Category: Escapades

About six months ago I purchased a ton of fireworks. Why? Because I like blowing things up. So combine that with a recorder and you have some awesome sounds. I never got around to actually using any of them until just last week, when I decided to bring a bunch of them out to a party at my friends house, which is in the middle of nowhere.

While at the party, we found this long drainage pipe and started throwing bottle rockets down it. The sound was absolutely amazing, and I decided that I needed to record the resulting sound. So a few days later, I returned with an arsenal of rockets, firecrackers, and my favorite, mortars. Armed with a Zaxcom Deva V and a locker of mics, my goal was to record thick, epic explosion sounds.

So we went out and recorded for about 4 hours. When we were on our last mortar (we only brought about 6 – cost about $10 per charge!) I said, “hey what would happen if I put the mortar in upside-down and lit it?” So I set up everything, got the cameras ready, found a good hiding spot, then hit record.

My friend, Mark, set up his camera to take a long exposure of the whole thing. This was hit result:

Click for full resolution - picture taken by Mark Hammer
(click for larger resolution)

Epic, eh? Wait till you hear the sound! Oh, BTW – we couldn’t find even a trace of the firing tube. Completely disintegrated!

Mics that were used:

MKH60 – Stand was about 10′ from the mortar, mic was 35′ in the air, aimed straight down.
CSS-5 – about 30′ from the mortar, 5 feet off the ground
MKH50 – about 15′ from the mortar, a foot off the ground

All recorded at 192k 24b straight into a Zaxcom Deva V.

Quick disclaimer about the sound: this is an edited sound, I did a little work to beef it up, but I only used the original sound. I did not add any sweeteners whatsoever!

Please feel free to download the sound. All I ask is that if you decide to use it in anything, you just let me know so I know where it goes :-)

Also, the sounds I collected from this session will be included in my upcoming library full of impacts and explosions over at HartFX! Stay tuned!

Wow! Tons of stuff going on this week! Big news from Avid, great stuff from many microphone companies, Izotope, and tons more!

The AES trade show floor was considerably smaller than usual, but there was a lot of cool stuff there. If you spent some time digging and talking to reps, inventors, presidents, etc… there was a lot of cool info to be gathered. I did my best at grabbing pics and info about topics and products pertaining to audio post and field recording / production audio. I’ll cover a lot of it here, but if there’s something I don’t cover that you’re wondering about, feel free to ask me if I happened to come across what you’re curious about!

129th AES in SF

I’m going to categorize my posts by topic, so there will be quite a few between here and Sonic Terrain.

Stay tuned – many posts to come this week!


My Industrial sound library, that is. The Complete HD version is 23.54GB! That’s HUGE!!! 281 files, over 5.5 hours of sound! I will be releasing it very soon, so check back for details in the next day or two. For now, here’s a demo of some of the sounds from the library!

INDUSTRIAL 001 Complete HD Samples by Colin Hart

Let me know what you think!

So, I’ve been working for a few months now on a small library of Drag Racing sounds. It takes a while, because they only have legitimate test runs every so often, and sometimes I can’t make them. I was able to get a good bit of them recorded this Saturday, however. The place I usually go to is out in the middle of nowhere, and since they were just doing test trails and qualifying (IE, not a single person in the stands), they let me out onto the track to record (I had to stay behind the takeoff point). Got some awesome stuff! Wish I had some of those modified iso cans with the MDR7506 components in them! It was loud! Like, shake your chest loud! I had an SPL meter with me, and at one point hit 125db. Fortunately, my mics (CSS-5 and 416) didn’t crap out on me. The CSS-5 is rated for 120db, and the 416 at 130. I was in the clear with the 416, and, to my surprise, the CSS-5 performed marvelously. I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it though. If it’s loud enough to shake the air out of my chest, it’s probably loud enough to fracture a diaphragm…

Anyways, here are a few samples from the upcoming library:

Drag Racing Library Announcement by Colin Hart

The library will be fairly small – probably only 30 to 40 sounds – but will have a price to reflect that. I plan on releasing it around the same time as the industrial library once HartFX is launched. Stay tuned!

Sound geek note (I assume you are one if you’re reading this anyways…): Recorded into a 744T @24/96. CSS-5 directly into the 744T, 416 through a Wendt X5 mixer into the 744T.

