Recently I have been experimenting with recording different type of gun powder to see which is the most effective at certain things. Some of those things are flare up speed, loudness, sizzle and volatility. So far I have tried three different types and those include synthetic, natural, and smokeless. These three types make a different sound and visual effect. The synthetic burns really fast and bright, the natural has a nice sizzle and of course makes a lot of smoke and finally the smokeless burns slow with sparks and makes a nice deep whoosh sound.
I set up a Sennheiser MKH-416 and a Sennheiser MKH-8040 on my outdoor concrete foley studio (which is very safe for recording fire this time of year). All the types of gun powder were not very loud so I experimented with various distances. At the beginning of the session there was a moderate wind so I had the Windjammers on and kept a close eye on any possible melting (they will melt very quickly, not recommend for use with fire recording). I started out with small flare ups so I thought the Windjammers would be OK and they were fine. After a few takes the wind died down so I took them off and it’s a good thing because I started to use more and more gun power so the bursts was getting hotter.
The video below does not have any footage of the synthetic kind. I used most of it while recording for Ultimate Destruction and I plan on recording more of it in the near future.
I combined the smokeless and the natural kind and got some wonderful fast bursts. I tried a curved pattern which was interesting because the whole thing went up at once NOT in a curve. I also tried long smokeless burns which turned out great for whoosh and flamethrower type sweeteners. I set the gun powder off with a short fuse with one end inside the powder. I found out that if I put too much of the fuse into the powder that it will still be sizzling after the powder has burned off and getting a good deep whoosh without a sizzle at the end was difficult.
As always, I must claim that I practiced as much fire safety as possible. I had goggles, gloves with a extinguisher at the ready. It is very wet here this time of year and the vegetation is saturated or just starting to grow. Yard waste burning is allowed without a permit in the my county at this time. Enjoy! -Frank
All images and sounds copyright 2012 Frank Bry – Creative Sound Design