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Chuckebeans

Books on recording in the field

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As someone branching out into field recording for an experimental documentary, I was wondering if anyone can recommend good books on field recording. I'm looking for books on technique/technical aspects of field recording and not books on its aesthetics or philosophy, for which I have references already. Perhaps something akin to the Location Sound Recording Bible...

Thanks.

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1 hour ago, Chuckebeans said:

As someone branching out into field recording for an experimental documentary, I was wondering if anyone can recommend good books on field recording. I'm looking for books on technique/technical aspects of field recording and not books on its aesthetics or philosophy, for which I have references already. Perhaps something akin to the Location Sound Recording Bible...

Thanks.

Gordon Hempton's "Earth is a Solar Powered Jukebox" may be useful:

https://www.soundtracker.com/products/earth-solar-powered-jukebox-pdf-book/

 

also, articles by and about Chris Watson are always helpful and inspiring for me:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/chris-watson-art-location-recording

 

 

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There isn’t much difference between field recording and studio recording. Audio engineering is audio engineering. The big difference is being ready for working in the field. Working with elements and battery power, as well as radio devices. I think a minimum required reading would be the Yamaha Sound Reinforcement book, as well as the Lectrosonics Wireless Guide pamphlet. Everyone should read those two things as a bare minimum. I also recommend spending at least nine months reading this forum. 

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The big differences are acoustics and setup time.

 

Acoustics:

Field dialog recording has to deal with room reflections and noise

  Reflections can cause obvious reverb or hollowness, of course, but remember that a mono mic will hear reverb worse than our ears do since it can't rely on reflection cues that our brains use to sort direct from reflected. (No, binaural recording is not an option.) Beginners' tracks almost always sound echoey. 

  A hidden danger is the interaction between reflections and mic patterns. In a practical room, sound hitting the sides of a directional mic can be loud as well as delayed. Since the side response of a mic is almost always much worse than the head-on response, they'll color the sound in unpredictable ways. And if the mic or subject are moving relative to walls and ceilings, the coloration can change. Side colorations get worse the more directional a mic is (assuming all good quality mics): a hyper is less sensitive to this than a gun. An omni doesn't have side issues at all... but thn the apparent reverb will be much louder.

  The ONLY viable solution is the Inverse Square Law. The mic has to be a lot closer to the subject than you'd expect for a studio recording (except it might be that close for a studio VO or soft instrument). This gets even worse in a docy, where you're interviewing people who aren't voice-trained actors. In a small, noisy room the best location can be a few inches form the subject's mouth. Unfortunately, the director or DP might object...   A compromise can be a lav, properly mounted somewhere near the mouth, or in very bad locations even a head mic from the off-camera side. 

   But remember, a lav is not magic. It's an omni that relies on Inverse Square. And unless you've got a very good wireless, a wired lav will always sound better and be less subject to problems.

  Noise is always an issue. Again, Inverse Square is your friend. The closer to the mouth you get, the higher the s/n. Some parts of the room are quieter than others (like, a corner away from a window that faces traffic) so if you can move the whole setup, that'll also improve s/n. Don't count on us doing miracles in post. The latest NR software uses AI to sort out the usable signal... but that kind of processing is still in its infancy. It takes a combination of strategies, by a knowledgeable postie with a heavy arsenal of processors, to do a decent job of cleaning with minimum artifacts... 

 

Setup time:

  Compared to studio recording, you usually don't have any. You can't ask for a rehearsal, listen to playback, and move the mic to a better position. Things are rushed in a sit-down, lit situation but at least you can look at the room and figure out a good mic position. A fixed boom with a hyper, just out of frame in a tight shot, can often work there. But some interviews or actualities start rolling almost as soon as you get there. Solutions range from a hand-held short shot to a gun on the camera (ugh)...

  The only shortcuts to setup time are experience, pre-pro, and a trusting relationship between director and dp (if it's not also the director) and soundie. You can't take an instant pill for the experience, but you can help the other two by talking honestly with the director before you shoot. Make sure they know the limitations of docy sound, and that they don't think you're promising miracles.

 

This is in a lot more depth in some books, including the one I wrote (details at www.greatsound.info).

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Hi Chuckebeans

 

The current edition is light years ahead of what I wrote almost 20 years ago. That was a guide for videographers starting out with their XL1 and VX2k, editing in the first version of Premier. Since then, the worlds of film and video have merged... and I’ve learned a lot more, both in terms of what works with these new workflows and aesthetics, and — thanks to reader and colleague feedback — how to explain it. 

 

It’s also a lot bigger, even though I keep shortening the obsolete stuff or moving it to the web...

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On 31 May 2019 at 1:53 AM, Chuckebeans said:

As someone branching out into field recording for an experimental documentary ...

 

I've recorded dozens of fields and an even greater range of things in fields. Sorry!

But it does point out the validity of Jon's comment, that recording technique is recording technique, and that I have no idea what you're thinking to branch out to record ... or indeed where?

 

What's the documentary, what's experimental about it, and where are you planning to be? Aside from that what kind of format are we looking at (cinema, internet, radio, cd, vinyl?). Are you recording atmos, wildlife, people .... or music? And an approx budget if you plan on spending anything would maybe help.

 

Then I might know whether to recommend old books like 'Wildlife Sound Recording' by John B Fisher, or websites like Nature Sounds, or classic radio documentaries by Glenn Gould, or just help discuss pro's and con's of differing recording techniques, equipment, clothing and travel advice.

 

Lots of good stuff already discussed here in the past (with links to elsewhere) if you search in the archive too.

 

Best, Jez

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