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Slow Motion Bullets

Post Date: February 22, 2012

There is a first time for everything and recording bullet pass bys and impacts was a first for me. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at bullet recording but never had the knowledge or association with anyone that had a permit to use a gun suppressor. During the recording sessions for the M60 machine gun with the very experienced and amazing marksman named Richard from the local gun shop I began to inquire about what it would take to record some bullet impacts and whizz bys. I then consulted with everyone’s favorite weapons maven – Charles Maynes (my sincere thanks man!), and he gave me some valuable advice for these kind of sessions. I then explained what I wanted to accomplish with Richard and gave him the specs from Charles and we were off and running. The bullet demo in this blog post has some of the sounds recorded and played back at 35% of normal so you can hear the shot and the impact in greater detail, and they sound much more interesting slowed down a bit.
Bullet-Gallery-3
I’ve recorded many guns with a portable recorder at or near where the bullets impact mainly for just another perspective but learned a lot from the sounds from these recordings. First, there is always the loud “bang” sound from the gun firing and second there is a supersonic shockwave “crack” That sometimes overshadows the initial “bang” As you can hear in the demo below of a Winchester Model 70 rifle with Weatherby .300 rounds, when I move the microphone near the bullet impact you can hear double and sometimes triple shockwaves from the very powerful ammo. I recorded this on a rock hillside up behind the ranch with a Sennheiser MKH-8040ST. The first 3 shots are with the 8040ST about 30 feet from the gun and the next 3 shots are 10 feet away from some huge boulders. I was going to use this demo for a future blog post but decided to use it here. Also, I know the ammo and the gun are MUCH larger than a Glock 22 but hey…

Bullet-Gallery-1

Recording The Bullets

Now, on to the bullet recording sessions. The goal was to have a bullet traveling less than 900 feet per second. It needs to be subsonic and slow (for a bullet) with enough force to make a decent noise when hitting it’s target. Richard researched what he thought we would need and built the ammo himself with soft metal slugs and just enough gunpowder to make it go the right speed. During one of the M60 sessions we tested some bullet impacts into a refrigerator with a Glock 22 and regular off the shelf 40 caliber ammo. As you can hear the bullet travels fast and the gun tail can be heard in the bullet impact even though he was shooting from 150 feet away. Even when the sound is played back at a speed of 35% of normal, the “bang” is still very loud.

The next week we traveled back to the gravel pit and tested the Glock 22 with a supressor and the 40 caliber ammo that Richard had made. I bought along a dead iMac, solid steel plate, oven pans and some windows to use as targets.
Gun-40cal-Suppressed
I was cautious about where to place the microphones as I did not know how much or how far any debris would fly. I placed a MKH-8040 and a MKH-416 on the left side of the target around 10 feet away with the MKH-8040 closer in. I placed the MKH-8040ST setup to the right of the target a little higher off the ground and the same distance away as the others. I wanted to get the stereo pass by of the bullet along with the impact. I also had a AT-835ST setup near Richard to get the suppressed shot sound just in case. I had the channels so why not. The suppressed gun shot sounds nothing like you hear in the movies or TV, it sounds like a muted firecracker. After a few takes I moved the microphones slightly closer.

Shooting this gun with the slower bullet and a suppressor was a challenge at times for Richard. He was aiming dead on the target (he is a very good shot I must say) but the bullet would veer off course because of it’s weight and slow speed. He really tried his best to hit with accuracy but sometimes the bullet went low or high. Actually, it was really OK because with the frozen ground I was able to get some great richochets.


Bullet-Gallery-2
I wish the glass impacts came out better but the glass was double paned and the bullet just punctured the glass and there was no shatter. I am going to bring some of the left over single pane glass windows from the recording of Ultimate Glass to the next session and hope for some epic breaking.
Bullet-Impact-Steel-Plate
I was very happy with the steel plate and oven pan sounds. The steel plate was loud and piercing while the oven pan was a dull metal whack type of sound. I did place the oven pan in front of the steel plate to get a more complex combination of metal sounds and this worked quite well.
Bullet-Impact-iMac
I was also pleased with the iMac sounds. As Richard slowly chipped away at the soon to be more dysfuntional iMac the sounds became more diverse and the parts started to fly off the computer and land everywhere. After recording we fished out the bullet remains from the inside of the iMac. They were so soft that the interior metal parts of the computer were stopping the bullets in their tracks.

I have many bullet recording sessions planned this coming summer including long range pass bys with a high powered suppressed sniper rifle. I hope to get the recording done sometime time before the Mayan calender ends later this year.
Bullet-Slugs

Disclaimer and advice:
Recording guns is very dangerous. Recording bullet impacts and pass bys should be taken very seriously and done with the help of a professional weapons handler. Please do not try this at home or without the proper instruction and training.

