2 New Themes for 2022: Bodies of Water / Sports Crowds
Time to add some new themes to the collection. Have a look at the descriptions below – I’ve tried to pick two quite different subjects, so hopefully they have a broad appeal between the two of them.
BODIES OF WATER is a collective term that includes oceans, seas and lakes, rivers and streams, as well as smaller pools of water such as ponds.
The challenge here is to get the sound of the water, whether that be crashing ocean waves or a babbling brook, in isolation. These are not ambience recordings – they must be clean of engine, wildlife and people noise in order to be useful.
Longer recordings (2-5 minutes? 10 if beneficial?) can be a good idea as sounds such as these are often needed for the duration of a scene. I’d advise using higher quality recording gear for this theme too, as the more convenient consumer handheld recorders don’t always do the high frequency content of water movement justice. Let’s try and avoid a collection of white noise recordings. That’s easier with smaller bodies of water but, even with louder waves, experiment with mic distance and the angle / position you record from, eg out in the open or enclosed by a cliff face. By doing so, you may find a sweet spot where you hear more definition in the waves rather than just a constant roar. If you are able to record from different distances / perspectives, do please share these all with the Club as they can be very useful.
This is also a good theme to experiment with multichannel recordings too. Do please include the name or location of the body of water in the filename.
SPORTS CROWDS is a collection of crowd recordings from any kind of sporting event: Any kind of sport from grassroots level at your local club up to the largest stadiums in the world. I will set the minimum requirement as being a paid entry event; if I include local kids teams with parents on the touchline then you are basically in the realms of the theme Reactions: Small Crowd that we created a few years ago. So let’s keep it to a minimum of ticketed events.
Once again, multichannel recordings can be great for this theme, though I will accept mono recordings too. I’d say the trickiest challenge here is getting the balance between the sounds from people in your locality and the sound of the larger audience beyond that in the rest of the ground. If you can, experiment with different positions to record from: Get in amongst the action for one recording so you get lots of close voice detail, but if possible also then try and distance yourself from the centre of the crowd so you can also get a sense of the overall crowd noise, rather than just that close detail. This will probably be easier at smaller events than some of the big stadiums, but experiment with any options you do have.
If you don’t fancy drawing attention to yourself with a blimp on a pole in the middle of a lively crowd, stealth recording is always a good option too – whether using small DPA style mics, or just having the business end of your mic poking out of a bag, for example. Obviously, in this day and age that’s not always possible with heightened security at grounds, but work with the limitations you face. Having said that, judging by the scenes at the last few football finals I’ve seen on TV, it seems easy enough to get a ton of flares into Wembley nowadays, so maybe not so hard to get a mere mic into a sports ground after all!
Other caveats: background music will obviously make the recordings unuseable so watch out for this, even just at low level – though fans banging drums etc is ok as long as it’s not a recognisable tune. Tannoys are a bit more of a grey area – so get them in your recording if you like, but try and get recordings without them too. That way members can make their own mind up whether they use them or not. My personal hunch is that I wouldn’t use them, especially as they often include advertisements, and that you are recording them on private property.
Make sure you name the sporting event / location in the filename.
So hopefully between the two themes there’s something there thaqt encourages you to get out there recording. Let’s get these two themes off to a good start. Good luck!
New Theme: Bodyfalls
Finally a new theme!
As most of us are probably in lockdown at the moment, I thought it best not to pick a subject that requires straying too far from home but, on the other hand, as it’s been aaaaaages since the last theme, I thought it’d be a bit of an anticlimax to pick some mundane domestic sound to record.
I keep a note of any theme suggestions that get proposed by members and, checking back, I came across ‘Bodyfalls’, suggested by Rene Coronado a few years back on the Club’s Evernote page, which seems perfect: Can be recorded in the garden, park or even indoors but is also quite a challenge – it’s quite a tricky sound to get right I think. It’s a sound that often gets questioned in a mix – i.e. Is it big enough? Does it sound real? Does the surface sound right? etc. Perhaps this is because we’re often torn between achieving the comedy in a fall, or the action movie ‘beef’ of it (as with punches) but also have to make it believable as a realistic event that’s just happened in a real environment.
There’s also another obstacle in achieving a good bodyfall sound – falling over hurts. Unfortunately, falling over gently doesn’t really make much of a sound, so we have to find a way of creating a big impact on a ground surface which sounds like a human body but doesn’t cause one of us to end up in A&E at probably the least convenient moment in our lifetimes.
So you’ll need to come up with your own solutions, but I basically thought of three avenues to explore. Firstly, I’ve been out playing football with my son, 1 v 1, quite a lot recently and because it’s been so wet one of us inevitably slips over now and again. I absolutely stacked it a couple of days ago but because the park’s so muddy it didn’t really hurt at all, so I’ve already had a go at the direct route of trying to do a hard fall myself on a nice soft muddy patch of grass. However, this solution isn’t exactly practical for getting any cool tarmac or interior hard floor bodyfalls though…..
Second opportunity that struck me was that, whatever games my kids play in the garden, 90% of them seem to involve them throwing themselves around to make saves, catch balls, etc. So I might leave a mic out there next time they’re going berserk and see if I get lucky. I have to be careful with this option though, as if I tell them what the recording’s for they’ll start diving around the garden with even greater gusto, which leads back to the previous caveat regarding this not being the greatest moment in time to end up in A&E. Plus my wife’s banned me from involving the kids in any kind of sound fx recording ever since my youngest bruised his eardrum doing underwater screams for me a few years back….but I digress…in any case, this option won’t provide me with big ‘action movie’ bodyfalls, just the lighter, more realistic ones.
