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

Crazy Stupid Sound Of The Week 2011-08-26

This week I have two sounds that I recorded with my Sennheiser MKH-8040ST microphone rig. Both sounds are from North Idaho wildlife and are chance encounters with some of earths’ creatures.

Cattails and Sennheiser MKH-8040ST

The first sound is from a session back in July from the pond on the mountain behind the ranch. I was recording the wind blowing through some cattails (Typha, Bulrush) on the edge of the pond. I had been there recording for a few minutes when a frog started croaking from across the pond. During his display of amazing vocal talent a gun was fired off in the distance and all sorts of pond insects were flying around the microphone. The cattails had a soft rustling leafy sound that was beautiful. I really enjoy recording big, busy sounds but it’s the quiet sounds that really intrigue me and seem to soften my busy day of audio activities that rule my life at times

Frog Cattails And Squirrel 8-26-11 by therecordist

MKH8040STThe second sound is from a recent encounter with a squirrel. I was trying to record a very loud croaking tree frog on my deck but was interrupted by a small squirrel chomping on some maple tree seeds about 10 meters away from where the mic was set up.

This is the first time I have heard them rustling around in the maple trees. They are usually way up high in the tall fir trees breaking loose the pine cones so they can gather them up and store for the harsh winter. We did had a strange winter and spring this year and after checking out the top of the trees there are not that many pine cones available for them to eat.

I moved the microphone under the maple tree about 2 meters away form the munching squirrel. He took notice, started to get amped up and then hid in the leaves. Soon after he started to chirp like I pissed him off by disturbing his dinner. I usually find the chirping very annoying especially when I’m trying to record other sounds on my ranch but this time I was OK with it. He eventually moved away and into the thick forest.

SeedsNotice before the squirrel starts to freak out and you will hear a Robin fly by fairly close over the microphone and then make his noise off in the distance. The recording started out clean but then a car passes on my road far behind the mic.

Enjoy! -Frank

Recording a 1980 Beech Baron 58P Airplane Part-1

Beech 58P 2011 Recording 1

Part One: I Am Going To Do This

For two years in a row I’ve been recording the local airplane fly in here in Sandpoint Idaho. This event features many small vintage and modern airplanes on display and flying around during a hot August weekend at the local airport. The first year I attended I had low expectations on what kind of sounds I would be able to get but to my surprise I was able to get a lot of good prop plane engine run ups, ground taxiing, and passing by while at the South end of the runway. This year I focused on getting plane recordings from the North end of the runway and was able to get many clean take offs, fast pass bys and ground taxiing.

While I was taking a walk around the show during a break in the flying I met up with the owner of a Baron 58P twin prop passenger plane. During the show I had recorded the plane flying around and it sounded really cool so I asked if I could book the plane for a recording session. After slight sticker shock on what it would cost I figured what the heck, Let’s take an hour and see what happens. I chartered the plane for later in the week and the weather was beautiful. This is part one of a two part series on the recording experience and what I learned.

I Need To Wake Up How Early?

The pilot recommended we do this early in the morning since there won’t be any planes operating and the airport should be calm and quiet. So, I’m up at 5 AM for a 7 AM recording session. The airport is less than 20 minutes drive from my ranch at that hour of the day so it’s relatively painless to get there. Once I’m there though I discover it’s a lot louder during the week than the weekend. The airport is located in the industrial area of the city and there is a concrete plant operating, trains passing by and other vehicle noises that are not present during the weekend. After fueling the plane and finding a location far away from the concrete plant I set up for a multi microphone shoot.

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I Have To Have a Plan?

Since I only had an hour or so to get what I needed I had to build a multi-channel recording rig that I could move around and quickly change locations and simultaneously record the inside of the plane. I decided on the Sanken CSS-5 and the Sennheiser MKH-8040ST for the exteriors and a Sony PCM-D1 and D-50 for the interiors. The CSS-5 and MKH-8040ST microphones were each connected to a Sound Devices SD-702 that were sync locked together. The CSS-5 was on a boom pole and the MKH-8040ST mounted on a small profile stand. My plan was to track the plane movement with the CSS-5 and have the MKH-8040ST be stationary.

The Sony PCM-D1 and D-50 would be recording the interior of the plane while doing the exterior takes. These are not synced to the other rigs so I would have to time align them later while editing and mastering.

Part of the plan was to document the session with two video cameras and photos. I was fortunate to have my wife come along with me and she takes great photos. Once I showed her how the video camera operates she was up to speed in no time. I used the other video camera while I was recording with the boom set up.

Everything Always Goes According To Plan, Right?

