Author Archive

New Theme – Reactions: Small Crowd

A wide variety of different crowd reactions are always useful.  I think it’s great to be able to shape your FX tracklay for a crowd scene so that the sound doesn’t solely depend on the crowd ADR for energy, dynamics and narrative.  Sure, you do often need to lay a more generic ‘bed’ for the crowd presence but when you add any necessary ‘ooh’s!’, ‘aah’s!’ and cheers, etc. on top of that the scene can really come to life – and also helps any crowd ADR that you do shoot to sit into the mix more naturally.

Bearing in mind that I may run a theme for large crowd reactions in the future, I’ll describe how I’m going to distinguish between the two sizes of crowd.  For now (I can always adapt the collections in the future if necessary), consider this small crowd collection to be for groups of, say, 5 people (e.g. watching sport in a bar) to 200 people (e.g. cheering at a concert in a small church hall).  Less than 5 people may be getting a bit to close to the realms of crowd ADR and start requiring the use of release forms, so we’ll steer clear.  I may need to eventually cater for a ‘medium’ category but, for now, I’m imagining the other ‘large crowd’ collection to cover small concert halls to stadiums.  Despite all my examples being interior, the crowd reactions that you share can be interior or exterior recordings.

I must emphasise that this theme is for crowd REACTIONS!  General chat tracks won’t be accepted unless they contain the reactions within, in which case it’s obviously counter-productive to remove the ‘vibe’ that surrounds the important boos, cheers, gasps, etc.

That’s it!  I really can’t think of any other conditions that need to be spelled out.  Oh, apart from please state your location / language in your track name or metadata.  This is always important for recordings shared with the Club but especially so when voices are involved.

Lastly, the more the better.  If possible, it’s great to have a few reactions in a recording in case the scene calls for it.  Otherwise, you end up searching for other recordings that match in terms of crowd size and acoustics, which is a bit dull.

Happy sound collecting!


New Easier Upload Method

Members will have noticed an invitation e-mail turn up in their inbox this week, asking them to join a new folder in the Club’s Sugarsync account called ‘NEW SOUNDS HERE PLEASE!’

Suddenly dawned on me this week that this is clearly the most convenient way for members to submit new tracks.  Drag your submission(s) into this new folder on your computer and I’ll get e-mailed a notification.  I can then check the track and approve it before moving it to the relevant folder and giving access to that contributor.

You don’t have to contribute via this route (yet!) – you can still upload via Soundcloud (or any other means) if you prefer but I do recommend this as the most straightforward option.

Updated ‘How to Upload Your Sounds’ page and new ‘FAQ’ page to follow very soon…..gradually getting there with all the housekeeping!  A lot of adjustments I’m making for this 2012-13 season are intended to streamline my whole admin process so that even when I get really busy at work I can still keep the Club efficient and up to date.  Thank you all for your patience in the meantime!

Best,

Michael

 

 


2012-13 Season Starts Here!

Here we go with the 2012-13 Season! Before I talk about the latest theme I’d just like to chat a bit about the new membership year.

The Club’s top contributors have already been given free membership for another year. For everyone else, and as a kind of rally call to get as many people on board as possible from the start of the season, I’m offering membership at half price until the end of May. After that, the membership fee will go back to the usual £20 for the rest of the 2012-13 season.

If you’ve contributed to the Club over the past year then you’ll need to renew your membership if you want to continue to have access to those themes. I’ll be making these adjustments over the next week or so, so please act now whether you want to renew your membership (and don’t want the hassle of downloading everything again) or whether you don’t (and want to download everything before you’re excluded).

If you’re new to the Club then now’s the perfect time to get involved. For the next couple of months, a tenner and a few of your own recordings can currently get you access to over 20 gigs of sound fx recordings made by sound professionals from all over the world.

Please bear with me over the next couple of weeks as the new membership year has coincided with me being in the depths of simultaneous temp, pre- and final mixing (don’t ask!) so chances to focus on the Club are few and far between for the next couple of weeks.  Once that’s done, I’ll complete the transition from Soundcloud to Sugarsync which has dragged on over the last few months, focus on a bit more Club promotion and also I’d like to use the start of this new season to talk a bit about what the Club’s achieved over the past year and what goals I have for the 2012-13 season.  Coming soon.

Right, back to the latest theme:  Car Doors.

In any scene, film or tv, a car door open or close  is one sound that is nearly always worth checking the production rushes for.  Whenever possible, I use these real sounds from the location recordings as they sound more natural than using recordings from another time and place (ditto with any doors that aren’t part of a set).  If necessary, I might beef them up or tighten them by means of parallel compression.

However, although this method offers authenticity and naturalism, sometimes it is necessary to add one more layer to infer more meaning in the sound than is inherent in it’s original state.  Perhaps the car door needs to sound like more of a solid ‘thunk’ to suggest quality (and therefore wealth) or more of a hollow ‘clang’ and rattle to declare the vehicle as a complete and utter rust bucket.

