I am really enjoying collecting aircraft sounds and I think I am going to make that my next library collection to publish on DVD. I am extremely lucky in Melbourne to have access to some fantastic old aircraft and I am going to make full use of it while I am here. Not only are they really good sounds to include in a library they have to be one of my favourite things to record. So I went down to Point Cook as I knew there would be an old aircraft flying today and was lucky enough to find that a second old plane was flying in with some students to view the display. I had turned up early to increase my chances of getting some good material and that just proved to be a very good decision.
The first plane to come in was a fantastic Douglas DC3 built in 1945. This plane is pretty well known in Melbourne and it was great to see it up close. I love the sound from a twin engine propeller plane and this is one of the best examples in the world of a well known passenger aircraft. The DC3 taxied in and stopped right in front of me before shutting down so I got some good material. I was also aware that it would be leaving in a couple of hours so it was well worth waiting to get it taking off as well.
Next to arrive was a 1943 Harvard. I knew very little about this aircraft before I went to the Tyabb air-show, but it is quickly becoming a favourite as they have a great sound when they take off and manoeuvre. Its not a big plane but it has a pretty grunty engine. I had to make sure I set my levels to get a good signal but leave a bit of room so if it moved closer or revved its engines I wouldn't max out my recording levels. I set- up one of my shotgun mics on the tripod and used the other on the boom pole to give me better flexibility. There were some noisy kids watching the display so I couldn't cleanly capture all o the sounds but I still managed to get some good material. I am going to make a habit of coming down here and getting as much material as possible
What do you do on a beautifully sunny day when you really need to record some new source material but you also want to try and get some exercise. Simple, you combine everything you need to do and do it all at once. So, I strapped the two DPA 4061 mics to my bike, one near the front derailer and one above the rear derailer. I ran the cables along the frame and put the Zoom H4N into a carry pouch I have mounted on my handlebars. This was a nice secure set-up and meant i could ride easily without having to worry about the equipment at all.
The regular bike path I ride along has a variety of different surfaces as well as plenty of hills so I knew I would get a good range of sounds. I was surprised to find that I actually got some wind noise through the microphones. I think some of it was from my leg moving past the front mounted mic. It wasn't that my leg was moving that fast or creating much wind, I think it was just that it was moving past the microphone very close. There was a little wind when I went down steeper hills as well. I think this is because a bike has such a simple frame that the wind travels past it differently from a car. I have mounted these mics on a car travelling up to 100 Kph with no wind, so obviously the wind movement past the car differed greatly to that of the bike. Overall it was good to get some exersize in the sun and record some useful sounds as well.
I needed to record some sounds at home today as well as work on an article I am writing, so I planned to get some recording done inside and then go for a short walk and see what was going on locally. There has been a lot of construction work in our area lately and as much as I hate waking up to it, it does provide a good opportunity to capture some new material. Firstly I recorded some water drip sounds inside. This is actually more difficult than it might sound. To capture a good neutral water drip sound, you need a room with no natural reverb, so a bathroom or laundry is not very suitable. A lounge room is probably the deadest space to record in, but then dripping water in the lounge room has its own issues. I eventually set-up a large bucket with several mics around it and worked from there. I did get some suitable material but it took some experimenting.
The walk outside proved to be far more fruitful than I imagined. There is a new apartment building being built right next door so there was plenty of construction machinery making lots of noise. I started with a young guy digging holes with a jack hammer. I was surprised at how many different sounds a jack hammer could produce. He would start by hammering through the bitumen which produced a harsh sharp impact sound, then he proceeded to dig a post hole into the dirt which was a completely different sound. Depending on the angle and speed at which he moved the tool, the sound would vary quite a bit. I was amazed however to see the guy wasn't wearing any hearing protection. Doing this job every day this guy is going to be deaf in less than a year at this rate.
Of course to power a jack hammer, you need a generator, so I recorded that as well. I captured samples from two different positions. The sound of the generator from its exhaust was quite different from lower down near its cooling fan. I have found that its worth moving around most mechanical devices as they produce different sounds depending on where you are positioned. Next I captured a waste removal truck that was parked nearby. It was just being used to pump something smelly out of the gutters, but it also produced a different sound from different positions.
It was actually really windy outside, but because all the sounds I was recording were of fairly loud construction machines the wind was not very noticeable. One exception was through the palm trees they have planted in the area. I have recorded wind sound sa few times, but this is the strongest wind through trees I have heard, so I tried to capture some of the sound with both the shotgun mic and the mics built in to the H4N. Unfortunately the stereo mics on the H4N didn't have enough protection for the strong wind and the samples were unusable. But I did get a fairly good sample from the shotgun mic.