The last option I could think of is the foley prop route – maybe I can find some object that, unlike me, is unbreakable (or at least, it doesn’t matter if it breaks) so that I can throw it with force upon different surfaces, possibly from a decent height. Maybe a big densely packed hessian sandbag? A big bag of compost? Can’t be in a plastic bag though otherwise I reckon it’d sound wrong. I could then perhaps supplement that big object impact with one of my lighter but realistic human bodyfalls and together they’d hopefully sound great? I’ll have to work on this one though as I don’t currently have any human-sized hessian bags of sand lying around….
I’ve also experimented with parallel compression on the real bodyfalls I did – to see if I could keep the realism of the untreated fall but supercharge it a bit with the compressed version. I’ll let you know how I got on in another post soon. Thinking it through like this and starting to have a go at the theme has made me think this should perhaps be the first collection where rather than just submitting one natural recording to the collection, we have the option to present our work as ‘kits’ if necessary. As you can see from my ideas above, I may not get the sounds I’m after from just one sound, but from a couple of different recordings plus maybe a little bit of processing. So it may be better to present our recordings a bit like this when necessary:
I’ve provided my original recording in a separate folder, just in case, but also an ‘edited’ version in another folder, in which the falls are cut tighter, with the compressed version to played alongside it. Both tracks are exactly the same length so it’s easy to sync them. I may still add another layer when I try my other ideas, if it adds something to the sound. By the way, the only reason I did an RX pass on the original was that it was really windy yesterday so the falls would have been unusable otherwise due to blowing on the mic – I didn’t use it to augment the sound in any way.
It’s important to point out: THIS IS NOT A SOUND DESIGN CHALLENGE! We need to get the best original recordings of real bodyfalls that we can possibly get. If you’re smarter than me (or have tackled this problem before) and can get great bodyfall sounds completely au naturel in one recording then great; don’t over-complicate it with layers of extra sounds or processing. I don’t want us all reaching straight for our arsenals of plugins to get the sounds we’re after rather than trying to achieve them in our actual recording. In fact I might only allow parallel compression to be used, as this means we can keep the sound natural, but beef it up a bit to our own taste by increasing / decreasing the volume of the accompanying compressed track if needed.
What’s more, this is just my own thought process on how to get the best sounding bodyfall – maybe some of you can think of a better way of tackling this challenge that I’ve not mentioned: Go for it, I look forward to hearing the results. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions too, as this theme in particular may need a little working out as we go along – and as we discover what’s possible. Good luck and stay safe!
Field Notes #5: Leaf Blower Passes for the ‘Trains: Design’ Collection
I’m embarrassed to say that I actually wrote this post back in 2011, but it got stuck in my drafts folder until I got round to editing the recordings…which I never did, until now… 😬
Anyway, I thought I might as well put the post online now; better late than never and all that – and I’ll get the corresponding recordings uploaded to the collection this week too. I haven’t bothered updating the post – 10 points for the first person to spot the anachronism…….
I’m up at 6 most mornings at the moment. It basically gives me an hour to get myself washed, have breakfast, etc. before I get the kids up. As a result, over the past few weeks, as the leaves have started to fall from the trees, I’ve become aware of the leaf blower trains passing by the bottom of my garden at exactly the same time every morning – 6:45.
As soon as I realized they obviously adhered to a set timetable (well, as much as any train does in the UK…) I decided to get out and record a few for The Sound Collectors’ Club’s Trains: Design Collection. I managed to get a couple this morning without much difficulty, apart from the birds being disturbed by the first pass and chirping all over the tail of the train pass. RX2 should fix that though. I recorded the passes LCR into a Sound Devices 744T, with a Schoeps CMXY 4V spread wide to virtually 180 degrees and my Sennheiser MKH40 in the middle.
If anyone’s up for sharing any vids, pics or stories of sounds they’ve collected for The Sound Collectors’ Club, let us know and I’ll happily publish them on the website or even just link to them if you’ve got your own blog. It’s nice to get a bit of background to some of the sounds we’re gathering together I think – doesn’t need to be a long essay or anything; think of it more as sharing your ‘field notes’ if you like – even a scan of any scribbles you’ve made, as above, will do.
Club Membership 2021
Hi all, hope you’re all keeping safe in these strange times.
It’s been a quiet few years for the Club….strangely coinciding with when I decided to go freelance around 2014! After a manic few years of graft, I finally feel in a position to invest more time and energy into the Club, so that once again there can be more to it than just the existing library slowly ticking along with only a few new contributions being added every once in a while. My changing situation is not really as a result of the pandemic, as I’ve been very fortunate this past year in terms of keeping busy. It’s just that work’s finally getting a bit more under control, my kids aren’t time-consuming toddlers anymore, etc…..that sort of thing. 😄
So I’ve taken advantage of the Christmas break to make a few tweaks to the Club website – some of which I hope will make it a better experience for members, and some that will definitely make my life a lot easier in terms of handling the admin side of things – it was this workload that started making it harder and harder for me to keep on top of things and start new themes, meetups, etc in my spare time. So hopefully, by making use of new digital tools that are now available, I’ll have much more time to create new content, themes…and recordings!
One of the changes I’ve made is that rather than having the pain of sorting out everyone’s membership every year, I’m now using a Stripe payment system, rather than Paypal, which provides an auto-renewing feature. You can cancel this of course, but it just saves me a helluva lot of admin work getting ready for each new membership year and finding out who’s in and who’s out each time.
I’ve also tweaked the Legal page, added an FAQ page, switched the discussion group from LinkedIn to Slack, and generally tidied up the menu a bit to make it clearer and easier to use. I’m also nearly finished doing some general maintenance on the collection itself – a job I’ve been meaning to do for ages – as I’ve noticed a few files have gone astray over the years due to a random Google Drive bug that I’ve now fixed.