So, in other words, what I’m after for this collection is car door sounds with character and meaning.  Don’t share your bog standard clunks and slams; I’ll get those from the rushes and they’ll fit the picture better.  Instead, please share interesting car door sounds that are descriptive of the vehicle and, by association, it’s owner.

Truck, lorry, van, etc doors are all allowed too.  As I often mention, please try and get the door from different angles and intensities – namely harder and gentler opens and closes shot from exterior close,  exterior wide and interior.  Also, getting the boot / trunk sound is useful to complete the set.  Please let me know what vehicle the door belongs to and provide a photo if possible.

Here’s to the next 20 gig!  Speak again soon,

Michael

 


A Double Bill of Creaks To End The 2011-12 Season

I thought it might be a good idea to double up this month as it seemed silly to stretch out two such similar themes over two months.    This theme brings us the closest we have been so far to the world of foley recording.

Good floor and stair creaks, recorded from head height in order to mirror location recording, can be useful for sweetening foley or production footsteps.  However, if you think a particular floor creak has potential for manipulation or as an element in a layered design then it may well be worth recording much closer – you be the judge.

If you do record some floor creaks with the intention of them being sweeteners then please record a decent amount of them.  Bear in mind  that, with longer scenes in particular, it’s handy to have a generous length of track available from which you can cherry-pick the creaks that suit each particular moment.  Try and get a variety of intensities of creak out of your chosen surface; the shorter, subtler creaks are sometimes more useful than the big ol’ horror movie ones.  Record yourself or a volunteer making the floor or stairs creak; don’t record an ambient track of the general public passing by because this will also carry extraneous noise (movement, voices, etc.) with it, which we don’t want.  Perhaps remove your shoes so that your creaks aren’t spoiled by being tied to actual footfalls.

Be careful with the room acoustic:  Decide whether this is useful to have in your recording or not.  Remember that it is a lot easier to add reverb than remove it. Having said that, if a room has a nice acoustic, perhaps consider recording two-track mono – one closer boom and one more distant room mic.  Don’t contribute stereo files; it’s just a waste of drive space.  Include photos and thorough meta descriptions with your recordings whenever possible too.

Although, the images above would suggest otherwise – the surfaces do not have to be wood, they just have to creak in some way.  If your floor and stair recording are from the same location and ‘match’ then please reflect this with appropriate naming but make them separate files (because they will go in separate folders – you still need to contribute to both in order to get access to both sets).

Well, that’s about as thorough a set of instructions as I can muster at 12:30 am!  If I think of anything else worth mentioning I’ll add it (or tweet it) but I think that’s everything.  If anyone else wants to add anything useful to this guide then please feel free to comment below.

 

 


Think Tank

As with all the ‘Extras’ at the Club, this is a bit of an experiment.  The thinking behind it is kind of an evolution from the idea of The Knowledge which I’m considering discontinuing as a feature of the Club.

Unlike the Knowledge’s wide open (but perhaps too vague) ambition for members to collect and share any general notes, tips and info relating to sound collecting, ‘Think Tank’ is intended to simply be a melting pot of ideas and inspiration relating to the Club’s specific themes.

People can contribute photos, articles, videos….pretty much anything they want (in as polished or as rough a state as they wish) as long as it informs or inspires members collecting sounds for one of the Club’s themes.

Contributions to Think Tank can be made using Gimme Bar which, if you’d like to contribute, you’ll need to add to your Bookmarks Bar and then you can simply grab images, articles or videos online to add to the pot.  Basically, it’s a sexier and cleverer version of Delicious.

My plan is to invite all members to collaborate with these Gimme Bar collections.  If people add stuff, great but, if not, then I’m happy to treat the collections as my personal scrapbooks for members to dip into as they wish.  For a while, I’ve been looking for a format to enable me to gather together the various notes, vids, drawings or photos that I seem to accumulate in the process of collecting sounds (‘field notes’ if you will, that are sometimes useful to refer back to but seem a bit scruffy and disjointed to publish in an actual blog post) and I’m hoping that Gimme Bar might provide an attractive solution.

This feature is in a very early beta stage so I won’t go to town fully explaining how to use Gimme Bar in this collaborative way just yet – I’ll build up some of the collections a bit first and then send out collaboration invites to all members.  However, if you’re interested in checking out the basic concept a bit further, you can check out my first additions to the pot:  I’ve made a small start on a ‘Trains: Design’ Collection by adding a couple of rough vids and jottings I made whilst recently hunting down a Leaf Blower Train to record.

More info to follow in the coming months via the Home page of the website and Twitter.


First New Theme of 2012: Church Bells

Happy New Year all sound collectors!  The first theme of 2012 is inspired by a question posed by Rene Coronado on the Social Sound Design forum just before Christmas, and very well answered by Paul Virostek.

Church Bells has been a popular suggestion on the poll I set up a while back too so I thought I’d finally select it as a new theme.  All different kinds of church bell sounds are welcome:  Close recordings from within bell towers to ambient distant tolls (with the usual proviso that the subject must not be swamped by other ambient noise such as traffic).