I captured a surprising number of good sounds today without moving more than 500 meters from my front door. Good when you want to record sounds, but this area currently feels like a construction site all the time, which is not so good for living.
I had noticed about a week ago that the sheets of plastic that were being used as temporary roofing at Southern Cross Station made a lot of noise when there was strong wind. Essentially they have replaced all the glass sections of the roof that collapsed under the big storm with giant rolls of plastic. As that part of the city is very windy it spends a lot of the time flapping and blowing in the wind, and in extreme winds it sounds really interesting. I had tried a couple of times to record this, but they were at times when the station was pretty busy so there were a lot of other noises to contend with.
A growing wind storm on a Sunday evening however proved to be a good time to capture some sounds. Our public transport system here in Melbourne is pretty ordinary, and on Sundays the trains are up to an hour apart; terrible if you want to go anywhere, but very convenient if you want to record a quiet station.
What I did find unusual this evening was how quiet people were. I set up at the top of one of the platforms and extended the boom pole as high as possible. I wanted to get as close to the plastic as possible to get a good recording and also to reduce all the other noises around. Normally when I go anywhere with the gear people tend to yell, ask if I am shooting TV or want to say hello to their mum, but tonight just about everyone walked past really quietly, I even had some people stand back and wait for a while as if they didn't want to make any extra noise. This was really great but it was also very unusual as people often either don't notice me, or as I said, purposefully make more noise.
I was very patient as there were still trains and station announcements, so I stood completely still for about 20 minutes while I recorded. Overall I got some good samples. I am not really sure what I am going to do with the sounds. They do have a quality a little like thunder, so maybe I can find some interesting uses for them. Either way they will get added to the library and perhaps someone else can think of something interesting to use them for.
Today is my first day out of full time employment and being able to concentrate on building Sound Library as much as possible. There are still a few regularly available sounds I want to capture around Melbourne and its suburban area. I have already collected a few train and tram sounds, but I have never done a thorough list of everything available, so i am going to work to collect a comprehensive list. I started the day at our major train station which is also a convenient 10 minute walk from home.
After about 30 minutes I had collected a fair amount of general station ambience as well as a few specific train sounds and some shunting noises. I am going to come back soon to capture some more and I will probably spend a day on various trains capturing interior travel sounds as well. Next I moved on to one of our trams as I wanted to record some tram sounds as well, but I also wanted to travel down to the beach to record some various wave sounds. We have about four different models of trams that run on the Melbourne network so today was a good day to capture some of those, but again I'll need some more time to get the whole set.
We have a unique system here called light rail which is using old train lines to run trams along. This isolates the tram from normal roads and allows them to run a little faster and is cheaper than running full trains along those lines. Its also a great place to record some tram sounds away from noisy traffic.
Once I made my way to the end of StKilda pier I set myself up on the rocks and captured some material of the waves on the rocks. It was a very calm day so I have some good material for mild wave movement. I expect some day I am going to have to come down here in a big storm and record some bigger waves, although I'm not really looking forward to that. After the rocks I made my way along the pier and stumbled across some divers scrapping the pier pylons as part of general maintenance. Its not everyday I get to record people welding shovels underwater, so I through the hydrophone into the sea and captured some interesting material. The divers were a little unsure what I was up to and one of them almost cut my mic cable thinking it was a rope snag, but it was all good. Next I headed down to the beach to record some gentle waves on the sand.
I am very close to finishing the work on the library and we should be uploading all the sounds in the next week. I don't really like spending all weekend indoors at the computer but this weekend it turned out to be a good thing anyway.
Melbourne had one of its typical summer storms, lots of thunder, lightning and rain, except this time it was lots and lots of hail. I haven't seen a storm like this in years, and I suspect the damage bill afterwards is going to be pretty big. From the apartment the sky turned white, and I could barely see the apartment building that was 200 meters away. The sound was great and I very quickly had all my microphones lined up pointing out the balcony door. Hail has a much heavier sound to it that rain for obvious reasons, so it was great to record so much material.
Even after the hail and turned to rain and mostly stopped I left my gear recording as there was some good water dripping sounds and still water flowing from the drainpipes which I thought was good to capture. I'm really glad I did to because there were some massive thunder claps after most of the storm had finished. Good thunder is hard to capture and I have been really lucky over the last year to get some very good samples.