Going forward, I also intend to look into the UCS initiative in order to improve our labelling system, which has long been a major headache for some members. As soon as I work out how best to incorporate this, I’ll update the website so everyone can know best practice going forward.
Membership has rolled over for free these past few years while things have been on the slow burn but in order to start this new payment system properly I want to start with a clean slate of active members, so if you’d like to be involved in the Club going forward as I ramp things up again, please go to the Payment page where you can renew your membership. I’m keeping the membership fee at £20, as it’s always been these past ten years.
I really hope you do decide to get involved in the Club – it’d be great to see what the Club can be in this very different, much busier, landscape of crowdsourcing compared to the way it was when I first started the Club on Soundcloud back in 2010.
Stay safe everyone 👊🏼
Introducing: Daniel Vasquez
Next up in our ‘Introducing…’ series is Daniel, who kindly agreed to tell us a bit about himself and the post sound scene in Columbia:
I am Daniel Vasquez, a sound designer and re-recording mixer from Medellin, Colombia. My experience and academic background has been based primarily in the United Kingdom and Colombia. I currently work as the Head of Post Production in Clap Studios, a sound post production facility located in Medellin.
In terms of academic background, I hold a BA Degree in Recording Arts and an MA in Audio Post Production from Middlesex University in London; and I’m certified by Avid as a Pro Tools Expert for Post; and I’m also a full member of the Audio Engineering Society.
Beginning as an engineer for music and live applications during my stay in the United Kingdom – doing live shows, recording bands and mixing independent artists – I later moved into sound for picture, starting with sound editing for short films, video games and documentaries, and I started to move also towards mixing and began to work for larger productions, working as a freelancer, lecturer, and co-founding SoundNode, a sound production and post production company based in London.
Keeping a close eye on my home land, I decided in 2011 to move back to start working in the Latin American film industry, seeing it as an opportunity to apply the knowledge and experience acquired abroad. This is when I co-founded Clap Studios with film producer Gabriel J. Perez, who was returning from Barcelona, later joined by Daniel Jaramillo, a Colombian sound mixer residing in London.
Let’s talk about Clap Studios; it is a sound post production facility located in the Medellin Audiovisual Center. Since Gabriel and I founded the company, we have created the ideal conditions for the sound development of audiovisual productions, offering creative talent, and the best facilities and equipment to deliver to the highest standards, such as the first Dolby® approved commercial studio for 7.1 film mixing in the country.
Regarding the film industry in Colombia, it is small but growing, and our team have worked not only for Colombian productions but also for foreign films from Los Angeles, Cuba and United Kingdom, with great success. Renowned film directors and producers have trusted the sound post production of their projects to us (including our team of sound editors, Foley artists, and mixers) with excellent results. Some of them are: Pavel Giroud, Goya nominee and award winner at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema and the Cartagena International Film Festival; Simón Mesa, winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival; Carlos Cesar Arbeláez, award winner at San Sebastián Film Festival; Carlos Tribiño, award winner at the Cartagena International Film Festival; Simón Brand, awarded at the Huelva Latin American Film Festival; and Kirk Sullivan, experienced filmmaker from California.
Getting more location-specific, Medellin offers a great set of conditions for creative and technical work, with nice mild weather, charming people, accessible prices and great talent and professionalism. Bogota currently holds the majority of the audiovisual work in Colombia, but with the growth of the industry, more options are starting to emerge in other cities as well, opening the possibilities of taking advantage of local incentives from each region. For example, Medellin is offering an additional 15% cash rebate in film services, making it attractive not only for foreign productions, but also for projects coming from other Colombian cities, which benefits us as service providers to bring more foreign productions and expand our territory of action. The goal is to keep expanding the range of countries we work with, always committed to quality and a great experience.
Introducing: Vijay Rathinam
New Theme for Spring 2015
It’s been a while! A new theme for the new year was long overdue so here goes….the latest theme is chosen by club member Eric Mooney. His description of the theme is:
Walla of a crowd that’s trying to be quiet. An example of this would be at a library, or someplace similar where people are speaking very quietly and maybe even whispering occasionally. There could also be some fairly quiet and subtle movements taking place in the background. This seems like it would be a great backdrop of audio that could be used in pretty wide variety of scenes. This is something that I don’t have very much (if any) of.
More generally, Eric has provided some pointers for recording ‘walla’, which are worth bearing in mind when recording sounds for this collection:
Most of you are probably already familiar with walla, but if you’re not it’s basically just a recording of a “background” conversation that doesn’t contain any intelligible speech. By not being able to make out what the crowd (large or small) is saying the audience stays focused on the lead actor’s dialogue.
File Types to Submit:
Stereo recordings of walla will give the audience a more immersive experience than mono recordings would. For this reason all of the submissions should preferably be recorded and submitted in either stereo or surround so that they can easily be used in any professional project.
I wasn’t initially keen on this theme idea when Eric suggested it because Echo Collective have just recently released their Quiet Spaces library, and I do try to avoid themes that already exist in the form of independent libraries…though that’s getting harder and harder to manage these days as the indie library scene continues to grow! However, having spoken to Rene and checked he’s cool for us to use the same idea, I did think it’d be really interesting to do an international version of the Quiet Spaces library, which I believe is all American locations. Do check out Echo Collective’s Quiet Spaces library and consider grabbing a copy – hopefully the club’s collection will be a useful compliment to it. I hasten to add, though, that despite my comparison with Echo Collective, I believe their library contains recordings of quiet spaces where people are NOT talking; it is mainly just the sound of subtle movement. With our collection, the primary sound is intended to be quiet murmur or even whispers, though that element of shuffle and other ‘presence’ is still a vital ingredient in the quiet crowd sound that we’re after.
