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Recommended books or courses for recording automotive exhaust?


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Hi, I'm new and appreciate this great resource and the people here. We shoot a lot of automotive performance videos, and the biggest challenge is recording accurate exhaust sound. I found a great thread here on the subject, but I also want to ask if anyone can recommend any books, online courses, or even "brick & mortor" classes (if in L.A. area) that would help me learn and expand audio skills, especially for this exhaust challenge.

One book I found that might apply is Recording Music on Location by Bruce & Jenny Bartlett. I figured the dynamic range of an automotive exhaust was similar in many ways to a concert. But I am sure suggestions from the pros here will be much more applicable.

It might help to show an example of what we typically do.

the link should go to about 4:55, where a particularly loud exhaust is featured.

I greatly appreciate any help!

- Chris

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" especially for this exhaust challenge. "

that is a little to specific a specialty, but when you become the expert, you can write the book.

mostly, it is just a loud noise, and you need the tools and tricks as for other loud nouses, and, probably a lot of trial and error...

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I agree with above: trial and error... Only tip I can offer is this: the sound from a car comes from multiple place, not just the exhaust so use your ears and listen to where the sound is coming from and throw a mic there (ie: the engine bay). Just be aware of high temps!

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" an accurate-as-possible reproduction of what the exhaust actually sounds like, "

OK, I watched the video, but there is still a lot of subjectivity and "it depends"...

I can easily think of loads of different sounding possibilities: like POV... what does it sound like in the driver's seat (are windows up or down?) or when it goes by someplace (and the place will play an important part in what it sounds like)

mic choices, mic placements, and many other variables will be a part of the final result, and then of course so will the data compression schemes of transmission, and the audio capabilities and performance of the individual playing the clips...

In fact your very question beg: are you looking for the most accurate sound reproduction (whatever that is) or the best sound reproduction (whatever that is!) ??

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" an accurate-as-possible reproduction of what the exhaust actually sounds like, "

OK, I watched the video, but there is still a lot of subjectivity and "it depends"...

I can easily think of loads of different sounding possibilities: like POV... what does it sound like in the driver's seat (are windows up or down?) or when it goes by someplace (and the place will play an important part in what it sounds like)

mic choices, mic placements, and many other variables will be a part of the final result, and then of course so will the data compression schemes of transmission, and the audio capabilities and performance of the individual playing the clips...

In fact your very question beg: are you looking for the most accurate sound reproduction (whatever that is) or the best sound reproduction (whatever that is!) ??

Yes, this is the crux of the challenge. The variables are many, exactly as you say. And a huge factor is of course wind noise, and how to tame it just enough to avoid changing the true exhaust note too much. We're always experimenting with mic placements, custom-made aerodynamic housings (different for each vehicle), and many other factors. Sometimes the sound from a GoPro (or heck even an iPhone) can be better than the "pro" sound, which is frustrating. I think the auto-gain feature in these cheap alternatives can work very well for the ever-changing volume level of a car exhaust.

Please keep in mind a lot of what I say is just the best way I know how to say it at this point. I'm not an audio pro (which you undoubtedly figured out after my first post!). I've hacked at it for many years, worked with pros, but my spot has been behind the camera, along with scriptwriting, lighting & editing. I'm trying to get serious about learning the audio trade because often we have an extremely small window of opportunity to record the exhaust sounds, and we can't get always get a pro to come out. All the help here is greatly appreciated!

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Just my 2¢....

Maybe wind doesn't matter for the most part? Your are selling the exhaust, not making Fast and the Furious, right? I suspect those sounds are massively enhanced in post-production to make the audience feel the car and get the adrenaline going.

If I was buying exhaust for my car/motorcycle and wanted to hear the sound, I think it would be what it sounds like in the cabin, and to people on the street. Correct? I guess a car to car shot (how your car sounds to the guy in the next lane) is the wind challenge.

Things like a mic in the engine compartment might be awesome for tv/movie, but it's not really applicable to what you are selling. You are also recording exhaust, not cold air intake systems or something. There's a lot of video's of that on youtube with those before/after comparisons. They always demo it with the hood up and somebody revving the engine. Doesn't really apply to how the car will sound to the driver or to the pedestrian on the sidewalk.

