Boom Pole Array
I am not someone that believes in a higher being, but if I did I would be seriously tempted to believe that this year has been put in front of me to test my patience, and I am not sure I am passing the test. I have had today on my calendar for about 8 months from the time when I found out there would be a large display of vintage cars and trucks at the race track in the town I grew up in. I never really expected to record a lot of sound at a big event like this, but I thought it would be a good chance to make some contacts and maybe get a few sounds. What we got was the highest rainfall for November in 5 years; this was 2 days after we recorded the hottest day on record for November and only a week before summer starts. Trying to hold my recording gear and an umbrella and take notes while I talked to people became a big challenge and everything ended up being soaked.
I guess I shouldn’t complain too much as I did get some good information and contacts and I did manage to record a few things, but it was so miserable, and wet and cold that it made it really hard to consider anything positive about the day. This was the first time for me using my new Rode NTG3 which I purchased last week. I didn’t even notice how it was going and forget I had installed it in the blimp cover until later in the day because I was so busy just trying to keep myself and the gear dry. I have not gone through the material yet so I have no idea how it coped with the day or how good it was. Keep an eye out for information about the NTG3 in the next few posts.
WW2 Sherman Tank
On the information side of things I have found out about a steam engine club in Melbourne that meet monthly and have their final meeting of the year next Sunday. I might try and get along to that one. Apparently they have a large selection of old steam and traction engines and plenty of things that make interesting noises which is exactly what I am after. I also grabbed the information for a few of the car and truck clubs and I plan to contact them and see if anyone would be interested in me recording their vehicle and doing a feature on it. Because recording a vehicle is such a big task to do properly I plan to do some feature articles on some of the more interesting vehicles. I spoke to some gentlemen from the military vehicles club and found out about a meeting in early December that I am going to try and get access to. Basically it’s a day spent driving tanks around a large property. If I can get permission to record at this event I am going to be very happy indeed. There where two tanks there on Sunday, but the awful weather meant they never got unloaded from their trucks. Hopefully the next meeting will be better.
What I did manage to record were a couple of nice old cars. The first one was a old Chevrolet lorry made in 1912. It was rusty and the wood was unpainted, but it ran alright and the engine sounded pretty healthy. The owner very kindly took me for a drive around the display area, so I got both idling and driving material as well as the old horn honking. It sounded so much more interesting than more modern cars. The cabin rattles and clunked because all the wood was starting to rot and the instruments mostly didn’t work. I was amazed at how well the engine was running considering the state of the rest of it. The owner must have done an excellent job of fixing it up. The second really old vehicle was a Thorneycroft lorry from about the same era. This one however had been beautifully resorted to almost pristine condition. I only captured it idling but it was still a great sound.
1926 Chevrolet Lorry
Another interesting truck was an old Mazda flat tray, but it only had one wheel at the front. It was designed to navigate narrow streets in Japan, and having lived there for a few years I can totally understand the concept behind it. Its sound was not that unusual for a vehicle of its time, but it was still good to capture some material from it. I guess this one was more interesting to look at than to listen to.
Another guy had restored an old engine and built it into a mini tractor for his kids to ride on. It was sitting on a trailer for the day, but he kindly started it up for me. It was an old “hit and miss” engine that popped and clunked away and had an awesome sound. The tractor itself was very basic but looked like it would be great fun for his kids.
Through all of this I needed to be aware of keeping my gear dry as much as possible, but it was very difficult to get into the best position to record things while juggling the boom pole and an umbrella, so often I would just put up with being wet when it was only raining lightly. The blimp cover actually does a very good job of protecting the mic inside from the rain as its fluffy cover stops most of the rain from getting through. You just need to be really careful to dry it our thoroughly afterwards. The Zoom H4N was another matter as I needed to keep it angled out of the rain and constantly wipe off any water than got onto it so it would leak inside and damage the actual circuits. Initially I was trying to keep myself dry as well, but this soon became pretty much impossible, so I just put up with being cold and wet. Not the best of days, but definitely not the worst.