Final tip: As I’ve often flagged before with other club themes, bear in mind the acoustics of the space you record in. Old or unusual spaces that are very quiet and free of ambient noise such as background traffic or air conditioning may be the best spaces for adding character to low level signals such as quiet crowd sounds. Oh and very importantly, please state location and country in the name or metadata of any shared files!
Hopefully this explains everything but feel free to drop me a line if anything is unclear.
Field Notes #4: New York Ambiences by Michael Bates
In the spring of last year I went to New York with my family for a week and decided to try to get the best recordings I could whilst I was there, without annoying my family in the process!
I always take a portable recorder with me on holiday but having just got a pair of DPA 4060 omni mics and having used them to capture ambiences around London (one of which can be heard in the City Skylines theme) I knew that they handled city ambiences really well, so I was excited about trying them out in New York.
My rig is put together like this:
It comprises a pair of DPA 4060s into a Sound Devices 302 mixer which feeds an Edirol R-09 recorder. The 302 is powered by a Hawk-Woods NP65 battery, which never seems to run out, the R-09 by rechargeable AAs, which never seem to charge up. I monitor with a pair of Sennheiser HD25s.
All of this fits quite neatly into my shoulder bag and with the mics clipped to the far sides of the bag I get a good 40cm spacing. Also, it’s very stealthy as all anyone sees once the flap is closed are the Rycote windjammers peeking out either side of the bag.
Most of the recordings were made with the rig in the bag over my shoulders whilst I stood still and looked nonchalant. However, the longer Canal Street recordings were made with the mics set up outside my bedroom window in the flat we were staying in.
I was really happy with the recordings other than a few issues that I encountered, which I’ve detailed below. The 4060s have incredible low end response and lovely mid detail which really helped to capture the characteristic acoustic that New York has. Combined with the clean quality of the 302 preamps, along with its detailed metering and quality limiters, it’s a setup which does a great job of recording really dynamic things like the Canal Street traffic.
I did vacillate a little about whether to roll off some of the low end in the recordings, but in the end decided not to and to leave it up to the end user to decide how much of it they wanted to use themselves.
Here are a couple of issues that I had that made some recordings unusable and that I’ll have to solve next time I record like this:
My major issue with the setup is that in motion whilst over the shoulder, the metal clips attaching the strap to the bag click with every step and I lost some good material because of this. I could probably have gone through those recordings and taken out each click with RX, but they were so frequent and loud that I think it would have badly affected the sound quality.
There are a couple of recordings in the library that I made whilst walking slowly where this issue didn’t arise (the Staten Island Ferry terminal recordings) but I think in future I need to find a way to damp this sound or alternatively carry the bag handheld.
I lost what could have been a really good skyline recording that I made at the top of Morningside Park because I lost one of my windjammers coming out of a crowded subway and so didn’t have adequate wind protection when I got to the park some hours later. I now carry an extra pair of windjammers as backup wind protection, as those Rycote ones are none too secure and the foam covers don’t stand up to serious gusts.
The one recording that I was seriously annoyed about not getting was a beautiful skyline that I tried to record from the 7th floor balcony of the New Museum on Bowery. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, it’s very popular with visitors taking pictures, so instead I have a beautiful recording of people’s camera shutters clicking. If I’d been there on my own I would have stayed for as long as it took to get a clean take, but I sacrificed the recording to keep familial peace intact!
All in all I think it was a worthwhile set of recordings to make that taught me a lot about the strengths and limitations of this setup and of this style of stealth recording in particular. In the end I recorded over six and half hours of material, which I edited down to just over three hours for the library.
As a taster for club members, there’s an alternative take in the Echo Space theme of the Frick Collection Garden Court, a lovely, echoey marble hall with a fountain in the centre. There’s also a recording in the Car Passes theme of some passes on a cobbled street that I recorded whilst there.
For those club members that are interested in the library there is a discount code for 20% off on the LinkedIn group and for non club members you can get 10% off by signing up to the mailing list on tonemanufacture.com
You can see a full file list and more information at tonemanufacture.com/libraries/new-york-ambiences
I hope it turns out to be a useful library and my thanks to all the club members who share their great recordings!
New Theme for Summer 2014:
The club’s latest theme is chosen by club member, Rick Blything:
“I’m sure that everyone who has visited different countries and cities and pays attention to the city’s soundscape can re-call the feel and emotion from the city’s backdrop.
I believe that vehicle horns help define a city’s soundtrack and that is what this month’s theme is all about:
Vehicle Horns: BGs
Sounds differ enormously from the near constant cacophony of horns heard in Delhi, to the slightly more constrained hoots from a tailback in an English town.
Recordings of these such sounds are great for building up scenes and can be used to good effect as both ‘off-screen’ and ‘establishing’ sounds. They can help to shape a location and sonically guide the audience to that space.
Recording techniques could range from mono directional recordings to wide stereo ambiences. Whilst recording locations could range from roof-tops, interiors, exteriors, mics out the window stlyie or straight up street level tracks.
So next time you visit a city/town take your mics, find any one of a number of locations and pitch up, press the record button and try and capture some evocative tracks.”
Thanks for that, Rick – I can only add that, as with the dog barks theme, please bear in mind that this is a theme that is meant to provide sounds for BACKGROUNDS, not close up spot FX. The horns need to have at least some ‘space’, i.e. echo or reverberation / ambience, around them, otherwise I’ll unfortunately have to reject them. However, if you get a distant AND close sound then feel free to add the close sound too as sometimes these are useful to keep together.
I would suggest it’s worth getting 2-5 minutes of horns; it’s not that useful just getting one or two ‘toots’ unless they are particularly unusual or distinctive.
As always, think about how submerged your distant horn sounds are within the roar of traffic – too much traffic noise and the horns won’t be usable because there’ll be a surge of engine roar every time your car horn is used in a tracklay.
