Royal Park Melbourne
Sennheiser MKH 60
Boom pole array
As part of a new project I am working on I need a large number of impact sounds to represent people hitting the ground in various ways. Basically body fall sounds. I have made a few of these in the past for smaller projects but I never committed any of them to the library so I thought I would be extra prepared today and record a huge amount.
In the past I have read various forums and had discussions on the audio mailing list I am on with people about how to make good convincing sounds of people or bodies hitting the ground. There are several elements that make up a good body fall sound, obviously the impact itself, but all the sounds need to have a softer organic feel to them than the sound of a brick hitting the ground. People have suggested using empty boxes to create a good low thud, as well as sacks of potatoes for a good weighty sound. I discovered a rough combination of these tow works pretty well. The sack of potatoes is a good idea because it is not a rigid item, it will bend and flex as it tumbles and falls in a similar way to a human body, but it lacks the convincing thud sound that a hollow container like a box produces. My approach was to use a cloth bag and fill it full of shoes or boots. They have enough weight to fall convincingly and the hollow nature of each shoes acts as a small sound box. Because there are several shoes in the bag you also get the flexible nature similar to having a bag of potatoes at about a quarter of the weight. So armed with my bag of boots I went over to the park.
One of the big disadvantages of being back in Melbourne and specifically in the CBD area is that it is completely impossible to find somewhere away from noise contamination. The best I can do is limit it as much as possible. I walked across to Royal Park and made my way down to a small reserve area near the back of the zoo. Although there were both train and tram lines running nearby, there were no roads close by. This meant that I could mostly record without too much background noise. Melbourne’s Public transport system is crap enough that the trains only come along every ten to twenty minutes and the trams aren’t much better. For once this was actually beneficial to me. I spent the best part of an hour pushing, kicking, tossing, swinging and generally throwing around my bag of boots. (I think some of the people in the nearby sports stadium were convinced I was completely insane and possibly quite dangerous)
Generally when I am trying to record new sounds that I am creating myself (i.e. Foley) I try to think of as many ways as possible to manipulate the items I am working with to see what I can come up with. As I said I used the bag of boots in many different ways, but I also took the boots out and banged them together, banged them on the ground, swung them by their laces onto the ground, scraped them along the ground etc etc. The amount of material I sampled should allow me to add a huge number of new body impact sounds to the library. I ended up with all the boots in the bag all tied up kicking along the road for about a kilometre. I kicked it across gravel, road, grass, getting it to tumble slide and bounce along the way. It’s going to be time consuming going through and cutting up all the material but I am looking forward to what I can get out of it. Looks like another good days recording.
Stephan Schütze has been recording sounds for over twenty years. This journal logs his thoughts and experiences