Monthly Archives: April 2011

Ambience Field recording Stealth

Covert operations / Subway ambience

My undercover sound bag

“Hey! Is that a microphone?” We’ve all had recordings ruined by the guy who spotted you and your equipment. Time to leave the blue/orange Petrol bag and the zeppelin at home and use something more discreet.

I found an old army medic bag and decided to use it as an undercover sound bag. My SD744T recorder, NP1 battery and Rode NT4 stereo mic easily fit in the bag. I have yet to find a way to suspend the microphone, so to minimize handling noise I just have to stand still or sit down while recording.

The contents of the bag

My first test run was on the subway in Oslo. I found a seat on the train and rode around for a while. With the business end of the microphone sticking out of the bag and my hand resting on the other end to to keep it still, it worked pretty well. There was some occasional handling noise, but not bad at all.

Microphone capsules sticking out. Ready to record.

It was also easy to gather ambiences in different places by resting the bag in my lap or next to me. The lack of a fuzzy windjammer was a problem when recording outside. I guess I’ll have to try to put one on the next time I go outside to record. I recorded some ambience on the subway platform and the trains passing by occasionally caused wind distortion. I tried to position myself to avoid that, but a windjammer definitely would have made it easier.

Despite of some small problems I got some good material. Below are some samples.

Equipment used: Rode NT-4 -> Sound Devices 744T
Join me on the subway from Majorstuen station to Nationaltheatret station.

Ambience recorded at Stortinget subway station.


A small collection of sound related links

I’ve gone through my bookmarks and done a little spring cleaning. Here are some sound related links that may be of interest.

Auditory illusions:
Shepard tone
Tritone paradox
Deutsch’s scale illusion
Pitch circularity
Phantom rings

Software (free)
Noiseplug (mac)
Paulstretch (mac & windows)
Note2Frequency (mac)
SPEAR (mac & windows)
Mammut (mac, linux & windows)
Gleetchlab (mac)
SoundMagic spectral (mac)

How to build a hydrophone
Monitor calibration part 1 and part 2
Principles of boom operation
Building contact microphones

Noise Jockey
Music of Sound
Miguel Isaza
Colin Hart’s Sound Bistro
Colin Hunter’s Audio Lounge
Audire Fabula
Chuck Russom
Designing Sound
Field Sepulchra
In My Ears
Unidentified Sound Object
David Steinwedel
Dynamic Interference
Engine Audio
Jean-Edouard Miclot
Sonic Terrain
Sound and Motion
The Sound My Head Makes
Azimuth Audio
Carsten Rojahn
Master of Sound
Skywalker Sound Blog
Epic Sound

The Sound Effects Bible by Ric Viers
The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema by David Sonnenschein
The Foley Grail by Vanessa Theme Ament
Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures: A Guide to the Invisible Art by John Purcell
Mastering Audio: The art and the science by Bob Katz
Audio Post Production for Television and Film by Hilary Wyatt and Tim Amyes

Ambience Field recording

Get out and record / Kindergarten

It’s fairly easy to come up with sounds you would like to record. It may be a sound that is difficult to find, or it may be a sound you hear on your way to work every day. I always hear interesting stuff when I walk through the city. Unfortunately, I’m really bad at bringing my handheld recorder with me, so I usually have to return later with my gear. This is bad because 1) often I don’t have the time to return and 2) when I actually return to record, the sound is gone or the ambient noise level has changed and is ruining the location.

A couple of years ago I was working on a short documentary style film. We wanted use as much sound from the locations as possible, and I recorded lots of ambience, foley and effects while we were shooting. I didn’t have the time to record everything we needed right away, but I was allowed to return about a month later to finish up. When I came back I found that one of the rooms we shot in had been torn down by construction workers. So the location itself had actually disappeared, which meant I couldn’t get all the sounds i needed. Had I been there earlier I might have been able to get everything.

So: get out there now and record the sounds you have been planning to. They might not be there if you wait too long.

I’m not posting without adding a little sound. Today I finally recorded the kindergarten outside my apartment building. I walk by every day, but I have never recorded it. Until now. The surrounding area was a little noisy, but it worked out ok.

Equipment used: Rode NT-4 -> Sound Devices 744T

No picture in this post. I felt I was being creepy enough just by recording sound next to the kindergarten..

Field recording

Demonstration in Oslo, Norway

Protesters gathering before the march

On April 9th 2011 a protest march took place in Oslo. I packed my gear and got ready to record crowd sounds. A small group of people was protesting in one part of the city. A large group of about 700 people was marching to protest against the other group. The police was worried that there would be a huge street fight and had lots of officers ready to protect the smaller group. I figured it would be easier for me to record what I wanted if I followed the marching group instead of being boxed in with the small group.

I went to the designated endpoint of the march an hour before it was supposed to start. I walked the route from finish to start to find the best spots to record from. Street musicians and music from stores was a challenge, but I found some relatively quiet areas.

Around 12:00 the leader of the protest held a short speech and then the crowd marched off. I recorded the departure, walked with the group for a while, got a couple of pass-bys and, finally, the arrival at the endpoint. Aside from a couple of slogans being shouted, everything was quiet. There was no confrontation between the two different groups.

The crowd and the police

After the march it was time for more speeches. After a while one guy decided he wanted to pick a fight with the 700 other people there. The police had to move in and rescue him. I was at the wrong end of the area, so I wasn’t able to record the fight. I did get the speaker’s reaction and the silence while people were trying to find out what was going on.

At the end of the day I got lots of slogan shouting, applause and general crowd sounds.

Equipment: Rode NT-4 stereo microphone -> SD744T

The fight was caught on camera, if you’re interested: (edit: dead link)

Want more? Check out Colin Hunter’s demonstration post here. (edit: dead link)

Field recording Location foley

First field recording, bomb shelter door

I might as well start off this blog project with the first field recording I ever did. Two friends and I were working on a school project. It was a 5 minute short about two guys trapped in a bomb shelter. The whole short was filmed at the same location, so we brought our equipment there to record foley and effects. We figured it would be easier to record everything on location rather than recording in a studio and using EQ and reverb to make it work in the film.

We set up the equipment and tried to gather as much material as possible. This included slamming the shelter doors, manipulating the door handles and recording the ventilation system. Below is a sample of what we recorded.

Equipment used: Rode NT-2000 Large diaphragm condenser -> Mbox2 -> Mac Book Pro/Pro Tools