Lastly, as Rick touched upon in his brief, think about the space in which the horns occur – the acoustics of the space that surrounds them is what tends to make vehicle horns evocative rather than the actual horn sound itself.
As ever, I’m looking forward to hearing the results!
Field Notes #3: Texas Freight Train by Kyle Hughes
Kyle describes how he approached the freight train recordings he’s shared with the club, over on his blog.
Field Notes #2: Texas Freight Train by Rene Coronado
I was recently on my way back home to Dallas from visiting my alma matter in West Texas. I always put a rig together when I travel – mostly to gather ambiences, but also to capture anything else interesting I may happen upon. In this case I had a pair of schoeps CMC6 mics with the MK2 omni capsule, as well as a pair of Crown PZM 6d mics.
The ride back to Dallas along I-20 runs parallel to a long stretch of rail tracks, and its common to see big freight rigs crossing the state along with us. About halfway home my wife and I spotted a train running the same direction as us, so we passed it and let it fall just out of sight of my rearview mirror before finding a place to pull over and set up. I didn’t realize how fast that train was moving though, and by the time I got the trunk open the gates were closing and the train was already on top of me.
I closed the trunk, and we headed out again. We caught up to the train relatively quickly, but this time I gave us a really good buffer of time to make sure I could get set and rolling without rushing. I passed the train and kept increasing my distance for about 15 miles after passing it this second time. When I pulled over again, I found a spot where I could cross the tracks and set up in a way that the train would pass between my rig and the highway on which I was traveling, obscuring the sounds of other passing cars.
My wife jumped out with her camera to take some rustic photos of the farm we were parked by, and my baby boy kept sleeping in the carseat while I pulled out my rig and got set up.
I placed the two omnis about 2 feet apart, and put the PZMs on the same general plane, but about 6 feet apart. I had concerns about the omnis being phase-coherent without a jecklyn disk at that close distance because I had run some tests earlier in the trip that didn’t go as well as I had hoped – hence the PZMs, which I knew would be good for phase. Once I was set up, rolling and slated I heard the train’s horn in the distance. Trains are required to blow their horns at each intersection they cross that doesn’t have a gate with the clanging bells, and this train was one intersection away from me.
The train blew its horn one more time and then it was upon us – whooshing by with its crazy array of box cars, empty beds, tank cars, double decker cars, and open freight cars. Each car had its own sound, and it created a real variety of unique dopplers as it cruised by. Somehow the baby boy slept through all of this even though the back car door was open.
Back in the studio I put the tracks up and was pleasantly surprised by how well the omnis did with regards to phase – even without a disk in-between. They captured the low end perfectly and just had a remarkably clean sound all the way up. The crowns (which I love) sounded very bite-y and midrangey in comparison, and also quite a bit “cheaper” than the schoeps omnis. No surprise given the actual price difference, but pretty eye opening regardless.
I output three final files – an omni recording, a pzm recording, and a mixed recording that captured the best of both worlds. Outside of gain matching, no processing was done to these files in any way.
New Theme for Spring 2014
Ever since starting the Sound Collectors’ Club, ‘Doors’ has been a frequent request whenever it’s been time to choose a new theme. To date, I’ve always been reticent to go with it, as I feel Tim Prebble already ticked that box a while back with his epic crowdsourced ‘Doors’ collection that he orchestrated. Although overlap with other collections is eventually inevitable, I prefer themes that don’t echo well-known independent libraries that already exist out there.
However, the thing is that a lot of people (including myself) missed out on Tim’s collection when it happened, so there is still a lot of demand from club members for new sounds in this department. I finally caved in when club member Steve Papagiannis’ recently suggested an ‘Open & Close’ theme rather than just specifically doors, so that the theme can include all kinds of different hinged things, big and small, rather than just doors. I’ll let Steve explain:
“How about opens and closes, building a “new” 9000 series. Doors, drawers, gates, garages, cabinets, boxes, compartments, trunks, mason jars, etc – anything and everything, if it opens and closes, from the smallest jewelry box or door latch to the largest electrical utility box or hanger door, it’s fair game (would include knocking/pounding, latches, creaks if there are any, associated with said subject matter being recorded.”
The only requirement I’d insist upon is that you must submit the open AND close sounds of the item / object. After that, any supplementary sounds that are useful bi-products of the opening & closing, such as creaks or the usual interior or exterior versions where relevant, are always very welcome but not essential. Let me clarify that doors ARE welcome in this collection, but so are any other kinds of interesting-sounding hinged items too. Oh, and obviously I’ll keep car doors in their separate collection that already exists.
So let’s do it – let’s make this the new 9000!!!
Rene Coronado has made a good point on Twitter regarding this theme:
“Cool theme! I’d add: What made Tim’s collection so good is the requirement of different performances and perspectives; i.e. soft > hard & near > far.”
& Steve Papagiannis has kindly contributed these thoughts on our subsequent approach towards labelling & metadata for this theme (and all other themes, for that matter):
Definitely worth bearing these thoughts in mind when collecting & labelling your sounds.
Field Notes: Spontaneous Train Recording in Dallas
First New Theme for 2013-14
It’s been a long time coming but finally I bring you the first new theme of the 2013-14 season!
I was going to go with a member’s recent suggestion, or a more summer-influenced theme this month but then I got inspired by a new editing / sound design technique I picked up from Douglas Murray on the Designing Sound website the other week, which led me to thinking of applying it to our latest theme.
As you’ll see from the link, the tip shows you how to create endless fill, or tone, from a tiny sample of an original recording. As a post sound dialogue editor this technique is a lifesaver for when you’re struggling to find clean bits of ‘air’ from sync sound to connect lines of dialogue together in a scene. However, Douglas also mentions he uses it for sound design tasks too, which got me to thinking how it could be useful to bear this trick in mind as we collect our room tone recordings.
