2-4 Stuart Fowkes - portrait, courtesy Giulia Biasibetti

Stuart Fowkes approaches field recording with a novel twist: his Cities and Memories website places clips on a sound map, then invites sound pros to remix the sounds. The result? Field recordings from across the globe that pair actual location audio with inventive interpretations.

Launched in 2014, the Cities and Memory website now hosts scores of sound effects. I was curious to hear Fowkes’ approach to field recording, and the gear he uses to capture sound clips. Fowkes kindly shared his thoughts, including insight into the best gear needed to start a field recording journey and why, and its effect on being prepared to capture field recording “gold dust” when it appears.

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2-3 Nathan Moody Portrait

Many of you in the field recording community will already be familiar with Nathan Moody and his Noise Jockey blog. His articles present his explorations in audio, sound design, and field recording.

What lies behind those insightful posts is even more diverse. Moody brings creative experience from design, motion graphics and videography, and music to contribute to capturing fascinating sound effects. What’s notable about Moody’s work is not just the clips he captures, but the compelling story he pairs with each sound he shares.

I was curious to hear Moody’s thoughts on field recording equipment. He graciously shared his views on gear and how they contributed to capturing a particularly memorable field recording experience of an evocative wilderness atmosphere.

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Shaun Farley

Field recordist and sound designer Shaun Farley is no stranger to the Creative Field Recording blog. I first interviewed him about his Cloth sound library. He also shared an inventive technique to stereoize mono sound files.

Farley has traveled worldwide to capture field recordings from locations as far as the Middle East and the Galapagos Islands. He has also extensively documented the sound of Smithsonian museums, and has captured focused recordings of guns and machinery as well.

I had known that Farley uses a Neumann 191, which is a microphone I admire. I reached out to him to ask him how that mic fits into his kit, what his other tools include, and how they help capture the clips he pursues.

Farley kindly shared his thoughts and reflections on choosing gear. He also included a fascinating example of the effect of recording with a stereo shotgun microphone, as well as the value of having equipment nearby to capture inspiring sound clips.

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2-1 Colin Hunter - Portrait

Field recordist Colin Hunter has a unique speciality: world sound effects. He travels across the globe capturing sound clips in dozens of countries in an effort to gather not only the unique, ephermeral sounds of distant places, but the story that exists behind every sound as well.

Hunter shares these tracks on his cool and stylized website, World Sounds, where you can hear clips from places ranging from Indonesia to Iceland to Nepal.

This is what makes Hunter’s gear choices interesting: he has crafted a high-quality kit that focuses on portability. I asked Hunter about the equipment he uses. He graciously shared his thoughts about his journey building his kit, including inventing a clever tool of his own, and its role capturing a rare, evocative nature recording.

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1-2 Mikkel Nielsen - Portrait

Today’s featured field recordist is Mikkel Nielsen. Based out of Denmark, Nielsen is a popular community recordist that captures an incredibly wide range of unique and cool sound effects. They range from interior Foley recordings to ambience collections in unusual locations such as shipyards and junkyards to specific, focused recordings of pigs, mopeds, and more.

When he isn’t hunting down sound effects, Nielsen provides audio for feature films and documentaries.

I was intrigued by the diverse range of sound effects that Mikkel captures for sound effect libraries and editing projects. He kindly shared his thoughts with me about the equipment in his locker, as well as an energizing experience capturing tricky clips for one of his sound libraries.

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1-1 Watson Wu - Hero

Today begins a month-long series learning about field recordists and the tools they use. Learn more about the series in yesterday’s introductory post.

The first field recordist featured is Watson Wu. He has worked on AAA game titles such as Transformers, The Need for Speed franchise, Assassin’s Creed, Madden, NCAA Football, and others.

Wu records many types of sound effects, and is well known for capturing two tricky categories of sound clips in particular: high-performance vehicles, and weapons. He has documented cars such as a Ferrari Dino, a Porsche Carrera, and a 1969 Mustang Shelby GT500. His weapons recordings include cannons, World War I and II firearms, rare shotguns, and more.