So it’s summer here in Florida. Crazy hot. One of the cool things (heh…get it?) about summer is the sound that comes with it. Every evening, after the daily rain storm, there emerges this chorus of cicadas, crickets, frogs, and other loud sound making insects (yes, I know frogs are not insects…). It’s impressively loud. I can hear it inside my house while the fans, A/C and TV are all on.

Every time I hear this chorus, I think to myself, “Wow, self, I really need to record this to share the experience. This is epic!” And then I never get around to it or don’t have my recorder with me, or whatever other excuse there is. However, yesterday I overcame all the odds and actually made a decent recording! Mind you, this is a recording in a suburban environment at 7pm, so you can hear some distant traffic, a very strange car horn at the beginning, a distant train (It was in my mic for 30 minutes!!! So I just rolled on it before I lost the bug sounds), and some random other sounds. I also took out my SPL meter and clocked the outside level at 74db. Fairly loud for a bunch of bugs!

Anyways, here’s the recording. Sanken CSS-5 –> SD 744T. (Trying to make a binaural one soon too!) At some point I’m going to make one sans noise pollution as well.

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P.S. Expect my boom operation blog to be up sometime this week!

So my best friend Ben from 3rd grade all the way through college just got married last weekend! Awesome! I was in the wedding, so I flew up to NYC on Thursday morning to prep for the wedding on Saturday. Of course, I brought a 702T with me so I could record the wedding, and brought my NT4 so I could traipse around NYC and grab some sounds if I found some time. So Ben and Hannah got married. It was an absolutely wonderful time. I had one of the best weekends I’ve ever had.

Ben and Hannah

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So the wedding was amazing (did I mention that?). I was so busy doing things and meeting people that I didn’t have time to do any audio work until Saturday evening. I had been building a list of things in my head that I wanted to record. Mostly trains, subways, planes, etc… I was unfortunately unable to record anything on the train from NYC into CT or on the way back because of how much luggage I had with me. Plus, I didn’t want to lose my seat. Next time…

When I returned to NYC Saturday night, I was walked out of Grand Central, up Vanderbuilt, and turned onto 47th to cut over to Park. As I was walking on 47th, with my suitcase, my garment bag, backpack, and still wearing a full suit, I hear the awesome sound of a massive diesel engine under me. It was a very loud and very impressive sound. There was a Diesel Train idling right under the sidewalk vents, and it was wonderfully loud! So I stopped, pulled my luggage off to the side of the sidewalk, grabbed my NT4 (which I luckily had the foresight to connect to my 702T and make accessible before hand). So here I am, a guy in a full suit, covered in luggage, huddling in the corner of a NYC street around 9pm at night, pointing an NT4 at a sidewalk vent. Wish I had a picture of that. I don’t. But I do have a sound of it…

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BTW, I just realized that it sounds terrible over my laptop speakers. You need some speakers that have some low end range to properly here the engine recording. It has a lot of low end rumble in it…

Awesome. So that was the only recording I was able to get done on Saturday. Sad, but that was all my schedule allowed for. Anyways, Monday morning came around. Time for me to go home. I got up at 3:45 am (yech…) and headed out. I wanted to give myself time to go through the subways to the airport because I wanted to get Subway sounds and sounds of the Air Train. So I went down into the E station on 53rd and Lex. It was about 4:30am at this point. Obviously, there was absolutely nobody in the station. I was standing on the platform, waiting for the train and noticed a cool sound coming from the escalator. It sounded awesome. So I grabbed my mic and recorder and went over. I recorded this sample from about 2 – 3 inches away from where the escalator steps come out from under the grate at the bottom of the escalator. Unfortunately there was the automated talking in the background, which insisted on talking every few seconds, so it wasn’t a completely clean recording, but it still sounds really awesome. I love the intricacies of this recording. It’s such a complex texture…

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So, unfortunately, the train took forever to come (I waited like 15 minutes), and I was going to miss my flight if I waited much longer, so I ended up running back upstairs and jumping in a cab. I told him to go to Jamaica station so I could catch the Air Train. He started trying to explain that it would just be easier to take me straight to JFK. I explained to him that I needed to take the Air Train to JFK. After about 2 or 3 minutes of him not understanding why I needed to go to the Air Train, I finally explained to him that I’m a sound editor and I really needed to get a recording of the sound of the train. That through him off a little bit, but he had no arguments left, except that he now tells me that he doesn’t know how to get there. So, I took out my Blackberry and had to give him turn by turn directions from Google Maps… Interesting times… Along the way, I made a few recordings of the inside of the cab, but they all came out rather boring. Also, the NT4 isn’t the quietest of microphones, so there was a lot of hiss, since I had to pump the gain.

