Tag Archives: Ambience

Ambience Field recording

Recording wind


After releasing the Norsonant library “Windy forest” I saw a lot of comments online about wind being challenging and difficult to record. I don’t disagree, but I’ve picked up a few tricks over the years that help. Most of them are pretty basic, but if you know about them all it adds up and makes things easier.


Let’s start with a list of tips and then we’ll get into details.

  • Correct microphone placement in the zeppelin
  • Use extra layers of wind protection
  • Use natural cover
  • Aim the microphones at something
  • Keep the microphone stand from tipping over
  • Record long takes


Correct microphone placement in the zeppelin

The zeppelin works by creating a volume of still air around the microphone. For this to work properly there needs to be a little bit of distance between the microphone diaphragm and the zeppelin. I’ve seen people push the microphone all the way to the front of the zeppelin to get as close as possible to the sound source. This means that there is very little room front of the microphone and reduces the effect of the zeppelin. I generally leave as much room in front of the microphone as between the microphone and the sides of the zeppelin.

This tip only applies to microphones with the diaphragm near the front, like a Sennheiser MKH 50 or a Rode NT5. If you’re using a shotgun microphone, the design of the microphone itself will keep the diaphragm from getting close to the front end of the zeppelin.



Use extra layers of wind protection

You’re used to using a furry wind jammer to protect the microphone from the wind, but sometimes that’s not enough. I’ve tested a different ways of adding wind protection.

The most professional solution is the Rycote Hi wind cover. The Hi wind cover is made of a fleece material that slides over the zeppelin. The wind jammer goes over the Hi wind cover. The fleece material gives you an extra layer of wind protection and this has been a life saver for me many times.

The low budget solution is using a second furry wind jammer as an extra layer. Just slide an extra wind jammer over the one you’re already using and that will give the microphone some extra protection. This works, but not quite as well as the Hi wind cover.



Use natural cover

Unless you’re recording in a wide open field or something like that, you can probably find some natural cover that will help protect you and the microphone from the wind. If you’re in the city you can try to get behind a house or wall. In the forest you can find lower ground, a small valley or hide behind a big rock.

If all else fails you can position yourself between the microphone and the direction the wind comes from and use your body as wind protection. This naturally won’t work if you’re wearing loose clothing or anything that will flap around in the wind.



Aim the microphones at something

The air that the wind moves is not very interesting in itself. Don’t just aim the microphones at the horizon. Try to aim them at something that the wind interacts with. Aim them at a tree, straight down at the grass, at the rusty gate or at the hole in the wall that makes the wind sing. This is the same principle as when recording rain. Thousands of rain drops is just white noise. You are looking for the details that make it sound interesting.

Here’s an example from the Windy forest library. I’ve pointed the microphones straight down to capture the sound of grass moving in the wind.




Keep the microphone stand from tipping over

This should be pretty obvious, but I know I’ve let my microphone stand tip over many times. Shame on me. Zeppelins break and so do microphones, so be careful.

  • Keep your foot or hand on the stand
  • Place something heavy on the base of the stand
  • Keep the stand low to decrease the chance of it tipping over




Record long takes

Even if you are very careful, you’ll probably get some wind distortion on your recordings. Long takes make the editing process a lot easier. Instead of having to low cut away wind distortion you can just cut away the entire section and still have plenty left to work with.

Sometimes you want both clean wind sounds and dirty, distorted wind sounds. Long takes will give you more to choose from.




That’s all the tips I have for now. If you want more you should go read Gordon Hempton’s blog post about wind recording.

Ambience Field recording

Wind turbines

My feet were soaking wet. A strong wind blew across the flat terrain around me and the sun was still slowly working its way up from behind the mountains. This was going to be a cold day at work.

 

In this blog post I’ll tell you about the pre production and recording of the sound effect library “Wind turbine” for Norsonant as well as the equipment I used.

 

 

In December 2015 I decided to try to record some wind turbines. After doing a bit of research online I found two nearby sites with wind turbines. One is a large area with more than ten turbines near a road, so it’s easily accessible. The other is a smaller area with only two turbines, further away from civilization. After carefully checking maps and satellite images, I hiked out to the smallest site to do some location scouting.

 

If possible, I like to go out on location before the day I actually plan to record. It just makes everything easier. Using maps and satellite images can tell you a lot, but nothing beats going there in person. When location scouting I can use my ears to listen for potential problems and decide how to best avoid them. Sometimes I need to bring extra gear to help me get rid of the problems. Sometimes I need to find a different recording location. Without taking the time to scout the location I wouldn’t know. In this particular case I wasn’t which route to take to get to the wind turbines. I’d rather get lost and walk for hours without carrying lots of microphones, stands and other gear.

