FIELD RECORDING

Field Recording has become a major part of my life, as evidenced by the huge corpus of sound libraries I have captured and released at my online sound library business HISS and a ROAR since April 2010. With the support of a global network of sound designers for film, TV, theatre, video games, podcasts, music and other media, I have constantly re-invested income to upgrade my equipment relentlessly pursuing new technologies such as 32bit recording, use of extended frequency response microphones, EMF sensors, Geophones and Contact mics.

 

Creatively I aspire to retain a ‘beginners mind’ exploring the potential for interesting and unusual sounds which otherwise might go unnoticed.

At a young age, playing in the empty grain silos on my parents farm, I learned that sound is not passive.
Profound and powerful sounds can be discovered, activated and created where there is a willingness to experiment.

MY FIRST FIELD RECORDINGS

By 1998 I was in the slow motion process of dropping out of University – I’d started a degree in Electrical Engineering, and the further I got into it the less I liked it! One of the few interesting elements was the anechoic chamber which I spent time in when I could…

Around the same time a couple of friends were at Ilam Fine Arts School. The drummer in my band was studying film, and via him I managed to start using their field recording equipment: a beautiful Nagra 4.2 and a Sennheiser MKH416 shotgun mic in a Rycote.

Prior to going to Film School in 1990, I spent a gap year living in an deconsecrated church in central Christchurch, playing in bands and starting to experiment making my own music and sound. And borrowing that Nagra and 416 whenever I could! My favourite activity ever was to go out late on a Sunday night and explore inner city Christchurch, looking for sounds…

Sometimes the greatest motivator can be a lack of access, so whenever I had that Nagra I spent quality time with it – learning to record, and also learning to manipulate sound with it. Making tape loops, playing sounds backwards and splicing tape.

At one stage I had a part time job, working a nightshift at a gas station in the suburbs. I think their motive was that my meagre pay was cheaper than insurance, while mine was being paid to do very little. Except I didn’t – I did all sorts of things while I was at work, and remember a couple of people coming into the station about 2am, only to find the counter covered in bits of 1/4″ tape!

Another part time job I had was at a company who built sound systems – I mainly helped with assembly but I made friends with a hippy guy who worked in their machine shop. He built all the speaker enclosures so had a full workshop of saws, routers, drills etc… and I soon realised this was an opportunity not to be missed!

I managed to talk him into coming in to work during the weekend, and borrowed that trusty Nagra and 416 again and recorded a great little library of machine tools. One of my favourite sounds from that session was an air powered staple gun, I was recording at 15ips as much so i could slow sounds down as for the quality. And that staple gun sounded great at half speed.

I think those recordings would be the earliest recordings that are still in my library. At some point in the 90s I transferred them to DAT, at real speed and at half speed. And then a few years later digitised the DAT and added it to my growing CDROM sound library… and then as hard drives became affordable, copied the CDROMs to hard drive, and now to a NAS.

So here are a few of my earliest recordings, time travelling from 1988 to your ears now!

MY FIRST FIELD RECORDINGS

CURRENT FIELD RECORDING SETUP

People often ask what mic stands etc I’m using so I thought I would document my current field recording setup. I came across the photo above & while its from before the pandemic, it shows all of my mics & stands etc..

For a long time now I have been using the Manfrotto Nano stands – in the photo above, the big Sennheiser MKH70 mics are on Manfrotto 5001b stands which have longer legs making them more stable.

The MKH8050, MKH8040x2 and MKH8020x2 are all on Manfrotto 156 stands which have a smaller footprint & work fine other than in strong wind…

For the Sanken CUX100K mics (not in the photo) I bought a pair of the new Nano MS049c carbon fibre stands which have as much reach and stability as the big 5001 stands, but being carbon fibre are lighter… & inevitably, a bit more expensive…

 

My Sound Devices MixPre10-II recorder lives in a Petrol PS602 bag which it seems are no longer made. I’ve had this bag for ages, as I used to fit a SD744T + SD722 + 302 preamp in it. And while the MixPre10 is small enough it could fit in a much smaller bag, I also need to safely store batteries (I use 2 x NP75) and headphones, sometimes contact mics + preamp or hydrophones, and I also have eight mic cables permanently connected, routed, ID’d and safely coiled & attached to the bag with velcro cable ties, such that I can hike with it all securely.

To carry the mics & stands I use a Peak Design 65Litre Travel Duffelpack – thanks to Hide Aoki at AntiNode Design for the tip on this. The Peak bag has zips which makes it expandable, and also has both backpack straps & a normal duffel bag carry handles. It can fit all my mics, stands & camera tripod, so I can hike from car to location in one trip.

Both bags have rain covers, so if I get caught out I’ll get wet but the gear will be fine!

HISS AND A ROAR Sound Libraries

HISSandaROAR.com launched April 2010.
Please visit to discover the back story to each sound library.