So many sounds - happening all of the time - everywhere.
Above: April, 2007. I'm recording the sounds of Gasparilla Island, Florida with a Sound Devices 702 24 bit solid state recorder ) and Rode NT4 X/Y Stereo Microphone. This is a very high quality, extremely portable - professional recording setup. NOTE: August, 2012 - still using and loving the Sound Devices 702 recorder!!!!
For smaller jobs, I carry the Sony PCM-D50 (see my for details) which replaced the Edirol R-09 as a pocket recorder (see my for details) but it's not in the same league as the SD 7-series (nor is it meant to be). Besides, you never know when you're going to end up at someone's house that has a working 1905 Edison Cylinder player (I recorded the noise of the machine just before the music kicked in and ended up using it in one of my recent ). There are probably about 5 other people out there who think that's cool.
Above: Rode NT4 single point stereo microphone on the end of a boom pole (with Rycote Mini Windjammer furry cover) - recording aircraft flyovers at the Sun and Fun Fly-In, Lakeland, Florida. April 2007. Recorded to a .
Right: Hear the P-51 Mustang! These WWII era aircraft were just as impressive to hear as they were to watch.
Long-term Battery Power for Field Recording Equipment.
Field recording sometimes involves being far way from AC power and having to depend solely on batteries. But what if you're going to be out in the 'sticks' for a really long time - several days or even weeks? Some of the batteries used in field recording equipment are very expensive or take up a lot of space.
Well, here's my solution to remotely power recording gear using a sealed lead acid battery like the kind used in mobility scooters and a pure sinewave power inverter. With a small solar panel and voltage controller, you can use this setup to power your recorders, preamps, microphones, and even charge cell phones, camcorders, and laptops while away from AC power.
Below: A pure sine wave inverter and a battery commonly used in power wheelchairs combine to add some serious recording time to remote recorders. Add a 25 watt solar panel and you can record remotely for extended periods using the sun to recharge your power source!
Why do I record just about everything?
It must be some kind of sickness, but I love recording the sounds around me (also called phonography) - and then using them to create music and soundscapes.
Imagine for a minute how differently the world must have sounded 50 years ago; 300 years ago; or even 5000 years ago! We can guess, and try to recreate what we think things were like through sound design (and you hear this in feature films all the time). But what about actual, natural sonic snapshots of the world as it happened at those times? Today we can, and many of us do, capture the sounds of our everyday lives for documentary or artistic purposes. This process is made a lot easier by all new gear out there from the simple digital voice recorder up to professional recording workstations.
This part of my site focuses on field recordings which can be released on their own or edited into sound art collages, soundscapes, processed and morphed into alien worlds, or whatever your creative mind comes up with. The point of this kind of field recording (as I see it) is to capture an audio snapshot of what's going on around us in a way that tells a story to the listener (and the recording doesn't have to be made outside in a field either).
Below is a picture of my old "stealth" recording setup. *** UPDATE *** I've replaced the minidisc (Sony MZR-700 and its successor the iRiver IFP 899 mp3 recorder) with the . The headphones are not headphones at all. They are microphones sold by ! Why "stealth" microphones? Well people usually act differently when they know that they're being recorded. Now I'm not talking about dropping in on private conversations here. I'm referring to recording in natural situations where people are being "themselves". This is also a great way to discover "found sounds" or unexpected happenings which make their way into your recordings.
More on "Stealth Microphones"
sells several variations of the "headphone/microphones" that I mentioned above.
My microphones are "high-gain" +7dB, omnidirectional. When they are worn on your head or neck, your body acts as a natural barrier and provides good stereo separation. If you plan on recording very loud sound sources like concerts and jet flyovers, you might want to go for the "normal gain" version.
Above: The Sony PCM-D50 has become my preferred pocket recorder. Though it's larger than its competition, it makes up for it in sound quality and durability. My review is .
Within the last year or so, some better options to minidisc and DAT have become available by Edirol (R-09 and R-1), M-Audio (MicroTrack 24/96), Olympus, Yamaha, Tascam, Fostex, Sony, Sound Devices, and more. These are solid state recorders that are small, lightweight and record to Compact Flash and SD Cards. They also lean more towards the professional end of the spectrum with the ability to record uncompressed 24 bit WAV audio files! Sony's answer to the minidisc is the Hi-MD format which is capable of recording 16 bit uncompressed audio to a minidisc format or HI-MD disc. Though limited to 16 bits, minidisc should be considered as a field recording option if you're on a very limited budget.
Here are a few soundseeing recordings I made to minidisc "stealth style":
"Speaking of the Nonwilling" takes several dozen very short clips from some of my field recordings and edits them into a collage fashion to combine contrasting sounds for your amusement. [1.2Mb mp3]
"Quick Trip to the Grocery Store" begins with the required stop at the ATM and winds through the store to checkout. Near the end you'll hear my wife commenting about a 'body odor' smell. This recording is an edited version of several "snapshots" outside and inside the store. Recorded in October 2001. [2.1mb mp3]
"Garbage Truck" is what it says. Recorded with my right side facing the truck and to my left side is a walled in walkway where the reflected sound bounces around. [780kb mp3]
"Elevator Ride" recorded in an Arkansas hospital, the scene opens with a relaxed group outside the elevator. Inside, I chat some new friends on a 30 second ride. [960kb mp3]
"Bird and Workers" is a conversation between neighborhood songbirds and roof workers. What the hell, it sounded interesting, so I recorded it. [673kb mp3]
"Stem Cell Harvester XCU" extreme close up recording of a stem cell harvesting machine. Takes blood in, separates out stem cells and then replaces the blood. [605kb mp3]
My Field Recording Gear
Here's a list of my pro recording setups that I have used for some of my CD releases. Please keep in mind that I'm not in any way saying that you have to use what I use. There are many possible combinations of recording gear which will yield amazing results in the right hands....
For my high end recording setup before I picked up the Sound Devices 702 (which I used to record my CD, Suburban Fireworks") I went with the following gear:
Earthworks QTC-1 matched pair microphones >> Grace Design Lunatec V2 preamplifier >> Apogee Rosetta digital converters >> Apple iBook/PowerBook via Digidesign Mbox and Pro Tools LE.
I've recently been able to drop the laptop setup above and go with the Sound Devices 702 which has the advantage of recording at high sample rates, while being extremely portable, completely battery powered, and sounding beautiful! Though it's not small enough for stealth recording it's the recording kit I wished I had for the last 10 years. My SD field setup is:
Earthworks QTC-1 (now called Earthworks QTC40) matched pair (or Rode NT4) >> . Welcome to the 21st century!