A couple of stipulations though:  No handbells.  All bells must be operated by some kind of mechanism rather than being handheld.  Secondly, although I’ve specified church bells as the theme title, recordings of bells attached to any religious building are acceptable.

Oh, and one last thing; whether you record one toll or a dozen, you must get the entire series, i.e. don’t miss the first bell toll or cut off the decay of the last, otherwise the recording can be impractical to use.

Good luck!


Last New Theme of 2011!

I thought it might be good to do our first proper ‘background chat’ theme this month.  I know we have Echo Space but that is more about the space than the human activity within it; in fact, that doesn’t even need to be the sound of people at all. 

I like doing vocal themes because they tend to best exploit the international nature of The Sound Collectors’ Club.  However, this theme doesn’t necessarily have to be all about the chat.  You can also contribute ambient cutlery / glass / crockery tracks recorded in cafes too which are often actually preferable to have separate from chatting customers if possible.  If plates and cutlery are clinking away too predominantly on a chat track, the recording can become a pain to edit for film or TV when you need to avoid such noises clashing with a character’s dialogue.

Coffee machine and hot water blasts are ok to contribute too, for now – as the set grows over time, I may end up dividing it into separate collections but, for the time being, it’s quite useful to keep these elements together.  Especially if, say, a chat, cutlery and coffee machine recording all derive from the same cafe and therefore have matching acoustics.

Also, bear in mind that in the future I may well introduce ‘pub’ or ‘restaurant’ (etc.) themes as well so please pick your locations carefully so that recordings from these separate themes don’t all just blur into one.  I’m thinking of focussing on getting some nice gentle murmur tracks from various greasy spoons in London but there is obviously a wide variety of types (more continental style or street cafes, for example) that you could choose from – simply make sure your choice is distinct from a restaurant or bar / pub.

Lastly, background music or TV / radio in the cafe is a definite no-no!  Sure, sometimes you can barely hear it so could get away with using a recording anyway but, for this occasion, let’s not go there.

Good luck!  No tea slurping once you hit record!



‘Night and Day’ Reopens – Right On Your Desktop!

The Night and Day collection is back in action, which means that all Club themes are now back online for members to start contributing to again – but this time with a bit of a difference.  

As 2011 has passed by and the collection has grown, I’ve already begun to think that The Sound Collectors’ Club needs to find a more suitable location to store it’s collections in than Soundcloud.  Soundcloud is great aesthetically and perfect for linking to other social networks and blogs, and I’ll definitely continue to use it for the mp3 samples that can be auditioned in the Browse The Collection page.  However, as a means of cloud storage for an ever-growing sound fx library, it isn’t ideal – the more themes we amass, the larger the amount of ‘secret links’ we’ll have to keep hold of and keep handy for whenever we want to access the collections.  Downloading and then re-loading file metadata is also cumbersome via Soundcloud.  What I feel we need is a form of cloud storage which more closely mirrors the way we store our own sound fx libraries on our work computers.

In my opinion, the application that currently fulfills this brief the best is Sugarsync.  There are many other similar applications but they all seem to fall down on one or more particular function that is essential for the Club to work well by this method.  For example, Dropbox is great, but it requires everyone sharing a folder to have the capacity for the full size of the shared folder in their personal account, which is impractical.  You can get around this by signing up for one of their Team accounts but that costs about £700 which is obviously far too expensive.  

With Sugarsync,  only I need to buy the amount of storage needed to hold the Club’s collections.  I can then share it with all contributors, who only need sign up for the free account.  You will receive an e-mail from me saying that I’ve shared a folder with you;  if you’ve already signed up to Sugarsync you can access it straight away.  If not, you can click on the ‘Sign Up’ link on the e-mail and then let their website lead you through the registering process before returning to the e-mail to access the shared folder.

As soon as you access the shared folder, it will be synced to your desktop  – if you’re on a Mac, it will sync to a new folder in your ‘Documents’ folder.  It isn’t ideal but this folder has to stay in this location in which it is created AND MUST NOT BE EDITED OR ADDED TO!!!  This is because in order for you to be able to sync the folder to your desktop I have to enable you to access AND modify it.  I’m pretty sure better permission controls will come along before long so that I’ll be able to let you access but not modify folders but, for now, please don’t change, move, delete or add to this folder, as it will change the folder for everyone else as well and will get very confusing.  For this reason, please install Sugarsync on your personal computer rather than any shared work one that you might use, in order to minimize this risk (you can still access Club sounds via the internet on shared computers).  However, having said that, I do have backups should any accidents happen and Sugarsync has quite a good ‘undo delete’ system, so it’s not quite as precarious as it sounds.