Insane Ice Cracks

Seems I just can’t stop. I’m obsessed with getting some wicked cool, ultimate insane over the top ice cracks and today was a good day. The last few nights it’s been 20 degrees or lower and this makes for some ice to grow on the lakes around North Idaho. At 8 AM this morning I dragged my ass out of bed and suited up for a cold recording session out in the middle of Round Lake. The sun was in and out of the clouds and the lake was rockin’ as I stood quietly next to the Sennheiser MKH-8040ST. Not a soul was around which is just the way I like it. After a hour or so of deeper cracks a few big ones let go. One of them was right under my feet as you can hear in the demo. It startled me a little but I had my ice shoes on so I did not fall over.

Ice Recording Insane

The wildlife were very disturbed by my presence this morning and the ravens and crows were going nuts. A few geese flew over and there were some hawk screeches (you can hear one faintly in the demo) The trains were quiet so i was really excited to see what I could get. Some of the cracks circled me in surround (wish I had that kind of setup today) and I could hear them start at one end and end up on the other side where there is open water at the outlet.

Some interesting facts I learned about this lake from the ranger on duty:

1) The lake is almost perfectly round and deep for it’s size.

2) The lake is stream fed from the East and drains on the West. This makes the water swirl around the outer edges when the inlet brings more water in than the outlet can drain. When it warms it pushes the ice and makes it bulge and get thinner at the North shore.

3) People have fallen though the ice but no one has drowned, good thing!

Ice Recording Insane

Ice Recording Insane

Copyright Notice:
All of the audio demo presentations on this Web site are protected by worldwide copyright, and are provided for demonstration purposes only. No authorization is given or implied for anyone to copy or use these audio demo presentations, or any sounds contained therein, for any purpose except to audition the sound libraries and enjoy the blog posts.

North Idaho Iceman Vol-2

This is the second and final in a series of blog posts documenting some of my experiences recording ice for Ultimate Ice 2 HD Pro Sound Effects Library. Recorded over the last few months of 2011 and into 2012 with a Sennheiser MKH-8040ST microphone set to XY at 120 or 90 degrees.

Location: Muskrat Lake

Back in early December 2011 while I was recording trains I came across a large private lake not far from the ranch. It had been very cold for a few days but the sun was shining and the lake was covered with a nice medium think layer of ice. I set the microphone up close to the edge of the lake and attempted to crack the soft shoreline with my feet. I soon found out that the ice was thin there and decided I would come back later in the day with a sledgehammer and give it a good hit.

Ice Recording Muskrat Lake

I hit the lake ice from a location about 10 meters to the side of the microphone. I had to reach out from the edge as I knew the ice was soft at my feet. The hammer broke through a few times and I had a hard time pulling it out of the ice hole. I wish I had the courage to go out on the lake but since I was not sure of the depth of the water and thickness of the ice I played it safe and stayed on the edge. While I was recording I heard the dispersion sound waves travel across the lake but they were not very loud. At one point during a take a dog barked in the distance and that was louder than the pinging (I left the bark in the take, it sounds cool pitched down).

Location: Mountain Pond

I was intrigued by the potential for sounds with the sledgehammer so on my way back from Muskrat Lake I drove up the hill behind the ranch where there is a pond about 1 acre in size. Since it is much colder up there at 3500 feet above sea level the ice was much thicker. I was able to set the microphone out on the ice and get out in the middle and take my swings. The size of the pond did not yield much dispersion pinging but it sure made a good thump.

Ice Recording Pond

Next up were the smaller retaining ponds that are scattered along the side of the steep road leading up to the top of the mountain. The were frozen over fairly well but a few still had standing water under the 2 inch ice layer. I hit these a few times and some cracked and gave way. The cracks would rip right under the microphone and after this I would stomp and drop things on the sheets of ice.

Ice Recording Pond

A few of these little ponds also gave me the opportunity to use my body weight and apply steady pressure until they would break apart and fall into themselves with a small sea of muddy water. The trick is to know when to jump out before they collapse. I never really got the timing right on this and got soaked almost every time.

Location: My Ranch Foley Pit

One of the things I wanted to record for this collection was impacts and debris from solid chunks of ice. As it was starting to get colder earlier in the winter I left some plastic tarp covers outside to retain the melting water that built up during the day. I draped the tarps over some firewood to create indents to hold the water. At night they would freeze over and then melt a little the next day. Any snow or rain would be captured by the tarp and when frozen over it would be easy to sperate the ice chunks from the tarp.

