News Years Eve at Docklands means lots of people and lots of fireworks, so it was a great way to see out the year with some friends and an easy way to grab a few final sounds for the year. We could see the fireworks from our apartment so I thought I may as well switch on the recording gear to get samples of all the party people and the fireworks. It was a good display that will hopefully give me some good sounds when I cut them all up.
It’s been a really busy and hectic year but also incredibly enjoyable both professionally and personally. I am really looking forward to 2009 and finally getting Free to Air up and running as well as recording some great new sounds. I have plans to go down to the Bellarine Peninsula Railway to record a bunch of Steam trains as well as going along to the Avalon Air show and see if I can expand on my range of aircraft samples. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 2009.
Location Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, Victoria Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array and Roland R09 Handheld
Time for a road trip! There have been quite a few sounds I have had on the list for a while that I have wanted to collect and a few sounds that would be useful for the Australian sound exhibit I am playing with. A trip to Ballarat and Sovereign Hill was something I’d wanted to do for a while. I knew they had horse drawn carriages and some mining machinery there as well as other sounds that would be worth grabbing. When we arrived it seemed far quieter than I remembered. (Yeah ok so it’s probably been over 10 years since I’d been there but still.), apart from LOTS of people including noisy children, initially there didn’t seem to be too much going on.I remembered they had giant noisy rock crushing machines and all sorts of stuff that didn’t seem to be operating. Anyway we started to have a look around and check out the different areas. Anna had never been to Sovereign Hill so she was enjoying doing stuff like panning for gold and generally wandering around.
Sovereign Hill Metal Turning
We did find a few period machines running and had a chat to an old guy that worked there, he told us that the crushing machines would soon be starting up and that there was a display with guys firing old muskets, so the day was starting to look up and get noisier.
We went for a ride on the stagecoach and I got to sit up front where I could record both the horses and the wagon moving, then we went across and got to record a whole series of period steam engines and the crushers. The different machine had an awesome selection of different operating sounds and I recorded a heap of material. The more we explored the more interesting sounds I discovered. In fact this has been one of the most useful and varied recording days I’ve had in a long time. 5 hours of walking around was well worth it for all the material it provided.
Horse Drawn Wagon
One thing that was noteworthy for today is a technical issue that I had to deal with. I had a problem a few weeks back when the main cable from the mic to the F4 started to play up and cut out. I did get it repaired a couple of weeks ago (supposedly) but it started to play up again a few days ago. I rang my usual suppler before we headed out today to try and get a replacement to find they were shut for the Christmas break. I did manage to rig something up to allow me to keep working today, but it did sacrifice the normal backup track I usually have so it wasn’t an ideal situation. I also found by the end of the day that I had almost drained all the batteries I had with me. Now while I could easily have bought some more as both my units run on normal AA batteries the point was that I had plenty more at home and should have brought them along. I also should really have a backup cable at home because if a cable is EVER going to break it will be in the middle of the night when all the shops are closed just before the alien invasion fleet arrives and you miss out on recording any of it. Obviously you can’t have two of everything unless you have a huge budget to play with, but for the obvious things that are prone to wear and tear like cables it’s a pretty good idea to be packing a spare. I think in general its going to be a good habit to make sure whenever I am going out I have an empty memory card, plenty of batteries and anything else I might need should I find myself recording so many good sounds that I am kept busy all day.
Location Docklands Melbourne Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array I finally had enough time to get down to the gym at the apartment and record some of the equipment down there. I had already done a proper workout and run today so I didn’t feel like pushing it too much; however I did get running on the treadmill at various different speeds up to 15KPH. I then did a short stint on the cross trainer, the rowing machine and the exercise bike, although I do have say the exercise bike made almost no sound. I did a few reps on some of the weights machines but I may need to go back and record some more. I didn’t feel like I got good enough material out of them.
Apartment building gym
The advantage of having a sound source location right next door means I can be really picky with the material I record and go back and do it again if I don’t like it. It also means I can experiment a little and see what I can learn about recording particular groups of machinery. Hopefully I can learn what there is to be learned in an environment I can make use of again and again. I wish I had such access to firearms and fighter plane sound sources. Typically it’s the sounds you have infrequent and limited access to that prove to be the hardest to sample cleanly.
I guess the Police were chasing someone or attending a major accident nearby as the Police helicopter spent around 20 minutes circling around the docklands very close to our apartment. After about 5 minutes of this I realized they were here to stay for at least a few minutes and definitely close enough to warrant going out on the balcony with my gear.
The interesting thing about recording a flying vehicle around tall buildings is that it can often be hard to tell exactly where the vehicle is. The sounds of the helicopter reflected of the buildings a lot and often gave the impression it was coming from the opposite direction. I managed to capture a good two minutes worth of constant hovering at a distance and a couple of nice flyby samples. I would like to try and record a close up idle or hover sound sometime in the future, but I was surprised at how much material I captured tonight. I still don’t know what they were doing and I didn’t hear any other sirens in the area so if there were police ground vehicles then they were keeping quiet.