As is often the way, there are workarounds to these slight flaws:  If it’s a bit of a pain having to go into your ‘Documents’ folder to access the sounds then you can, of course, create an alias of the folder in a more easily accessible location.  However, for now, it’s probably a good thing that the sync folder is tucked out of the way because you’re then perhaps less likely to accidentally edit it.  In my opinion, it’s maybe best to create a new ‘The Sound Collectors’ Club’ folder in your sound fx library then create new folders within that for all the sets that you have access to.  Once you’ve done that you can just use the sync folder in ‘Documents’ to copy new audio to your sound fx library from whenever I tweet that new sounds have been added to the collection.  Please let me know of any other non-destructive workflows you devise to incorporate the Club’s collection into your sound fx library.

So that’s the downloading taken care of!  As for the uploading, we’ll stick with the existing system via Soundcloud for now – I don’t want to throw too many new systems at you all at once so I’ll probably hold fire with any new uploading instructions until the New Year.  I’ll gradually start adding step-by-step instructions or even a tutorial vid to the website to explain the new process (as well as gradually sharing all the other collections) but hopefully, for now, this post will suffice in pointing you in the right direction towards setting up your Sugarsync account then syncing collections to your desktop.  Obviously give me a shout if you have any problems.  

However this system ends up being adapted to suit our needs, I really feel this type of cloud sharing is the future for the Club so do please give it a go.  I think the ideal scenario would be for all Club members to have a dedicated folder (which they can’t erase) somewhere useful on their computer (such as in their fx library or in their menu bar like Dropbox) which auto-syncs whenever new sounds are added to the collection so that you only need to drag and drop them into Soundminer / Audiofinder / etc. from time to time.  Sugarsync may just be the first but vital stepping stone towards that goal – please let me know how you get on with it.


New Theme: Protest!

After the last few crazy months, this theme has become a necessity.  Demos, riots, revolutions and protests are going on all over the world but good quality, and commercially usable, sound recordings of these events are currently thin on the ground.

‘Protest’ sounds needn’t be solely vocal.  Sounds of destruction, crowd movement, police activity and general ambiances of areas of unrest are as equally valid as the usual chants and megaphone shouts that we tend to associate with the idea of protests.

@rene_coronado kicks off this collection with a very generous donation of an excerpt of his recording of the Occupy Dallas protest which I’m sure you’ve all read about and listened to over at his excellent blog, the sound my head makes.

Last bit of humble advice – stay safe, and keep what we do in perspective.  Most demos are perfectly safe to go out and record but some, such as the recent London riots, for instance, are way too unpredictable and simply not worth risking your neck for for one lousy sound recording.  I, for one, never had the slightest inclination to go out recording during the riots.

This set’s bound to be quite a slow grower as it can be hard to get good recordings of these events but, over time, I’m hopeful this could become a really unique collection of sounds which are useful for all sorts of different projects.


‘Trains: BGs’ Theme Deadline Extended to End of October

Well, I did say I wasn’t going to extend deadlines anymore but this is a bit different.

Ever since collections started staying online and remaining active, new themes have been accumulating tracks more slowly.  With hindsight, this outcome is perhaps obvious – members’ new contributions are getting spread amongst an ever increasing number of themes.  Also, new themes inevitably inspire less urgency to participate before the end of the month when people know that they can join in and grab the collections at a later date when they specifically need them or when they simply have more spare time.

That’s all fine but I think a change is in order to address this ‘imbalance’.  If old themes are still attracting significant interest then perhaps a more steady influx of new themes is necessary.  I’m proposing making themes bimonthly for the time being.

I must admit that, when I’m busy, I do find that the month’s fly by and before I know it (and before I’ve barely had a chance to add a recording) it’s time to come up with a new theme again.  With an extra month for each current theme, I’m hoping it’ll give me more of a chance to explore each subject; posting about my own and other members’ recordings, as well as hopefully making club meetups a more regular occurence (one for every new theme) as well.

Generally, I’m quite a strong believer in the idea of not trying to please everyone otherwise you end up pleasing nobody.  However, on this occasion in particular, I’d be really interested to hear members’ thoughts on this matter so please feel free to leave any comments below.

 


New Solution for Keeping Track of Sounds

[memolane lane=”thescclub” width=”550″ height=”550″]

As the club’s collection expands, it’s inevitable that I’m going to need to come up with different solutions to how we can keep all this audio well organized and easily accessible.  I’ve been thinking for a while now about how best to keep members aware of any new contributions that are uploaded – hence the decision to start tweeting all new uploads.  

However, another solution fell into my lap last week via a Soundcloud newsletter which mentioned a new app called Memolane.  I really like Memolane’s design and the way it displays Soundcloud updates so I’ve decided to use it in the BROWSE THE COLLECTION page (in the menu at the top of this page) to showcase all the MP3 samples of contributions as and when they are uploaded (you can still browse by themes as well if you’d rather).

In this way, if members choose to download en masse intermittently, they can now keep track of what’s been added to the collection since their last visit.  Together with the twitter alerts, hopefully members will find it easier than ever to keep up to date with their copies of the club’s collection.  However, besides being a good inventory tool for existing members, I think it’s also an interesting alternative way for new visitors to the site to investigate and audition the collection too.