1) The sound of the exhaust to people in the car. Definitely use a mic with a good range. Most of what people on this site do is for dialog, but a lot of the big engine car sound is going to be really low. On a daily basis, those are frequencies a lot of us filter out and don't want to hear. If you are as specific as exhaust for the C6, then you can use most pro gear to get a good recording of that exhaust in that car.

2) The sound to people to zip past on the sidewalk. Again, something with the range to get the low growl. Good wind protection on a semi-directional microphone that pans with the camera (so it sounds like what the camera perspective is seeing). Might take some practice laps to set levels.

3) car to car is the one requiring more planning because you don't want to hear the camera car, but need to keep up with the picture car making some use of the engine. Some sort of shotgun, or long shotgun mic would *probably* help avoid the camera car noise (if it has quiet exhaust), but you are potentially heading into hurricane level winds. I watched the video for the Mustang GT and the car-to-car was out the back of the camera car, so in a case like that, the camera car would probably provide a way to block the massive wind. That would give the "this is what I sound like to you as I come up behind you" perspective.

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3) car to car is the one requiring more planning because you don't want to hear the camera car, but need to keep up with the picture car making some use of the engine. Some sort of shotgun, or long shotgun mic would *probably* help avoid the camera car noise (if it has quiet exhaust), but you are potentially heading into hurricane level winds. I watched the video for the Mustang GT and the car-to-car was out the back of the camera car, so in a case like that, the camera car would probably provide a way to block the massive wind. That would give the "this is what I sound like to you as I come up behind you" perspective.

Thank you for all your great points and yes you've nailed the challenges and optimum recording scenarios of what people want to hear (another one is the vehicle "launch," and that one's fairly straightforward, although I wish there was an auto-gain feature so as the car pulls away the sound doesn't fade so fast). Re: shooting out the back of the camera car, the sound you hear in that Mustang vid was actually from a rear bumper mic (SM58). I've tried recording from the camera car but wind noise was overpowering. One thing we haven't tried is a full Rycote system from rear of the camera car, I wonder if that would work. Something to try next time!

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Thank you for all your great points and yes you've nailed the challenges and optimum recording scenarios of what people want to hear (another one is the vehicle "launch," and that one's fairly straightforward, although I wish there was an auto-gain feature so as the car pulls away the sound doesn't fade so fast). Re: shooting out the back of the camera car, the sound you hear in that Mustang vid was actually from a rear bumper mic (SM58). I've tried recording from the camera car but wind noise was overpowering. One thing we haven't tried is a full Rycote system from rear of the camera car, I wonder if that would work. Something to try next time!

In my experience, a full Rycote isn't necessary. I made a wire cage and fit a fluffy hiking sock over my sennheiser e835's - was good for speeds up to ~ 85kms/hr. You have to 'draft' the mics ie. put them in a spot on or around the car protected from the wind.

Have a look on YouTube for any video by Rob Nokes - he does a lot of car recording.

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" I wish there was an auto-gain feature so as the car pulls away the sound doesn't fade so fast). Re: shooting out the back of the camera car, the sound you hear in that Mustang vid was actually from a rear bumper mic (SM58). "

so, you are manipulating the sound to tell the desired story...

like I said: reel sound vs. real sound.

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" I wish there was an auto-gain feature so as the car pulls away the sound doesn't fade so fast). Re: shooting out the back of the camera car, the sound you hear in that Mustang vid was actually from a rear bumper mic (SM58). "

so, you are manipulating the sound to tell the desired story...

like I said: reel sound vs. real sound.

Yes, however, we'd rather pursue ways to get the real sound, unless the reel sound sounds more like the real sound than the real sound recording does.

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" unless the reel sound sounds more like the real sound than the real sound recording does. "

right...

my class this morning suggested you could add the roar of a lion, to make it sound more organic!

Great idea! Packing a rope and some prime rib now and heading to the zoo...

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  • 1 month later...

For the outside perspective shots I've had success taping an e835 with gaff directly to the exhaust with a rycote wins over jerry rigged around it... Of course in the shot we were doin you couldn't see my rig but it sounded great. A good dynamic mic right on the muffler (play with position). I also like to put one in the engine compartment too.

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I find a km 184 with lots of wind protection mounted with a Cardilini works well.

I generally multitrack.

A mic for exhaust, tires, interior and engine compartment.

Unfortunately most modern cars sound pretty wimpy.

If you remove the air cleaner, you can get some nice induction noise.

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