It did occur to me to run down outside and try to get closer, but one of the advantages of being on the balcony was that I was away from any traffic noise, so the advantage of getting closer to the helicopter could well have been mitigated by having traffic noise contaminate the samples. As it is I got some nice clean (if slightly distant) helicopter sounds from a model I have not yet recorded. (I’ll need to look up what model helicopter the Victorian Police use)
Location Telstra Dome Melbourne Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array and Roland R09 Handheld
A Melbourne Soccer Club vs Sydney Soccer Club match seems to be a game of old rivals and 25000 people made their way in to Telstra Dome to see the game played out. Considering I still need some more sports crowd sounds and that the match was a five minute walk from home I though I’d go along and see what all the fuss was about. I arrived just before half time and Sydney was leading 2 goals to 1. The Melbourne crowd was a little subdued accept for the Melbourne Cheer squad who alternated between abusive chants at the Sydney fans and abusive chants at the police. It seems they have been taking lessons from the English soccer fans J.
I got some good general ambience and found that soccer crowds BOO much more than rugby crowds do, so I got some good material there. When Melbourne finally scored an equalizer half way into the second half the crowd went wild and all my levels maxed out.
This sort of location is really difficult to predict. 25000 people provide a good general level of hum when they are talking and watching a game, but when someone scores the leap in levels is like sticking your head in backwash of a fighter plane engine. Its sooo bloody loud. The cheering and clapping continued for at least 30 seconds, but it was the initial roar that I really wanted to capture. I set the levels on the R09 to the lowest possible level, and cranked the F4 down heaps as well. This of course meant that all the intervening ambience was really soft, but it was the cheer events that were the most important to capture. (I’m starting to think I need to buy a second Zoom F4 J ).
Towards the end of the game Melbourne scored a third goal putting them into the lead. The crowd naturally went wild again and I was monitoring my levels through all of this. I think the F4 managed to capture some good material without peaking, but the poor old R09 even on its lowest input setting just couldn’t cope. The actual samples might be usable as a crowd cheer is basically white noise so a little peaking may not be too badly distorted, but its little inbuilt mics were just not designed for the level of sound it was trying to cope with.
I am planning to go to a one day cricket match in a couple of weeks for one last round of crowd recordings and I might see if I can rig something up that can cope with the high levels better. Overall it was a pretty good session and I now have a collection of crowd chants expressing their true feelings towards Victoria’s Police Force. (Although I have no idea what I’d use them for.)
Tonight we went to the grand opening of the Southern Star, supposedly Melbourne's top new attraction. Its a giant Ferris wheel essentially, although I believe they prefer to be called an observation wheel. So far the thing is two years late in its construction and apparently $100 million over budget. It also seems to be located in a strange place for an observation wheel as mostly you would be looking at our commercial dock areas from the top. I guess someone thought Melbourne needed it so it got built.
The brief period that the wheel worked
The grand opening had some music and a speech and some fireworks, but there weren't really very many people there, almost as if everyone was over it before it even opened. In the following few days of operation it barely seemed to re4ach half its capacity for passengers. I waited until after the actual opening to record the drive system as I wanted to record it on a day when there were not too many people around. That proved to be a lot easier than I was expecting as most days it seemed mostly abandoned. The wheel itself is driven by rotating wheels at the bottom and I was surprised at how quiet it was considering it was pretty big and must weigh a fair bit. It really just sounded like a small electric engine.
Less than two months after opening the wheel shut again as there was some major design and construction fault with the thing. It now seems it is going to be a further two years to disassemble, fix and rebuild the thing. I personally am not sure if it is worth the effort when even at the height of tourist season it looked like it was struggling, but I have never claimed to understand how businesses make their decisions. I'm just glad I recorded it when I did.
I have decided to start the process of creating a large number of “sweetener” sounds. Most of these are not things that can be recorded in the usual way I work, but will need to be constructed to suit. I do plan on having a fairly large section of constructed sounds so it’s a good start to that and I can start to schedule in regular sessions of sound creation as well as recording and cataloging.The sweetener category will consist of a series of sounds that can be very useful as building blocks or sub elements in sound design. Sweeps, hits and low frequency booms will be the first elements I will start to create, and as I find a need or think of other elements I will add them as I create them. With a lot of the material in Sound Library these sounds are designed to be small core sounds that anyone can use to create larger more complex sound events. I will add some tutorials with suggested ways of using these elements, but it is really only limited by peoples imaginations.
So what do you do when the fire alarm goes off at work and everyone has to evacuate the building? Record the alarm of course! What was otherwise a usual day in the studio became a brief opportunity to grab a new sound as we had the fire alarm activate in the building forcing a full evacuation. I took the opportunity to record the alarm as we made our way out. This also reminded me that being in a new work environment meant I had a whole new range of sounds I will need to get around to recording sometime soon.
A new apartment is a new opportunity to find new sounds to record. One of the best things about our new location is that the Docklands area tends to be very windy a lot of the time. While this will be terrible for recording most things outside it’s going to be great for recording wind samples. Our apartment gets a really cool whistling wind sound under the front door every time it’s windy. I certainly doesn’t attest very well to the quality of construction of the buildings down here, but it’s a great source of spooky wind sounds.
I will need to explore around the building and see if there are different wind noises in other locations. I also need to get down to the gym and record the treadmills and exercise bikes. Considering hardly anyone else uses the gym this will be a great chance to get some nice clean recordings.