Years ago, after posting on this site for a year and a half, an email from future HzandBits sound library owner and A Sound Effect podcast co-host Christian Hagelskjær From inspired me to do something I hadn’t previously considered: to write a book about field recording.

That summer, I locked myself in a room and wrote. The result was a book called Creative Field Recording. It shared ideas on how to ensnare creativity and embed it in field recordings. It described tips and tricks to recapture creativity, inspire motivation, and apply it to capturing sound clips beyond the studio.

Later, I explained the premise to my younger brother, an experimental filmmaker. He gazed out the window, thought a moment, then said, “Shouldn’t you explain what field recording itself is, first?”

He was right. I shelved that draft, and began to write what would be my first book, Field Recording: From Research to Wrap.

I didn’t realize it until years later, but that experience reflected what I would come to understand is a significant – and perhaps hazardous – disposition among field recordists: severing the intertwined field recording skills of technical aptitude and creative expression.

Technical expertise is rigidly defined. Tech specs and gear govern whether a performance arrives successfully on our recorders or not. It’s not the same with creativity. That’s much more difficult to apply.

A lot has been written about how to spark creativity in the arts. Field recording is no different. Yet, a silver bullet that provides creative expression on demand within the technical demands of the craft remains elusive. That’s one reason why Creative Field Recording remains on the shelf. I wasn’t satisfied with the result.

I’ve thought a lot about that idea since I retired the draft. I’ve worked to include creativity in the sound effects I myself capture in the field. I won’t pretend I have the complete answer. However, I have made some headway I’d like to share with you today.

Today’s post describes ideas that have been rattling around in my head since that day: why creativity is essential to field recording, the challenge of bringing it to sessions in the field, and concrete tips you can use to sharing inspiring sound effects yourself.

This is part one of a three-part series. Today we’ll look at the idea behind emotional sound effects and how to capture them through field recordings. Over the next two weeks we’ll see how you can do the same while mastering and curating sound effects.

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Last week I saw an interesting conversation appear on Facebook. Field recordist and sound designer Charles Maynes created a post in the Independent Sound Effects group to discuss establishing a standard for audio levels in sound effect libraries. It’s a valuable idea. In fact, I’ve received a handful of messages from readers about this in the last three months alone.

After all, new sound library publishers often wonder how loud their tracks should be. Are room tones best at -15, -20, or -35 dBFS from peak? Should sound design impacts be provided at -5 dBFS, or is a less aggressive -12 dBFS? What’s correct, what’s easiest, and what do sound fx library fans want?

The post generated good discussion. Some people passionately believed current sound fx libraries are mastered with levels set too high. Others felt that the current trend of “hot” levels was appropriate.

Which technique is best? Is it better to master sound effect libraries loudly, with presence? Or, is the best idea to provide sound fx with reduced levels perfectly suited to slide right into editing projects and mix sessions?

Today’s post will present both perspectives and allow you to decide. In the future I’ll share my own choice, and some community-sourced standards.

Please note: I explore this idea in detail. This article should take you about 10 minutes to read. Click the button below to email the article to yourself to read later.

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A few months ago I began a new type of series here on the blog: article roundups. Why? Well, we’ve covered a lot of topics on the site in the last six years. The roundups are meant to gather similar posts in one easy-to-digest serving.

The first roundups covered the two most popular questions I receive from readers: How to Sell Sound Effects and Sound FX Library Ideas & How to Choose Them. The third most common question follows a similar theme:

Where should I sell my sound effects?

How can I choose the best sound library partner?

What is the best website to distribute my sound clips?

How do you find good sound fx distributors?

So, today’s article will share previous posts about sound fx library distributors. It will also include new tips that will help you learn how to choose the best sound stores to sell your clip collections.

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You finally scored a spot at a field recording nature workshop. All weekend you recorded tracks of wind, water, and wildlife in the mountains hours from home. Every morning you woke at 4 a.m. and captured hours of dawn chorus field recordings. You let the recorder run all night gathering the sounds of insects and night birds. Your audio recorder is brimming with tracks.

And now? What seemed like a good idea at the time now feels like punishment: you’re faced with mastering multiple sessions of eight-hour sound files. The amount of audio is overwhelming. It will take weeks to complete. Of course, you couldn’t have worked all day and also stayed up all night starting new takes. It’s understandable to just let a digital recorder run for hours. So, it made sense at the time.