Basically, I primarily want us to build up a standard collection of room tones as you’d expect: I’d say anything between a minute and a half to five minutes is a sufficient duration. Recordings need to be neutral, in the same way as was required for the City Skylines collection – this is the indoor equivalent. No bumps, bangs, voices, car horns, etc – just neutral indoor air to be used as a sound bed in a scene. There can be a sense of distant traffic but once again, as with the City Skylines collection, it must be a wash rather than contain any specific vehicle details. Level-wise, bear in mind what volume these recordings will be used at – you don’t want to have to pull the volume down loads on the recording every time you use it, but you also don’t want to have to boost it loads either. Think about the volume it plays back at when played at unity. Ideally, when prepping a scene, I like to have to pull atmos beds like room tone down by about 5-10 dB from their recorded level.
Other than that, all I can add is – be as adventurous or as unimaginative as you like! If you can get recordings of unusual spaces then that is fantastic but even if you just get a recording of your living room, bathroom or kitchen then that’s still really useful – all spaces vary slightly in character plus the particular way you record it will give it it’s own feel too (e.g. wider or narrower stereo image, closer to the window, etc. plus everyone’s own ‘outside world’ inevitably influences the indoor tone even when it’s very quiet).
I’ll re-emphasize an important point though: make sure your room tones are quiet! No-one wants to have to go through tracks editing out bumps and bangs, tap drips, car passes, etc. – make sure these recordings are nice and clean! I’ll also add that this is not the ideal theme to use handheld recorders or cheaper equipment for, due to the inherent hiss that will be likely to show up in these quieter recordings.
Now for the twist: many times I’ve been recording in an interesting building (or in underground spaces, or quite busy places, for example) and got all kinds of interesting short sounds but often, for one reason or another (such as you’re not really meant to be recording there!), I’ve simply not been able to get more than about 5-10 seconds of clean room tone, so I end up not bothering because 5-10 seconds of tone is a bit of a pain to try and use as an atmos bed in a scene. However, Douglas’ great trick opens up the possibility of now making use of these short snippets of sound to create endless tone from them. Therefore, I’m suggesting, as a subfolder within this collection, that we have a collection pot for any snippets or scraps of room tone from interesting spaces that you’ve recorded in but only managed to get short recordings of clean tone from. By sharing these, we hopefully will also have a folder of bits ‘n’ bobs that we can create endless other room tones from. I don’t normally let the club stray into the field of sound design, but this method of room tone creation is so dependant on it’s original source material that I thought it was worth starting a sub-collection of our field recordings to support it’s practice.
Please read Douglas’ article carefully though please – he gives a very thorough description of how to make this technique work best. Please don’t share tiny 1 frame or 1 second samples – I would say that anything between 5 to 30 seconds is most appropriate. As Douglas explains, the slightest movement or change in sound creates a different tone so give enough of the recording to enable others to choose which fraction of it works best.
Important point: you can only contribute to this ‘snippets pot’ if you’ve contributed a standard, long duration room tone recording to the collection. This ‘twist’ to the collection is simply a fun add-on, not the main focus of the collection – it may not even really work out, in which case I’ll ditch the idea, but I thought it was worth experimenting with.
Any thoughts or suggestions below – now, let’s get back to collecting! Thank you all for your patience while new themes have been put on hold while I’ve been digging myself out of the admin hell that was switching cloud servers from Sugarsync to Google Drive – hopefully that hard work will be worth it in the long run.
All the best,
Field Notes: Uncertain, TX
I received a contribution to the ‘Wind’ collection recently from club member, Kyle Hughes. It was called ‘Wind Howling Through Swampland, Uncertain, TX. Now, to Americans this is perhaps not that out of the ordinary, but as an Englishman, I was fascinated by the name of this place and that it seemed very remote – and a little eerie! Anyway, something I want to do more of this year is try and get members to write a little bit about their recordings when something out of the ordinary catches my ear or eye – Field Notes, if you will. In this case, Kyle kindly agreed to tell us a bit more about Uncertain, TX.
Hi, Michael asked me to follow up on a recent upload to the ‘Wind’ collection. The reason is that it was recorded in such a remote location; i.e., the swampland of Uncertain, TX, USA.
I went out there to record for a short film in Winter/Spring of 2011, and visited a state park, as well as some local fishing holes. I am from Dallas, TX, and travelled out to Uncertain to shoot on Caddo Lake, at the border of Texas and Louisiana. The swampland is full of cypress trees and the infamous American alligator.
It’s funny- on the drive East, there is a point at which the landscape changes- the trees are all tall pines; it’s like a dividing line.
One night, a few crew members and myself ventured out to a dock on a small pond surrounded by a thick forest of trees. The trees are always covered in a great deal of moss that hangs from the branches, and in the winter it’s all brown and dry. I decided to record because of the howl that the wind made- we were surrounded by trees, but there was open air over our heads. In the distance, I could hear some strange sounds- cars driving over cattle guards, maybe, as well as a distant train blast.
The DP for the film compiled some extra footage into a short web video, which can be seen at the link below. None of the locations depicted are exactly where the wind track was recorded, but you can imagine what it looks like, based on what is seen:
If anyone is interested in seeing the actual short film, you can contact me and I’ll share a private link. It was a student film, but it did have some moderate success, traveling around the world. As far as equipment, it was shot with an ARRI SR3 on Super 16mm film, and all audio was recorded into Sound Devices 702′s, primarily using the Sennheiser ME66.
It is a fascinating place. I find it as intimidating as it is relaxing- welcoming, yet unwelcoming by the twisted natural beauty that comprises it. There are no tourist attractions besides the humble, local diner and twice-a-month flea market. In spring, the colors turn to green and the birds and gators come out. I’ve heard that the town “Uncertain” was given its name because the line dividing Texas and Louisiana was unclear, due to the widespread swamp-lake.
