Location Port Melbourne Equipment Zoom H4 Tripod Mount and Zoom H4N D112 & Shure sm58 and R09 mounted
I have been meaning to do some proper testing on car recording for quite some time and I finally had the chance today. As I’ve mentioned before we hire a car when we need one and this weekend we had a Hyundai Accent which was a perfect example of a stock standard small car, exactly what I wanted to test on. About a 5 minute drive from where we live is a large industrial area at Port Melbourne which on a Sunday morning is completely deserted and nice and quiet. The perfect location to get some clean recordings.
I started by strapping the R09 to one of the radiator tubes under the bonnet. A good length of Velcro strap meant that it was nice and secure and well away from any moving parts in the engine bay, while still being right in amongst the working parts of the engine. This resulted in a very good clean recording of 90% of the material captured. Because the bonnet is closed when driving there is almost zero wind to worry about in this location. I had one short section of recorded material that was effected by wind and only one level peak out of twenty minutes of recording. I made sure I tested the levels carefully before I started by revving the car up to 5000 rpm and ensuring the levels could cope. The good thing about this position is that it is so close to all the integral workings of the engine that pretty much all other sounds are irrelevant. This mic only captured very slight tyre/road noise and almost no noticeable noise from other traffic.
R09 in engine bay
The second mic I placed was the D112 plugged into the H4N. I used the anchoring ring on the bottom of the car to slot the D112 through and then bind carefully with more Velcro strap. I was slightly worried about having a $300 mic attached to the bottom of the car, but after giving it a few good solid shakes I was fairly confident it wasn’t going to go anywhere. This mic captured some excellent material when the car wasn’t moving. Idling at different rpms were all clean samples with no peaking. (the D112 is designed to capture loud material) The sound from the exhaust had more bass and was throatier than the direct sound of the engine. When I started to drive though the D112 was far less effective. It has a pretty short range and because the anchor ring was about 50cm from the exhaust pipe once the car started moving and got up to speed the D112 was capturing more tyre/road noise than exhaust sound. I am going to need to find a way to mount the microphone closer to the exhaust. Admittedly the Hyundai is a fairly quiet car with very little exhaust sound, so maybe with a more sports orientated car having the mic 50cm away might not be too bad, but I would still prefer to mount it right next to the exhaust.
The other input for the H4N had the Shure sm58 attached to it, and the mic itself was mounted pointing out of the back of the boot to capture more general sound of the car as it moved. This was generally ok, but didn’t really capture anything that wasn’t covered elsewhere. Next time I will try this mic in different positions and see what I can capture. Lastly I turned on the H4 with the MKH60 attached in the boot of the car. Again this did capture some material but I think I could have made better use of a third recorder. I did later try the R09 inside the car as I was driving, and I think this would have been a better use for the H4 with maybe the NT4 mic attached. Overall I got some very good material, but I would still like to perform some more tests before I go off and record anything I cant get access to easily. I don’t want to waste an opportunity on a good sounding car while I am still sorting out the best approach to recording.
AKG D112 mounted near exhaust
Once I found a nice quiet place to park I went through all the other sounds for this particular car. I have drawn up a list that I use for recording cars that allows me to check off each component as I record it so I don’t forget anything. This is a result of when I recorded all the old Holdens last year only to get home and discover I had completely forgotten to record any of their horns. I found the D112 was excellent at recording anything with an impact. Closing the bonnet, boot or doors all captured a good clean recording. The same items recorded through the MKH60 were far too noisy as the mic is so sensitive it captured road noise from a mile away and the sound of the wind through nearby grass. The D112’s short range effectively cut off everything but the sounds I needed. It was however far less useful for quieter sound like the washer and windscreen sounds. I have various microphones exactly for the purpose of using the best one for each job, however I am also aware that if I am capturing a series of sounds from one source I should be trying to get the sound as consistent as possible. The boot and bonnet were sampled nicely through the D112, but the door sound was too quiet. Using the MKH60 sample added wind noise and the different sound of the microphone. This is something I will need to do further tests on to see if I can come up with a good compromise.
When it came to the interior sounds I used the R09, but I found later that it was quite a shrill sound in the closed environment. I think I may have had the levels up a little too much, but overall the material is a little harsh. One thing I will say is that I need to be far more patient when I am recording something like an entire car. When cut up I have over 70 sounds to add to the library once I selected the good quality material, this is something I should not expect to achieve in an hour by hammering through every aspect of the car. Its certainly worth taking my time and capturing each aspect properly. I did spend over two hours doing the recordings, but I think I could have spent even another hour making sure I positioned the mics in more locations and doubled up on everything to improve the raw material I had to work from.
I plan on having at least one more full session with a standard car before I move on to anything more worthwhile, and just iron out the last few issues I have. I’m still not sure about the exhaust location microphone, but as I said a car with more grunt is going to produce a lot of sound from the exhaust anyway so it might be ok.
