Archives For Technique


Auto racing sound fx are some of the most difficult clips to capture. Last week’s post shared my experiences capturing field recordings at the Honda Indy and the Canadian Grand Prix.

Are you interested in recording sounds at a sporting event? Wondering how to work in a challenging environment? Want to inject personality into sound subjects you don’t control?

Today’s post shares tips for recording your own motorsports sound fx.

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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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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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Soccer Stadium and Sky

Earlier this summer, Canada hosted the Pan American Games. That prestigious Olympic-style event invited top athletes from dozens of countries to compete in 48 sports in downtown Toronto.

Living in Toronto myself, I seized the opportunity to record world-class athletes in “rare” sports such as professional field hockey, squash, handball, and others.

That “field report” explained how I approached the recording session, overcame mistakes I made, and captured field recordings of sports crowds, cheers, chants, ambience, and more. Check out that post, and download the free field recordings there.

How can you record your own sporting events? Today’s article features tips and tricks you can use to help you navigate an event, capture the best crowd reactions, gather ample coverage, and much more.

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MyPlaces - 0 - Hero, Toronto Summer 2014 - 03

You’ve spent the day recording the sound of a lively farmer’s market. You return to the studio and open dozens of sound effects in Pro Tools. As you begin mastering the field recordings, confusion creeps over you. Was that 14th sound clip recorded at the market entrance? No, you remember, it was the one in a side alley, between food stalls. Wait, no, that was the one after it…

Does this sound familiar? Correctly identifying sound effects after the fact is a common field recording concern. Keeping track of recordings is absolutely vital. It helps you master sounds accurately even months after field recordings are complete. These details enhance the clips you capture. But, somehow, labelling sound effects in the field is often one of the first recording steps that is overlooked.

I’m guilty of this myself. So, today’s article will share one tool I’ve discovered that helps to solve this problem. It keeps track of your work, adds flavour and detail to your field recordings, and ensures you richly describe every field recording you capture.

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How Recording Tone Helps Field Recordings - Cityscape

I’ve been chipping away at revising all my sound effect books. I plan to release updated editions later this year (anyone who has purchased digital copies will receive updates, free of charge).

Anyway, while reviewing Field Recording: From Research to Wrap, I realized I had not mentioned one small but important step when beginning your field recording session: recording room tone.

Have you ever captured a noisy sound effect and wondered what to do with it? Have you found yourself wrestling for hours with de-noising plug-ins? Wondering how you can publish cleaner sound clips?

Today’s post was designed to introduce beginners to this vital – but often neglected – field recording step. It will explain why recording tone improves your field recordings, and helps you master sound fx clips.

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Forbes Logo

A few months ago, I interviewed René Coronado. René is a field recordist, and host of the popular Tonebenders podcast.

In that article, René described his experiences capturing sound effects for his Echo | Collective: Fields Web shop while highlighting one vital field recording skill: working with gatekeepers.

Recently René shared more tips with me that he found in an unlikely source: the financial magazine, Forbes.

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Old Dublin, courtesy Desmond Kavanagh

My first Hollywood field recording gig was working on Michael Mann’s biopic, Ali. Greg King and Rob Nokes of Sound Dogs LA were in a jam. A scene in the movie had thousands of people crammed into a boxing arena shouting a vicious chant: “Ali boma-ye!”

Such a unique phrase couldn’t be decently recreated in an ADR theatre, of course. As luck would have it, Ali’s daughter, Laila, was fighting near me in upstate New York. The Sound Dogs told me to get down there. We hoped that the crowd would repeat the chant for the crucial scene.

At the door, however, security took one look at my recording kit and told me to turn around. The press pass production had supplied me wouldn’t let me into the arena.

The tracks eventually made it into the movie, and I’m grateful to Greg King and Rob Nokes for the opportunity to work on the film. I’m also thankful for that gig for another reason. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that experience taught me about a skill that is vital for field recordists to learn: working with gatekeepers.

What are gatekeepers? How do you work with them? I’ll include ideas on that, today. The post will also feature a special guest who will share his thoughts on the topic, too: field recordist and Tonebenders pro audio podcast co-host René Coronado. René kindly agreed to describe his experiences working with gatekeepers for his recent library releases for the Echo | Collective: Fields web shop. Together, we will share tips on how you can work with gatekeepers to capture the sound effects you need.

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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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Rob Ford Protest Hero

Toronto mayor Rob Ford has been accused of many things. Being boring isn’t one of them.

Bitter controversy has followed Ford ever since he was elected in 2010, more so than any Canadian politician in recent history. Crack cocaine smoking, excessive drinking, and a liberal interpretation of the truth has citizens foaming at the mouth. And I’m glad. Why?

Well, I’m not particularly a political person. However, wherever there is controversy, there are always good sound effects. Torontonians planned a protest in early November of last year. I wanted to capture the sound of their boiling fury. There was another reason, too. I wanted to record tracks for a community I had recently joined called The Sound Collector’s Club.

In the process I worked with two field recording tricks:

  • How to record unpredictable field recordings on the fly.
  • How to record sound effects for an unknown audience.

I’ll share those ideas with you today.

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