Archives For field recording

Los Angeles Smokey

It's a running joke between my brother and I: he's always found himself living in places with too much noise and I'm trying to find places with a lot of it.

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Steam Train

Imagine you walk into work one day and discover you’ve been assigned to edit a television series based in the 1970s. The picture hasn’t arrived yet, so you spend the morning browsing your sound effect libraries. Will you have the proper police sirens, telephone sounds, or vehicle clips suitable for the period?

I had been thinking about this while watching the second season of Fargo. That’s based in the 1970s as well, and I wondered how the editors dealt with cutting authentic sound for that time. We’ll see an answer to that in the coming weeks. For now, though, the concept came with an interesting coincidence. Last week blog reader Martin wrote to me about British sound recordist Peter Handford.

Handford (1919 – 2007) was a pioneer of film sound, having worked with Sidney Lumet, Alfred Hitchcock, and Sydney Pollack. It was his collaboration with the latter director that earned him both a BAFTA and an Academy Award for his work on Out of Africa.

In addition to his mastery of production sound duties, Handford also dedicated his life to a fascinating mission: a urgent race to record the sound of steam trains before they vanished from British railways.

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IDCD - 1 - Album Cover

How do we improve our field recording skills? Sometimes it requires us to leave our comfort zone to record unfamiliar subjects, or travel to strange places. Another aspect that helps is the idea of accountability.

The idea behind accountability is that you’ll be inspired to produce more or better work when there’s a responsibility to share it. This can give us the push we need to create our very best work and deliver it to others.

Accountability while field recording can take many forms. It may be an article you post about your field recording experiences. You may share tracks on SoundCloud. Another option is to exchange clips with a group. Two excellent examples are The Sound Collector’s Club, and sound forum Audible Worlds’ Crowdsourced Projects.

Another opportunity appeared earlier this year. German field recording website planned an ambitious project: an album of nature field recordings gathered from across the globe on International Dawn Chorus Day (IDCD), 2015. They encouraged recordists to strike out in the early hours of May 5th to gather nature and bird sounds at dawn. It was an invaluable opportunity for a field recordist to invest themselves to gather sound effects within a specific environment, and have accountability to field recording fans, worldwide.

I asked website owner Sebastian-Thies Hinrichsen about the project. He graciously explained the idea behind the website, and how the project came to be. This post also shares info about the album, and about International Dawn Chorus Day.

The next post will feature a special interview with a community field recordist who took part in the International Dawn Chorus Day album project.

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Field Recording Gear in Sunlight 2

Today’s post is the second post in a short series about pro audio career advice. The last article explored general pro sound tips and tricks.

Today’s post answers two of the more common questions I see in my email inbox:

How do I become a field recordist and share sound libraries on the Web?

How do I get and established selling sound, and what’s the most effective way to break into that world?

Do you want to record sound effects beyond the studio? Are you eager to share your field recordings with other sound pros? Today’s post includes suggestions to help you build a field recording career sharing sound on the Web.

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DVD Hero

The Compact Disc introduced the first widely accepted digital audio format. It became popular partially because of improved audio quality. There were other reasons, too. Listening and accessing the audio was also far more convenient than the previous vinyl and cassette formats.

The Compact Disc has reigned as the dominant physical audio format since it was introduced to the public in 1982. Even in 2007, over 200 billion CDs were sold.

Of course, digital sound file delivery is overtaking physical optical disc shipments. However, the CD format set a fidelity standard that has lasted for over 30 years. In one way or another, this has affected every sound pro.

As sound professionals, we know how greatly higher fidelity sound affects our work. Higher sampling rates allow more flexibility in sound design. Higher bit rates increase dynamic, and, generally speaking, make sound clips appear more full, lush, and rich. But does high fidelity audio really matter to listeners?

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Michael Raphael and Helicopter

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Stuart Fowkes. Fowkes’ Cities and Memories website allows field recordists to post worldwide atmospheres on a soundmap, and even remix the originals. I wrote that a good way to supercharge your creativity is to record and share these “foreign” ambiences. Can you explore creativity closer to home, though?

You certainly can. Rabbit Ears Audio’s Michael Raphael is well known for his evocative sonic portraits of his home of New York City. In addition, he also shares sound effects collections of compelling subjects such as jet bikes, steam whistles, and military vehicles.

I wrote to Michael to ask about his thought on this. He graciously shared his ideas about capturing character and place through field recordings.

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Cities and Memory

I’ve written earlier about my love of recording immersive foreign atmospheres. What’s cool about these sound fx?

Well, like any creative field, working in a new environment ignites your senses. It will shock your ears. You’ll hear new sounds, and your creativity will respond with fresh ideas. It’s a challenge. A dramatically different location, such as being in a new country, amplifies this. Also, the best ambiences have potential to transport listeners to a place they’ve never been, via sound alone.

A new website, Cities and Memory, focuses on these types of field recordings, and adds a twist. I spoke with its curator, Stuart Fowkes, about a new way for you to share your sound effects, grow your craft, and embrace a new type of creativity.

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Honda Indy 2013 Hero

Yesterday I shared some ideas on how to grow into recording complex sound effects. The idea was a three step process:

  1. Analyze.
  2. Articulate.
  3. Record.

Today I’ll describe how I put those ideas to work in a session I completed last summer: recording the Honda Indy.

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Portable recorder? Check. Headphones and windscreen? Check, check. Some cool sound effects waiting for you to record them? You’ve got that, too.

Have you been recording sound effects for a while? Are you confident with your technique and your gear? Captured all the easily-accessible foundation sound effects nearby?

Eventually a field recordist needs more. How, though, can a recordist switch from capturing the essential bird chirps and car doors around them, and record complex subjects like boats, animals, and cars? Do you need certain gear? Which skills, and why?

I’ll answer these questions in today’s post. I’ll share an attack plan for recording complex sound effects and field recording sessions.

Tomorrow I’ll post how I used these ideas in a session I recorded this summer: recording Honda Indy race cars.

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Spiral galaxy NGC 1232

In a recent blog post, I described my experience lecturing for Edinburgh Napier University.

At the end of the post I shared a thought I had: field recording strengthens when recordists exchange ideas.

I’ll explain more about that today. I’ll also offer one way to accomplish this.

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