Hope you like it !


‘Rain’ Theme Reopens!

The Club’s very first theme (from back in November) is now back online for members to start contributing to again.

I’ve re-uploaded any tracks from the old collection that qualify under the current requirements – in other words all those that have some form of vocal ident on.  The contributors of these qualifying tracks have been e-mailed new secret links to the reactivated set and so can gain access immediately.  

Unfortunately, if you originally contributed a track but it hasn’t been re-uploaded then you will need to contribute a new track which meets the current requirements in order to regain access to the set.  If your old track does qualify but you aren’t currently a member of the Club then I’ve got your track on standby ready to add to the set should you join the Club in future.

For those who don’t remember the original brief regarding what sort of rain recordings we’re after, here’s what I originally wrote:

Rather than just ‘rain’, I should perhaps say rain on surfaces, i.e. rain on windows, roofs, pavements, etc. – whatever sounds interesting. Rain on surfaces such as corrugated iron or greenhouses can sound great but in some ways I think it’s a bigger achievement to simply get a great recording of the sound of rain on a window which doesn’t just sound like white noise.

Next up is the old Night and Day set which I’ll try and get re-uploaded as soon as possible too.  Watch this space….


Some Stats…

As many of you will know, one of the good things about Soundcloud (and particularly with the Pro account) is the stats it provides you with regarding your uploaded tracks.  

These stats are particularly interesting with regards to the Club due to it’s international nature.  I haven’t posted any geographical info on club activity for a while so I thought I’d upload the above snapshot for those who may be interested.  UK running tings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


September’s Theme

The companion collection to June’s theme!  

I must give credit for the inspiration to @EnosDesjardins and @rene_coronado who were discussing on Twitter the other day how train sounds were amongst their favourite background atmos FX.  I wholeheartedly agree so have decided to make it this month’s theme.

This time around, instead of the close, clean detail that was required for June’s ‘Trains: Design’ collection, we need more distant train sounds that are suitable for use in background atmospheres.  Similarly to the requirements I described for the Street Voices’ collection in July, these train sounds need to exhibit more of the acoustic characteristics of their surroundings but cannot be so distant that they are swallowed up by, for example, urban roar.  

The litmus test with these type of FX is whether they still sound good played at low level (as they will be when used in atmospheres).  If there’s a surge of skyline noise when you fade the train sounds in and out then your chosen location is too noisy or the train is too distant.  

Also, does it still sound like a train when played at low level?  I guess you could call this the ‘What the f*%k is that?’ test!  Imagine people who haven’t heard your train recording before, such as a director or producer, hearing it mixed in with the dialogues, music and atmospheres at a dub.  If it is perceived as an indistinguishable clatter or hum rather than as a distant, evocative train pass, it is very likely to get dropped immediately – and quite possibly with the aforementioned expletive question given an airing too!  In short, try to be objective about what your recording can really add to an atmospheres tracklay.

Personally, I intend to visit various overground London transport locations where I’ve noticed interesting acoustics while travelling around over the last year or so.  For example, the train tracks in Acton station lie at the bottom of a deep embankment; a railway bridge I walked under in Chiswick made a great boomy sound as a train passed over and, just today in Richmond, I noticed a train crossing one of the rail bridges over the river that made a really interesting sound too.  

These are just a few London-based ideas I happen to have had.  However, trains are one of the most sonically diverse forms of transport that exist and rail tracks slice through virtually every different form of landscape in the world so the possibilities should be endless.  Good luck with your collecting!


 

 

 


August’s Theme

Quite a simple theme this month after quite a tricky one in July.  So simple in fact, I don’t think it’ll really need much explanation.  

I think it suffices to suggest that you provide some individual rings or buzzes and then a variety of multiple patterns too.  It is really important that you let the reverb tails of your bells or buzzers subside completely before triggering the next ring or buzz (unless you’re doing a multiple ring of course) otherwise their usage becomes very limited.   The only other advice I’ll offer is that for your contribution to be as useful as possible, I would ask that you submit recordings of your chosen bell or buzzer from 3 different recording positions (but submitted as one track):

  1. Exterior, from the POV of the bell ringer
  2. Interior, close / direct (i.e. standing quite near or below it in order to get a clean recording of the bell itself)
  3. Interior, a bit more ambient / indirect (perhaps in the next room along from the bell – not too distant but just far enough away to pick some of your house or flat’s acoustics)

Last of all, please don’t forget to put a vocal ident or slate (including your name) on your recordings otherwise I won’t be able to accept it.  And that’s about it  – let’s get collecting ding dongs and bzzzzzzs!

 

 


New Contributions Will Now Be Tweeted

Just a quick note to let you all know that from now on all new contributions to the Club will be tweeted from the @TheSCClub once I’ve uploaded the audio.

If you follow @TheSCClub then consequently you’ll get to know when there’s new audio that you can download rather then having to randomly check from time to time.  The other benefit is that hopefully it’ll give some non-members a better sense of the activity going on at the Club too.

