Location Yandina Queensland and Gold Coast Queensland (yes that's a 600km round trip) Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array And Roland R09 and Sony TCD-D10 DAT with Shure SM58 Beta and AKG D112 microphones
As I usually update the journal a few days after the event I can write here that the next few entries were some of the best fun I have had in ages. I spent a very busy weekend and did quite a lot of driving, but the material I got to record was well worth the effort. Firstly I had organized today to go out to the North Arm Rifle Club in Yandina to record some rifles being fired. I have for a long time wanted to add some firearms sounds to the library. I think its an important section to include in a sound library these days as so many games and film and TV use gun sounds. Also I knew there were going to be new challenges to overcome in recording firearms. The folk at North Arm had very kindly organised to bring along an old 1930 .303 rifle. This was the main weapon used in World War two by Australian soldiers and as such is an important part of our history. I plan on using the sound of the 303 in another project I am working on of important Australian sounds.
Australian 303 MK1 1942 Rifle
I wanted to be as prepared as possible for today, and having never recorded firearms I wanted to cover my bases as much as possible. I pulled my old portable DAT recorder out of the cupboard as I wanted to get as many microphones running as possible. I set up the DAT with a different mic going into each channel. I had a Shure SM 58 Beta up on a standard microphone stand behind the firing area, and an AKG D112 on a desktop tripod sitting basically in front of the muzzle of the rifles. The D112 is designed pretty much for bass drums and so can deal well with high sound pressure levels and has a fast reaction time. The Shure was simply to have another mic on sight. I also positioned the R09 on the ground but I had it much further back from the D112. The R09 was set to the absolute lowest input level that it could still receive a signal on. (Even with this it maxed out quite a lot) Finally I held the Boom pole with the MKH 60 on it and moved around as needed. I constantly switched the input level switches between high and low to capture as much as possible. When the rifle was being loaded or unloaded I increased the gain to capture as much material as possible. Whenever the weapon was fired I would switch the levels to minimum to avoid maxing out the signal. It was a little tricky at times to get this all coordinated and have the mic in the best position. Also I had to have both ear plugs in and my headphones on (and set to zero) to protect my ears, so I couldn’t really monitor much of what was going in.
Generally the D112 handled everything well. The Shure picked up most firing sounds, but they are distant and lack much range. (This is totally understandable for this mic, but all the material will be kept and may be useful later for mixing) The R09 peaked out very badly initially as it was too close and the built in mics just couldn’t respond fast enough or cope with the SPL levels. It did however do a very good job of capturing the echo of the round going downrange. At the time of writing this I am still downloading the Zoom F4 material so I don’t actually know yet how the MKH60 coped.
Overall I got some good material on the range and I am sure when its all edited down there will be some good samples to add to the library.
WC Rugby NewZealand vs Papua New Guinea
Following the range recording I packed everything up and drove about 250KM to the Gold Coast to a brand new sports arena called Skilled Park for the World Cup Rugby game between New Zealand and Papua and New Guinea. I have never been to a rugby game, but it was a good opportunity to record large crowd sounds and to capture the ambiance of a big sporting event. I recorded close to an hour of footage of general crowd ambiance as well as cheers, boos and other audience sounds. The best sample was when PnG scored their first try in the second half. The crowd reacted as though they had just won the premiership, it was a really exciting moment in the game and the energy of that moment was well captured in the recording.
Today was not about recording new sounds, but about identifying previously recorded ones. I rode my pushbike down to the Environment Centre in Noosa to meet some people from the Noosa Parks Association Bird Observers group who very kindly offered to help me identify some of the birds I have been recording. We spent about an hour going through most of my recorded bird sounds as the members sat around listening and trying to identify what bird they were listening to. We didn’t manage to work out what all of them were, but many of them now have correct labels which I feel much better about. I really want to have as accurate a labeling system as possible. Getting the Japanese birds identified is going to be a little tricky I think.
