Field Recording Type Comparison Hero 2

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about field recording styles lately. I have been writing a new article about a recent field recording mission. It describes how I captured some tricky sound effects. Due to the nature of the shoot, I was forced to work in the stealth field recording style.

I’ll share more about those sound clips next week. However, while writing that article, I reflected upon on how a more conventional field recording style would have affected the shoot and the sound effects I recorded.

I began to write. It became a bit of a meaty post. So, settle in, and join me in exploring the four styles of field recording sound effects.

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Field recording equipment

So, we’ve completed the “A Month of Field Recordists” series. That explored the gear that 26 sound pros prefer. How can you use this info? What equipment is best for you?

Well, it depends on your budget, the features you want, and the sound quality you prefer. So, it’s hard to give a concrete answer.

However, I’ll share some viable options in today’s post, drawn from the wisdom of many of the sound pro’s choices.

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100 Gear List - Hero

A month ago, we found ourselves asking these questions:

"“Which is the best handheld recorder?”

“What are suggestions for my first field recorder?”

“Which microphone is best?”

That began a series that examined field recording microphones, recorders, windshields, and other equipment for recording sound effects. With the help of 26 sound pros, the articles sought to answer the question: “What is your favourite field recording gear, and why?”

I originally planned to gather the tips into one article. As the sound pros generously shared their thoughts with me, I realized that a single post wouldn’t do justice to their shared wisdom. Instead, the articles spanned more than two dozen posts and over 25,000 words of knowledge.

That’s a lot to digest. So, today’s post is a summary of the combined info the sound pros have shared. It includes charts listing stats of equipment, their prices, and how often gear was mentioned during the series. It has links to the manufacturer websites and to each field recordist’s post so you can investigate the kit yourself.

A number of fascinating patterns emerged during the series. I’ll share my thoughts on them.

For those of you who want a quick list of options, I will include a shortlist of field recording equipment suggestions by price point in the next post.

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Daan Hendriks - Portrait

Over the past month, we’ve seen a diverse mix of pro audio recording equipment. The list of microphones and recorders has sprawled to include almost 75 different models. Each sound pro featured in the “A Month of Field Recordists” uses their gear selections to hunt varied sound effects, from finicky optical equipment to stormy hurricanes to the tranquil calm of winter ambiences. Each pro has devised their own specialized tricks and techniques to capture their clips.

While the gear, target, techniques, and sound pros themselves are widely diverse, they are linked by one thing: the craft of field recording.

Field recording is distinct from other pro audio disciplines. How? Well, for one, mixing, editing, and Foley recording all take place within edit suites and mixing theatres. Field recordists are different. They are united by a defining characteristic: they strike out pursue sound clips beyond the cozy, acoustically treated walls of a sound studio.

Such field recording missions may begin by capturing the city sounds, cats, and cars around us. Recording challenges grow the farther a recordist travels from a sound studio, requiring more specialized gear and innovative techniques.

Today’s intrepid sound pro has travelled about as far as one can from an edit suite. For the past year, sound designer and field recordist Daan Hendriks has been recording sound fx in Africa.

I had been following Daan’s fascinating experiences on his blog. I reached out to Daan to see if he was interested in sharing what equipment he uses to help him practice his craft in such a rare location. He kindly agreed.

So, today, Daan Hendriks shares a kit designed to navigate the challenges of African field recording. He describes the diverse gear he needs to capture three types of tricky sound fx: focused birdsong, wildlife, and atmospheres. Daan also shares with us a special treat: an inventive trick for microphone positioning that helped him record remarkable wildlife sound fx on location in Africa.

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Michel Marchant - Portrait

Early last year, sound designer and field recordist Michel Marchant revealed a impressive sound fx library: Wings. Released to great critical acclaim, the sound bundle of animal, insect, and creature wings is paired with a collection of sports ambiences on his Bonson Web shop: Hockey 360.

What’s interesting about those sound libraries is that they cover two important disciplines of sound fx recording: designed interior Foley clips as well as field recordings captured beyond the studio.

Like many other sound pros in the community, I admire both collections. I was curious how Michel Marchant was able to bridge both sound effect recording discliplines, and the kit he uses to make this happen. I asked Michel if he would care to share his approach with readers. He graciously agreed.

So, today Michel shares with us his thoughts behind building a large and diverse field recording kit. As a special bonus, he describes his experiences practicing a unique recording technique: ambisonic field recording.

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Michael Raphael and Helicopter

Today’s article features a popular community field recordist: Michael Raphael. Many of you will recognize him from his Field Sepulchra blog, where he has been writing about capturing sound effects since 2007. His evocative articles share sounds and experiences recording widely diverse sound clips in and around his native Brooklyn.