Most of my recording sessions are on or near my ranch and I can take my sweet time setting up the gear and recording. This time was very different, I had to set up fast and be prepared to move the microphones around quickly while running a hand held video camera. Yeah right, this will be awesome! Well, I have to say that something like this is way more than one recordist should handle. From planning, logistics to the actual recording, anything can go wrong and it did.

First thing I goofed up was I forgot to bring my “Boom-cam” mount for the Flip HD video camera that I had tested during the recent fly in. I had to hold the video camera in one hand and the CSS-5 on the boom in the other. (Some of you know how heavy a CSS-5 is) I really did not have to do this but I felt comfortable enough with the set up that I could still focus on the main objective which was getting good sounds.

The second minor goofball moment was I forgot to set the interior recorders while the plane was doing the engine run ups. This would have been very cool and I am thinking about recording these sounds when I go back for the doors, switches and wing flaps later this week. I did get them set up for the ground taxi and flying.

The third thing was maybe we should have started an hour earlier since some planes started to show up and we had to wait for them to pass and get out of range. Precious time wasted but the pilot was flexible with the clock. Phew!

Time To Record, Clock Is Running.

Beech 58P Engine Run Up

Prop Plane Beech 58P Engines Run Up by therecordist

The first thing I recorded was the plane approaching and parking on the tarmac. I set up the CSS-5 directly in front of where the plane was going to stop. I place the MKH-8040ST 90 degress to the side. These microphones were placed where I was planning to do the engine run ups and that’s what we did next. I was careful not to set the input gain to high on the SD-702 recorders as these planes can get very loud when running both engines at high RPMs. We started with a single engine start and run up then started the second one. The pilot then brought the engines up to 1700 RPM and I’m sure he had the brakes locked down as it seemed like it was going to move at any moment.

Beech 58P Ground Taxi

Prop Plane Beech 58P Taxi And Fly By by therecordist

Next up was recording the start and ground taxiing. I moved the microphones out toward the airfield taxi lane. I had the CSS-5 directed so the plane would taxi by right to left and I pointed the MKH-8040ST towards the plane and slowly turned it to follow it’s path. Now I had to quickly gather all the gear and run it out to the middle of the airfield for the pass bys. We had planned the usual take off and landing along with some fast and medium speed pass bys. I had very little time since it does not take long for the plane to taxi down prep for take off. The pilot did offer a radio but since I had so many gadgets in my hands and to move around I though it best to just go without it.

Beech 58P Passes

The wind had changed direction since we arrived and the plane had to take off to the South. I positioned the MKH-8040ST mostly for a side to side stereo field but I had the concrete plant running sound to the South so I postioned the microphone slightly to the North to have that noise behind and rejected.

After the plane took off it made a high speed pass and a medium speed pass with the landing gear down. I did have the D-50 inside the plane and was hoping it would not fall out of postion. It’s amazing what I think about when out recording, no wonder !’m exhausted after one of these days. The plane landed and rolled on by and I had to grab the gear once again and run back to the area where we did the run ups and set the mics up again. I did tell the pilot to take his time while taxiing before he took off, I hope he remembered. After the plane shut down. I took a few minutes to check the recordings and then prepared for the next phase: Onboard interior perspective.

Part 2 coming soon. Enjoy -Frank

Airplane Recording Aug 18th 2011 Part-1, Camera 1

Recording the sound of a 1980 fixed wing multi engine Beechcraft Baron 58P propeller plane. This video contains the footage from video camera 1 operated by my wife as I was recording the airplane. The sound is from a Sanken CSS-5 microphone which I had on a boom pole following the airplanes’ movements. I recorded the plane at 24-Bit/96k to a Sound Devices SD-702 that was sync locked to another with a stationary MKH-8040ST microphone rig on a microphone stand.

I only had an hour to record the plane so I had to have a minimal set up that could be moved around the airstrip. This first part in the video series showcases the sights and sounds of engine run-ups, ground taxiing and pass by’s from the CSS-5 perspective.

Airplane Recording Aug 18th 2011 Part-2, Camera 2

Recording the sound of a 1980 fixed wing multi engine Beechcraft Baron 58P propeller plane. This video contains the footage from video camera 2 operated by myself as I was recording the airplane. The sound is from a Sennheiser MKH-8040ST microphone which I had set on a microphone stand. I recorded the plane at 24-Bit/96k to a Sound Devices SD-702 that was sync locked to another with a boom pole mounted Sanken CSS-5 microphone.

This second part in the video series showcases the sights and sounds of engine run-ups, ground taxiing and pass by’s from the MKH-8040ST perspective.