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.
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.