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The Wall Comes Crashing Down

As a sound recordist, one of the best things about living in a small town in the middle of nowhere besides fresh air, clean water and quiet is sometimes you get to record things that would be very difficult or impossible to record anywhere else. Some of those things are recording a M-60 machine gun in someones back yard or getting the powerful sounds of a building being ripped apart by an excavator. Well, that has been my life experience for the last two days and now I have a slight headache.

While I was driving through town on the way to record the M-60 for a second time yesterday I noticed that a wrecking crew had started tearing down the old Chevy dealership to make way for a new development. They had a few very large excavators with the claw and were having at it with the building. I stopped and strolled around outside the fence they had erected to keep people away and safe. I happened to meet one of the operators and asked him when they were going to be tearing down the other half of the building. He told me that it takes some time because they had to separate out the materials for disposal and they were using the last half of the two story wall as a dust shield facing the main street. He could not give me a time that the final blows were going to occur so I said goodbye and headed for my gun session.

A few weeks ago I noticed all the fencing around the old dealership site and knew at some point it was going to be ripped apart and there were plenty of places I could hang out with my gear and record something, anything. So at the spur of the moment I decided to take a chance this morning and head over there with the MKH-8040ST rig on a long boompole and see if I could record at the site. When I got there I walked around the outside fence and tried to record the general background sounds of the guys working. Since the main highway runs on one side of the site I really did not expect to get anything isolated and useful, maybe just some construction site ambience.

Well, as luck would have it, the guy I talked to yesterday saw me with the gear and stopped his excavator. The next thing I know he yells out to me “Want some glass breaking?” I quickly gave him a thumbs up and he proceeded to ram the claw through a huge window. OK, now I was on to something so I gave him the thumbs up again and walked around to the other side where there was another excavator smashing wood debris and moving metal girders around. There are all these signs on the fence that say “Hard Hat Area”, “Danger, Keep Out” and “Stay Away”. I stood outside the fence for a short time and decided it was time to walk through the opening of fence into the site. I figured the worst thing that could happen is they would tell me to leave.

Once inside the site I could get clean backgrounds with no traffic noises and position myself right in the middle for a good stereo image. Well, luck stuck again and the excavator drove right by me with a massive steel beam and dropped it over in the corner. The operator stopped the machine and came over and sked me if I was collecting air quality samples. I told him I was recording sound effects and he said “OK”. I briefly explained to him what I do and he told me it was OK to hang out here. I asked him if he was going to tear down some of the tall walls and said maybe later because he had to separate things on the ground first. He gets in his machine and drives by me again on his way back to where he was working. I recorded some incredible tread squeaking ans squealing.

The next thing I know he is moving the claw high in the air over the wall and I ran into position and recorded him ripping the wall apart. Now it was happening, the goldmine! The excavator was on the other sie of the wall so the engine noise is minimal and when the wall gets torn apart some of it falls to the ground. I got some great recordings today, maybe once in a lifetime, I don’t know, all I know is I sure had a great time and I have a slight headache from all the loud sounds I’ve been recording lately.

Enjoy!

Frank

Note: The video is from my iPhone 4 and i’m concentrating on holding the mic steady so the video is jerky, Oh well….

PHOTOS

Wall Destroy Photo

Wall Destroy Photo

Wall Destroy Photo

Wall Destroy Photo

Wall Destroy Photo

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Explosion Recording October 2011

I’ve always wanted to record explosions and while I was recording a few guns recently I had my chance. Explosions are not something you can record everyday. I takes some planning, a good location that allows this kind of loud stuff and a very good shot. Since I have the gear all I needed was the above. It all came together after months of planning with the local gun shop. After recording a bunch of guns it was time to set off the Tannerite. If you don’t know about Tannerite, it is two (legal) substances that when mixed together and hit with just the right projectile at just the right velocity, it goes Boom!

We brought along 25 half pound canisters and planned how many we were going to tape together and set off. We started out with a few singles and doubles and then moved on to the big ones up to five together. They were set on wood tree stumps so they would not kick up too much dirt and debris. I recorded with all the microphones I had on the gun shoot placed at various locations in the gravel pit. I used a Sanken CSS-5, AT 835ST, MKH-416, PCM-D50 (96k), MKH-8040 and my MKH-8040ST microphone set at 24-bit 192kHz and 96kHz. I aimed the microphones in many directions and set them at different distances. I would guess the mics were anywhere from 30 meters to 50 meters away from the blasts.

Explosion 10-2011 Photo

I did not know what to expect. I knew they were going to be loud but since we had just shot off some REALLY loud rifles my perpective was totally messed up. Needless to say they were LOUD. Your body feels the concussion but if your wearing hearing protection (like I was) they sound muffled. After we set off the first few smaller blasts it started to rain. I quickly grabbed all the gear scattered around the gravel pit and set it under the hatch of my car. It seemed like the rain was not going to stop so we called it a day and I torn down the gear. Then as quick as it came in it stopped. Since we were running out of time I quickly got the MKH-8040ST and Sanken CSS-5 set up and we recorded the remaining explosions.

I thought I was going to regret not setting up all the gear after the rain delay but after I returned to the studio and listened to all the takes I found the best recordings were the MKH-8040ST. These microphones at 192k sound amazing. They record the full spectrum of the blast and when pitched down live up to the hype.

The sounds you hear in the video are edited and processed with a small amount of H-COMP compression and REN-Bass along with some fairly agressive L2 limiting. All in all I was happy with the sounds recorded that day. The location has a smooth decay and the gravel banks help the initial concussion. Over the next few months I will be recording lots more explosions in many different locations. Keep your eye out for ULTIMATE EXPLOSION SFX Library in the near future.