Ice Recording Ranch

After a couple of weeks I had enough ice chunks to record. I had to make sure it was cold enough outside so they would remain solid. I set up a multi microphone rig at the concrete slab I have on the ranch and began dropping and hitting the chucks. They turned out well and now I have to figure out how to even bigger chunks made.

Things I learned while out in the field:
1. 99% of time recording ice you will get wet. Prepare and bring towels, hand warmers, etc.

2. It’s almost always noise outside no matter where you are recording. Ice is very difficult to get clean recordings of. Between birds, dogs, planes, trains, traffic and fisherman it’s always hit and miss. Be patient.

3. Check you microphone rig now and then. Make sure all is dry and not to cold.

4. Be safe. Use your best judgement as to how far you are willing to go. Ice is slippery and falling is not a good idea.

January 2012 Snowstorms

Recording Snow Sounds January 2012

Wind Recording 2012 The third week of January 2012 proved to be a goldmine for snow sound effects here on the ranch. The typical North Idaho winter finally arrived bringing with it lots of snow, wind and freezing temperatures.

The week started with a bunch of snow falling along with some very cold temperatures. As the winter storm progressed and the weather systems above were battling it out for supremacy, the wind came. Not a soft blowing winter wind but some strong sustained blizzard like winds with gusts up to 65 MPH.

I shot some video from my front door of the cold dry snow blowing off the trees and around the yard and then decided it was time to veture outside to the garden area and set the MKH-8040ST up near the fence. I can usually get some good whistling through the fence and the power lines above and this time was no exception. Some really strong gusts swept by and really knocked the mic around a bit. I was in such a rush to get set up that I left the Sound Devices 702 low cut filter set to off. I was concerned that the gusts would stop soon so I just set my levels and rolled.

During a break in the heavy gusts I did manage to get the low cut filter on and recorded a little more. By this time the storm had settled down and I was freezing. It was 15 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill at approximately -5 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. I did not want to stay outside much longer as I was concerned about the MKH-8040ST freezing up.

Snow Falling Impacts

Later in the week after the snow had piled up on the roof I patiently waited to get the sound of the snow sliding off the roof and falling onto my deck. When it’s very cold the snow stays and accumulates on my metal roof. As soon as it warms up a little and the sun comes out it can slide at any second. The trick is to guess when. The roof edges start to drip and after a few hours I can hear it creaking and clunking from inside the house. At that point I have a few minutes before it all comes down. I was ready this time. It all came down.

Snow Recording 2012 Roof

I also was able to record the sound of snow pack hitting the ground as I shoveled the snow off my deck. I got some very nice thumps and debris spray close up while at the same time getting some much need exercise.

I also pulled branches on the trees to make the snow fall off. This was tricky because you don’t know from which place on the tree the snow will fall from. All hell can break loose and you can get covered in snow and large trees do not move that easy. I have pulled to hard and landed on my ass way too many times for my comfort.

Snow Falling Off Trees

By now we have seen four storms come in during the week and the last one was after some freezing rain. Overnight the rain had turned to snow and piled up on the trees. There was very little wind and the next morning I headed out to the north east corner of my ranch to a grove of fir trees and heard some very nice falling snow. The snow was falling on it’s own and with a little help from a light breeze. As the morning warmed up the snow was falling continuously.

I recorded from many locations looking for the best angle and I had some luck. The falling snow was unpredictable and I was just winging it most of the time. I tried not to get too close under the trees as I never knew where the snow was going to fall off. I recorded some close falling sounds but the best part was hearing the distant ones from high up the tall trees making their way to the ground.

I was lucky that the morning was quiet and there was a soft wind. A stronger wind would have masked the sound of the crystals tumbling over each other.

Snow Recording 2012 Trees

Snow Recording 2012 Trees

Snow Recording 2012 Trees

A Few Snow Recording Tips

1. Observe and learn the best times to record the different kinds of snow. Wet snow occurs during a warm up or after the sun has come out and spread its heat on everything. You should best get this at the start of the warm up as the dripping that can occur can ruin your recordings depending on where you are located. Dry snow is best recorded when it’s really cold in the morning or at night when there is less activity going on in the world, you get cleaner recordings.

2. Wear non-synthetic clothing. I do not wear any “plastic” winter clothing as it can make noise when you move around or if any snow hits your body. Don’t laugh but I have a pair of pull on leather UGG boots I wear for recording snow. They have no buckles, zippers or laces to make noise that can destroy any chance of a good clean take.

