Category Archives: field recording

EDU13 Field recording for BOY

Some photos & sounds from my recording trip to Waihau Bay, in late April 2009.

This bridge & riverbed were a location in the film, so I did quite a bit of recording here, from many different perspectives & also walked up the riverbed to get near rapids… Later when I edited the ambiences for these scenes I of course used recordings from a dozen different rivers, but one wide recording I did at this river I really liked for its ‘thin-ness’ and used it in wide shots & as layers in the surrounds. Back in 2009 my field recording setup consisted of a Sound Devices 722 and a Sanken CSS5 stereo mic.

I also did some recording close up by this small stream in the river…

Way further up the river I came cross this stand of Toetoes which is a native plant, so I recorded a lovely ambience of rustles & crickets

Ah the corn! It was unreal to walk 100m into this corn paddock – the corn was 8 foot high, and when there was a wind gust you could hear it travelling through the corn….. I must have spent an hour or two in this paddock – it was like an ocean of rustles & this recording doesn’t do it justice…

This was a location in the film where the kids play and it was close to the corn paddock, so I did record some nice roof iron rattling in the wind but didn’t end up using it in the film as the scene played as a montage driven by music….

This beautiful old church wasn’t in the film but I just had to take this photo as it was so beautiful as the sun set…

What do you do for a living? Me? I record the sound of empty paddocks, the sound of one cricket chirping, well maybe not one…

Another roadside paddock recording:

Midday recording near the pub in Waihau Bay

Now the above car, a Ford Fairlane 500, was one of the meanest sounding V8s I have recorded & I would have liked to record for hours with it & get complete coverage for future use, but this car only featured in one shot in the film and it had over heating problems so the vehicle wrangler wasn’t keen for us to use it too much before they got the scene shot…. but just listen to it:

This Valiant Charger V8 did appear in the film a lot, so I did quite a bit of recording with it – you can see my exhaust mic gaffer taped to the rear bumper…. It was a far more ‘normal’ sounding V8…

And this is the kids Nans Humber 80, a classic 4 cylinder car in great condition. It made me smile to hop in & drive it after roaring around in those two V8s!

These are the two dynamic mics I wrapped in cloth and gaffer taped to the rear bumper for exhaust & in the engine bay.

As so many of the locations in the film are coastal, I also did some recording of beaches – close up:

And also wide & diffuse for more general ambience use…

A week or two after I got home from this trip, I spent a weekend staying in Ngawi (2 hours from Wellington) to do more beach recording as I knew it would be useful, especially a range of wide diffuse ambiences

I love doing specific field recording for a film, as it is such a pleasure to edit sounds you recorded specifically for locations… And it makes it easier in many ways, for example with ambiences you have a real reference and can build up layers for surround etc while still retaining authenticity. It also reinforces what material is useful when cutting ambiences for a film, and has been the prime motivator for each HISSandaROAR library.

The only difficult part with recording vehicles before you have a cut of the film is that you have to capture enough coverage to hopefully cope with everything that happens onscreen in the film. But it saves a lot of hassle trying to find a car that matches the make & model of each vehicle later.

Of course all of these recordings become part of my own personal sound library, and are an invaluable resource for future use. Whenever possible I would always do new recording for local films, which was easier when it was a local film shot in or near Wellington but having learnt to appreciate the positive impact it has on the end result I also began to budget for such work on other film projects.

Field recording trips for films that I have done include:
2010 SAMOA for the film THE ORATOR – IMDB
2010 PAPUA NEW GUINEA for the film MR PIP – IMDB
2011 JAPAN for the film EMPEROR – IMDB

Of course overseas travel with gear takes a bit more planning & refinement, as you can’t just load up your car with everything you might need. Excess baggage costs and the need for constant travel within a foreign country mean you have to plan accordingly.





Smashing Whiteware

The first video I ever uploaded to Youtube was this one:

Recording car crash sound effects

Recording car crash sound effects

Reversing a car into a pile of fridges – video was uploaded on 18th March 2007 and has had 93k views
Pretty good for a 4 second video, but I suspect the duration had more to do with upload speeds back then than anything else…

It was one of those fun opportunities where a friend had a car which could no longer get a WOF, so it couldn’t be legally driven on the road and apparently to the owner wasn’t worth anything. So they donated it to us, a Ford Telstar, to record sound effects.

The first problem to solve was WHERE to record it, as we wanted to destroy the car in every way possible. Eventually we settled on the local rubbish dump, which by paying a small fee to have someone ‘supervise us’ we could access after hours. And as it is a secure area there would be no one & no traffic nearby to ruin our recordings.

After beating the car with sledge hammers and smashing windows, headlights etc someone noticed there was a mountain of old fridges nearby and perhaps we could record some impacts with it. I volunteered to drive & suggested reversing into the fridges might be the best way, as it would protect the radiator & engine as long as possible. So thats me maniacally reversing into those fridges…

We called the recording session: “REST IN PIECES”

The last sounds we captured were when we tried to get the engine to seize. We put a brick on the accelerator and stood back as it revved like crazy… After a while the exhaust was glowing & we wondered if it was ever going to end, but eventually the engine started doing long slow surges and would slow down, slowly rev back up & then spluttered to a hault.

Anyway, those recordings proved to be incredibly useful throughout all my years of working on films. Whether it was glass breaks or puncturing the tyres or ‘foots on roof’ or ‘reversing into fridges’ any time I needed car violence I knew where to look.

So that has been the motivator for recent VEH002 SUV IMPACTS library and the new release SD066 WHITEWARE DECONSTRUCTED, which didn’t involve a car but it did extract some awesome sounds from an old washing machine & a dryer!





Night Birds

Back in June 2023 I went on a road trip down South & rented a tiny house for a couple of nights in the Marlborough Sounds, which is a beautiful area at the top of the South Island with complex ‘sounds’ – sounds as in small fjords, the Marlborough Sounds comprises one-fifth of the total length of New Zealand’s coast!

The view into the sounds is stunning – this is an arm known as Kenepuru Sound:

The tiny house I rented was up on a hill with a view over the tidal estuary, and I noticed the diverse birdlife as I drove around…

The first night after I cooked dinner I set up a pair of Sennheiser MHK70 microphones on the deck, and enjoyed listening to the ambience…. The location is remote enough that as evening progressed the occasional car passes stopped and it was very quiet & peaceful…. Listening I’d hear some frogs, and then some weka screeching into the night:

Weka pitched down 3 octaves makes me think of dinosaurs!?

But after half an hour of drinking bourbon & listening I noticed there was a slow change in the ambience…
And within 2 minutes the peaceful ambience had turned into some kind of late night rave for birds!

The night bird party seemed to build & peak to a crescendo… And then suddenly it was all over & back to just a few weka & insects… So strange! But it made me laugh, as here I was as a city dweller enjoying the peace & quiet… And a party broke out at the avian neighbours lol.