Archives For Field Report


Earlier this year, I discovered an excellent field recording opportunity: the Montréal Grand Prix and the Toronto Honda Indy car races landed on two consecutive weekends.

The Formula 1 Grand Prix is one of the most popular sports in the world. With 450 million global viewers, it ranks closely with American football, basketball, and baseball. F1 fans can cheer for drivers, root for their home nations, or pledge fealty to teams such as Ferrari or McLaren. North America’s Road to Indy is a loose equivalent. It is a ladder of increasingly demanding races, each with its own drivers, teams, and car specs or “formulas.” The locations were just as rich in detail: Toronto’s fast-paced, no-nonsense lifestyle contrasted with Montréal’s easy-going feel. While both weekends hosted the same sport, the two events could not be more different.

My thought in June, 2015: why not visit both the F1 and the Honda Indy to compare the car sounds, races, locations, and the experience of field recording these powerful machines? And behind this plan was an idea: could I capture those differences in sound?

I packed my gear and travelled to Montréal.

What did I find at those races? Today’s post shares my experiences capturing sound effects at both of these events using the stealth field recording style. I’ll also share how I mastered and prepped the sounds in preparation for publishing a new sound library.

So, grab a coffee and get ready for a deep dive into an experience field recording auto racing sound effects. Next week, I’ll share quick tips for recording your own race car sound effects.

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Howitzer Hero

I was walking home one day when I heard a tremendous boom shake the high-rises of downtown Toronto. It repeated relentlessly, and seemed to intensify with every blast. I detoured, and found three howitzers firing shells deep within the caverns of the city.

What I did not expect was that moment would lead to a five year field recording journey.

Today’s post will share how I brought these sound effects from concept, field recording, mastering, curating, to publishing over a half decade. How can this help you? A few ways:

  • Ideas for capturing field recordings you can’t control.
  • Learn the steps for leading sound effects from concept to publication.

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Pan Am Games - Handball

I’ve been field recording more this summer than I have in years. Part of the reason is that I’ve been enjoying experimenting with the Sony PCM–100 portable recorder, as well as comparing it with its older brother, the D50.

Another reason is that I’ve been able to access interesting events. I recorded the Formula 1 race in Montréal and the Honda Indy race in June. (I’ll have a post about those field recordings soon.) By a nice stroke of fate, I also had an opportunity to access the Pan American Games.

So, this post will describe my experiences, and share a some field recordings captured at the Pan Am Games you can download for yourself. In the next article I’ll include tips, tricks, and lessons you can use to prepare for field recording your own sporting events.

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Pompeii Film Poster

Last fall I was fortunate to be asked to record sound effects for the Hollywood feature film Pompeii.

At a reported total budget of $100 million dollars, it was one of the most prominent films I have had the pleasure of being involved with. I was quite excited to contribute sound fx to help the sound crew tell their story.

I finished that project in the late autumn. Working on Pompeii was a fantastic experience. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how unique that shoot was.

I wrote about the differences field recording for feature films last week. Today I’ll share how those ideas worked with Pompeii. I’ll explain how the shoot came about, how I completed it, and some tricks I learned that you can take away to help with your own field recordings.

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Queen's Park During Winter

I’ve had a particular sound effect on my radar for three years: subway passes.

Now, you may think that subway sound effects aren’t rare. You’d be correct. However, there was a unique aspect about these sound effects that I was eager to capture. To get the job done well demanded one requirement: I had to record in winter.

Now, I’m the first to correct anyone who assumes Canada is a vast, snowy wasteland. Summers are hot, and oppressively humid (30˙C/86˙F or more). Winters are mild. Each year during winter, however, the shoot never seems to come about.

I could use Toronto’s current frigid cold snap as an excuse (–25˙C/–13˙F). I could cite how the temperature affects recording gear. I could write about the challenge of keeping quiet while shivering in the still, icy air.

But those are actually reasons why a field recordist should record in winter. In fact, it’s the best season to capture sound effects.

In this post, I’ll explain how seasons affect field recording, and how I tracked down those subway sound fx.

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Rob Ford Protest Hero

Toronto mayor Rob Ford has been accused of many things. Being boring isn’t one of them.

Bitter controversy has followed Ford ever since he was elected in 2010, more so than any Canadian politician in recent history. Crack cocaine smoking, excessive drinking, and a liberal interpretation of the truth has citizens foaming at the mouth. And I’m glad. Why?

Well, I’m not particularly a political person. However, wherever there is controversy, there are always good sound effects. Torontonians planned a protest in early November of last year. I wanted to capture the sound of their boiling fury. There was another reason, too. I wanted to record tracks for a community I had recently joined called The Sound Collector’s Club.

In the process I worked with two field recording tricks:

  • How to record unpredictable field recordings on the fly.
  • How to record sound effects for an unknown audience.

I’ll share those ideas with you today.

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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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Via Rail Locomotive

I’ve enjoyed recording freight and passenger train sound effects over the past year. I wrote about my experiences capturing them here, and here.

Early in January I had a chance to record another engine. Last week, I finally cut it. And, while I was editing, I remembered an important trick: mastering your clips before you capture them makes field recording quick and easy, and invokes strong, valuable sound effects.


Doesn’t mastering follow field recording, chronologically?

Yes. I’ll explain, using the passenger train recordings as an example. First I’ll share how I cut the sound, and continue next week with ideas to help strengthen field recordings.

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Fiesta Quilt

Auctioneer Sound Effects

I’ve written before that my favourite sound effects are field recordings of other cultures and places.

Usually I’ve recorded these in dense, cosmopolitan cities. Why? When you’re on a deadline it’s the most efficient way to capture a diverse selection of rich sound effects.

But of course not all culture is urban.

This was part of the reason that I found myself in New Hamburg, Ontario last month.

New Hamburg is a township of 8,000 people an hour and half west of Toronto. I was comfortable recording people and cultures in cities. I wanted to see if I could capture life via sound effects in a rural community too.

I had been given a tip. Every spring New Hamburg hosts the Mennonite Relief Sale. This weekend-long event raises money for relief and service projects worldwide. Although tucked away in unassuming middle-Ontario, it was known to draw flocks of distributors nationwide for one reason: the quilt auction.

Mennonites are a Protestant community. You’ve likely seen the (largely inaccurate) stereotype: simple dress and horses and buggies. I knew nothing about their religion or practice.

So, I jumped at the opportunity to learn about a different way of life and also to record one of my favourite sound effects: auctioneers.

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Winter Woods by Lawren Harris
Last week I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario for two sound-related reasons.

The AGO, as it is commonly referred to, is Toronto’s largest art museum. It’s known for a large collection paintings created by The Group of Seven, a collective of Canadian artists who worked earlier last century. The painting above, Winter Woods is by Lawren Harris, one of the group.

I needed a creative recharge so I decided to take my own advice and find inspiration from something different than audio.

As readers of the Airborne Sound blog have noticed, I’ve been reviewing the Sony PCM-D50 portable recorder and comparing it with the Zoom H4n.

I’m still getting a feel for the new pocket recorder. So, I also wanted to try the D50 in another situation: recording stealth art gallery crowd sound effects.

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