3. If you are recording soft, low level snow sounds it’s best to stand away from the microphones. Sometimes this is not possible so make sure you have a comfortable spot to stand and don’t move. Breathe lightly and make sure your feet are planted securely as the longer you stand the more chance of slipping or adjusting yourself which can get in the recording.

4. I really don’t like to record everything with a Windjammer over the microphone but with snow it is almost a requirement. I’ve had lots and lots of snow fall on the microphone and this lessens any chance of the “hitting the microphone” plastic click sound.

5. When recording snow blizzard wind turn that low cut filter on. I tend to use 80Hz but sometimes 160Hz works depending on the rumble from the wind.

6. This probably goes without saying but if you plan on being outside in the bitter cold for any longer than 10 minutes, dress appropriately and keep yourself warm… especially your hands. Be safe and pack your flask.

FYI

Here is what can happen when they don’t plow the road and you don’t have four wheel drive:

North Idaho Iceman Vol-1

Date: January 13, 2012

Ice Jan 2012This is the first in a series of blog posts documenting my experiences recording ice for the forthcoming ULTIMATE ICE 2 HD SFX Library. Recorded during the week ending on January 13, 2011 with a Sennheiser MKH-8040ST microphone set to XY at 120 or 90 degrees depending on my mood. As I was leaving Round Lake today one of the ice fisherman yelled “See you around iceman” hence the name of the blog post and sound file.

This winter has been strange. Not a lot of snowfall lots of rain and then cold. A few weeks ago it rained for what seemed like days and then it got bitter cold. The snow melted, the rivers and lakes rose and then froze solid. This only happens once a season if we are lucky and it presented the perfect opportunity to record ice, some BIG ice.

Location: Springy Point State Park

This park sits on the South shore of The Pend Oreille river and is two miles from my ranch. The river level has been lowered and the shores have ice up. When it rained it filled all the pockets near the shore with lots of water. When they froze, the water evaporated and left a half inch thick sheet of ice. These left a huge air pocket under the sheet, sometimes 12 inches or more. With just the right amount of pressure with my foot I was able to break these sheets and they made a great heavy ice smash.

Ice Jan 2012

I also recorded the ice sheets on the river next to the shoreline. They can stretch out hundreds of feet and are constantly being pushed and shoved towards the shore by the wind. I took a careful walk out on to this thin ice and it splintered and cracked. I did fall through a few times but the water is only a few inches deep so no worries.

Ice Jan 2012

Location: Cocolalla Lake

Cocolalla Lake is an accessible, 800-acre year-round fishery fed by Cocolalla Creek with an average depth of 26 feet. It is popular for ice fishing in winter. Boat access is available on the northeast end adjacent to the campground. Shoreline fishing access is primarily limited to the northeast end and the east shoreline. This is where I started recording. The ice was not very thick, around 3 to 4 inches and after talking with a few fisherman, who were very cautious, I only ventured out a hundred feet or so.

Ice Jan 2012

When the sun rises and heats the lake it starts to flex and crack. I was able to get some decent cracking and pinging sounds but the close proximity of highway 95 made recording difficult. I did notice that you can hear the cracks coming toward you. They make subtle pings that get louder the closer they get. A very cool sound and I was lucky that a few cracks ripped very close to the microphone. During one crack I felt the ice sheet drop down a little and that’s when I decided to head back to shore. On the way I met some fisherman who showed up and they told me about Round Lake after I explained the traffic noise issue. So, I headed to Round Lake State Park which was just a few miles up the road.

Ice Jan 2012

Location: Round Lake State Park

Round Lake State Park is situated in 142 acres of forest surrounding a 58-acre lake at an elevation of 2,122 feet 10 miles South of Sandpoint. The lake is the product of glacial activity dating back to the Pleistocene Epoch.

Ice Jan 2012

When I arrived the sun was peaking in the Southern sky and I could hear some ice ping activity. It was fairly quiet except for the occasional car and train passing by in the distance. I had no idea where to set up so I began walking towards the middle. I was told by the fisherman there that the ice was 8 inches thick and possibly thicker in the middle of the lake. I worked my way out towards the middle recording 5 minutes at a time. The cracks are very unpredictable and sometimes far and few between.

Ice Jan 2012

As I was just about in the center of the lake I recorded a crack that went right under the microphones. There were other cracks already there and this deep sound crack was along the same line as another one. I had the microphones very close to the ice to try and minimize background noise. This worked OK but next time I might go very early in the morning when it’s much more quiet and position it a little further away. This ice cracking was amazing and the microphones don’t capture the full range of the sound for some reason. All in all it was great fun and I plan on going back as many times as I can before it snows or the lake melts away to spring.

The adventures of the North Idaho Iceman have begun. Enjoy -Frank