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


2AM Thunderstorm September 18th 2011

This is a recording of a thunderstorm that passed through in the middle of the night and completely caught me off guard. This is the time of year that the weather here in the North Idaho panhandle brings surprises. Cold, heat, wind, rain and lightning are the norm on any given day. The weekend was much cooler than the last two months and I should have known a storm would zip on though and I almost missed it. I checked the weather before heading off to sleep and there was a 30% chance of rain but no thunder in the forecast. My gear was down in my basement studio as I was rocked out of bed by a huge thunder clap. I fumbled my way to the gear and rushed to get my MKH-8040ST plugged in to my SD-702 and place the mic outside the front door. I noticed my Low cut filter was on from a previous session and tried to change it quickly but missed an amazing lightning strike.

All was not lost so I began recording as there was just a slight misty rain and hoped the storm would continue and it did. The wind and rain picked up as the thunder was distant and then there was a closer lightning strike off to the East and the echo ping ponged against the nighttime mountains. As the wind and rain became even stronger there was another strike and below you can listen to both strikes edited together. There is no EQ or compression just some soft L2 limiting.

Enjoy! -Frank

Midnight Shotgun Shooting

A few nights ago I was trying to record the thunderstorm that was rolling in from the south and some dogs were barking about a hundred yards away. They bark every night for hours trying to scare off the deer. One of the things I tried to do is scare them off with my shotgun. It was around midnight and very quiet outside.

My Sennheiser MKH-8040ST rig was set up outside the front door and I was able to get some rumbles but the storm fizzled out but the dogs kept on barking. I went to the back side of the house and shot off a few shells into the woods away from the dogs I assure you. I forgot that the recorder was still rolling and the shots were recorded. The echo is wonderful that late at night with little city rumble or cars.

The shots are behind my house to the side of the mic setup and here is what I got:

Shotgun Shooting Mossberg 590 by therecordist

Thanks for listening, just wanted to share the echo! -Frank

Recording a 1980 Beech Baron 58P Airplane Part 2

Beech 58P 2011 Recording 2

Part Two: Interior Flight Recording and Mechanisms

This second part in the series details the process of capturing the sound inside the plane during flight and the other sounds the plane makes like the wing flaps, rudder, doors, etc.

Interior Flight Recording

After recording the engines and the plane flying around I tackled the interior during flight. The first flight had the D-50 inside and recorded the flying maneuvers from the rear cabin perspective but this time I wanted to record both the front cockpit as well as the cabin with two recorders. I held a Sony PCM-D1 up in the cockpit while the Sony D-50 remained in the back wedged between the rear facing passenger seats.

Holding the PCM-D1 during the flight proved a little tricky because the plane was bouncing around in the air and while on the ground the runway was not exactly smooth and airplane suspension systems are quite tight. I used the Rycote hand held recorder kit that is currently available the has a foam covered handle grip that attaches to a suspension and a furry wind screen. This worked out great during the flight. I was impressed with the furry wind screen as most of the flight the air conditioning ducts were blasting air at the recorder. The cabin is very small so moving the recorder to an area with no air conditioner blowing was a no go. I did shut one overhead valve down for a while but it can get quite warm inside the plane during a full sunshine flight like we had that day.

The flight went great and the sounds came out well. These recorders are perfect for this type of recording. It was tricky getting the recording levels correct but since I had two flights that I could record I used the first flight to get the levels in the ballpark. The plane is quite dynamic in terms of how loud the cabin gets and there was a significant range of volume between flying and taking off. ALl in al I’m happy with the results and when the tracks are played back in quad you really feel like your inside the airplane.

Beech 58P 2011 Photo

Session 2: The Other Sounds a Plane Can Make

I ran out or time during the first recording session so I had to go back a week later to record the other aspects of the plane I wanted. When I arrived the pilot moved the plane out of the hanger (I did record the hanger door BTW) and I set up my gear inside and outside the plane. For the interior I used a Sennheiser MKH-8040 placed dead center in the cabin of the plane pointed forward. I knew that some of the sounds were not going to be very loud so I wanted the quietest microphone I had to be there. For the exterior I hand held a Sennheiser MKH-416 so I could be mobile and gran the different perspectives with out much trouble. Both microphones were connected to a Sound Devices SD-702 recording to separate wav files.

Beech 58P 2011 Wing Photo

First on the list to record was a wing flap. I recorded the exterior flap from the top and underneath. This sounded cool because the servo motor was under the floor in the center of the plane and when mixed with the interior MKH-8040 you get the best of the wing body movement an the servo motor. After a few takes I then crawled under the body of the plane and recorded the servo motor from the outside.

Beech 58P 2011 Door Photo

Next up were getting some cabin and cockpit door open and closes. This plane is pressurized so the door is hefty, sealed and insulated. The latches sounded the best from both inside and outside mixed together with the inside MKH-8040 producing a great hefty cabin sound. After waiting for a very long train to pass by I moved over to the cabin door and recorded the same actions. After that I crawled under the plane once again and recorded the light beacon motor turning.

Beech 58P Airplane Part 2 by therecordist

The final sounds I recorded that day were the cockpit switches, dials, yoke pedestal movements and the rudder. Th Gyro powere unit also made a cool sound. I was out of time again and called it a day. There are other mundane sounds the plane makes but felt they are common so I didn’t record them.

That wraps up the series on recording the airplane. It was a lot of work for one recordist and well worth it. I learned a lot and will use that knowledge for my next airplane session I so much want to schedule: A Learjet. -Frank

Check out the forst part here: Recording a 1980 Beech Baron 58P Airplane Part-1