 

 

 

 

At the site I found a few challenges I had to overcome, but all in all it was a good location. The biggest problem was that there were two wind turbines pretty close together. I found a good spot for the microphone that would let me isolate one of the turbines enough to make it work. There was a bit of noise from distant traffic, but recording early in the morning should solve that. I also found out that the road nearby was open, not closed by a barrier like the map said. This meant that I could drive to the other side of the area, park my car a lot closer than I thought and save myself from a lot of unnecessary walking. The location scouting trip was already worth it.

 

I prepared my recording gear the evening before the session. Since I was going to walk to the recording location I wanted to travel light. I’ve fallen in love with the Manfrotto Nano stands as they are super light and can be folded to fit in a backpack. This session would be the first test for my shortened Rode blimps, or “mini-me” blimps, as Watson Wu named his in the blog post I stole the idea from. In the blimp I placed my recently purchased Line Audio CM3 microphone. The recorder was, as always, my Sound Devices 744T. This setup is very small and light, so I was not worried about the weight of the backpack for the hike the next day.

 

 

 

 

Recording day. I got up early so I could get to the location before traffic started picking up. The wind shook the car, so I started looking forward to listening to fast spinning rotor blades. I drove the car as far as possible and walked from there. It was a windy, but dry day, so I had chosen to wear sneakers. Oh boy, what a mistake that was. Since I was approaching from a different direction, I had to cross a mire. Long story short, that wasn’t happening without getting my feet wet, but I was set on getting the recording done.

 

When I got to the turbine I had decided to record I set up the gear as quickly as I could. They tend to place wind turbines in areas with plenty of wind, so my wet feet were starting to get cold. I recorded from a few different positions to capture different distances. I also wanted to try to get different intensities, so I recorded long takes to give the wind a chance to change. The final position was right next to the turbine, about a meter away. I extended the microphone stand all the way to get as close as possible to a vent from that let sound pass through from the generator room. The wind was so strong that the wind tipped over the stand several times. The blimp hit the concrete so the microphone loosened from the suspension and got shook around pretty good. Both the microphone and the blimp survived the fall, so all was good.

 

 

 

 

I walked away with pretty cold feet, but some good recordings after a two hour session. On the trip back, I took a detour to scout the other wind turbine location. Unfortunately this area was too close to main roads and the airport, so I quickly decided that there was no point in recording there.

 

Lessons learned:

  • Location scouting can save you hours of walking.
  • Keep your hands on the microphone stand when recording in strong winds. It only takes a second and a strong gust to tip it over.
  • The Rode wind jammer works surprisingly well and I’m very happy with it. I still wish I had brought a Rycote Hi wind cover to protect the microphone from the strongest gusts.
  • The shortened Rode blimp, or mini-me, is awesome and pretty easy to make.
  • Don’t be stupid. Wear proper shoes.

 

The wind turbine library used to be free for Norsonant mailing list subscribers. It’s now available as a paid library only. Join the Norsonant mailing list  to avoid missing out on news and future giveaways.

Ambience Field recording Water

Sauna


My wife is of Finnish descent. She had, of course, made sure that we had access to a sauna during our Christmas holiday. I grabbed the chance to record some sound effects there.

This particular sauna is a bit noisy because of draft from the chimney, but I decided to give it a go and capture the sounds I could. I recorded ambience close to the stove first. Afterwards I started splashing water at the rocks on top of the stove. The recorder had to be positioned very close to the rocks to avoid the noise from the chimney. It quickly got pretty hot, both for me and my Zoom H2. I recorded for as long as I thought my recorder could take it. My H2 is getting old now and I often use it as an expendable recorder, but I didn’t want to destroy it for this. I got out of the sauna when the Zoom started getting dangerously hot.

The water splashes turned out pretty nice. I did have to roll off a bit of low end to get rid of the worst rumble noise from the chimney. I also had to fade out the sounds at the end when the signal/ambient noise ratio got too bad.

Equipment used: Zoom H2

Ambience Field recording

Cruise wind


On a recent work trip, I traveled by ship to Germany with my colleagues. Our schedule was pretty full, but I figured I would have at least a little time to record something.


My original plan was to spend my free time in the shopping and casino area. To record ambience, that is.. I set up my Zoom H2 a couple of different places, but I just could not find anywhere to record ambience without recording lots of music as a bonus. All the shops and restaurants were playing music a little too loud. I tried walking up a couple of floors to get away from the music, but still no luck.


After a while I found myself close to the sun deck on the top floor. I could not hear the music from the shopping area anymore, but I could hear something else: wind. I followed the sound to the sun deck door and found that this was a good place to record. I did not get any usable shopping or casino ambiences out of this trip, but I did get a nice wind recording.

Equipment used: Zoom H2
Wind, ship by ThomasAlf

Bonus: The toilet in my cabin sounded like this:
Toilet flush, ship by ThomasAlf