Single handed setup
Today I got to meet Edgar. Edgar must weigh over 150 kilos, he’s so big he has trouble walking in the morning. Edgar is a very large, but very friendly pig!
Edgars Mission is a farm setup by a woman called Pam Ahern as a sanctuary for animals. Pam, with help from some volunteers and her mum run the farm and take care of all the animals there. Many have been rescued from bad circumstances are given a last minute reprieve from being sent to an abattoir or knackery. Pam’s love of her animals is so apparent in the hard work and care she puts into caring for the animals. It’s also apparent in how happy most of the animals appear. There was very little of the guarded cautious nature of the animals, most of them would rush to meet Pam every morning and instantly knew her voice. These animals would all live out their lives naturally with no threat of being eaten.
While I do now eat meat, I spent over ten years as a vegetarian so I can really understand Pam’s desire to care for the animals. The farm itself is designed to encourage people to understand the lives of the animals without being preachy or judgemental. Pam wants the experience of visiting the farm to be positive for everyone. From my point of view it was a great way to spend the day and I got lots of really good animal sounds. Edgar alone is very conversational, and pigs have quite a range of different sounds that they make.
I followed Pam around for the first couple of hours of the day while she fed the animals. (I got up at 6am to get out to the farm for feeding time, I HATE getting up early.) Feeding time is probably the best time to get animal noises because they will all generally be fairly vocal when they are hungry. Pam’s relationship with her animals resulted in them being even more vocal a lot of the time. Most herd animals will communicate with other members of their herd. Taken out of the herd and isolated many animals will be much less vocal. I think most of the animals on the farm treat Pam as one of the family so they “talk” to her as she goes about her days work.
The pigs were definitely the highlight of the day for me, I don’t have any pig sounds in the library so far so it was good to get some material, but what I got was a ton of grunts and snuffles and long groans and grunts. There is enough material from the pigs alone to create entire conversations. Not to mention that a lot of the pigs vocalisations will be great for creating monster and giant beastie sounds. Pigs are also quite noisy when they eat so I will have plenty of sounds of munching and crunching beasts. The pigs were also really friendly. A little one called Hamish was very happy to chat to me and wanted me to scratch his shoulders. Pigs are really smart animals and it was great to get up close and be able to observe some for a while.
Next was a couple of young sheep, and some baby goats who were of course all hideously cute. Lambs and kids can sound really bad when they are panicked or really hungry. Their call is almost desperate and sounds like a child screaming. Most of what I recorded was fairly friendly “come and play with me” calls. Although like many animals when you put a microphone close to them they decide to be very quiet. I think its because they are curious of the fluffy cover and animals seem to ponder quietly when they are curious.
I used the H4N strapped to the blimp cover of the MKH60 for the day. This single handed setup allows me to record with several mics simultaneously while still only using one hand. Since I lost the Shure Beta58 :-( I have been adding the D112 to the setup, but it is essentially useless unless I am recording loud output sounds. I include it simply as a backup, if something explodes then I have an active mic that will pick up a loud sound without distorting. Until I can organize to replace the beta58 it’s a best use of the free channel. I have just ordered 2 of the DPA 4061s so it will be a while before I can replace the Shure.
The great thing about being able to get right up and close with the animals was that I could get really clean recordings directly from their mouths rather than across a paddock or through a cage like most other animal sanctuaries. This was especially good for recording the eating sounds as they munched and snuffled through their food. Event he lambs and baby goats sucking on their milk from baby bottles. These sounds would not have been possible without getting this close to the animals. It was also really great to be able to get so close and to pat and talk to the animals. It was not all perfect though. The turkey stubbornly insisted on only making sounds when the mic was off or I was too far away to get a good recording, and the cows were also very quiet. Cows in general seem to not make a lot of noise in my experience, or maybe they just don’t make noise when I am around.
I have never expected to go out and capture every animal that exists at any one location I visit, generally if I get some good material from one kind of animal on the day I consider it a successful day. Today was just like that, I got lots of excellent material from the pigs and also got some good stuff from some of the other animals. Going by my averages today was a very successful day. Patience is a main part of what I do and so I will wait for some other day to captures some noisy cow sounds. It was just really nice to be out in the country on a beautiful sunny day recording animals. If I could do this everyday I’d be very happy.
One final recording for today was back in Melbourne, Williamstown to be exact. I have passed by the refineries down near the ports on several occasions when they have the burn off flames at the top of the very high exhaust towers, but I have never had my equipment with me when I have seen them burning. Today I got the chance to record some material as they were burning off as I passed. I could only get within about 200 meters for safety reason but the sample is still quite good. I think if I was able to get closer there would be more texture to the sound as the flame fluctuations would be more noticeable, but still the sound was quite powerful and sounded like a very large jet engine.
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Stephan Schütze has been recording sounds for over twenty years. This journal logs his thoughts and experiences