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.
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.
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.
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.
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 I felt they are very 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 part one here: Recording a 1980 Beech Baron 58P Airplane Part-1