I’d come across the building a while back when I went to an event called The New Atlantis and immediately noticed (it’s hard not to, as you can probably tell from the video above!) how creaky the floor was. Therefore, I thought it’d be a perfect location for our latest Sound Collectors’ Club recording meetup.
I brought along a Sound Devices 744T and Schoeps mic which was used as the main recording rig but Tony and Raoul also brought along their Zoom H4N’s which were used as room mics to pick up wider recordings.
I used the Schoeps to cover 2 positions in each of the rooms we recorded in:
- Approximately head height in order to imitate a typical boom position. This is for when the recordings are needed to supplement foley or production sound footsteps.
- Very close (about 10 inches) to the creaking floorboards in order to provide a potential element for sound design. Part of the reason I recorded at 96kHz was also to support this type of usage.
Most of the rooms’ flooring provided similar kinds of creaking. The main distinction you will notice in the recordings (if you contribute to the set) is between the actual rooms compared to the landing at the top / bottom of the stairs. The stairs themselves had been renovated relatively recently so didn’t make as much noise as, say, the landing, which Tony nearly managed to put his foot through!
We also tried to cover a mixture of different walking:
- Not really walking; just moving our feet in a way so as to coerce the biggest creaks out of the boards.
- Walking slowly and more naturally so as to get separation between creaks (for easier editing) and making smaller, more ‘everyday’ creaks (as opposed to the loud, ‘Haunted House’ creaks we were otherwise achieving).
By the way, apologies to other members for having to limit our number to the three of us – it’s only a small building and because of the type of sound we were recording it would have been impractical for loads of us to go along.
Many thanks to Martin Wyatt at Handel House for allowing us to record there, and also to Ella Roberts for being a very friendly and helpful guide to us on the day. If you’re in the area, I strongly recommend visiting the museum. They have an ever-changing programme of interesting recitals, talks and events which you’ll find listed on their website.
Finally, I’d be interested to hear what other participants in the ‘Creaks: Floor and Stairs’ Collection think of the recordings – feel free to comment here or drop me a line directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Thanks to Raoul for providing the vid!
P.P.S. Yes, I do normally keep my mic cables wound up more neatly!
So, as you’ll have noticed, no new theme this month. I was away on holiday for the start of the month and so, sitting down to prep the new theme launch last night, I thought better of it in the end and decided that the remainder of the month would be better spent having another bash at an older theme that hasn’t as yet had much love: Floor & Stair Creaks.
I’m going to merge these two sets into one folder in Sugarsync so, even if you are only able to provide, say, floor creaks, you’ll still get access to any contributed stair creaks too. This is simply because the two types of creaks are so interlinked that it’s pointless treating them as separate collections.
Have a think if there’s any older buildings you can access to get some good creaks but don’t discount your own homes; creaks from all periods of housing are useful and very welcome.
I’m going to collect some sounds from my house but I’ve also managed to organise an opportunity to get into an 18th Century building in Central London in a couple of weeks time to get some good floor and staircase sounds. In this way, we can kill two birds with one stone and have our first club meet up in quite a long while too. We may not risk getting carbon monoxide poisoning this time as well, which is a bonus.
We’ve only got half an hour in there but it’s only a small building anyway so we should be ok for time. The bad news is that, because it’s a small building, it’s impractical to have loads of us traipsing around in there so I’ll have to limit it to two members coming along with me. However, if I try and schedule the record towards the end of the afternoon then, if you’re in town, we could maybe join you for a drink somewhere nearby after we’re done creaking. Remember, as long as you contribute to the club’s creaks collection then you’ll get a copy of our results anyway.
Best bet is, if you’re likely to be in the vicinity and fancy meeting up in a couple of weeks, drop me a line at email@example.com, I’ll give you more info and we’ll take it from there!
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.