As you’d expect, both of these categories require ample field recording experience and sterling technique. Watson Wu graciously shared with me a focused list from the extensive of gear he uses to capture such challenging subjects, and some extra tips for beginning field recordists, too.

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Shotgun Microphone

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

“What gear do I need to begin field recording?”

“What should I buy for my first mic and recorder?”

“What’s the best portable recorder value for the money?”

“What is a recommended low-budget field recorder and microphone?”

“Will this mic sound good?”

These are perhaps the most common field recording questions beginners ask. Why are they so common?

Well, they’re tough to answer. There are so many options to choose from: hand-held recorders, budget portable units, shotgun microphones, stereo rigs, and stand-alone recorders. Any of these can cost $500 or more. That’s a large investment for equipment that may or may not suit your workflow. Who knows until you try it?

These are important questions not only for people new to field recording, but also established pros looking to upgrade their arsenal of equipment.

Of course, there isn’t a single correct answer. The proper choice depends on the projects sound pros work on, the subjects they capture, and each field recordist’s approach and methodology.

It’s a tricky subject to tackle. However, I was determined to build a resource to help people learn how to choose field recording equipment. As I began writing this article, I realized that the best way to answer this question was to reach out to the pros themselves.

So, I’m incredibly excited to announce a new series that will be featured during the month of October: A Month of Field Recordists. Almost two dozen community field recordists from a wide variety of sound disciplines graciously shared their thoughts and experiences to help answer the elusive field recording question: “What gear should I use?”

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Rolls Royce

It’s dawn in late fall. Your team has arrived in the countryside, ready to record vintage Rolls Royce sound effects.

One person waits at each end of the road, another is in the middle, and you’re driving the car. The four of you are armed with your own microphone and recorder. Then it dawns on you: how will you match up a full day’s worth of sound fx when you get back to the studio, later?

Last week’s article explored this issue. It examined recording sound effects with multiple, unlinked audio recorders. It shared why sync slates are important to help create a point of reference in your field recordings to help align all of these sound effects together later. Today shares the the next step: how to sync those sound fx after returning to the edit suite.

So, today I’ll share a quick tip for syncing and mastering multi-track field recordings in Pro Tools.

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Imagine you’re beginning your first firearms field recording session. You want to record the gun shot sound effects from every angle. So, you’ve arranged a handful of microphones nearby. You’ve placed others in the distance. Cables snake across the field from a half dozen microphones to… where?

Are they connected to a single recorder? Or, do you have many units spread across the field instead?

What’s best? How do you capture multiple, simultaneous channels at once? How do you keep every track synchronized? How do you ensure all your gunshots are in alignment when mastering them, later? Why is this important for field recordists?

Today’s post is the first of a two-part series about field recordings and synchronization.

Multi-track recording and field recording sync may seem like a basic issue that is second nature to most recordists. It may seem obvious. What is less obvious is how this affects the later stages of a sound clip’s arc, when mastering sound effects.

In reality, sound fx sync is a deceptively important issue that is easily overlooked in the field, yet has a huge impact on editing sound clips. So, the two articles explore the importance of tandem field recordings on location, and in the edit suite:

  1. How to add sync slates to your field recordings.
  2. How to synchronize field recordings when mastering clips, afterwards.

The first post will begin with the basics. It will introduce the role channel selection plays when field recording, as well as the importance of sync slating. That will prepare you for next week’s article, where I’ll share a quick tip for ensuring sync when mastering in Pro Tools.

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reddit - field recording

I remember the first time I stumbled upon Reddit. I was instantly hooked by the lively banter, range of discourse, comment voting, and the stunning breadth of discussion categories, also known as subreddits.

Reddit is a type of bulletin board system where users can submit and vote on article or comments. It is hugely popular. It is ranked 31 in worldwide search engine traffic. It only stands to reason that sooner or later audio folk would wander into Reddit and begin discussing field recording, sound effects, game audio, and more.

Today’s post explores a few popular areas where you can discuss your love of sound with other pros.

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