Field recording is not an easy craft. What issues do sound pros face when they capture sound beyond the studio?
Wind, handling noise, buzz, hum, moves, and more may come to mind. Environmental challenges are indeed tricky. However, there is also an entirely different class of challenges that is often overlooked: the means to capture sound at the right time, in the right place, and be ready at a moment’s notice. After all, recording sound can be quite cumbersome with all the microphones, cables, batteries, and recorders sound pros must haul around. Arranging such elaborate kits often allows fleeting sounds to slip away. A hidden field recording skill is to have one’s gear available when inspiration strikes, and be nimble enough to follow sound effects wherever they flow.
Today’s featured field recordist designed his kit specifically to overcome this field recording challenge. Tamas Dragon is a popular blogger who writes about field recording, Pro Tools, sound design and more on his blog. I have been reading his insightful articles for years. I reached out to him to ask about his field recording kit.
In today’s post, Tamas kindly shares how he thoughtfully trimmed down his gear into a minimalist, ultra-portable, quick-access kit that is no larger than a golf ball. The result is an ingenious solution that is perhaps the most value-packed option in this series, bringing an impressive balance of price, sound quality, and size.
Creative Field Recording: What is your favourite field recording kit?
My favourite gear was a pair of Schoeps mic with a Sound Devices recorder, but that was relatively long time ago. After that I used to use the Sony PCM-D50, which is a very nice and small recorder, with a surprisingly good quality. Back then I changed because of the portability of the equipment. While obviously the Schoeps and Sound Devices kit gave a truly professional, high quality sound, it was hard to always carry it with me, always needed to assemble the kit before I hit record. As mainly I’m a mixer with a very hectic schedule, it wasn’t convenient.
My new favourite is the Røde i-XY. I know it might raise some eyebrows, but it is so small that it really fit into my pocket or my backpack, and to be honest, the one thing which is always there with me is my iPhone. This little kit is very, very convenient, easy to use, and honestly it has amazing sound quality, and I don’t mean for the price. It is really an amazing piece of kit. Of course, it is not the same as the Schoeps with a pro recorder, but I really learned that the best recorder is always the one you have with you.
CFR: Why is it your favourite? Is there a reason why you reach for that kit, as compared to other ones?
Fortunately I have access to professional kit with Sound Devices recorder and Schoeps or Neumann microphones, but over time I’ve learned that to have this kit with you requires logistics. I mean you have to have a plan to record something. I knew that I’d like to record interesting sounds as I walk on the street, or commute to work, or when travelling to somewhere, so I bought a Sony PCM-D50. It’s much smaller than a big pro kit, much more portable and still provide great quality.
After a while I realised that it still a bit bigger than my preference. With my hectic mixer schedule my backpack is full of audio equipment and packed with my own “survival” needs, so even the PCM-D50 proved to be too big. I constantly move between the studio, different dub stages and live venues, so I have to pack efficiently. This was the time when the little Røde iPhone mic grabbed my attention.
After a short contemplation period I bought it, and frankly it proved to be an exceptional purchase. Quality wise it is more than good enough to record compelling sounds which might end (or actually ended up) in feature films. Still, if I have time and a plan to record something, I’d choose the big kit, but for everyday use, the small Røde kit proved to be the best choice.
CFR: Can you share with the readers an experience, project, or field recording you captured with that kit?
To make sure that you hear original sounds recorded with the smallest kit and an iPhone, I’ve made a few test recordings. The files are not mastered in any way. Where needed, I added some gain, but that’s it.
Many thanks to Tamas Dragon for sharing his thoughts about ultra-portable field recording.
Quick Links: Tamas Dragon’s Kit
- Røde i-XY cardiod condenser microphone for iPhone.
Other equipment mentioned:
- Schoeps microphones.
- Sound Devices audio recorders.
- Sony PCM-D50 portable recorder with electret condenser microphones.
Read more about the A Month of Field Recordists series.