So, member or non-member, if you’re not yet following @TheSCClub, please do consider doing so because it’ll save you a lot of speculative visits to the Browse The Collection page or any private sets that you have access to.


July’s Theme

The human voice can evoke so much meaning and emotion.  Therefore, it is an invaluable vehicle for expressing the mood of a location.  As a result, this month’s theme is one of my favourite types of sound effect for creating interesting and evocative soundscapes. 

This theme lies somewhere between ‘exterior crowd’ fx and crowd ADR.  It is not general chat or crowd sounds.  It is more specific than that, and should only consist of one or a few people.  It is not crowd ADR, it is more distant and worldized than that.  The voices need to be raised, if not shouting, in order to carry over this distance.  

These type of recordings are perfect for poking through between dialogue to give a scene character.  Using distant voices in this way is a really effective way of controlling the vibe of an environment –  making it seem anything from intimidating or welcoming to posh or slummy.

A couple arguing in a courtyard; a drunk shouting in an alleyway; noisy scaffolders: a baby’s cries heard from an open window; or a few people talking loudly and laughing in the park – these are the sort of sounds I’m after.

Two important points:  

  1. As usual, it is vital that these recordings contain minimal background noise.  They are not atmospheres, they are fx which need to be able to fade in and out without a surge of traffic noise or other general crowd sounds.  
  2. Distance is crucial.  Too close and you are basically recording those people’s conversation.  Consequently, a can of worms is opened with regards to model release forms and privacy infringement, etc.  Instead, you need to be distant enough so that you are indirectly recording the voices.  If you stick a mic out of your window and someone is shouting down the end of the street then I would say that no privacy is infringed and you are ok to use that recording howsoever you please.  In contrast, if you make a stealth recording of a couple having a private, heated conversation in, say, a cafe, then I would argue that you have perhaps invaded their privacy and it could be unwise to start using that recording in commercial projects.  Common sense will hopefully dictate what is suitable, but a good guide is to consider whether you are recording someone actively or passively / directly or indirectly and whether they are imposing their voice on your environment or you are invading their privacy.  On the flip side, it will not be possible to use the recording as spot fx if the voices are too distant because the accompanying noise of the surrounding environment will surge in and out too much. 

One last point:  Please specify where your recordings were made.  It is vital that the title or metadata of these FX reveal what country they are from (and also mention if the location is somewhere where the language may be other than the native tongue, eg. Chinatown!)  

Other than that, good luck with your shout-hunting and I look forward to hearing the results!


June’s Theme

Very excited about this one.  I have two young boys so inevitably I watch quite a lot of kids’ TV at the moment.  There’s a lot of great kids’ shows around these days but one of my boys’ favourites is called Chuggington which I’ve always thought had particularly good sound FX in it.  So, I’m very pleased to announce that this month’s theme has been requested by the show’s sound designer, Richard Spooner:

“So this is another slightly selfish audio topic as I am starting sound design on a new series of “Chuggington” next week, which is a pre-school show about .. eergh .. trains.

I think the sounds that interest me are the more percussive engine sounds, hisses, doppler passes, rail clack etc. We should try and capture the power and speed of a train in the recordings. It could be some fast passes or just the static throbbing tick-over of a diesel or steam engine. It could be air/steam release on braking or the distinctive clickety-clack of a speeding train. We should stay away from station ambiences and commuter interior rides.”

I think an important thing to emphasize is that we need clean, high sample rate recordings of different separate elements of train sounds which would be suitable for use in animation sound design.  There may be exceptions but, on the whole, I’d imagine the recordings need to be relatively close so as to contain as little background atmos as possible.  In this way, I can imagine a separate future theme of, say, distant train FX or simply a more general collection of train sounds which are typically more suitable for standard reality-based film or television drama.

One last point is that it might also be useful for people who plan on contributing to this theme to check out some old episodes of the show if you haven’t seen it before, just so you get a feel for the sort of sounds that Rich might find useful.

Oh, and also bear in mind that Rich starts the show this month so, although the theme will stay open permanently, it’d be great if we could do our best to get a great collection together for him sooner rather than later.  Let’s make this a good one!

Club Meetups, Old and New

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It’s been an intention of mine, ever since I started The Sound Collectors’ Club, to organize a club meetup in London; to create a chance for members to get to know each other better than just virtually over the internet.
 
I finally got round to making this happen for the first time a few weeks ago back in April when the current theme was Echo Space.  As I explained in a post at the time, I ended up choosing the Rotherhithe Tunnel as our glamorous destination and when the agreed upon day arrived I was happy to be joined by @eesn and foster.fog.

I tweeted the above pics throughout the evening; en route to the pub where we met up, I stopped riverside hoping to get some good London skylines.  Unfortunately this proved tricky thanks to the endless flow of pleasureboats blaring music which carried surprisingly far up the river after they had passed by.  No matter, after a swift pint at The Grapes, we headed off to the tunnel.  The results are now uploaded into the Club’s ‘Echo Space’ set if you want to check them out – all 15 minutes of it before we succumbed to the fumes and retreated back to the cleaner confines of The Narrow pub nearby for beer to wash the grit from our mouths!

