fight fires of that scale. Even with the heat being produced the sound itself didn’t carry very well. I could hear the fire crackling, but the distance just seemed to be too much to get a strong signal to the mic. I didn’t want to jump over the fence so I’ll just have to wait for another opportunity to grab some more fire samples. Next we drove on to Echuca which is an old town on the Murray River.
Burning off near Echuka
The Murray River is the border between Victoria and New South Wales and in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was a major trade route. Echuca was one of the biggest ports along the Murray and is still home to a collection of restored and working paddle steamers. We went for a ride on the Emmy Lou which was originally built in 1912 and worked for many years along the Murray. The Emmy Lou still has her original wood fired steam engine, which was incredibly quiet considering the power it was putting out. In fact the paddle steamers were the quietest vehicles on the river, all the speed boats and jet skis were much louder, so technology and advancement don’t always make things more environmentally friendly. I captured some excellent material of the noise the engine did make, as well as the paddles pushing the boat through the water, and a few blasts from the boats steam whistle, which were really loud. This boat has overnight trips where you stay in cabins on board so I think we’ll need to come back for that sometime as it was a great trip for just an hour; sailing downriver all night and having dinner on board would be fantastic.
Location Bright, Victoria Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom Pole and R09 handheld
Four days Easter break, my wife, a car and a random direction. We decided to just pick a random direction and go this Easter. I think both of us are feeling tied down being back in Melbourne doing normal office hours, so we both needed a bit of an adventure. We left Melbourne last night and drove for four hours to get to Bright which is up in Victoria’s alpine area. Today we started the day with pancakes for breakfast and then went for a walk around the town and down along the Ovens river through the gorge area. I brought my gear with me not for anything specific but just in case something interesting popped up. I recorded the river in the gorge as it had a nice gurgling sound as the water ran over some rocky areas; also the wire suspension bridge over the deep end of the gorge had a nice creaking noise so I grabbed that as well. The combination of the cables and wire mesh sides made a lot of noise when walked over. I recorded both mono and stereo samples.
Suspension Brige, Bright
Later in the day we went for a drive out of Bright, after a short drive down the road to a place called Wandiligong, we found some cows and a horse. The cows stubbornly refused to make any sound at all and the horse was more interested in eating the grass Anna was feeding it. There were some good munching and snorting sounds from him so it wasn’t too bad. Nice friendly horse as well. Later however I got some really good sheep sounds from a nearby farm where they were trying to heard them. The Farmer said they were a breed called Dorper. They were nice and noisy so I think the material from there will be good. Our entire Easter trip was just to get away from the city and enjoy doing something different, but I also ended up getting some really interesting and unexpected sounds today without even trying too hard. This is often the best way to "plan" a trip, don't plan at all, just pick a direction and see what surprises turn up.
Dorper Sheep, Bright
I also wanted to add one more sound. I have been going to Bright since I was very young and one of my favourite sounds was of a particular bird in that area. The Currawong can be found in various places in Australia, but for me it was always a sound I associated with going up and having fun holidays in the mountains. Its funny how some sounds can really effect you even years later. Anyway, this will always be one of my favourite bird calls.
Location Kew and Docklands Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Tripod mount and R09 handheld
I had some nice people from the Kew Bowmans club help me this morning by shooting lots of arrows into targets for me while I was recording. Sunday morning is the regular meeting time for the club, and the head of the club Rob McKenzie had been happy for me to come along and have a listen and then he helped me out by doing some shooting for me. There was a freeway very close by which I am worried might have contaminated some of the sounds, but I should have some good material when I sort through it all. I set up the shotgun mic on the tripod so I could position it at the target to record some impact sounds. Then I progressively moved it down the range to record the arrows in flight past the mic at different ranges. Its these more subtle sounds that I think might have issues with the freeway noise.