That’s about it- if you’re from the states it may be nothing new, but it’s even quite different from where I live, just a couple hundred miles away. Worth a visit, I’d say.
Last Theme of 2012-13 Season
“Greetings all, I’ve been working with sound for 30+ years. My experiences range from linear to non-linear; sound design, dialog and music, production thru post. The last 18 years have been focussed on audio for games and I’ve been fortunate to be involved with some amazing projects and people. I recently bought a bunch of field gear and am re-broadening my explorations with recording adventuring. A ‘back to roots’ of sorts.Theme blurb:Tools – an Unexpected Journey.My dad was a carpenter. As a kid, I’d hang out in the shed and would play with vices, hammers, jars of nails, screwdrivers and chunks of wood, etc. Fascination, for all the senses. I don’t know about you but I have always wanted to schmooze my (and my recording gear’s) way into a big hardware store, while it’s closed.
While the club’s theme descriptions tend to be quite specific, I invite you to explore the most unusual sounds that can be found in your tool drawer. For me, it’ll be about the curious use of a given tool, as well as a unique space and recording perspective. “Play” with the object and hone in on the unexpected. Perhaps: use a vice clamp under water in your sink. Or, roll a screw around in a bottle. You could, turn a screw into a turnip with contact mics on it! Why not? Who knows what you’ll end up with!”
Changing to Read-Only Access in 2013-14: A Road Test
Look out for a new Sugarsync invite appearing in your inboxes soon; I’m sending out invites to all members to a new folder with a few random sample files in of various lengths. The difference is that I’ve only given you read-only access to this folder.
Recent changes in the latest update of Sugarsync mean that I can now give you all read-only permission but you’ll still be able to see your Club folders as a drive in your Finder window on your desktop (see pic below). The only difference will be that that ‘drive’ won’t be an actual hard copy taking up space on your hard drive – it’ll be in the cloud but accessible / visible directly from your desktop so you won’t have to open Safari, Firefox, etc. in order to grab a sound from them.
I’m planning on changing all the theme folders to read-only when we start the new membership year on 1st May, so the plan is to use this ‘sample folder’ to road-test whether this change throws up any significant or insurmountable obstacles or objections before then. If not, we’ll change to this read-only setting for 2013-14.
This will instantly eradicate a chunk of maintenance work I currently have to do as a result of the inevitable accidents that happen due to everyone having read and write access to the folders.
You know the drill by now – give me a shout if anything doesn’t make sense or if you have any issues with this change; I’m happy to explain things further where needed. I get the impression that members access their folders in many different ways – some go online, some sync to their computer, some make copies onto their FX drives, and so on – so any feedback on how this changes your user experience of the Club is very welcome.
Important Notice: 2013-14 Membership Year Changes
So, just a quick announcement to explain my plan for the start of the 2013-14 season.
Firstly, I’ve decided to change the positioning of the membership year within the calendar so that it will run from January 1st through to December 31st. Mainly, this just feels like it’ll be a more logical time to start rather than a few months into the year but it will also help me in terms of giving me more time to get all the admin side of things sorted out for the start of a new year. From my experience of the last couple of years, March always seems to be crazy busy for me so it’ll always tend to be a bit of a nightmare organising the start of the new membership year for April. Generally, I tend to get a week or two’s break from work around Christmas, so I think shifting the start date to New Year’s Day will hopefully provide a more reliable opportunity to get this prep work done in time.
I don’t want to feel like I’m shortchanging anyone by making 2013 a short membership year, so my plan is to continue the 2012-13 season up until the end of April then the 2013-14 season will start on May 1st and continue through to December 31st 2014. After that, the membership years will run from January 1st – December 31st as I’ve explained.
Sorry if this causes any confusion, but I feel the change will sync the demands of the Club better with my work commitments, which ultimately means the Club will run more efficiently through getting my undivided attention at the important moments when it needs it.
For anyone wanting to join the club now, don’t worry, I won’t void your membership after just a few weeks! New members who’ve joined recently are now being given 2013-14 membership. Feels a bit tight otherwise, especially as so many of the new members have uploaded so much great stuff recently.
As per usual, feel free to give me a shout if any of this is confusing or if you have any questions. Oh, and a new theme will be coming at the start of April.
New Theme: Child’s Play
AKA ‘Junior Street Voices’!
The easiest path to take for this theme would be to get recordings near schools or play parks. However, as well as it being a tad creepy hanging around these places, I would argue that these will not be the most useful sounds to have in the collection. As with the Street Voices theme, I think the most useful recordings will be of small groups or couples of kids in the street (or any exterior space for that matter) playing or simply shouting to each other.
Obviously, playground chatter is useful if you’re working on a scene in a school. However, isolated kids’ shouts aren’t site-specific. They are very evocative and are therefore a go-to sonic effect to describe a location, e.g. Broadly speaking, yobby shouts suggest feral kids and therefore a rough area. Cutesy voices of kids playing games suggests a more idyllic, ‘safe’ setting. A variety of different recordings such as these are invaluable in any FX library.
I will accept recordings of larger groups of kids too, as it will become a pain differentiating between group sizes otherwise. I’m just emphasizing that recordings of smaller groups of kids are the most useful in my opinion. Interior recordings will be accepted too (mainly because I can’t really imagine ‘Interior Kids’ being a future theme in it’s own right) and kept within a subfolder of the collection.
I’m also presuming that your recordings will be made with at least a little bit of distance between you and the subject, otherwise this enters the realm of crowd ADR. However, this is not a rule and closer recordings will, on the whole, be considered acceptable too. Oh – one last thing – let’s agree an approximate upper age limit of about 10-12 years old? Otherwise, I think it’ll get tricky deciding whether a recording should go in this collection or ‘Street Voices’.
