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Field recording is often compared to photography. There are good reasons for this, too: both crafts sample our environment so they can share it, later. There is one key feature that separates the two, though: time. Photography freezes a specific moment in time and presents to others. On the other hand, field recording captures duration. It samples moments collectively as they evolve.
A recent project by nature field recordist Mark Ferguson explored this aspect in an interesting way. Ferguson was granted exclusive access to the 800 hectares of Slimbridge wetland wildlife reserve. Known for having the largest collection of captive wildfowl, Slimbridge also witnesses dozens of species migrate through the marsh. After repeated visits to the Trust and facing constant sonic challenges, Ferguson unveiled a project on his website that highlights the craft’s defining features from one special location: a sense of transition, the power of serendipity, and a revelation of experiences through sound.
Mark Ferguson tells us more in today’s article.
Ecologist and field recordist Gordon Hempton is no stranger to this blog. We first heard from Gordon during the “Month of Field Recordists” series last year. We also learned about Gordon’s vocation and his craft in his latest book: Earth is a Solar Powered Jukebox.
Gordon Hempton has of course inspired many field recordists. His message of preserving and appreciating nature has spread beyond that focused discipline as well. Directors and producers Palmer Morse and Matt Mikkelsen are two of those people. They have recently revealed the short film Being Hear. It is a documentary shot with Gordon Hempton in the Olympic National Park, the inspiration of Hempton’s One Square Inch project to preserve and protect the sound of nature.
Today’s post features an interview with the filmmakers. Palmer and Matt share their inspiration for creating the film, the importance of audio in filmmaking, and how they accomplished blending evocative sound with lush visuals in Being Hear.
I first met today’s guest last year when he launched a new type of sound fx Web shop. Paul Col described the community-powered store he runs at CrowdSourceSFX. Later, Paul also described the kit he uses to collect field recordings for that website during the “A Month of Field Recordists” series last year.
As the current series began shaping up, I reached out to Paul again. I had been fascinated by the kit he detailed last year. I asked what he thought of it now, after he had been using it for a while. I wondered what he thought about using an Ambisonic microphone to capture field recordings. Paul kindly shared his thoughts, and they are intriguing.
So, today Paul reflects on Ambisonic field recordings as well as insight on the pros and cons of an Ambisonic kit and capturing B-format sound effects.
Today’s guest, Anna Bertmark, is a Swedish sound designer now based in the UK. I had originally met Anna through Twitter. I had known she was a talented sound supervisor and designer, and I was quite delighted when her Ambisonic field recording sessions showed up when researching this series. I wrote to her and asked if she would like to share her experiences with us. She kindly agreed.
In today’s post Anna describes how she travels worldwide capturing Ambisonic field recordings for her films. She also shares her Ambisonic workflow, and her thoughts about the future of the format.
I have been a fan of today’s guest field recordist for some time. It’s clear I’m not alone, of course: sound designer and musician Richard Devine has tens of thousands of fans worldwide. Sound pros may be most familiar with his contributions to SoundMorph’s acclaimed sound effects libraries such as Mechanism and Modular UI. Devine has shared his field recordings and stylized sounds with many other projects, too. During a recent correspondence, Richard revealed a fascinating fact: he has been deeply involved with producing Ambisonic recordings for virtual reality projects for clients such as YouTube and Google.
I asked Richard if he would care to share with us these unique experiences capturing these field recordings for his clients. He very kindly agreed. So, today we have is a special treat. Devine shares his experiences as a pioneer producing Ambisonic sound effects for VR.
When I first began considering writing about Ambisonic field recordings, my thoughts immediately turned to John Leonard.
Readers may remember John from his interview in the “A Month of Field Recordists” series. In addition to his carefully recorded sound effects, John Leonard has been a pioneer in Ambisonic field recordings. He has followed the evolution of the format and has produced some of its best field recordings. While many people have begun recently using Ambisonic sound effects for 3D and VR platforms, John has vast experience using them differently: as soundtracks for his award-winning theatre sound productions.
I asked John if he would be interested in sharing his perspective on Ambisonic sound recordings with us. I was delighted when he agreed. What emerged was a fascinating look at John’s career, and a comprehensive description of the history and evolution of the Ambisonic format and its tools.
Today I am very happy to feature a special surprise final guest to the “A Month of Field Recordist” series.
Frank Bry has been field recording for game audio and sound fx publishers since the 1990s. He has been an inspiration for the field recording community. He has generously described techniques for capturing tricky sound effect subjects on his blog and on Designing Sound. He shares his work in pristine sound fx libraries hosted on his Web shop. He has been a pioneer of the indie sound effect library movement that has reshaped the way sound effects are shared worldwide.
Frank kindly shared his thoughts on field recording here on the blog back in 2013. Today he graciously agreed to describe his kit and the workflow he uses to capture his field recordings.
Field recordings are often compared to photography. Why? Well, many feel sound effect recordings are an “audio snapshot,” a focused study of a specific event beyond the studio. Field recordist Des Coulam has written about this, as has Cities and Memory’s Stewart Fowkes.
There’s one key difference, though. It’s pretty easy to ground a photograph to a specific place on the planet after the fact – simply match the locations by eye. Audio tracks are more nebulous. Was that market recorded in northern Bangkok, or in the centre? For an inexperienced listener, that’s almost impossible to determine from sound alone. Field recordings are a more difficult to pin to location.
Relating a sound to a specific place isn’t a simple task, though. What’s the best way to show a sound clip in a space? A GPS list? A Google map? And what’s the best way for listeners to experience them? One field recordist has been a pioneer exploring these questions: Ian Rawes.
Rawes is the mind and ears behind the London Sound Survey. Since 2009, that website has plotted field recordings on a map of the English capital. Ian Rawes and his website have been featured on a number of publications including The Wire magazine, the BBC, The Guardian, and others.
I have admired Ian Rawes, his work, and his website for many years. In addition to adding field recordings on the London Sound Survey and sharing them with others, Rawes has explored the nature of sound maps themselves with fresh, interesting ideas.
I asked Ian Rawes if he would be interested in an interview about this, and the gear he uses to capture his field recordings. He kindly agreed. So, today Ian shares his ideas on sound maps as well as another provoking thought: how field recordings become a wormhole to transport a listener to another time and place.
What skills are required to become a field recordist?
You may think it is a thorough knowledge of acoustics. Perhaps it is a complete familiarity of equipment and signal flow. It could be a network of contacts that allow you access to precious field recording subjects.
Yes, all of those skills combine to help a sound pro capture excellent sound effects.
There are other, less obvious skills needed to capture field recordings. Today’s guest reveals another talent successful recordists require. In today’s post, Stosh Tuszynski reflects upon the differences between recording designed effects in the studio and gathering ambiences in the streets of Chicago. He describes how his field recording craft has evolved, and details his carefully considered minimalist kit. And, most importantly, he shares with us a unique experience capturing an iconic sound from the Windy City that illustrates a hidden, yet important skill every field recordist requires: balancing opportunity with patience.