Anyways, I finally get to Jamaica station, get up to the Air Train platform, and wait at the far back end of the train. Everybody likes going to the front of the train, so I figured I’d get the cleanest recordings at the back. There weren’t very many people on the train (more than I thought there would be for 5 in the morning, however). Luckily, they were all very tired and didn’t make any sound. They were all just kind of drifting in and out of sleep. This one woman kept eying me though, wondering what I was doing all huddled in the corner with a large metal cylinder in my hand. I can only imagine what she was thinking. Anyways, I recorded the entire trip in 96k (a little under 15 minutes). Here’s a 5 minute portion of it for you to listen to. This is from the start (at Jamaica Station) to the second station (Federal Circle Station). At the beginning, you can hear the automation and all, the train starting up, and some clacking as the train turns a 90 degree turn about 50 feet off the track. After that, its pretty much a straight shot down the center of the BQE and the train really picks up speed.

What I love about this recording is the different harmonics that come out at different speeds. As the train speeds up over a one or two minute period, the original tones you hear get higher and higher in pitch, but once they reach a certain frequency, you start hearing a similar sound and octave below it, and those two start to rise together. It seems to do this cyclically as the train accelerates. Awesome sounds. I’d recommend listening to this sound over some good headphones or speakers in order to hear the full depth of the sound.

Because this clip is so long, I had to compress it to 192kbps mp3. Sorry :-(

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So, that’s all the good stuff I was able to get this trip. Too busy this time… I’ll be up there again in August, so hopefully I can put aside some time to grab some more sounds. I also have a ton of subway recordings that I need to sort through that I did on my old Fostex FR2LE with my NT4. I should listen to them and post them soon as well. Hope you enjoyed my sounds and stories behind them!

This past weekend I went to Sarasota to spend Easter with my parents. My aunt and uncle live nearby (in Bradenton) and they invited us to go out on their sailboat. So we went out sailing on Saturday, and I thought, “Hey, I could get some sweet sounds out there”, so I brought some gear with me. And I did get some awesome sounds.

When we met up with Betty and Ed (my aunt and uncle), the boat, The Jlua (pronounced Ja-lou-uh) – a 1982 41′ Morgan, was anchored out in the middle of Bimini Bay (at the north end of Anna Maria Island), tied to a group of their friends’ boats. My aunt picked us up in the dingy and took us over to the boat. Once we boarded the Jlua, we hung around for a good hour chatting with their friends and watching the dogs play (there were four of them between all the boats) before we headed out.

When we finally got ready to make way, the Captain (my aunt, who is actually a licensed captain) fired up the engine. It sounded awesome, and I instantly wished I had recorded it. It took a few minutes for us to get the anchor free, get the dingy out of the water, and untie from the other boats, but we were soon on our way! We motored out of Bimini Bay and into Tampa Bay. My aunt and uncle listened to the weather broadcast and deliberated for a while over where we would be going, and routes and all, and decided not to go out into the Gulf, but rather stay in the Bay for a while.

So, anyways, after we got the engine started and were under way, I went down below and recorded the engine drone. Sailboat motors sound a lot different from power boat engines. A typical sailboat motor is around 10 – 20 hp (a far cry from my Dad’s twin 400hp cruiser), and putts around a bit, and sounds a bit like a diesel engine (I believe it is a diesel motor on their boat).

Here’s the motor while motoring out of the canal.

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Once we finally got clear of the canal, we faced the wind and hoisted the sails (all three of them!), then cut the engine and we were sailing! Well, almost… The wind was being blocked by a nearby island, so the breeze was being a bit squirly, and we were only getting about 2-3 knots – if we were lucky. But it was nice and relaxing as we putzed along. Eventually, we cleared the tip of the island and the winds really picked up. Once we got in the groove, we were probably doing around 6 knots over land, which is decent for a 40′ sailboat with a 4.5′ draw on a not-so-windy day… I was down below right when the wind started picking up, and I was able to get a cool recording of the ambience of the inside of the forward berth. The boat has a fiberglass hull, so you can really hear the water hitting it as she cuts through the water:

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Around the same time (I don’t remember if it was before or after I recorded the berth), I wrapped my mic in a towel and sat it inside one of the storage cabinets. If you’ve ever been inside a boat, you might notice that most of the big storage cabinets down below don’t really have backs in them, they just are backed by the hull. This means that there’s not much between the water and the inside of the cabinet, so you really hear a lot of water sounds. So, I had my mic in there and shut the cabinet and recorded a bit:

