The Changing Face Of Sound

There appears to be a recent resurgence of interest in the more ‘subjective’ aspects of field recording, prompting me to repost one of my earlier (now archived) ‘Sonic Fields’ blog posts dating back to 2011. My concerns back then about certain aspects of field recordings are still relevant today, possibly even more so, given the relatively cheap and widespread use of DAWS, together with other readily available AV processing software.

Apologies for the non-active page links in the article, as the original archived .mht web page file format had to be converted to .pdf for use in the link below.

The Changing Face of Sound

A Defiant Song Thrush

Song-Thrush

My intention was to record a Song Thrush  (Turdus philomelos) happily singing away on his perch in the trees adjacent some barns about 75 metres away,   but I had to wait as USAF F-15 fighter jets from nearby RAF Lakenheath decided to start reconnaissance flights overhead.

USAF F-15 Audio

They were quickly followed by two Army Air Apache attack helicopters from nearby RAF Wattisham as they practiced their low flying skills from across the fields.

Apache-Gunship

Apache Gunship Audio

Once things had quietened down a bit, I was able to increase the recorder gain controls to capture an unperturbed Mr Song Thrush who had stood his ground and defied them all, making himself heard above the background noise of traffic and aircraft.

Song Thrush Audio

 

 

The Frustrations of Field Recording (3)

Recording thunderstorms can be very difficult, with the level of difficulty being inversely proportional to their distance away; with the prize capture and most difficult being a direct strike on the microphones, only joking of course!

In my previous post ‘Summer Storms’ I mentioned the fact that my field recording sessions covering the period 14th, 15th, 16th, 23rd & 25th June 2016 at Saham Hills, Norfolk, England did not all go to plan, so I will explain.

The storms during the course of those 5 days mentioned were very sporadic and unpredictable, with them suddenly appearing and disappearing just as quickly. The 23rd June however turned out to be the most productive day, with numerous intense storms accompanied by torrential rain, hail and frequent cloud-ground lightning strikes, but this is all in hindsight; the problem beforehand was of predicting when and where they would appear, or as with the previous days would they merely ‘pop-up’ and pass by some 5 – 10 miles away. Nevertheless, I was prepared and waiting with the Edirol R-4 recorder and RME Quadmic preamp connected to the mid-side stereo microphone array and Sennheiser long shotgun microphone via long cables and also the ‘drop & recover’ field recording package containing the Olympus LS11 with its external XY microphone array of Soundman OKM II Classic capsules and A3 preamp, so what could go wrong – I was completely covered?

What I failed to predict was how quickly the thunderstorm would appear, its intensity and its distance away. As mentioned previously the level of difficulty in recording thunderstorms is inversely proportional to its distance away, and in this case the distance away was zero miles as it appeared directly overhead with cloud – ground lightning strikes within 100 yards, so the level of difficulty was ‘difficult’.

Unfortunately the recordings of the closer thunderclaps captured on the ‘drop & recover’ package were completely distorted as the Soundman Classic II microphone capsules are only rated to 103 dB and I would estimate these close strikes being in the region of 120 – 130 dB; so whatever gain levels, pads or limiters* had been set on the A3 preamp or  Olympus recorder , the signal had already been distorted at the microphone.

‘Drop & Recover’ Audio Clip  (warning it’s loud!)

However, the mid-side stereo array, RME Quadmic and Edirol R-4 recorder handled the loud thunderclaps much better, although still with some slight distortion, as the Rode NT1A large capsule microphone can handle up to 137 dB.

Edirol R-4 Audio Clip

Despite the frustration of failing to capture those prize close thunderclaps at maximum dynamic range with no distortion, I do prefer the overloaded track captured by the ‘drop & recover’ package, as it’s exciting, full of life and guaranteed to remind me in later-life of what happened and the excitement of that particular day!

       * I never use limiters whilst recording as they kill the dynamic range, producing a dull, lifeless recording, and it’s so much more fun trying to get the gain levels set just right!

‘Summer Storms’

‘Summer Storms’ – a time-lapse and real-time film and audio field recording compilation captured 14th, 15th, 16th, 23rd & 25th June 2016 over Saham Hills, Norfolk, England. The final shots show the drenched large basket windshield blimp, which had just survived a torrential rain and hail storm, without its usual umbrella protection. The large diaphragm microphones were safe and dry inside the basket blimp.

I will be uploading several full-length field recording tracks later; the 3.5 minutes of film track audio clips are just a small portion of the 10.5 hours of field recordings captured from the four recording systems used, and they did not all go to plan, so some of those will be featured in further episodes of ‘The Frustrations of Field Recording’.

My Large Waterproof Windshield

Ready for action with my largest pop-up waterproof windshield used so far!

_1090095_1090102_1090101!

Severe weather is expected in the early hours of tomorrow morning with thunderstorms and torrential rain forecast. I’m currently tracking the storms as they approach from Belgium, with real-time lightning maps.

Fingers crossed for plenty of thunder & lightning and hope the wind remains light so that the storms linger a while.

Village Sounds

20160607-_1090094-2

‘Village Sounds’ is a mid-side stereo field recording captured at approximately 8:00pm on 07 June 2016 in Saham Hills, a typical English village situated in the heart of rural Norfolk, United Kingdom.

This natural field recording includes the sound of wild birds, the distant sound of Saham Toney church bells, the sound of a local handyman, the distant sound of gunfire from a military training area, and  all other elements of ambient sound to be heard at that particular time and location.

 

The Frustrations of Field Recording (2)

Waiting For Thunderstorms.jpg

The Met Office issued a severe weather warning today for thunderstorms, torrential rain and localised flooding, so I set up the field recording equipment ready to record and waited…. and waited…. and waited.

Unfortunately the storms passed some 50 miles to the West. Perhaps I will hit lucky next time!