I first discovered Melissa Pons’s work in an excellent article about her on The Audio Spotlight back in 2014. Melissa is a sound pro that explores a wide range of audio disciplines on The Sound Design Process blog, including field recording, sound design, creativity, production sound, and more. Her field recordings are just as diverse, showcasing a range of clips from her native Portugal and her newly adopted home of Sweden.
What I found particularly interesting was her carefully considered approach to field recording, and pro sound in general. Self-described as “very patient,” Melissa has reflected upon the role of awareness and detail to field recording (article one, two, and three).
I was curious to know how her creative, observational approach affects her field recordings. I introduced myself to her, and asked her if she would be interested in elaborating for us. She kindly agreed.
So, today Melissa Pons shares with us the kit she uses to capture her thoughtful sound clips, and explains the value of a key field recording skill: awareness.
Creative Field Recording: Can you share how and why you began field recording?
I started field recording when invited by a sound designer and teacher to accompany an audiovisual program’s class for a week in a wonderful remote village in Montalegre, Portugal. He brought a big pallet of audio equipment that I was lucky to to use as I wanted. I recorded a variety of sites and daily life with different setups. From dozens of cows calmly pasturing having their bells gently sounding from a big distance (which I still consider one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard and recorded so far), to how rain sounds under old stone ruins, or to understand that a breathtaking site by the way it looks does’t necessarily sounds corresponding, so to say. I had been recording outdoors a couple of times before, when working on short films or other small projects but I did not have this awareness. This was when I began to listen.
Field Recording has helped me to understand and shape my (other) inherent interests. Along the few years I have been doing it, I have sharpen what it feels more appellative to myself, and what I wish to convey through the recordings, while learning about the world and my own surroundings.
CFR: What is your favourite kit, and why?
The recording kits I use are very circumstantial, and therefore I don’t feel I have an ultimate favourite but, on a personal level, it has to do with spontaneity I want to capture and what emotions and sensations the place or event evokes: if I am away from home, I always carry my Zoom H4n and a pair of Soundman OKM II Classic, to be used as binaural mics that I wear when I need to be absolutely discrete. It’s the spontaneity that this small kit allows that makes it really special for me. It’s light and extremely quick to set, wearing the tiny mics as earbuds, record and be part of that soundscape, instead of being an outsider observer / listener that is necessarily influencing the surroundings. Nothing changes around me, people will behave in the same way and that is very much unique and a side of field recording that interests me greatly.
For example, when I visited Seville, one Sunday morning I was walking up a small street that had such delicate sounds of someone being pushed on wheelchair, and small wind chimes on a balcony that sounded very gentle,with the lightest breeze and a very pleasant though calm atmosphere of good mood with some distant genuine laughter. I captured all this like I felt it at the time and I don’t believe this could have been achieved if I had to assemble a bigger kit.
One of my favourites recording using the small pair of OKM was recorded in a clock store in Prague. I could be steady “looking” at any display and all the mechanics, ticking and musical sounds were recorded without the owner or costumers feel any annoyance or intrusion.
When I go out field recording for something planned and maybe people’s behaviour or presence is not the focus, or if I am recording delicate sites’ particularities, then I carry usually a Sound Devices 702, and I have been enjoying the possibilities of a M/S setup more and more, since in post I can treat the stereo image to be more of what I intend with it, especially if I will be using it for film.
Of course the Sound Devices for the very good pre-amps, rugged and compact construction and easy to use on the field. I have been really happy with the results of the Schoeps CMC 6U with MK4 and MK8 capsules, for it’s clarity, detailed highs and yet very natural sound. Usually I prefer to use the cardioid capsule as it feels more natural if I want to push it a bit more on post, but this is usually when I am recording wide sites; if it comes to particularities, small and delicate things, the [MK41](http://www.schoeps.de/en/products/MK 41) is great for it as well.
Thank you to Melissa Pons for describing her kit and field recording experiences for us!
Quick Links: Melissa Pons’ Kit
- Soundman OKM II Classic Studio Solo omnidirectional electret binaural in-ear microphones.
- Schoeps CMC 6U microphone amplifier.
- Schoeps MK 4 cardioid capsule.
- Schoeps MK 8 figure-of-eight microphone capsule.
- Schoeps MK 41 supercardioid capsule.
- Zoom H4n portable stereo audio recorder with electret condenser microphones.
- Sound Devices 702 2-track audio recorder.
- Visit Melissa’s blog, The Sound Design Process.
- Follow her on Twitter.
- Follow her on SoundCloud.
- Read an interview with Melissa Pons on The Audio Spotlight.
Read more about the A Month of Field Recordists series.