Field Notes: Spontaneous Train Recording in Dallas

Rene Coronado has kindly shared a recording he grabbed on the fly this week (members can check it out in the ‘Trains: Design’ collection).  Here are his field notes to explain in full:
I was driving home last week down my normal route which is a 4 lane street next to a highway that runs across an active rail track.  I noticed that a bus was stopped at the intersection even though the light was green, and then a split second later I realized that the train crossing gate was coming down.  I zoomed up to the crossing in my car and stopped as quickly as I could, and then I looked left.  Sure enough, a giant freight train was approaching less than 50 meters away.
Time seemed to slow a bit, but I kept my head about me and did the following in about 5 seconds:
 – put the car in park
 – turn off the radio (I forgot to turn off AC)
 – roll down the window
 – reach beside me and grab my PCM M10 from the passenger seat
 – switch the button from hold to on (I never power this device down, I just put it in hold mode)
 – hit record
 – hit play (always important)
 – adjust the volume way down (metering ambient noise just barely)
 – hold the device out the window
Its actually a fair amount to get exactly right in that short of a period of time, but I managed to do it and just barely caught the horn as it began to blow.  The train gave me a nice full blast right as it entered the intersection 10 feet in front of my car and I managed to capture it without clipping anything.
Once the horn was by I just popped the recorder up on the roof of my car and let it roll while the train continued passing.  By then other traffic had pulled up and stopped around me and the bus as well.
When the train was all the way by I let roll as long as I could, then the gate went up, I grabbed my recorder, rolled up my window, kicked the radio back on and kept on driving.  🙂
Here are the few things I learned from this:
 – I can get from zero to rolling in about 5 seconds if my tools are set up around me well.
 – The PCM 10 even in high gain mode can record incredibly loud sounds without clipping.  Mics may have clipped a bit, but its really difficult to tell if that was them or just the air ripping around.
 – Even in traffic next to a highway with very ambient omni mics I can get a really good recording of a loud enough sound
 – The built in wind protection and always on battery management of the PCM M10 are incredible
 – this recording wouldn’t have happened with a PCM D50 (wind protection) or a zoom H4n (wind protection + startup time)
 – that train didn’t doppler very much, as it wasn’t traveling exceptionally fast
enjoy!
-Rene
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