Location Noosa Heads Queensland Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array Well we now know that we will be shortly moving back to Melbourne. We both have new jobs to start which are going to be very interesting, but it does mean our time up here is very limited, so I want to start getting as much material as possible up here before we leave. With that in mind I thought I would go out and do some more local area stuff. Just grabbing anything of interest in the immediate area. I started by walking down to the local service station. I recorded some people filling up their cars with petrol and then went around to the garage area and recorded a little bit of the sounds there. I got a few sounds from the pneumatic wrench they use to get wheels on and off with as well as the hydraulic hoists operating.
Then I walked down through the junction area I stopped by the cinema and recorded a pinball machine and a couple of kids playing air hockey. The pinball was ok, but it was a modern machine. I really want to make sure I can get to record a nice old pinball machine from the 60’s or 70’s. They have far more character to their sounds.I also recorded the automatic sliding doors while I was there. This was a great location to get these as during the day it was really quiet where most supermarkets or shopping centres tend to be much noisier.
Location Noosa Queensland Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array And Roland R09 Handheld
Today I got some help from the lovely people at Noosa Springs Country Club. Not only did they allow me to come and record some sounds, but they even allowed one of their touring Pros to hit some balls for me. This is definitely the best way to record gold sounds, having someone who really knows how to play hitting the ball for you. Its been probably 15 years since I hit a golf ball, and I was never any good at it, by comparison Dan was hitting like a champ and the resulting sounds were great. The course itself was nice and it was a fantastic day to be outdoors. I managed to get most of what I think you’d expect from a golf course. Hitting balls with irons and woods both off the ground and off tees, as well as miss hits, practice swings, chips and putting. Dan even suggested recording the sound of a golf ball hitting a palm tree. So that’s another sport with some representation in the catalogue. Several hundred sports still to go.
Noosa Springs Golf Club
The Sounds themselves were fairly straight forward to capture. A drive with a golf ball is pretty loud so I placed the mics back a bit. The new metal drivers have a very distinctive high frequency ping to them when they make contact with the ball. For less powerful shots and putting I got in nice and close to get as clear a sound as possible. Golf courses are often pretty quiet which makes it easier to get clean samples. I wish all my sports recordings would be this easy.
I continued to work my way through some domestic sounds in the house today. Mainly kitchen stuff. Opening bottles and jars as well as the contents of various kitchen drawers made up most of the material today. Domestic sounds cover quite a large range so it will be an ongoing process to fill that section of the library, not to mention all the domestic kitchen appliances.
Location Noosa Heads Queensland Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array I thought I’d have another domestic day today. There are heaps of things around the average house that generate sound and I always find myself putting off recording them because I think “they’ll be there tomorrow” the obvious problem with that is sooner or later you need to get around to actually recording them. So today I went around all the drawers and doors as well as some of the electrical devices. There are still a lot to do, but it was a good start. I also recorded the sound of walking in thongs (flip flops for those of you not Australian. Yes we wear thongs on our feet! :-) ) These were another good inclusion for the footsteps category, but also a very important inclusion for the list of Australian sounds I am trying to compile for a possible exhibit. While thongs may not be unique to Australia, they are a very Australian sound. In most coastal areas for the last fifty years you could hear the sound of people in thongs. (Apparently invented by a guy in New Zealand in the late 40’s or 50’s.)
After reading back on one of my audio books I decided it might be a good idea to include a “do it yourself” hearing test in the sound library. To that end I have created the following.
Three sound files, one in stereo, one that plays only to the right ear and one that plays only to the left ear. Each file progresses through a series of progressively higher frequencies. As a listener you can listen to each sound file as it plays and check your hearing. The files are constructed as follows.
Each frequency plays for a period of two seconds and then continues directly to the next frequency with no gap. The frequency progression is.
All the signals are a sine wave generated at -12Db. Of course it can be played louder or softer depending on what your volume settings are when played. Do not play the file too loudly and do not adjust the volume level once you start.
