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.