Arriving from a career in radio, Raphael’s fascination with field recording began after recording train and trolley sound effects for a Smithsonian exhibit. Since then, he has released 18 sound fx bundles on his Rabbit Ears Audio website. Launched in July, 2010, his Web shop was one of the first independent sound libraries available to the community. His collections have been met with broad acclaim, providing such diverse bundles as rockets, steam whistles, jet turbines, and helicopters.

I learned about Michael’s approach to field recording in an article here on the blog last year. One thing we did not discuss was his distinctive field recording kit.

I reached out to him to see if he would be interested in sharing his thoughts on how his equipment choices affect the sounds he records. He kindly agreed.

So, today we learn about Michael Raphael’s kit, and his thoughts on how the character of equipment helps him capture especially evocative field recordings.

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I first met David Fienup when adding his Soundopolis sound fx libraries on my sister site, Sound Effects Search. 3-5 David Fienup - PortraitI was intrigued by the balance of field recordings he had shared there: Foley, ice, weather, and more. I asked him if he would like to describe the gear he uses, and his thoughts behind it. Fienup kindly agreed.

What emerged was a unique method of field recording. Fienup has experience capturing production sound as well as gathering sound effects. As a result, today’s post shares a novel approach to field recording: his thoughts about sound fx recording are informed by the challenge of capturing pristine dialogue on set, all cast within in the pursuit of finding the best value for the price.

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Martin Pinsonnault - Recording Sounds

I first met field recordist Martin Pinsonnault in March, 2014. He had arrived in Toronto to attend Canada’s version of the Academy Awards, the Canadian Screen Awards. Pinsonnault had been nomiated for best sound editing for his work on a film about legendary strongman, Louis Cyr.

At that time, Martin and I chatted about his technique of providing the mix with mid-side clips, and his preference for recording sound fx with the ORTF stereo recording technique. Martin also shared with me fascinating field recording stories. Fans of the Tonebenders will have heard some of these. Pinsonnault was featured on episode 14 of the podcast.

Martin Pinsonnault is a multi-award winning editor and sound designer, having claimed multiple Genies, Jutras, and Screen Awards for his work. He has contributed to films such as Dallas Buyers Club, Young Victoria, and others. As a field recordist, he has captured the sound of steam and freight trains, 192 kHz “singing crystal” glass fx, and the engine of a 2006 Campagna T-Rex three-wheeled motorcycle, all of which he shares from his website. I asked Martin if he was interesed in sharing his thoughts about field recording and the gear he uses.

So, in today’s post, Martin Pinsonnault generously relates his thoughts on sound equipment and advice for evolving a field recording kit. Beyond the gear itself, Martin describes his ideas about the responsiblity and satisfaction of sharing sound fx. Through two pristine field recordings, he reveals how the context of a field recording’s sound, location, and emotions interact with the recordist themselves to produce a result larger than a sound file itself.

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Stephan Marche Portrait 1

German sound designer Stephan Marche begin field recording sound effects with an unlikely background: video editing. It was during this documentary work that Stephan felt a lack of manageable sound clip bundles.

That was in 2009. Since then, Stephan has worked to fill that need. He has created nearly 70 sound collections of field recordings and sampled instruments for his Detunized Web shop.

What’s interesting about Stephan Marche’s work is its focus. He records unusual subjects such as bob skeletons, wind turbines, abandoned bunkers, industrial room tones, and bridges, all offered under a self-imposed restriction: sound file economy. He shares only compact collections that deliver a concentrated selection of sounds, instead of burdening listeners with browsing through hundreds of clips.

So, in today’s article, Marche describes his recording kit and why he uses it. He shares a thoughtful comparison of popular Sennheiser microphones, and how he uses them to capture ambiences with a specialized recording technique. Stephan Marche also pairs his equipment choices with a valuable perspective: the role of the field recordist in delivering an experience to the listener. He explores the value of listening carefully, of fearlessly pursing sounds with a balance of patience and action, and how both the field recordist and the environment contribute to gathering inspiring sound fx.

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Naturtonmeister Sebastian-Thies Hinrichsen

It was only a few months ago the Creative Field Recording readers met field recordist Sebastian-Thies Hinrichsen. That article introduced his website and a unique project to capture nature field recordings for International Dawn Chorus Day.

One detail that caught my eye was Sebastian-Thies Hinrichsen’s field recording kit. He uses a particularly rare microphone in pursuit of his favourite sound effects: nature field recordings. Today, he generously describes how he came to use such extraordinary equipment, and how it helps him capture unique experiences through field recordings.

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