A Month of Field Recordists: Rob Nokes


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Field recordist Rob Nokes is a familiar name in the pro sound community. Based out of Los Angeles, Nokes has deep experience in the audio industry. In addition to providing custom field recordings for Hollywood films such as X-Men: First Class, Noah, and Snowpiercer, Nokes has spent an ample amount of time as a sound supervisor for many projects, including Bones, Backstrom, and Disney’s Planes. He also travels worldwide to contribute fresh sound fx to his popular sound sharing website, Sounddogs.com.

Nokes is known for his relentless pursuit of some of the trickiest sound subjects, including full coverage of dozens of prop planes, tanks, wild animals from Kazakhstan to Uruguay, firearms in the mountains of Montana, fighter jets, race cars, and much more.

I had known that Nokes uses a kit that is as diverse as the sounds he pursues. I asked him if he would like to share a focused take on field recording gear. He kindly agreed.

So, today Rob Nokes generously shares his innovative choices to capture clean, detailed sound, his thoughts on high-frequency recording for sound design, and valuable insight on the advantage of a simple, accessible kit.

Recording faux propeller doppler bys

Recording faux propeller doppler bys

Creative Field Recording: What is your favourite field recording equipment? Why is it your preferred kit?

My favorite recorders are the Zaxcom product lines; Deva and Maxx. The Maxx sounds great however it has some limitations and quirkiness with 192 kHz operation. The Deva recorders were simple, rugged, and quick to operate.

I prefer equipment that is simple, reliable, quick to operate, solid connections, and sounds good. When a great sound starts I need to power up and hit record quickly. Prolonged operational finger gymnastics are undesirable for field recording. We record under intense prolonged heat or with lack of sleep or poor visibility, the more simple a recorder is the more likely we are too record the intended sound properly. Mistakes happen when equipment is unnecessarily complicated.

I am working on a new film now recording 192 kHz sounds in the studio for the sole purpose of sound design. I have been using the Sennheiser 8040 and with various contact microphones (homemade, AKG C411L, and the Ehrlund EAP Pickup). My studio is ultra quiet about a 27–29 dB noise floor with the AC off. For this reason I can record quiet, subtle sounds with amazing detail and at high frequencies (up to 50 kHz). BTW I had a pair of those Sanken 100K mics (CO–100K) and they sounded terrible, tinny and scratchy. The MKH 8040 may not go as high but the sound is crisp and clean. The results have been extraordinary, I can’t wait to share the recordings with my clients to get their feedback.

I am dabbling with DPA microphones as we speak and hope to have positive feedback about these microphones in the near future.

Recording cars

Rob Nokes recording cars

Sound Samples

Rob Nokes kindly shared sound samples recorded with the gear he mentioned in today’s post.

Both samples are dual mono tracks. The first set pairs a Sennheiser MKH 8040 (left) with an AKG C411L (right).

Rubbing a balloon:

Hitting a copper disc:

This second set of tracks match the Sennheiser MKH 8040 (left) with an Ehrlund EAP contact mic (right).

Hitting a giant balloon:

Tin sheet warbles with reverb:

Many thanks to Rob Nokes for sharing his thoughts!

Quick Links: Rob Nokes’ Kit


Audio Recorders:

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