Many thanks to Georgi and Tom for making the effort to come along; I look forward to hopefully catching up with you both again at future meetups.

Speaking of which, my plan for the next meetup is based around the club’s ‘Wind’ theme which was started a couple of months ago.  This stems from a recent trip to Kew Gardens with the family, where I was struck by the wide variety of trees that were there and, because it was a windy day, how different they all sounded blowing in the breeze.  Kew Gardens is a very big place, so I was thinking that if a few of us met there and each took a separate section of the grounds then there could be the potential to create the mother of all ‘wind in trees’ collections when we pool our results in the club’s ‘Wind’ set!

Kew Gardens

Any feedback on this idea would be much appreciated; as far as I can see, potential problems are as follows:

  1. Choosing a windy day.
  2. Planes.  The day I was there the plane noise was pretty minor.  However flight paths change all the time so there’s no guarantee that this won’t be a problem.
  3. Kew Gardens is pricey to get into (£13.90).

One alternative I’ve found to Kew, if these problems make it an unsuitable location, is Winkworth Arboretum in (or near) Guildford.  This could solve the problem with plane noise (it can’t be worse than West London, surely?!) and is cheaper (£6.20, though you’ll pay more for travel).


If you’re interested, let me know your thoughts in the comments below, like last time, and we’ll take it from there.


Additional Note on ‘Car Passes’

One thing I’d like to add regarding submissions to this month’s theme is please don’t break down your recordings into lots of separate car passes unless the vehicle is a particularly distinctive or unusual model that justifies being kept separately in a recording of it’s own.  If every car pass gets its own dedicated track we’ll have loads of tracks relative to actually not that much material.

What’s more, when it comes to editing traffic scenes, it is actually more useful to have a series of passes (which share similar characteristics such as speed and acoustics) all in one track rather than having to audition lots of different tracks containing only one pass which may not match up as consistently.

Also, don’t forget that vocal idents are now compulsory.  I’m being flexible about what the ident consists of but ideally you should say at least your name and the theme (a quick description of what your recording is always a bonus).  I tend to do this anyway on my recordings in order to remember the details just in case I don’t get round to editing and cataloguing them straightway.

Best,

Michael


May’s Theme

Back to basics this month as I choose the theme for the first time since Rain back in November.  ‘Car passes’ may not be the most exotic theme we’ve ever had but it’ll be a very useful one if it provides us all with a greater variety of this type of recording to reach for.

As the club’s sound collection develops, I’d really like it to become useful to people for specific jobs they work on.  In other words, if any members have a project approaching in the coming months for which they could really do with a fresh bunch of specific sounds (which are not location-specific) then give me a shout and I’ll try my best to make it a theme in time to deliver the goods for you.  

With this in mind, I’ve chosen this theme for myself because it may be useful to me over the coming months.  I’ve got a couple of relatively quick turnaround FX jobs coming up soon which are highly likely to contain many scenes which need background traffic passes covered.  When you don’t have much time to pick out these individual passes, it’s really handy to have a good selection of recordings of  a series of vehicles passing by, otherwise you have to compile the passes from an amalgamation of different recordings which is much more time-consuming and sounds less consistent.  

Two particularly important attributes that a useful car passes recording must have are:

  1. Enough spacing between passes to give you full depiction of each vehicle’s approach and drive away.  Two cars passing by together while another car passes by on the other side of the carriageway is of no use for this purpose (if at all).
  2. As with most types of recording, low background noise is important to avoid hearing a surge of noise as you fade the car pass in and out.  What’s more, it muddies the definition of the sound of the vehicle itself.

Apart from that, though, there are very few conditions to adhere to.  The vehicles must predominantly be cars but your recording may also contain bus / truck / motorbike, etc. passes too.  The car passes can be as close or as wide as you like – although don’t go so wide that the individual car passes lose their definition and become a more general traffic atmos.  

Think about definition:  If you monitor at a low level but can still hear interesting detail from the engines, the road or simply from the acoustics of the street then the track is likely to work nicely when ducked down low in a mix around dialogue.  If not, you’ll end up adding little more than surges of white noise to the mix.

A good selection of orthodox street / main road recordings at different speeds would be great, but I’m also hoping to hear some more unusual contributions too:  eg.  Cobbled streets, flyovers, speed bumps and manhole covers to name but a few variants.

Other than that, and as usual, I don’t want to tell you all too precisely what to record, but please feel free to comment below if you have any questions or if you think I’ve been unclear in any way; if so, I’ll provide more detail where necessary.


London Echo Space Meetup Anyone?

I’ve been mentioning my intentions for a recording meetup to a few people for quite a while now but haven’t had a chance to really give it much thought……until now!

