Location Monash University Australia Equipment Roland R09
I was asked to present a talk at an event this week. The Computer Games Boot Camp is a yearly event organised at Monash to give high school students the opportunity to learn about working in the games industry. I enjoyed the talk and everyone seemed to get something out of it. When the organiser asked the kids to applaud I asked them to wait while I got the R09 out and then I recorded them cheering. After that I asked them all to yell and recorded 500 odd kids screaming their heads off. That was great fun and I now have the sound for a horde of orc if I ever need it.
Location Melbourne Equipment Zoom H4N Mounted and Zoom H4 MKH60 Boom Pole Set-up
I needed some skating sounds for a pitch project I was working on and I also wanted some more skateboard material for the library. Luckily a bunch of guys at work go out pretty regularly with their skateboards at lunchtime down to the nearby skate park. I followed along to see what I could get.
I mounted the H4N on the bottom of one of the boards with some Velcro straps. It was generally ok, but meant no rail grinds for the rider. It did capture some very clear samples from the board’s trucks (wheels) it came off once and got a little scratched, but it was otherwise ok. This made me appreciate the more rugged construction of the H4N over the H4 even more. I did have an issue with placing the Velcro. I wanted it nice and tight, but I kept switching the H4N out of record mode with the strap, so I needed to move it slightly. I think this is why it fell off. After a couple of attempts I managed to get it secure so it would not fall off or switch off. I was also using the boom pole to capture extra material. At one stage I got one of the guys to go for a ride while holding the boom pole angled at the board. This got some good material over various surfaces.
Velcor is one of my main tools
Capturing grinds and jumps was a little more difficult, and we did end up faking a few extra ones by just holding the board and running it along the rails. This wasn’t because the guys couldn’t grind, it was more for safety and practicality. I needed to get as close to the board as possible to record a good sample, and that became difficult with a real grind. The last thing I wanted to do was trip anyone off their board with a boom pole.
One of the guys cracked his board on a jump which sucked, but it did mean I got the sound of him snapping it in half when we got back to the studio later on. This was a good use of time an gave the guys a reason to perform some crazy moves, not that they usually need much excuse.
I did a quick test today to see how a bike pump would generate bubbles underwater and if the sounds would be any different from the compressed air cans. The stream of air is slower and lasts for a shorter time with a bike pump, but it is good for producing a controlled stream of larger bubbles. I will have a good listen to the material recorded and work out if it is worth doing a bigger session on this.
Location Melbourne area Equipment Zoom H4N MKh60 Boom Pole and Zoom H4 D112 mini tripod H2a
Another busy day of walking and recording. I realized that even though I have recorded several vehicles and tried to make comprehensive lists of all the sounds of each vehicle I have never recorded general traffic sounds. For a current project I need some large trucks driving by as well as lots of cars passing and general traffic ambiance sounds. So I set out to position myself along some of Melbourne’s busy roads to capture some material.
First off I got completely distracted by a nearby construction site. There was a crane with a claw attachment picking up concrete pylons and dropping them into the back of a dump truck. The resulting crashes were really good, so I spend easily 20 minutes standing about 20 meters away recording as much as I could. I am always disappointed that these events are accompanied by the ever present diesel sound of the crane itself. It would be great to be able to get just the crashing sound, but considering the shear weight of the pylons that is never going to happen. The impact itself is always so loud as to cover other sounds, but the trail off of the sound will always include the sound of the crane engine.
Melbourne construction site
It amazes me how people react when they see a microphone. It doesn’t even matter if it’s switched on, or if I am obviously holding in such a manner that shows I am not recording; you always get people yelling, calling out “hi mom” or just being determined to get their voice recorded. Its no different when you put them in cars. The number of people that drove past me honking their horns as I was recording traffic was amazing. In this case however it was actually kind of useful to me as it gave a nice sense of city traffic ambience. I walked several kilometres around one of the major freeways into Melbourne and recorded cars both entering and leaving the freeway, as well as a good amount of material of cars running on the freeway.
One of the main issues I have found with recording traffic is that the dynamic range is far more that I often expect it to be. A standard car driving past dies not alter the input levels greatly, but a motorbike (especially something like a Harley) is so much louder that it risks peaking the levels. Trucks are similar as they generate a lot more sound as they pass. Its often good to capture the sounds of the trucks, but this means the cars tend to be too quiet. It becomes a bit of a game riding the levels and watching what is coming past next.
I caught a train out to where I had recorded some amazing factory sounds a few years back to find the factory was closed down and was now new apartments. This was really disappointing as this factory had some of the best sound machines I have heard and had access right on the street so recording them was easy. I had recorded them in the past with older equipment, but I wanted to get an updated recording and test my new mics. It seems to be getting harder and harder to get access to places like factories as they are all on huge estates these days with giant fences miles away from the buildings. I wont trespass so its great when I do find a place right on the street. I made the most of being right next to a train line and tested out the D112 very close to the rails as a train went past. The D112 is designed to capture loud sounds and dealt with being only a couple of feet away from the train really well. Any of my other mics would have peaked badly. The D112 just took it all in its stride. This will be a good mic to use on firearms more in the future.
After I got home and had a bit of a rest. (I have walked over 10 kilometres so far today) I did a few tests in a bucket full of water with the H2A hydrophone. I have bought a couple of cans of compressed air to generate bubbles underwater. The bucket is obviously too small and the sounds reflect of the sides very obviously. The issue with using the pool at the apartment is the water filers system makes a constant obvious hum. So a walk down to the docks was in order.