Walking back from the city today we went past a building that had the noisiest garage door I have ever heard. A narrow metal roller door that screeched horribly when it was opening and closing. So I got out the R09 to capture a sample of it. I got a couple of strange looks because the door was for the garage of the Australian Federal Police building, and I guess they have pretty high security, but no one was too bothered. The sound itself was awesome, although really painful to listen to. It will be really good for anything large and metallic that needs a scraping sound. Maybe a train or ship scraping against the ground, or a gigantic metal structure collapsing. I might go back soon and try and record some more, as I really doubt they will do anything to fix it any time soon. :-)
Location Docklands Equipment Zoom H4N D112 mini tripod
I rescued a tyre the other day from a junk pile down near the piers as I wanted one for various recordings I need. I thought I’d do some tests today just to see what would be the best way to approach the recordings. I left the tyre in the apartment car park just so it would be out of the way. It's just sitting in our parking spot. So I thought this would be a good place to do the tests. The recordings themselves were ok. They showed that he D112 is a good mic to record close up impact sounds. (ie dropping a car wheel from 4 feet up two inches in front of the mic. The signals were all good and strong without peaking. However later on in the studio I could hear a lot of noise from the air-conditioning units in the car park. Even though the D112 has a short signal range the aircon was just so loud it was picked up. This is good news because it means that if I take the tyre outside away from the aircon systems I should be able to get a good quality recording without the noise. That will be a project for next week.
Location Docklands Equipment Zoom H4 Tripod Mount and Zoom H4N D112 mini tripod and R09
I finally picked up the new Zoom H4N this week, although it sat in its box for 3 days because I had no time to get it out and look at it which is really sad. It is going to take me a while to work out exactly what this thing can do but at first glance it has some very nice new features. I’m certainly not going to stop using the H4, but I expect the H4N will become my main unit fairly soon.
First big difference is that it does not have the mount with Velcro straps that the H4 has. The H4N has a screw thread directly into the body so I can attach it directly to a tripod without the old mount system. I have moved the H4 mount permanently onto the tripod and the H4N will go on the Boom pole. This will reduce the amount of messing around when I want have different set-ups. The H4N also has access to the memory card directly from the side of the unit, the H4 had access hidden in with the batteries. From a functional point of view the H4N has various different modes including one that allows for input from an external microphone as well as the two on board mics simultaneously. This could be very useful for backup tracks. I’ll add a full review of the H4N to the review section very soon.
Today I wanted to do some more water recordings, this time of water slashing on water so I went down to the wharfs again and took all my gear. I used the H4 on the tripod with the MKH 60, and the H4N on the ground with a D112 on a mini tripod as well as using the H4N mics with a fluffy wind cover. I also switched on the R09, but without a wind cover everything it captured was unusable. I then spent about 20 minutes dragging buckets of water out of the bay and throwing it back in to record the splash sounds. When I got back to the studio I found a lot of noise in these recordings. Each set-up seemed to have its own issues.
The shotgun mic was pointing out across the harbour area and was in fact picking up construction noise from about a kilometre away. The D112 was not directional enough and so was picking up as much wind as it was splashing, and the H4N mics were positioned too low to the ground to receive anything useful. So even with 6 mics I didn’t really grab anything I want to keep. I am not worried as it is very easy to record this material again, and it was also mainly a test for the new equipment, but ti is interesting to see how even with various pieces of equipment all working together you can not always guarantee a good result. I think recording at night time would be better as the area is often heavy with construction during the day. Traffic will also be less of an issue. I was a very good test and showed various issues I need to deal with.
Gear Setup at Docklands
At the same location I wanted to record some water balloons bursting. The sound of the balloons bursting with water was too quick and quite lifeless, but the popping sound when full of air was excellent. The nearby structures provided a really good reverberant echo. It sounded almost like a gunshot. So even though the sound I wanted to capture was not great I got some good sounds. I also captured the sound of one of the pontoon wharfs creaking heavily on my way back. This was probably the best sound of the day, and was completely unexpected.
I used the H4N with the D112 to record several of my sneezes when I got back to the apartment. (I have an awful cold at the moment) My sneezes have always been very loud, but it was somewhat frightening to see that a mic designed specifically to record massive output sounds struggled with my exploding head. I did get a couple of good examples, but I also got several that peaked badly. I also recorded some good domestic sounds, like brushing teeth, and lots of sniffing sounds (courtesy of my cold) I will continue to put the H4N through its paces and see what it can do.
Location Docklands Equipment R09 With H3 Hydrophone
I have wanted to do some more testing with the H3 since we moved into the Docklands area. I have never been happy with this mic as I just don’t think it ever worked properly. I thought I’d walk down to the water and try a few new things to see what I could capture. After remembering I didn’t have any 9volt batteries and going and buying one I walked down to one of the boat docks and set up. The H3 has a built in microphone pre amp with a volume control and a small plug for headphones. I attached a cable to the headphone socket and then to my R09. This is not the best quality in the world as a proper mic cable would be better, but its enough to see how it works.
The H3 has a 3 meter cable that is attached to the mic and sealed against water. This means you can lower the mic down to three meters depth. I tried a few different places on the dock, but again the sound was very crackly. The more I used the mic the worse it got until the mic pretty much died completely. I pulled it out of the water and played around with the cable, it produced a bunch of squeak and feedback sounds, some of which I was glad I was recording as they were quite interesting, but they were not what this mic is supposed to do. I am going to contact the manufacturer and talk to them about it. I would really like to have a good mic for recording underwater, but so far this one is not it. Sometimes things just don’t work the way they are supposed to. I did capture some interesting sounds, so I’ll go through and see what’s worth keeping.