Again I learnt lots about archery in between recording shots. I captured most of the bow firing sounds with the handheld R09 as the Shotgun mic was down range. I plan to buy the new Zoom H4n when it is available in a few weeks and this will give me a third recording option. I a not sure what mic I want to use with the new unit, I will need to do some experimenting to find the best combination of devices. There isn’t really a lot of different sounds with archery. The firing of the arrow, the flight of the arrow and the impact of the arrow are basically it, but I did make sure I captured shots being fired into the tow different target types available as well as a range of three or four different bows and several different types of arrows, so there should be some good material in there when I get to catalogue it.
Kew Bowmans Club
Later in the day I tried strapping the R09 under the bonnet of the car we had hired for the weekend. It was just a little Toyota, but I thought this would be a good test of the method. I want to see how well this works for future car recordings. Strapping the unit down was pretty straightforward, but obviously I cant monitor the levels, so I wont get to see if they were good until I download all the sounds and go through them all to catalogue. I have a Nissan Z and a BMW lined up to record soon so I want to get the process working well before I record them.
Finally I also got some female footstep sounds as well. My wife helped me out by wearing a few different pairs of shoes and I followed her round recording her walking on different surfaces. The good thing about the Docklands area near where we are living is that at night its like a ghost town so it’s a great quiet area to do sound recording with no contamination. It also has a good range of surfaces for walking on because they have metal escalators, wooden slate bridges as well as the usual concrete and tile flooring. I’ve been meaning to add women’s shoes to the library for ages so its good to finally get some in there.
Location Neerim South Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom Pole array and R09 handheld
We decided to go for a drive today with no direction in mind. We drove through a lot of the area that had been damaged by the recent bush fires and it was very sobering. Huge areas of land had been burnt and it was sad to think what people had lost in the event. It was however really positive to see how hard people were working to rebuild, and the determination after such a terrible event is a credit to the communities affected. As always I was carrying all my gear with us. I didn’t expect to be able to record much in the bush fire effected areas as even wild life would take sometime to return. As we travelled further south we left the worst effected areas and did find something worth recording.
Alpacas! Driving down a road we came across a large property with what we initially though were Lamas. We stopped the car to see if they made any sounds worth capturing and found they made all sorts of interesting sounds. We talked to the owners who were really helpful and even gave us some roses to feed to the Alpacas. One of the male Alpacas was making all sorts of noises, and the smaller ones made some cute sounds as well. I think I may have discovered the inspiration, if not the core sound material for the Tauntauns in The Empire Strikes Back. These things made some very similar noises. They are really friendly animals and the wool from then is the softest material I think I have ever felt.
The owners originally got them to keep the grass under control on their property as Alpacas need very little maintenance, but then they decided to start using the wool. They very politely explained all sorts of things about Alpacas while I recorded them eating, snorting and grumbling. This was one of the best animal recordings I have done for a long time.
I’ve been waiting for a storm like today's for about 5 years. At various times over the last few years I have tried recording thunderstorms but the circumstances were never ideal. The main issue with recording thunder is that the best position to be is directly in the storms path. The low rumble sound that most people associate with thunder is the sound of distant thunder. When it occurs directly overhead it makes a loud sharp crack sound as if the sky has just been torn open. It is a sound with an incredible amount of power and another indication that we humans just can’t compete with nature when it comes to making loud bangs. Of course predicting where a storm is going to go and being in it's path ready can be a little tricky, then of course you have the issue of, if being in its path puts you in the middle of a noisy street then the sounds get contaminated.
Melbourne traditionally gets a couple of big thunderstorms every summer, and so far this season we hadn’t had any. Being at work meant that I was right in the middle of the city, but it also meant I had access to the roof of our building. Initially I was disappointed I didn’t have my main gear with me and that I would have to rely on only the R09, but I have been finding more and more lately that the R09 is the best unit to be using under certain circumstances and this was one of those. The nature of the R09 means it has less direction and less sensitive mics than using the shotgun mic with the H4, but when dealing with really loud sounds this has worked out well. Also the relatively short range of the mic pick-up meant that on the roof I didn’t capture the sound of all the air conditioning units. Basically the mics won’t pick up quiet sounds that are more than a few meters away, but the thunder was so loud that it was recorded very well. The end result is some great material from the thunderstorm without any peaks and without much contamination at all so I’m really happy with the results.