But the problem remains: how do you even begin editing tracks that sprawl for hours? What’s the best way to master hour-long soundscapes into digestible tracks for your listeners?

Today’s post is designed to help. I’ll share solutions for solving this problem using a screenshots from editing an prolonged field recording example.

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A year and a half ago I sold everything I owned, jumped on a plane, and arrived in Southeast Asia. Why?

To capture field recordings, of course. I’ve travelled through Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia recording the sounds of the cultures in those places. I’ve wandered into obscure corners of Bangkok, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, Denpasar, and other cities to find cool sound effects.

Now, almost 18 months after I began that trip, I am faced with a challenge: my hard drive is crammed full of raw field recordings that need polishing. There are thousands of files. They were captured from three microphones. It’s an overwhelming amount of data that could total hundreds of hours of audio.

I have a special plan for those field recordings that I’ll share with you later. In the meantime, there’s a more obvious problem: how does one transform thousands of field recordings into finished, listenable sound effects? What’s the best way to master bulk field recordings?

Today’s article shares techniques that help you tackle the mastering process efficiently to move those raw files from your hard drive into the ears of your listeners.

Please note: I explore this idea in depth. This post should take you about 12 minutes to read. If you’d prefer, you can email yourself a copy of the post to read later.

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Note: this post shares an update to the website itself. Field recording news will return next week.

About a year ago traffic here to the website increased substantially. With that came many offers and requests from sound companies. Some of them wanted me to write reviews for their products. Others wanted me to promote them. A few wanted to write keyword-laden guest posts with links back to their websites. Many of them offered me cash.

I refused all of them. Why?

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Ecologist and field recordist Gordon Hempton is no stranger to this blog. We first heard from Gordon during the “Month of Field Recordists” series last year. We also learned about Gordon’s vocation and his craft in his latest book: Earth is a Solar Powered Jukebox.

Gordon Hempton has of course inspired many field recordists. His message of preserving and appreciating nature has spread beyond that focused discipline as well. Directors and producers Palmer Morse and Matt Mikkelsen are two of those people. They have recently revealed the short film Being Hear. It is a documentary shot with Gordon Hempton in the Olympic National Park, the inspiration of Hempton’s One Square Inch project to preserve and protect the sound of nature.

Today’s post features an interview with the filmmakers. Palmer and Matt share their inspiration for creating the film, the importance of audio in filmmaking, and how they accomplished blending evocative sound with lush visuals in Being Hear.

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What are Ambisonic recordings? What microphones are used to capture these sound effects? What software is needed to use them? Where can you find Ambisonic field recordings?

This month’s series was designed to answer those questions. We’ve learned a lot about Ambisonics during the past month. We began by reviewing the basics. Then, a handful of field recordists generously shared their knowledge with us.

Today’s post summarizes all the info we’ve discovered so far. It includes a list of microphones, software, hardware, and applications for Ambisonics. There are also a few links to existing Ambisonic sounds you can download and try yourself.

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Today’s guest has been capturing Ambisonic field recordings for more than a decade. Stéphane Larivière has been experimenting with this fascinating format through his work on video games (the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Far Cry 3), films, and sound library recordings.

Throughout this time he has been in the unique position to watch an evolution of Ambisonic tools, and adapt to them. So, today Stéphane shares with us in-depth reflections on the changes in Ambisonic hardware and software, and the merits and limitations of the Ambisonic format. And, paired with his reflections on the past, he also shares his thoughts on the future of Ambisonic tools for AR, VR, and 360 video.

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Ambisonic field recording equipment is hard to come by. Why?

Well, most of it is expensive. It’s rare. Few studios stock those kits. Before now, even fewer studios booked regular Ambisonic projects. As a result, being able to find and use Ambisonic gear was a rare pleasure.

That’s one reason why today’s featured guest has a special treat for us. Tom Todia has worked in game audio and Virtual Reality for over ten years. During that time, he has been involved with many projects field recording sound effects using Ambisonic kits. In today’s post, Tom details his extensive experience recording Ambisonic sound effects with a variety of specialized microphones and software. He relates how he integrates these recordings into his game audio projects, shares Ambisonic field recording tips with the community, and reveals two special experiences recording Ambisonic tracks beyond the studio.

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