There are some things I think you would only ever see in Australia, and some only ever in Melbourne. We were out at the Docklands showing Anna's Aunt and Uncle around as they were visitng on holiday so we thought we could have lunch nice and close to home and show them the new areas. As always I was carry a recorder (today it was the H4N) In the public events area there were a bunch of people doing some celebration dances for Chinese new year. This meant we got to stop for a while and watch the dance I managed to record the drums and cymbals they play with the dragons. I have recorded Chinese new yeararade music before, but there are lots of different rhythm patterns and variants so it was good to capture a new one. The dancers were good and it was nice and colorful which is one of the things I love about Chinese new year.
Chinese dragons are not that unusual in Melbourne, we have a big Chinese community and around new years time there are lots of shows on and I think they are a popular and important part of the city, however when you combine them with Morris dancers only about 100 meters away then you have something that doesnt occur in many places.
We arrived at the bar resteraunt we were heading to, only to find a group of morris dancers outside the pub drinking and practising their dances. They had bells strapped to their legs and canes and a couple of people with old accordians. They jumped and pranced about to music that sounded very appropriate for your local pirate party. I set my recorded on a nearby wooden keg (now I am really feeling like I am in pirate land) and recorded a couple of their dance tracks. Its certainly not the type of music I would choose to listen to every day, but it be great to use in the right kind of game project.
and an umbrella
After being miserable in Melbourne last year because of all the rain, I was really happy to see it pouring down today.
I got some really good feedback from my brother recently regarding the sounds in the library. He had looked through all the ambiant and environmental sounds and thought that many of them weren't long enough. I think my time in the game industry is responsible for this, as for games we tend to use shorter sound files and edit them to fit them into memory, however for something like film or TV a sound designer may want 3,4 or 5 minutes of a continuous atmophere to use in a scene. As a result I plan to go out and rerecord alot of my more common elemental material such as waves ,wind and rain. Today it was rain's turn.
It was raining heavily after a few days of hot weather, so I stood outside the studio on a busy Melbourne street and recorded the people and traffic and the rain. Then I opened my umbrella and stood int he rain for 5 minutes or so to recordthe sound or rain on the umbrella. Finally I went up onto the roof of our building and was lucky to capture a couple of nice thunder claps.
For thr moment at least I plan on making use of the weather any time it rains. I am sure I will get sick of the rain quickly enough once winter turns up.
I finally found some very old source material I have been looking for for ages. I knew I had it somewhere and I wanted to add it to the library. Years ago I was working on a pitch for a game project that subsequently went nowhere, but I did enjoy making some of the sounds for it. One of the primary sounds was a giant explosive scream that the main character had as an ability. It was supposed to be pretty much the biggest thing int he game and as such needed a big sound. I spent some time at home screaming into a mic to get some good raw material to work from. It was that the screams are particularly brilliant, although I do think they worked fairly well, it is more that it took over a week for my throat to heal as I seriously damaged it from screaming so loud. For this reason alone I wanted to make sure the sounds found their way into the library because I am certainly not going to try and record them again.
Looking back at the old project files I can see how I put it together and even now its not too bad an end result. I think I was having so much fun working on it that I really put a lot of effort into the final sound. This would have been 8 years ago at least and back then I didn't spend the same amount of time on recording raw material, so I am really glad I found the old source material for this. I won't add the final sound to the library, but I will put it hear as a taste of some of the crazy things I used to get up to working on pitch ideas.
I now have the database tool in my hot little hands and after some tweaking will be ready to start inputting all the data for the current library sounds. That's nearly 13,000 sounds to be added to the database. As soon as that is done the full Sound Library website will be ready to go live. On target for a February launch. I am very happy to be so close to finally going live with the full site.
As part of preparing the library for launch I have been going through and checking all the sounds, making sure they are levelled well and generally have no problems. Initially I did not included many stereo sounds in the library, but I have been going through all the raw material and where available replacing the sounds I down mixed to mono with stereo versions.
Initially I think I was trying to reduce file sizes as most of the ambiance sounds were already quite long, but the ambiances also benefit more from being stereo than most other sounds. I really need to get a stereo shotgun mic so I can record the majority of my material in stereo initially as currently most of my samples are recorded in mono. I would not always choose to include stereo versions of all sounds, but I do think I should increase my options when recording raw material. Over the years I have evolved the way in which I record my raw material with a wider range of microphones available and better equipment to capture sounds, but there will always be room for improvement, so this year I plan to add both stereo and surround sound versions of a range of material.
Stephan Schütze has been recording sounds for over twenty years. This journal logs his thoughts and experiences