Personally I find I can hear up to 15KHz just. Anything higher I can not make out. Also I find the 2.5 KHz signal almost painfully loud at -12Db but all the other sounds fairly comfortable.
Well it seems the best place to record skateboards is at a skate ramp, well duh!
I decided I wanted to add a few more samples to the sports category and realized I hadn’t even added cricket or football yet, but I guess only being back in Australia for 2 months excuses that a little. While I am trying to hunt down a local cricket club, I did think it would be easy to get some skate boards at the nearest skate ramp.
A Wednesday day time proved to be pretty good. There were not too many people there as school holidays just finished. This meant I could get some good samples without too much talking in the background. I recorded a few people doing some moves and one girl in particular stood out. She had great control over the board and was doing plenty of tricks and stunts. I asked if she minded me recording her and she was cool with it. After a few more stunts I asked her if she was able to skate while holding something. She seemed to think she was up for it, so I handed her the mic setup and told her to go for it. I got some really good material from the point of view of the skater which was very cool, and much easier than me spending 5 years learning to skate half as well.
Coolum Skate Park
I also got some wave sounds down on the beach. A bit of material with waves crashing on rocks. They were pretty calm so I am going to need to get down to the coast sometime when there is a storm on and try and get some really big waves crashing.
Today was the kind of recording opportunity I wish I hadn’t had. Late last night several bushfires started in the area. For anyone who does not know Australia very well, bushfires are probably the biggest threat to life and property over the summer months in Australia. They can be very serious and very dangerous. In this case they were also close enough that it only took me 10 minutes to walk to where they were being dealt with by the fire and rescue services.
I watched for nearly two hours as, initially two and then later three, helicopters water bombed the flames constantly. Even with the combined effort of the helicopters the fire front advanced over about half a kilometre in that time. The area was such that fire trucks couldn’t access it and so were waiting on a nearby road to intercept it. During this time I recorded a lot of material as the helicopters made numerous passes dumping water. The helicopters would then fly over to the river and hover and reload via a hose that dangled below the vehicle. They were able to reload and return to the fire front in under five minutes which was quite impressive.
Helicopter Water Drop
As much as I would have loved to record the flames more closely I have far too good an understanding of how bloody dangerous a fire front is, especially when it’s a hot dry day and in this case we also had a very strong wind. A single wind change in these conditions can send the fire off in a totally new direction in seconds. I waited on the road with the fire crews for the front to get closer and managed to sample a bit of the sound of the flames before they asked non fire personnel to move back.. At this stage myself and the news crews on the scene withdrew. The amount of damage caused in one morning as the fire moved through the national park areas was quite depressing, what was more depressing was that apparently it had been deliberately lit by some school kids. I wonder if I can get a recording of them being strung up by their toes!
Location Noosa Queensland Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array One of the things I really need to learn is, not to keep putting off recording the things that are right in my immediate environment. I kept doing that in Japan thinking “it’s ok, I can record those any day” of course “any day” never comes around and you end up forgetting to record the things which were the easiest to record and really should have been the first things I did.
So to that end I spent some time around the house recording the three sets of wind chimes (it was the perfect day for it with a constant gentle breeze), some large cow bells, and the ceiling fans which proved to be far more interesting than I was expecting. Positioning the microphone in different positions relative to the fans generated a range of different sounds. Positioning below, above and side on to the blades as they rotate all produced different sounds. Some of them were a lot closer to a helicopter rotor sound than I would have expected. This has become a bit of a useful lesson. Never assume a sound being generated will sound the same for every position. Take the time to move around the object generating the sound and see how it changes. This was also very apparent with recording the old Holden cars. The Idle sound coming from the rear near the exhaust was very different from recording at the sides, and then different again from recording at the front.
I am still working on recording the cat Oscar. Oscar is a very large muscular Burmese cat. He has a fairly wide range of cat sounds, most of which he produces when you least want him to, like at 4am. However anytime I go near him with the recording equipment I can barely get a squeak or a purr out of him. I am however determined to get a good range of sounds out of him sooner or later.