-Frank

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Gun Recording October 21 2011

Here is a quick blog post about my experience recording some big guns. There is a lot more to tell but I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts, video and pictures from the session.

The shoot was arranged very quickly because the weather here in North Idaho was about to turn nasty and I wanted to get some gun sounds before the end of the year. Rain was forecast for the days after the shoot but the day of the shoot there was only a 30% chance which in North Idaho means it’s hit and miss.

I asked the guys at Wrenco Arms here in Sandpoint Idaho if they were up for having their prized M-60 machine gun recorded. They were totally in and asked if I wanted to do some other guns as well. Since I am not a gun expert I asked them to bring some big guns. We ended up recording a Barret 98B Lapua Magnum and a Remington 700 with Weatherby 300 rounds. We also had some M-16 guns scheduled but the rain came in and cut the session short. Before the rain started I also recorded Tannerite explosions. These were fun and I will post a blog about that part of the session in the future.

I consulted with two of the best in the business: Charles Maynes and Chuck Russom and they gave me some great tips and advice for this shoot and it was great that they both were willing to share their expertise with me in this field. Thanks guys!

One thing I have learned during the small amount of gun shoots I have recorded is it’s not an easy task. I am not set up to record guns all the time. I wish I had more variety in microphones and since I cannot rent gear up here on short notice I used what I had and hoped for the best. I used a pair of Sennheiser MKH-8040s, a single MKH-8040, MKH-416, Sanken CSS-5, AT 835ST and a Sony D-50. I had two SD-702s, an FR-2 and a Sony PCM-D1 with the Sony pre-amp module. If the recorder could record at 192K I set it for that sample rate.

The video above is from a set of bursts from the M-60. I quickly combined the MKH-416 and Sanken CSS-5 for the audio track. There is no other processing except for some EQ and Limiting.

We had some interruptions during the shoot (no surprise) and at times had to wait a while for them to pass. Birds, squirrels, cars and airplane all made their presence known at times and it really screwed up the flow of the sessions because I knew the rain was coming and I only had a few hours to get all these guns recorded.

All in all it was a great session and I am happy with the results. There are a few things I would like to have done differently and will have the chance to try them out in the future. I do want to do this again and will take what I learned and hope for the best again.

-Frank

PHOTOS

Guns 10-2011 Photo
Guns 10-2011 Photo
Guns 10-2011 Photo
Guns 10-2011 Photo
Guns 10-2011 Photo
Guns 10-2011 Photo
Guns 10-2011 Photo
Guns 10-2011 Photo
Explosion 10-2011 Photo
Explosion 10-2011 Photo
Explosion 10-2011 Photo
Explosion 10-2011 Photo
Explosion 10-2011 Photo
Explosion 10-2011 Photo

Ultimate-Foliage-HD-Pro_05

The Adventure of a Leaftime

You Are Recording What?

I’ve been asked a few times, “You’re recording leaves? Why?” My short answer was because they are there. The long answer is because I’ve always needed some leaf-type sounds in my video game work. Whether it was for a fantasy forest ambient track sweetener, a tree monster, or a spaceship roaring low over trees, leaves come in very handy. So now the question is: What do I record and where do I record it? In this article I will detail, the best way I can, the adventure this turned out to be, what I learned, and how I put it all together.
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Deer Snorts and Squirrel Talk

Snort… Snot… danger signal… Call it what you want

One of the sounds a deer makes when it senses danger is snorting. I have been trying to get a decent recording of this nose blow for years. Sometimes when I’m out recording in the yard I will startle one of them out in the forest and they blow snot out their nose. Sometimes it’s very loud and startles me. If there are a few of them hanging out in the woods they all go running when the boss of the group makes this sound. I have heard them do this 10 yards away from me and 50 yards away from me. Believe me when I tell you that at 10 yards it’s quite loud and makes me jump.

I recorded this set of snorts while I was getting some dry grass sounds for my next library called Ultimate Foliage. The tall grass was at the edge of the property at the forest tree line and I had no idea the deer were around. I usually hear them walking around in the brush especially this time of year when the ground is so dry. They can make quite a racket out there.

The deer recording is not the cleanest but it’s the best I’ve recorded so far. There were some cars driving by and I was waiting for those cars to pass when one of the the deer decided to let it’s snot fly. I turned and aimed the MKH-416 in his direction and tried not to move. The deer were probably about 30 yards away from me deep in the woods and after the last snort they all ran off like I was a hunter. It will be hunting season around here soon and every year they disappear for a while and go into hiding. Disclaimer: I do not hunt and have no opinion on the subject except that once I was tricked into eating venison and after I was told what it was, I freaked.

Deer Snorts and Squirrel Talk by therecordist

Squirrel Talk

Sometimes when I’m out recording on the ranch the squirrels decide to yap it up and I swear they are messing with me. It can be so very quiet outside and I grab the gear, start recording and they want have a party in the trees. One starts, then another, then another and before you know it I’m recording squeaking and chirping instead of the intended sound. This summer I decided if I can’t beat them, join them. Sometimes they actually make a cool sound when they are playful and at other times they can chirp until it gives me a headache.

The squirrels here in the country are smaller and more afraid of humans than the bigger ones in the city and suburbs. I have only been able to get close to one a few times in all the years I’ve lived here.

These recordings are from two separate occasions. The first one was a squirrel chasing another and the second part was from a very close encounter with one on my barn roof. I was able to get two meters away from the little guy as he chirped his brains out. At the end of the track I pitched the track down an octave and it sounded like a strange furry creature in the evil forest of some horror movie.

Enjoy! -Frank

 

Equiment Notes: Sennheiser MKH-416 Microphone and a Sound Devices SD-702 at 24/96