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At this point I’m starting to get hot, since none of the hatches were open, so I headed up on deck, and out on to the bow. I sat under the Jib and grabbed the best stereo ambience I could from the front of the boat. I have no wind protection for my Røde NT4, and all I had was a towel with me, so I kind of made a makeshift wind baffle out of the towel, and engaged my High Pass. To my surprise, I actually got a decent minute or two of sound (not straight…), and if I spend enough time with it, crossfading between good sections, I think I can get a solid sound out of it. Also, I think I am going to invest in the Røde blimp, which can hold the NT4, but I’m not sure yet, because I still don’t completely love the NT4. Anyways, I digress…

Here’s the stereo recording from the bow, facing foward:

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Here’s a picture I took from the stern looking down the starboard side of the boat. For some reason the only pictures I took were from when it was cloudy that day, which wasn’t for very long. Oh well.
Under Full Sail

While I was out on the bow, I switched from the NT4 to the MKH60 (which I actually had a rycote softie for…yay for real wind protection!). I wrapped the cable around my wrist for safety, and held the mic over the edge of the bow (with a pistol grip), close to the water, and got some cool sounds of the boat cutting through the water. I love this sound so much :-) The sound of a sailboat crashing through the waves under full sail is one of my favorite sounds ever! Next time I hope to get a good balance between the sound of the wind rushing through the boat (which I couldn’t get this time – not enough wind protection) and the sound of the boat cutting through the water, all in a single recording.

Anyways, here’s the recording of the water:

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So, while I’m getting all of these sounds, I hear my Aunt joking about blowing the horn to scare me (which I’m extremely glad my dad talked her out of doing, since I had a mic in my hand attached to headphones on my ears, which were turned up fairly loud to hear the details of what I was recording…) So anyways, I decided I wanted to try a few recordings of the horn. So I turned my preamp and headphones way down, and asked her to blow the horn. Complete distortion. I turned the pre down more and asked her to blow it again. Still hit 0, but I didn’t notice clipping. Third time was the charm. Great levels. In post later on, I found that even though I hit 0 on the second one, it still sounded fine and was usable, so I ended up with 2 good takes! You may notice that there is absolutely no reverb. This is because we were in the middle of Tampa Bay with nothing for the sound to bounce back off of!

So, here’s the horn: (Warning!!! Very LOUD!!!!)

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So I’ve saved my favorite recording for near the end. Somewhere around half of the way through our sail, we were going down wind and the Aunt Betty decided to Jibe (a Jibe is basically the same thing as a tack – you’re taking the wind from one side of the boat to the other, so the sails switch sides – but it’s used when going downwind instead of upwind or crosswind. It can actually be more dangerous that a tack because it’s less controlled and the sails and booms can swing across the boat very fast – remember to duck!) Anyways, I happened to be down below at the time fiddling with my gear (which unfortunately wasn’t in a state capable of recording at that moment). They performed the jibe, and I heard some of the coolest sounds ever. Now, this is a sound I’ve heard probably hundreds of times, but I’ve never been recording, so I never really noticed exactly how cool it was. When you jibe or tack in a sailboat, a ton of things happen at once. You have sails luffing, lines running, pulleys spinning, chains clinking, ratchets, etc, and I think you even hear the bell in this one (which for some reason I didn’t record by itself). Plus, when you’re down below, you hear everything in the cabin shift, and the whole boat starts to creak and crack. Really amazing sound. Luckily, I was able to get them to tack twice more during the trip, and I was able to successfully record one of them.

So here’s the sound of a tack from down below, in the galley, facing towards the forward berth:

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At the end of our sail, we were about to enter the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). The winds were dying down, and navigating the channel can be tricky sometimes, so the the captain decided to pull down the sails and motor the rest of the way in. I remembered the awesome sound the engine made when it started before. I was ready (almost) for it this time, and caught the engine firing up from down below (barely! I spaced out for a second and I’d have missed it if it wasn’t for my pre-record!)

Here’s my “lucky” recording of the motor starting up:

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All in all it was a very enjoyable trip. Very relaxing, great weather, nice time with family. I spent most of my time hanging out talking and playing with the dogs. It’s always a great time sailing with Betty and Ed. Betty is a licensed sailboat captain, and Ed was a Navy Seaman (he used to pilot an aircraft carrier!), so we always get to listen to tons of crazy stories about boating and all. Always a good time with lots of laughts.