I set myself up so the hydrophone was submerged about a foot in the water, then reached down with the compressed air can and released busts of air. I did this until I had emptied the can, shifting positions so the bubbles came up under the mic, past the side of the mic, and away from the mic. Each position produced slightly different sounds. I released short and long bursts. I have since altered the pitch of some of the material and it produces really effective huge bubble sounds like a large explosive device being triggered underwater. I plan to make a whole series of underwater explosions sometime soon. I also want to do a lot more underwater recording as I am really enjoying the new opportunities the H2A is providing me with. Just one note, be careful if you are using compressed air in cans. The water itself was already pretty cold in winter, adding to that a can of air under pressure and my hand got really cold. I actually froze a couple of fingers briefly which was somewhat disconcerting.
Location Melbourne Docks Equipment Zoom H4N MKh60 Boom Pole
Footscray road is kind of interesting to walk along at night. This is a main road used mostly by commercial traffic as it runs along Melbourne’s main wharfs. There are giant dock cranes and hundred of shipping containers all along the road. There are also dozens of trucks constantly driving along the road which is why I was here. Well actually I was here because I was going for a walk with my wife, but knowing there would be dozens of trucks I carried my gear with me to record a couple as they went by. Semi trailers make quite a lot of noise when they start up and stop, but when they are actually driving by they can be fairly quiet sometimes. Walking 5 kilometres along the road and back provided heaps of opportunities to record several trucks at various speeds, as well as a couple manoeuvring into the market areas opposite the docks. This meant I captured some good thumps sounds as the trailers drove over the gutters. It was good to be able to capture pretty much everything I needed in a short period of time while also being able to do some good exercise.
Location Kilsyth Melbourne Equipment Zoom H4N D112 & Beta 58A and Zoom H4 MKh60 Tripod mount
This is the first big recording session I have done for a while. Full time work and all the documentation for Sound Library has kept me away from major recording trips for a while, but I do have some good sessions planned over the next few weeks so things should pick up again. Today I went to a car wreckers in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, just at the foot of the Dandenongs mountain range. The guys at Pick a Part were really helpful and let me wander around and record some busted old cars. The set-up down there is perfect for what I do as all the cars are neatly laid out to allow people to go in and find the car they need and remove the parts they want, so its all very organised. This allowed me to go through and find the specific things I was after. I wanted cars that were already heavily damaged, so if I bashed on any of the panels I would not be damaging anything useful to the wreckers, but also because already damaged panels rattle and squeak better than new panels. I spent three hours moving around the yard sampling various sounds.
A sound recordists paradise
With the new equipment it is easier for me to record with a range of mics and I am finding this is giving me far more options with the material I end up with. I need to sort things out a little to make it easier to work this, but using the H4N with both two mic inputs and its own internal microphones working is proving to be really effective. I attach my AKG D112 to one channel to capture any high power sounds as well as good low end material, and to the second input I attach the Shure beta 58A which is a straight forward good workhorse mic. The differences in sound colour from the two mics are noticeable on most recordings. I have also found the H4N’s own mics are actually pretty good. I need to be careful to protect them from wind noise, but once that’s taken care of they have been giving me some good sample material. Lastly I have the older H4 running my MKH60 shotgun mic. Its my old reliable mic, but I have found that often one of the other mics gives me a sample that I would prefer to use.
With the range of samples I captured from today I am going to experiment with making mix blends of the different mic samples to create a new version of the sound that uses the best elements of each of the mic versions. By mixing them together I can hopefully capture the fuller low end frequencies of the D112 with some of the crisper high end material from the MKH60 and 58A. It will be different every time I record, but having a general understanding of each mics strengths should help me to create better mixes for any situation.
Using multiple microphones
The D112 was great for loud crashes and bangs, but struggled a little with something more subtle like bouncing a tyre up and down on the road. This makes it a good complement for the MKH60 as it sometimes struggles with the higher level sounds and can max out if its placed too close to the source. The other advantage of having small portable units like the H4 series is it was very easy for me to place the unit and mics inside areas like car boots, or between panels and then beat on the outside of the panels to capture the sound. This way I can have a microphone outside and inside simultaneously to provide more options of raw material.
The removed doors make for good impact sounds
I may right up a small section on how I go with creating mix blends of some of the material from today’s recording session. I will still archive the multiple mic samples so I have them all, but I don’t think I will include all of these in the library. I think having several versions of each sound to cover various types of microphone and its position is being a little excessive, even for this library.
Continuing to test some of the possibilities of what I can do with the hydrophone before I get into planning a proper session with it, I thought I’d try a couple more ideas. (I am also waiting for the weather to not be so bloody cold as one of the ideas involves me being in the pool) I purchased an air horn a while back to record some sounds for sports fans or whatever making noise, and I decided to see what this would sound like if I set it off underwater. I just submerged my arm with the air horn as I am not going swimming on a day like today. The sound was unbelievable. I was expecting some general bubbles from the compressed air inside the can but because of the horn attachment the air created a specific pitch, however it also instantly created bubbles which rose to the surface. The end result is a very strange series of tones that instantly pitch up, sounding slightly like lots of laser blast sounds. No idea what they can be used for but it was a cool effect.
From this result I am going to buy a variety of compressed air sources and record various sounds underwater. I want to capture the sound of large bubbles being generated underwater as this is the core sound I would need to create an underwater explosion or volcano sound, but in general I want to see how many different sounds I can capture underwater and how different they sound. I think the next step will be to fill the bathtub and see if the sounds generated in there are much different to in the pool. Sadly when I put the microphone in our fish pond I did hear anything, I was hoping the fish might have been having a conversation at the time, but no such luck.
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.