Pompeii Film Poster

Last fall I was fortunate to be asked to record sound effects for the Hollywood feature film Pompeii.

At a reported total budget of $100 million dollars, it was one of the most prominent films I have had the pleasure of being involved with. I was quite excited to contribute sound fx to help the sound crew tell their story.

I finished that project in the late autumn. Working on Pompeii was a fantastic experience. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how unique that shoot was.

I wrote about the differences field recording for feature films last week. Today I’ll share how those ideas worked with Pompeii. I’ll explain how the shoot came about, how I completed it, and some tricks I learned that you can take away to help with your own field recordings.

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Recording Kit in Greenery

I recently wrapped up field recording for an exciting feature film project. I began writing about that when a thought struck me: the craft of field recording is radically different, depending on the project.

Now, that may seem obvious. But the difference between regular field recording and capturing sound clips for films is so drastic that it seems like a separate craft entirely.

I wrote about the difference between field recording styles before. My book, Field Recording: From Research to Wrap talks about capturing sound for a specific audience. This is something else.

So, today’s post is a brief introduction to field recording for feature films. I’ll explain what’s different, and share ideas for approaching your own shoots.

I’ll write about my recent feature film recording experience next week.

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Sheridan SCAET building Dan Zen

A few days ago, I spent an evening discussing field recording with film and sound students at Sheridan College, in Oakville, Canada. It was a pleasure to visit Sheridan College. I had a fantastic time speaking about field recording, and sharing some stories about projects I’ve worked on.

Many thanks to Professor Stephen Barden, Sheridan Sound, and the students for their warm welcome.

Afterwards, we had a Q and A. The students were experienced with production, post, and field recording. They asked superb, informed questions about field recording and sharing audio.

Some of you may have similar questions. So, I’ll include those questions today, with additional thoughts I’ve added since the lecture.

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IR hero

In my last post I wrote about Audio Ease’s Altiverb 7, an impressive convolution reverb plug-in.

I was excited to learn that Altiverb 7 had the ability to add your own impulse responses (IR). IRs, of course, are templates used to place reverb found on location upon other clips and field recordings. Audio Ease helpfully includes a tutorial for how to create your own impulse responses. The truth is, though, it’s cumbersome to do. The actual process isn’t hard. However, we’re usually too busy tending to other field recording tasks to pause and capture an IR.

Just the same, I was determined to slide IR recording seamlessly into my workflow. This week I created a handful of them. I used a method that takes much of the agony from the process.

I’ll share that method today, as well as the IRs I recorded for you to use yourself.

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Altiverb Main Window

The are many talented sound designers among us. Using software, creativity, and inspiration, they warp door slams into space cannons. They twist pig squeals into alien queens.

I’ve always admired these designers. Part of the reason is because sound design and samplers are foreign to me. I record natural sound effects: atmospheres, engines, nature, that sort of thing. I don’t dabble too much in sound design. Because of that, I don’t have much call to use creative software plug-ins.

Recently though, I was mastering field recordings that demanded a particular stylized effect: reverb.

So, today I’ll share my experience choosing a reverb plug-in for field recordings. Buckle up (this is another long one), and join me for a first look one of the most popular reverb plug-ins on the market: Audio Ease’s Altiverb 7.

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13 Lucky iZotope RX Tricks for Newbies Hero

In an earlier article I shared ways to approach restoring damaged sound effects. That dealt with ideas and perspective.

Today’s post will share more direct tips. I’ll explain practical tricks to help you get better results. I’ll start with general tips that can be applied to any restoration app. Toward the end, I’ll include suggestions specifically tailored to iZotope’s RX software.

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6 Sound Effect Restoration Tips Hero

Earlier I wrote about an update to a popular audio restoration app, iZotope’s RX3. That software has the powerful ability to recover damaged audio and restore precious clips that would be useless otherwise.

Clicks, crackle, hum, and noise are all irritating problems for sound pros. Why? They often mean the difference between using the audio, or deleting it.

This is why restoration software like RX and its peers seem almost miraculous. It gets dialogue editors, mastering techs, and post crew out of tight spots. Part of this is learning the tools: the settings, switches, and plug-ins that do the job best. These are essential, but ultimately they can be figured out with practice.

Today I’d like to share something different: the perspective needed when restoring audio. These are ideas that are helpful when beginning restoration. They’re not about settings. They’re more about cultivating an approach to denoising that will save you work, time, and help you transform sound effects you’re proud of.

Looking for concrete tech tips? I’ll share specific iZotope RX suggestions in an upcoming article.

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Queen's Park During Winter

I’ve had a particular sound effect on my radar for three years: subway passes.

Now, you may think that subway sound effects aren’t rare. You’d be correct. However, there was a unique aspect about these sound effects that I was eager to capture. To get the job done well demanded one requirement: I had to record in winter.

Now, I’m the first to correct anyone who assumes Canada is a vast, snowy wasteland. Summers are hot, and oppressively humid (30˙C/86˙F or more). Winters are mild. Each year during winter, however, the shoot never seems to come about.

I could use Toronto’s current frigid cold snap as an excuse (–25˙C/–13˙F). I could cite how the temperature affects recording gear. I could write about the challenge of keeping quiet while shivering in the still, icy air.

But those are actually reasons why a field recordist should record in winter. In fact, it’s the best season to capture sound effects.

In this post, I’ll explain how seasons affect field recording, and how I tracked down those subway sound fx.

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