I only ended up actually recording for about 30 minutes total. I’ll being going on a few more sailing trips before the fall, so next time I’ll be bringing a bunch of wind protection and all with me, and I’ve already made a list of other things I want to try. Included are trying to get some better outside ambiences, getting a tack from outside, including all the calls any everything, playing with my contact mic (maybe attaching it to the sail, the hull, the engine room, mast, etc…) and maybe even playing with a hydrophone (dragging it behind the boat in the water or something). Also, I’ll be bringing a binaural rig next time!

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this post. Its a little departure from the normal post, but I thought I’d share as much background as possible to add some context to the recordings. Thanks for stopping by!

So last week I posted a cool post about rain recordings. I got a lot of great feedback from it, especially from the binaural recording. So I dug up this binaural recording I made about a year and a half ago from the inside of a car wash. I’m obsessed with binaural recording and mixing. I’m actually working on a few projects right now that feature binaural audio. I hope to be able to get one of them up on my blog later this month. More about those projects later.

Anyways, this is the same setup as the last recording I posted (Countryman B6 mics installed into earplugs, Lectrosonics LM-400 wireless (I don’t have the XLR adapters for the B6s), and a 744T. Pics of the setup can be found in my previous post.

Here’s the audio: (This is a binaural recording – you must wear headphones to listen to it!)

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In case you’re interested, I recorded video of the whole ordeal as well (on my tiny point and shoot camera). It’s most definitely not the best quality video, but it’s kind of cool to see while listening to the recording. (Same recording as the audio only one)

Here it is:

Binaural Car Wash from Colin Hart on Vimeo.

Here’s the first recording I did with my hydrophone. I only had about 30 minutes to play with it, so this is all I’ve done so far. I hope to get a lot more stuff done tonight and tomorrow.

My setup: Old broken piano, Hydrophone, C-stand, bucket of water, Fostex PD-6
Hydrophone on Piano

I recorded hits and strums on the piano for about 15 minutes. Here’s the best one. Note: the only processing is iZotope RX for Noise reduction (PD-6 Pre’s were a bit noisy) and gain, and then a little EQ to bring out some of the higher frequency artifacts.

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(The tail is almost 30 seconds long. Best to listen with good speakers or headphones)

More to come soon!

I’ve always wanted a hydrophone, but I could never justify the price since I never actually needed one, so I never got one. I’ve attempted a few times to make one myself, but it never worked out. Hydrophones/contact mics have seemed to be a common topic in the last few days on a few different blogs (Nathan over at Noise Jockey and Chuck Russom), so my interest piqued again. I decided to make one out of the trusty ol’ $2 piezo buzzer from Radio Shack, some Plasti Dip, and spare wire, connectors and heatshrink tubing I had laying around. I retreated to my workbench and emerged 20 minutes later victorious. I had a working contact mic (not quite a hydrophone since I hadn’t treated it with Plasti Dip yet).

So there’s my pretty little contact mic in all it’s newborn glory. I did some tests with it, and it sounded fine. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever heard, but I spent under $2 making it, so I wasn’t worried.

Now onto the Plasti Dip. I’ve never used Plasti Dip before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I bought the spray can kind so I could control what was getting covered a bit better. I put a few coats on the mic and wiring before I decided to wrap it with craft tape (again, since I’d never used the Plasti Dip before, I didn’t really have much of a clear cut plan…). After I wrapped everything with tape to cover up some of the wiring, I continued adding a few more coats. The coats weren’t as thick as I expected, and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get any dripping on the mic element, so it took me a few hours to complete.

I did, however, complete it somewhat successfully (although not very gracefully or pretty-like). I left it out to dry for about 4 hours.

Now I had a completed hydrophone. I went back into the studio and hooked it up to a preamp. It still worked, so that was a good sign. Also, I was surprised at how little the Plasti Dip affected the sound quality. It was almost as if I didn’t do anything to it. That made me happy. Now comes the part that made me nervous: testing out how “sea-worthy” my hydrophone really was. I grabbed a glass of water and then hit record in Pro Tools (just in case my water proofing didn’t work and it made a really cool sound when it died…). I submerged my creation, and behold, no need for last rights. It worked. Awesome. I now have a hydrophone/contact mic. I tested it with the 744T as well; works great.

This means I have a new toy to play with this week. I’ll add recordings up as soon as I complete a few cool ones, along with a few words about my trials and errors in getting things to sound alright.

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