Mazda 3 wheel flat bed lorry
Single hand setup
We went for a drive out to Warburton today, just to enjoy some countryside and good food. We stopped briefly at a place called The Peninsular Tunnel, which is a point where the course of a river cuts through a cliff face creating a tunnel. It was a nice area with a water hole where people could swim, and it produced a nice natural reverb as the water traveled through the tunnel. I recorded a little of this before we headed up to the Upper Yarra Reservoir. One the way back through Warburton they had a replica water wheel at the information centre so I recorded some of that as well. It was mainly just a day to relax, but it took so little effort to grab the couple of sounds that I recorded that it would have been very lazy of me not to.
The Penninsular Tunnel
Just a quick one on the way to work today. Some construction on one of the roads near Southern Cross station. There is an overpass I walk over almost evry day and they had a large machine driving concrete pylons into the ground. The overpass meant I was quite close so I used the H4N with my new wind cover to record some good material. Anna bought me a purpose built wind cover for the H4N’s built in mics. Its quite good and means I don’t have an oversized cover that falls off and looks silly. This one attaches properly to the mics and come4s in different colours. I write up a review for it soon.
Sinking concrete pylons
Boom pole array
Another early morning. Today we are flying up to Canberra for Anna’s father’s 60 birthday, I am not expecting anything specific, but it’s a day out of Melbourne so as usual I will be taking my gear with me. I have another reason to do so and that is because Anna’s father is also a sound recorder for television and he wants to check out some of my gear, so its worth taking it along. We are heading just out of Canberra on road to Yas to a little place called Hull. Its nice and quiet and will be a great place for a family get together. We arrived early so we could help out a bit, there was almost no one there when we arrived, but there were plenty of birds around so I wander4ed quietly among the trees and got some good bird sounds.
The first thing I recorded was some young miner birds. These are really common in Melbourne, but because of the amount of background noise in Melbourne I have never had the chance to get a good clean recording. Today I had a nice noisy bird low in a tree that seemed quite happy for me to get up close and most importantly there was no background noise. I also managed to get some sounds from a Plover. I don’t think its nesting season as these birds nest on the ground and are very defensive of their nests and very noisy. These ones weren’t too worried about where I walked, so I got a little bit of material, but I would have gotten a lot more if they had been territorial. There were a couple of dogs in the ar4ea as well so I collected some samples of them while I was wandering. I used the MKH60 on the boom pole for all of this. It was all pretty straight forward directional material as close as I could manage to each animal so the shotgun mic was about the best choice. I am a little upset that since I lost my Shure Beta 58A I have lost the best mic for close recording animals. It was really nice and clean whenever I was able to get up close to a noisy animal.
Next I went and played with the wood pile. There was a large pile of scrape wood behind the pavilion, mainly old broken cargo pallets. I still have a lot more metal sounds in my materials section of the library than any other section so it will be good to be able to add some more wood sounds. This stuff was all split and broken so it allowed me to snap and twist and spit it to get some very cool sounds that I don’t yet have. I spent about half an hour tossing, breaking, splitting and otherwise harassing pieces of wood. So I got an unexpectedly good amount of material from the day. I finished of with sampling a little bit of the jazz band that was playing and general party ambience sounds. Oh and the food was great
South Australia and Victoria
DPA 4061& MKH60
Single handed setup
I have to drive over 800 km today so I will be taking quite a few breaks. I plan on using a couple of those breaks to record the rest of the sounds for the Ford Focus. I quite like the sound it makes for its indicators; it’s subtle and modern without being too annoying like many internal car sounds. With the single hand setup I can jump in and out of the car easily to record the insides like electric windows, glove box hatch, gear shifts and handbrake; and then outside for doors, boot and bonnet. I record the horn both inside and outside the car that is when I remember to record the horn. I can’t believe how many times I have done car recordings and completely forgotten to record the horn. In fact now I write this I remember I didn’t record the focus’ windscreen wipers. I always seem to forget something. I guess I should start using those checklists I created to make sure I don’t forget any elements of cars recordings. I still consider myself to be learning how to record cars properly, even though I have now recorded about 5 cars. I still want to try and establish exactly the best method and the best placement for microphones before I try to record anything really impressive like a classic or high performance car. Because of this, hiring cars is really useful because I get to test out a range of different cars and get used to the issues over time.