As always, anyone else’s thoughts on what you think this theme should consist of are welcome in the comments below.
First Theme of 2013!
Happy New Year! I thought we’d start 2013 off with a classic – you can never have too many siren recordings! They are so evocative and loaded with meaning.
The theme really lends itself well to the multinational nature of our crowdsourcing group as well because sirens obviously sound different all around the world. Plus, the location in which they are recorded makes such a difference too, e.g. surrounded by skyscrapers as opposed to passing through suburban streets or the countryside. I believe that police sirens are actually the same in New York and London nowadays but I bet you could still often tell them apart in a recording simply from the differing acoustics.
Feel free to record close or distant sirens or passbys – I’m going to create 3 subfolders to cover these different perspectives but if you contribute a recording of just one you do still get access to them all within the main ‘Sirens’ folder.
My only pointers for this theme are: if you submit passbys, try to get the whole approach and fade away. If you submit distant recordings, make sure the sirens aren’t swamped with traffic noise and if you submit close recordings, try and get a decent length of recording to avoid having to do loads of looping. As per usual, if anyone else has any useful advice that they think is worth adding then feel free to comment below.
Let’s get the year off to a good start! Thank you to all club members for your support last year – we’re now 50 strong and rising and the collection is now over 35 gigs in size. Remember that the new 2013 season starts in April and I always give free membership to the top contributors (generally the top 8 to 10) from the past year, so now’s the time to get your tally up!
All the best for 2013! Here’s to another great year of sound collecting and sharing.
Big thanks to all members for their patience over the past couple of months while I’ve been snowed under with a sound supervising gig on a film project in Budapest. I am actually a fan of occasionally skipping a month here and there so that we can try and stock up our existing themes rather than having lots of smaller or untouched collections. However, I’m not going to pretend my radio silence was a deliberate strategy! Workload combined with the foreign travel has consumed all my spare time these past few weeks so that even managing to upload new contributions has been a bit of a struggle. I don’t see this being a regular problem – it was quite an unusual set of circumstances – but I have decided to set up a contingency plan to avoid disruption of the club’s momentum should a similar scenario occur again in the future. More news as and when………
Right, back to the theme:
‘City Skylines’ has been chosen by London-based Sound FX Editor / Designer, Tony Gibson, who I was happy to welcome to the club for the first time earlier this year.
Tony has won an RTS award in 2009-10 & a Music and Sound award in 2011 for his work on the popular TV series, Misfits. He also picked up ‘TV Sound Editor of the Year’ award at this year’s Conch Awards in the UK. He currently works for the post facility, Molinare in London.
Here’s Tony’s brief for our latest theme:
“Underneath every great audio tracklay is something that to most people goes unnoticed. But to the people who work in our field they are the bed that everything is built up from.City Skylines are very important to the our work, they help to create a base for all of our dialogue, effects and sound design to blend together and create our overall sound track.These are none specific in nature but are very indispensable to what we do.”
I’ll second the importance that these recordings are non-specific atmos beds rather than a collection of traffic passes. My personal view is that different senses of space are useful so perhaps we can experiment with different stereo or quad, etc. recordings. On the flip side of that, corresponding mono recordings are also useful for helping fill the centre speaker on occasion – but maybe that’s the dialogue editor in me talking!
My experience of collecting this type of recording is that it’s best to go high: Tops of buildings or other raised viewpoints over an area of the city gives you the necessary distance from the urban melee of traffic and people so that you get that generic ‘roar’ rather than any sense of specific details. If you simply stand on a street corner, you’ll pick up too many close sounds like footfalls and car passes.
Any further input from fellow sound collectors is more than welcome in the comments below. Good to be back and thanks again to all of you for your patience!
New Theme – Burps ‘N’ Farts!
But sir! Sir! It wasn’t me, it was Coronado!
What can I say? Don’t blame me, talk to Rene, it was his idea. BUT, all jokes aside, this could be a very useful collection. Many a film depends on a good old-fashioned fart gag, and as far as I’m aware, there’s only one or two ‘body wind’ libraries out there currently.
Feels a bit weird to give you guidelines – bit of an invasion of privacy ‘n’ all – so use your own judgement on this occasion!
One request: This is one occasion when editing is necessary; if you’re providing a recording of several burps or farts, please edit your track down to the important bits, in an easily auditionable series. Other than that, let rip! 🙂
Church Bells Meetup, Anyone?
In line with my intentions to had more meetups organised, I’m happy to say that Raoul Brand got in touch with me recently, with a great idea for the next recording trip. I’ll let him explain:
“Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time in Hampstead Heath, North London, where I am currently recording sounds for my dissertation.This involves going up to the same location in the park at different times of the day and at night to record the soundscape with a pair of omni mics rigged in the canopy of a tree.At night especially when it’s quiet but also on Sunday mornings I noticed that I was able to hear the distant bells from St Anne’s church in Highgate, which is about half a mile away.I went up to the church to check out the exact times when the bells are ringing and found out that the church offers a drop in class for their bell ringing practice! – http://www.bird-dog-demo.com/stannes/bell-ringing/I always thought it would be great to be able to record church bells with some degree of creative input and to spend some time thinking about the best mic placement without disturbing the sunday service, so I spoke to the person in charge and he was very welcoming and supportive of the idea.As it would be useful to cover a recording session like this from different microphone perspectives, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have another soundcollectors club meet up.It looks pretty certain that we could record the practice session there [in early September]. Apparently access to the tower is a bit tricky and tight so it would definitely be worth setting up before the ringing starts. I think this would suit about 4-5 recordists and I think it would be cool to cover interior as well as exterior perspectives.That’s about it – except that there is a nice pub down the road to grab a pint after.”