A simple guideline to process your field recording projects

How do you get better field recordings?

When recording outside you are faced with all kind of challenges. Like different kinds of weather, rural sounds, disturbing elements or excessive noise pollution. To get the sounds you desire, you have to take these kinds of elements into account.

So, how do you do that? I like to provide you with a little roadmap that can be of use when you unleash yourself into the fields 🙂

 

Preparation

Step 1:  What is your goal?
The most important question you have to ask yourself is; what do your aim for?
What is your goal? What do you know about the subject(s)? Analyze it to your liking.

Step 2:  How to get the results you want
This is important too. Especially regarding the quality you aim to achieve. If you, for instance, just want to collect some rural sounds, you will get good results with a mid- level setup, like a good handheld recorder. But if you want special (isolated) recordings of animals, weather, water/fire, church bells, gun shots and so on, you need the right rig for that. For this matter you will need a professional field recorder with a quality shotgun microphone to start with.

Step 3:  Where do you go recording
Where do you go to collect your sounds? And, what do you know about the location? Are there specific items or environmental factors you have to be aware of? Think about it.

Step 4:  Weather conditions / Clothing
Plain and simple: check the weather condition before you go out. Wear matching clothes.

Weather check

Step 5;  Gear you need to get the best results
Like I mentioned before, choose your gear wisely. Don’t take stuff you don’t need. It is only unnecessary stuff to carry. Keep it simple if possible.

Step 5:  Perform a thorough gear checkup
Do you collected everything you need? Recorder, mixer, mics, batteries, memory cards, spares, windshields, stands, cables, phantom adapters, check and double check.

Handheld recorder

Gear checkup

Step 6:  Do a small test
Check of everything works properly. You’d be baffled if you don’t.

At the scene

Step 7:  Explore and setup
Take your time to inspect the location and the best spot to setup your gear. Think carefully about your mic placement. When you use a stereo setup, read into the possible mic setup: XY, ORTF, Spaced Pair etc.. Conduct some setup experiments to learn the differences between them.

Stereo mics setup overview

Step 8Do a few test runs
What for the right moment to track the best takes. Beware of ambient sounds, winds, that kind of stuff. [important: less noise pollution = less edit work!)

Step 9:  After you’re done with recording
Teardown your setup nicely and don’t leave anything behind.

Clean your workplace

 

Editing and Mixing

Step 10: Editting and clean your files
Now you have to edit you recorded files to your satisfaction. There a plenty software packages to choose from. I use, among other things, Wavelab, Cubase and Izotope RX (newest versions, but is not necessary) for my field production work. You definitely need some good cleanup tools like the Izotope RX line: this is their budget plugin which is very affordable: https://www.izotope.com/en/products/repair-and-edit/rx-plug-in-pack.html

izotope RX restoration

Recommendation: watch the tutorials on youtube 🙂

Step 11: Mixing your files [simple and basic] Don’t overdo it! Keep it natural, unless otherwise specified. Just start with a little bit of compression, you can use every compressor you like. Be careful, you have know a bit about compression to to use it properly. Here you find information about basic compression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZSJlMbPr-A

After compression add some EQ for coloring. Search for the frequencies where your subject is most prominent and let that part shine 🙂  Here you find some more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7Aalsl8B40

The last step in the chain before before mixdown is to add a limiter to prevent the audio from clipping or distorting. Keep the levels at 0 to -2 Db

The Final Step 12: Mixdown

A mixdown renders your mix to a stereo file (wav, mp3,wma or cda) that can be played on different media players. It depends on the DAW you are using how to create a mixdown.

If you need some help, just contact me!
Frank

 

Interesting books for home studio and field recording

I always have been interested in music and audio recording. Thats why I own and run a recording studio (@hotwiel) with a few good friends of mine. There is a steep learning curve to get a high level of knowledge and experience, which is necessary to get the professional results our clients demand.

Nowadays there’s heaps of information available on youtube, blogs, hangout sessions and other social media. Good resources, but I think sometimes all the information can be overwhelming. You just need more time to get familiar with the specific things you have to learn. For instance, what kind of mics are there?, what are the characteristics? How do I realize an optimal setup for my creative needs, without spending too much money? The list goes on and on 🙂

To create some overview in your mind (which is almost about to blow your head of 🙂 ), there are BOOKS coming to the rescue. WTF?? BOOKS?? Yup, books, made of paper and glued to one piece.

Give it a try……………….

There are many books about all the different disciplines that are subject to the recording studio. Acoustic treatment, microphones, compressors, reverbs, effects, mixing, mastering, how to record drums and instruments etc….
Very informative and great to use as reference book when needed.
Some examples I’ve read and still use as a reference:

  • Modern recording techniques by David Miles Huber
  • Mixing secrets (for the small studio) by Mike Senior
  • Mixing Audio (concepts, practices and tools) by Roey Izhaki
  • Understanding Audio by Daniel M. Thompson
  • Mastering Audio (the art and the science) by Bob Katz
  • The Drum recording handbook by Bobby Owinski and Dennis Moodey

 

Mic setup

Miking drums

But……….
There’s not much to choose from when you are searching for books about field recording. I founnd a few that ( I think) are worthwhile to read. They are pleasantly written and cover a wide range of subjects about all you need to know when pursuing high quality field recordings.

  1. Field Recording – from research to Wrap (by Paul Virostek)
    This book covers the sounds effects beyond the studio and the craft of field recording.
    Like:
    – what is field recording?
    – How do I begin recording sound effects?
    – What equipment do I need?
    – What steps should I take to capture high quality audio?
    – What advice should I keep in mind while recordingIf you are curious about any of these questions.
    You can get it here: http://www.creativefieldrecording.com/books/field-recording-from-research-to-wrap/

 

FieldRecording_FrtWrap_PaulVirostek

FieldRecordingfrom research to Wrap / PaulVirostek

 

  1. The sound effects bible (by Ric Viers)
    This definitive book covers microphone selection, field recorders, The ABC’s of digital audio, understanding digital audio workstations (daw’s) , building your own foley stage, designing your own editing studio, sound design and much more. You can get it here: http://www.ricviers.com/#!sound-effects-bible/cukm

 

SoundEffectsBibble_RicViers

The sound effects bible / Ric Viers

 

Both writers are well known in their own field of expertise. Just google them. I personally learned a lot of new things from both books and definitely recommend them to you, if you are interested in field recording and want to explore it for yourself. I say: get out and don’t forget your batteries !

I’ll be glad to help, if you need some, just comment or ask me on Facebook

Have fun 🙂
Frank

 

 

Studio & Gear

Stop thinking you need more expensive gear to get better recordings and mixes. It is ridiculous to spend your money on expensive gear and then be disappointed that it all still sounds the same!

I like to tell you something about the gear I use in my homestudio and why I choose for it. So I will not bother you with the stuff we have in our recording studio, that is another level and not meaningful to discuss here.

I aim to get great results with quality gear. But it is absolute not necessary anymore to spend thousands of dollars to get that “professional” sound you wish for. And rule number one: less is better!
More is for gearjunkies. So, it is all about how you use your gear and get to know it inside out!

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