A Month of Field Recordists: Martin Pinsonnault


Martin Pinsonnault - Recording Sounds

I first met field recordist Martin Pinsonnault in March, 2014. He had arrived in Toronto to attend Canada’s version of the Academy Awards, the Canadian Screen Awards. Pinsonnault had been nomiated for best sound editing for his work on a film about legendary strongman, Louis Cyr.

At that time, Martin and I chatted about his technique of providing the mix with mid-side clips, and his preference for recording sound fx with the ORTF stereo recording technique. Martin also shared with me fascinating field recording stories. Fans of the Tonebenders will have heard some of these. Pinsonnault was featured on episode 14 of the podcast.

Martin Pinsonnault is a multi-award winning editor and sound designer, having claimed multiple Genies, Jutras, and Screen Awards for his work. He has contributed to films such as Dallas Buyers Club, Young Victoria, and others. As a field recordist, he has captured the sound of steam and freight trains, 192 kHz “singing crystal” glass fx, and the engine of a 2006 Campagna T-Rex three-wheeled motorcycle, all of which he shares from his website. I asked Martin if he was interesed in sharing his thoughts about field recording and the gear he uses.

So, in today’s post, Martin Pinsonnault generously relates his thoughts on sound equipment and advice for evolving a field recording kit. Beyond the gear itself, Martin describes his ideas about the responsiblity and satisfaction of sharing sound fx. Through two pristine field recordings, he reveals how the context of a field recording’s sound, location, and emotions interact with the recordist themselves to produce a result larger than a sound file itself.

Creative Field Recording: What is your favourite field recording equipment?

I don’t have favourite recording equipment. Having [a single] favourite field recording equipment brings the recordist to compromise by handling all situations with one setup. Microphones and recording techniques make important differences on sound properties, therefore some can handle situations better than others and focus on different aspects of the sound. High quality microphones and recorders are very important if you want to build a valuable sound library to share, sell or use in sound design. Top equipment is very pricey, therefore, it should be acquired through time, thinking of it like an ongoing quest for the ultimate recording equipment. I generally put more budget on microphones rather than recorders to get the maximum from sound capture. Budget is an important issue obviously, we can’t always get what we want.

Martin Pinsonnault - Recording In M/S

Martin Pinsonnault – Recording In M/S

CFR: Why do you prefer the equipment you use?

I have been recording ambiences and effects with a Schoeps M/S microphone for a large part of my sound library, [which I] started in 1994. I really appreciate the flexibility of being able to record ambiences as well as hard SFX because of its mono compatibility in a relatively small recording setup. The versatility in post production for decoding, and its plurality of use in post production in general for dialog, music, sfx and ambience recordings has made it a true favourite microphone for all this time.

Acquired throughout the years to fill my day-to-day requests, I have experimented with many other recording techniques since. Binaurals, made of two omnidirectional microphones, such as the DPA 4060, can really catch the feeling of a room, the rowdiness of a crowd and the largeness of space… Very ambient, they are handy and stealthy when hooked to a small recorder. The generous bass response and overall sound properties of the binaural technique – similar to the perception of the human ears – make it a great addition to the arsenal.

Sennheiser MKH 8040

Sennheiser MKH 8040

More recently, I fell for a stereo pair of Sennheiser MKH 8040s. Used in conjunction with different suspensions to produce ORTF, X/Y, A/B, 2 mono or others, it gives stunning results with impressive dynamic range and frequency response, specifically in very high frequencies at more than 20,000 Hz that can be recorded at a high sampling rate of up to 192kHz.

Recording these dynamic sounds gives strong attacks and discrete left/right definition. Very rich sounds. These very high-definition sounds can become an added value to the sound when doing extreme sound design, pitching and SFX processing. These stereo pairs can be coupled on one recorder to record all microphones at once in sync. Multitrack with phantom power can catch multiple angles with various surround type patterns. My budget led me to the Zaxcom Nomad Lite, a 96 kHz multitrack recorder [with] powered input [and] timecode. All my favourite microphones on one recorder at once – that is a great combination to catch my next favourite field recording…

Zaxcom Nomad Lite

Zaxcom Nomad Lite

This setup can become heavy to carry around and rig with multiple tripods. Portability and ease of use in one handheld device [with] a combination of microphones and recorder sounds very appealing in many situations. I have owned many handheld recorders such as the Microtrack, H2n, R–26 and I am most recently relying on the Sony PCM-D100 for its overall performance and sound properties. Its switchable microphone patterns gives it good flexibility. The noise floor is lower than others. The PCM-D100 is still imperfect because of its sensitivity to wind and the lack of XLR with powered inputs to [connect with] other higher-quality microphones. The addition of a suspension and tripod is a necessity to carry and record successfully on the go.

Martin's PCM D100 With Rycote Suspension And Tripod

Martin’s PCM D100 With Rycote Suspension And Tripod

CFR: What is a favourite field recording, or experience that you have had using the equipment?

In order to become a favourite recording, [a sound] should comply to high quality standards and should reveal itself beautifully. More than that, there is the context of the recording, the location, the emotions associated to it, the moment, the general mixture of the sound elements together that really define the relationship between the sound and the recordist. To feel lucky to sonically immortalize a unique and special moment of life is an honor and a responsibility.

For many years, I considered this sound to be my favourite:

The sound of trains roaring and coupling in a yard of Wisconsin USA, in 1994.

This sound is included in my Train Sound Effect Collection. It was recorded with a portable DAT Recorder and the Schoeps M/S setup.

Martin's Multitrack Recording in New Orleans

Martin’s Multitrack Recording in New Orleans

Nowadays, I get a bit more excited when I record multitrack with multiple stereo pairs at 96 kHz. A recent trip to New Orleans for a Quebec film brought me to cover the area of New Orleans and the Mississipi River. Still on the topic of trains, this sound was recorded at night close to the shore facing New Orleans.

Both of these sounds were recorded during recording trips. I hear the call of my next recording adventure. Recording sound is a true pleasure. I am happy to share this with you.

Many thanks to Martin Pinsonnault for sharing his thoughts about field recording and equipment!

Quick Links: Martin Pinsonnault’s Kit



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