I really need to go through my rechargeable batteries and sort out which ones are dying as I used up every last bit of power from all my batteries including any of the standard backups I keep on me. As I continued to drive home I felt uncomfortable not having any power for any of my recorders. It was like a photographer being out and about with no film in their camera. So at the next town I came to I stopped and ran into the supermarket to get some backups. I was glad I did because 10km later with the recorder primed and sitting on the seat next to me a long distance freight train speed past at full speed. I had just enough time to pull over, open the window and point the mic out the window before it zoomed past. This is why I will never travel with no batteries, even if I think I have recorded everything I came for. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful and I got home safe but totally exhausted. So much for holidays being for relaxing and resting. But I have a ton of new material with some really interesting stuff to sort through and catalogue. Best trip in ages.
DPA 4061& MKH60
Boom pole array
One of my favorite places near Adelaide is a place called Victor Harbor. It’s a seaside town about an hour south of Adelaide that is usually cool and pretty quiet. On a day likely to be over 35 degrees a cool sea breeze was a real bonus. The thing I like most about Victor Harbor is the horse tram. Just of the coast of Victor Harbor is a small island called Granite Island that has a wooden bridge that crosses from the mainland. There is a reproduction of an old horse drawn tram than crosses from the mainland over to the island that runs everyday of the year. It just has a lovely relaxed feel about it as you cross over the ocean to the island and back. For me, it was a great opportunity to record some horse walking sounds away from the city or the sports track, and get a selection of sounds as the horse walks across gravel, concrete and wood. It was also just a fantastic day to be walking near the ocean.
I attached everything to the boom pole so I could hold the mic as close to the horses feet as possible without having to constantly bend over, and it also just gave me more flexibility as I moved around. The bridge itself has a lane for the tram, where the horse walks between the tram tracks and a lane next to it for people to walk along. This meant I could walk right next to the horse without being in anyone’s way. I also could record the tram trundling along if I went to the back of it as the horse was far enough away to only be able to hear the tram.
Horse drawn Tramcar
It takes the tram about 20 minutes to cross the bridge and make its way around the island to a little café. I decided to wait on the island for the next trip to return before walking back, this gave me time to grab some scones and a chocolate milkshake. (Almost the perfect combination on a day like today) I sat outside looking at the ocean wishing every day was this good. After my feed I went down to the pier nearby and recorded the sounds of the water beneath the pier. I actually have quite a bit of ocean sounds including water under piers, but I have also discovered that if you pay attention to the ocean on different days, with different strength winds and weather conditions there are actually a lot of different ocean sounds, and I don’t have them all as yet. The pier also had some cool old rusty chains holding old car tyres to it, so I recorded some material as I jingled and clanked the chains. Walking back I collected some more horse material. I usually record a lot more material that I think I’ll need, but sorting through 40 minutes of horse hoof sounds will give me a better chance of getting some nice clean good quality samples.
In the evening I decided to grab some sounds at my brother’s place. They have a baby grand piano and I have wanted to get some samples of a grand for a while. However it has been so long since it has been tuned that I am going to have to classify all the sounds as honky tonk piano because they sound like an old piano from a western film. Good quality sounds, and I am sure someone will find them useful, but not quite the piano I was expecting to capture. The billiards table was however exactly what I expected, and I recorded a good amount of material with that. Both the piano and the billiards table I recorded with my new DP 4061 mics.
The kit I purchased has a bunch of different connectors that allow me to mount the mics in various ways. I used a boundary mic mount and a hanging mount to suspend one mic so it dangled down over the strings of the piano and the second was attached right on the lid to capture reflective sounds. In both cases I sued the H4N’s internal mics to capture stereo samples as well. This is almost standard procedure for me now. Whenever I am using the H4N it is usually in 4 track mode with the internal mics active as well. I have grabbed some excellent material using a combination of its internal mics and whatever other mics I feel are appropriate. I placed tow of the 4061 mics on either side of the billiards table and rolled and hit some of the balls around. The room was well insulated and nice and quiet so I collected some very good material. Tomorrow I drive back to Melbourne, bit I am going to have a huge amount of material to sort through and plenty of new samples to add to the library.
