My Storm Recorder!
My Go-To storm recorder! I review the Sound Devices 702 solid state digital recorder.more
SD 702 digital field recorder review.

Michael Oster
F7 Sound and Vision's Michael Oster has recorded music, thunderstorms, F-18s, wild animals, kitchen utensils, celebrities, strange insects.... He also makes the coffee and takes out the trash. more

recording music, sound effects, broadcast, CDs.
recording sounds of storms lightning and weather related

Recording the Sounds of Thunderstorms....
WARNING: be careful when recording storms. Lightning can kill.

sounds of thunder

Make sure you're in a safe location and don't try this with a camcorder. OK, you can record the sounds of storms with your camcorder (please be careful), but don't be surprised if the sound quality is a bit "lacking". Why? Even though the device might say "digital" or "CD quality", there is a big difference between true professional equipment and other stuff. Even the $50,000 pro news cameras don't have true PRO sound quality (in my opinion). How come?.... Audio is "second seat" when it comes to video cameras. Manufacturers put most of their resources into the picture part of the device. I've used plenty of broadcast news cameras over the years. I'm only saying this from my experience.

Also, consumer (and some pro-sumer) camcorders use something called AGC (automatic gain control) which is supposed to prevent loud sounds from clipping and make it so that you can hear the softer sounds (think of it as a compressor limiter that you can't control). AGC usually can't be turned off in these devices and is not recommended when recording storms (or anything as far as I'm concerned) as it can change recording levels at virtually any time causing potential post production nightmares.

Below is a picture of a thunderclap recorded in 24 bits (the lightning strike was probably around 200 to 300 feet from the microphones). The volume of thunder can push even the best recording setups to their limits. It is much louder than the other background sounds (rain, wind, whatever else)..that's pretty obvious.

If you want to record thunder without clipping (distortion), you've got to set your levels for the thunderclap and not for the background sounds. This can be accomplished with a minimal amount of preamp gain (I'm using around 10dB on my recorder). I don't recommend putting a limiter in line, though. 24 bit capable digital systems offer enough headroom to allow for a decent thunderclap to be recorded. The one below easily made it without distorting the microphones and overloading the preamps or digital converters. Recording for the thunder meant that the background sounds were barely heard when monitoring. That's OK, because 24 bit systems still have enough resolution to get a decent recording of the softer audio.

picture of a thunder clap sound file

Up to around 1999, I was recording storms (and most other sounds) to DAT. But, thanks to more affordable CD recorders and the mass production of blank CDs, it became cheaper to record on CD-R than to purchase fresh DAT tapes, and you can't accidentally erase a CD-R!

Currently, I'm using the Sound Devices 702 24 bit flash recorder. My field recording page talks more about specific equipment.

Michael Oster in a feature film!

Not my face, fortunately. Sounds from 2 of my CDs "Suburban Thunder" and "
Sound of a Dying Hurricane" have been licensed be in "Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest"

This site is designed and maintained by F7 Sound and Vision.
Copyright 2012 Michael Oster all Rights Reserved.

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In addition to my own CD releases, you can hear my thunder (and use it royalty-free) in Sound Ideas Thunder series sound effects CDs.
Thunderstorm over Ft. Myers, Florida