I was having a quick scan of the internet the other day looking for interesting ideas for Echo Space, this month’s sound collecting theme.  My first thought was to find out about the Woolwich and Greenwich foot tunnels under the Thames but as far as I can tell from online comments these tunnels are closed for refurbs at the moment.

If they are, it’s a shame because I know the tunnels sound great.  A Chris Watson workshop I signed up to a few years back went around this part of London.  I didn’t make it in the end due to my first son turning up but I did hear some of the results (Uncannily, I also missed Chris’ subsequent workshop last year in Kew Gardens because of my second son arriving on the scene!  The lengths my wife will go to to stop me going out recording…..!):

thames_footpath_tunnel (copyright of Tom Lawrence)

(Apologies to Juan Gil and Tom Lawrence if i’ve misunderstood the licensing terms of the audio and image.  I’ve taken it as a typical creative commons agreement: i.e. usage is ok if non-commercial and author-attribution is given, but obviously I’ll remove them immediately if there’s any issues with that).

Anyway, if I’m wrong and these are open then it’d be great to go and get our own recordings if anyone’s interested.  However, if they are closed then there’s always that glamorous London destination, The Rotherhithe Tunnel, which I’ve seen described online by a non-soundie as ‘an acoustic hall of mirrors’.  Bingo!

Image of Rotherhithe Tunnel from diamond geezer's Flickrstream under the Creative Commons Attribution License

The tunnel’s right near to some nice pubs on the river so perhaps we could meet up at one of them and then have a quick recording sortie into the tunnel (don’t  personally fancy walking right the way through it!) before returning to one of the pubs for a couple more jars.  Let me know if you’re interested; leave a comment here or DM me.  I finish my current film project next week so from then until early May is best for me.  One thing’s for sure – if no-one comes I ain’t going down that tunnel by myself!

 


‘The Knowledge’ Directory is now active!

Welcome to ‘The Knowledge’ – The Sound Collectors’ Club directory where members can add any tips and general info they care to share relating to field recording and sound fx acquisition. 

The idea of the directory is not to just create a wiki for all things sound-related.  It’s intended purpose is to aid us all in tracking down specific sound fx and atmos recordings.

We can achieve this by using Evernote to accumulate our collective knowledge of, e.g., locations, organizations, speciality forums and contacts and leads as well as info regarding particular recordings of our own that we’ve made that we’d be happy to trade or sell.

For example, I might add the details of a proving ground in the UK, that is a great location for recording vehicles, as one note.  Another note I could add would be a note relating to recent Scottish loch recordings I made.  I also might add a note about a new sound library or samplepack giveaway I hear about, a contact I know who owns old military vehicles….you get the idea.

If we all add bits of info such as this and tag the notes efficiently then bit by bit I feel we will end up with a really useful resource for sound collecting.

Also, one of the big pluses of using Evernote is it’s geo-locating functions.  Consequently, if you’re out and about and make a find – say, a cathedral with amazing acoustics, for example – then you can simply take a snapshot on your Evernote phone app, title and tag it and save it to The Knowledge notebook with location info automatically loaded.

I’ll be posting a fuller explanation here on the website (hopefully a vid) very soon but I thought I’d let you know that this facility is now active for all current members.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions / if anything is unclear.

 


April’s Theme

Finally a new theme!  Feels like ages since the start of the ‘Wind’ theme back in February – thanks for bearing with me these last couple of months while I’ve set up the new membership system for The Sound Collectors’ Club.  As a result, we can now keep our collections of sounds online permanently  so that they can continue to grow indefinitely, so I hope you’ll agree with me that it was well worth the wait.

Please have a thorough read through of the amended How to Upload your Sounds to the Club and Legal pages in the menu at the top of the page.  Also, the summary in my last post may help bring you up to speed on the changes too.  Essentially, everything’s the same except for a couple of important things:

  1. You will need to make a small payment to get membership to the Club for the year so that you can get access to the sounds.
  2. Vocal idents within all submitted recordings are now compulsory.

If, having read my uploading guide and legal page, there’s anything that still seems unclear then please feel free to e-mail me and I’ll try to help you out.

Right, now for the much more fun bit;  April’s theme.  Our latest winner who gets to choose a theme is Angel Perez Grandi, who has contributed some stunning Argentinian field recordings over the past few months.  In his words:

My suggestion for a set would be “natural echo spaces”, that is, spaces or sounds with inherent (natural) reverb. Diffused, decay, blurry background activity are words that pop to my mind. From canyons to temples to claustrophobic spaces as long as we get a strong sense of space. The resonance can be forced but not created through processing – a loud bang inside a tank would qualify too for example.

So; echoey sounds in a variety of interesting acoustic spaces – exterior or interior.  This could include anything from footsteps in a stairwell to voices in a cathedral to gunshots in a valley to door slams in an industrial lift.  As is often the way with my briefs, the main requirement is ‘character’.  Can’t really add much to that – sounds like a great theme to kick off the new club setup.  Enjoy!