St Kilda Mangrove Adelaide
DPA 4061& MKH60
Oh boy I must be insane! Its 4.00am in the morning and I am up to drive just north of Adelaide to record bird sounds. Years ago I came to the St Kilda Mangrove swamp and did some recordings, but it was much later in the day and there was a lot of background noise. I thought this time I would try to do it properly. I also discovered that I forgot about the half hour time difference between Melbourne and Adelaide, so it’s actually 3.30am!! Anyway this gives me lots of time to get out there, explore and setup. Thankfully the mangroves are accessible at all hours with a trust system of payment by the front gate. (Not that I noticed this until I left because it was so dark when I arrived. But I did pay on my way out. :-) )
I originally planned to use the one hand setup with my mics and carry them around, but I quickly realized it was going to be far more practical to mount everything on the tripod. This would allow me to not only work hands free, but to walk away from the recorder and leave it running which as I have said before can be a really good idea when recording birds and animals. It also left me hands free to deal with the bloody mosquitoes because for the first hour or so before sunrise they were terrible and it drove me nuts. Once the sun was up they disappeared so that was a relief.
Sunrise over StKilda Magroves
Even before sunrise there were some birds making sounds. I setup the gear in a couple of locations and walked away from it to make the birds feel more relaxed and less likely to want to relocate. In this way I captured some good footage. Later however I was to discover that sometimes startling a bird can be useful. Just after sunrise as I was moving back through the boardwalk area I startled what I think was a cormorant, as it took to the air it made a series of grunting sounds that sounded like it was very unimpressed at being disturbed, but it did give me some sounds I would never have gotten otherwise. I don’t like to disturb animals when I record them, but this was harmless and made an otherwise quiet bird somewhat vocal.
The range of birds, and as a result bird sounds, changed as the sun rose and the morning advanced. Conveniently for me they seemed to wake up in sequence so I could often get a clean recording of one species before the next one became active. This was obviously just pure luck for this environment but it was still really good for me. After about three hours of recording around the swamp I went outside the mangrove area and recorded a couple of other birds and someone’s grumpy blue heeler dog nearby. Then I packed up and headed down to the boat ramp nearby, it was going to be a hot day and a lot of people were heading out early to do some fishing.
Boardwalk through the mangroves
I set myself up on the little floating pier near the boat ramp. I pointed the shotgun mic at the ramp and attached my hydrophone to the H4 and dropped it off the side. This way I could capture the sounds of the engines both above and below the water. I got a fair bit of material, unfortunately there were several boats all leaving at similar times so some of the engines were difficult to record cleanly, but I did manage to get a couple of good clean samples. I should find a boat ramp back in Melbourne and dedicate a morning to boat engines. There is a very big difference in sound depending on the size. I captured several different sizes from a small 25cc right up to a fairly large 150 cc motor. It was half an hour well spent and the breeze from the water was nice and cool. Today was going to get very hot. Time for some sun block I think.
Note the cable trailing into the water
When I came here several years ago I also recorded some sounds in the nearby playground. I wish there had been playgrounds like this when I was young. It was huge and had tons of really cool rides and things to climb on, over and under. So after applying some sun block I walked over to the playground. As I was walking around I noticed a mother and daughter playing on a basic carousel, it was old and a little rusty and was squeaking so the mother took her daughter to the swings, but I thought a squeaky carousel would be a good sound sample, boy was that an understatement.
The carousel itself was made of strong iron pipes with wire mesh to sit on. tI was probably ten foot in diameter and as I mentioned, it was getting old and was rusty. This meant that when it was rotated there was friction between the carousel trunk and its base, however as the rate of rotation increased the level of vibrations increased dramatically. With any other piece of equipment this would probably just produce loud scrapping or squeaking, but the carousel was a large round object with supporting beams angled down to the base. It effectively looked like a ten foot speaker cone and when it started vibrating it acted in much the same way. Once I got a some rotation speed up it started to generate noise about the same volume as a loud car engine. This was all from the vibrations being amplified by the shape of the carousel and the vibrations spreading through its structure. It even had a natural reverb effect when it stopped moving like a spring reverb in an old guitar amplifier. I spent ten to fifteen minutes just rotating this thing and recording the samples, it was one of the most amazing things I have ever played with. After a while I worked out that I could alter the pitch dependant on the rate or rotation, so I varied the speed as I was playing with it. If I could have picked the thing up and taken it home I would have, it was fantastic. (and also about a ton of steel I suspect) I think I will need to include this material under the “unusual” category of the library because I really don’t know how else to catalogue it. This has been one of the most productive recording trips I have had in ages, and I still have two days to go.