Category: Microphones


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Every year, I get the privilege of spending Christmas in New York City, a place where Christmas is spent well! I wanted to share a little bit of my experience with all of you this year, so I went around and recorded a few New York City Winter scenes in binaural so you can experience it with me!

Every year, Saks Fifth Avenue puts on a huge show on the front of their building. In case you don’t know, Saks is directly across from Rockafeller Center. So if you stand at the front door of saks and look straight out, you see this:


Rockafeller Center


Now, if you stand in Rockafeller Center and look at Saks, normally you just see the front of Saks. Pretty boring. Except for this time of year. During the month of December, Saks transforms the front of their building into a wonderful winter show. They have a massive light show, all choreographed to a specially made recording of “Carol of the Bells”. In years past, they have a ton of LED snowflakes and other lights that play on a midi sequence, however, this year, they changed it up a bit. They did the whole “3D Projection” gig. Pretty neat. I have a (poor quality) video that I shot on my iPhone that I’ll paste a little later. What I do have for you is a binaural recording of the show (plus the people and traffic…).


**These are Binaural Recordings, so you MUST WEAR HEADPHONES to hear them properly!!!** That’s my little disclaimer. K, thx bye.


BTW, the rig is similar to my previous binaural rigs (lavaliere / foam ear plug setup) using two Countryman B6 lavs hardwired into a 702T.




Neat huh? The track is available to download from Sound Cloud if you’d like it (actually, all 3 are!)

Another cool winter activity in NYC is ice skating. The most iconic place to ice skate is Rockafeller Center, but most of what you hear there is loud music and huge crowds of people! Not all that much fun. However, one of the most fun places to go is Wollman Rink in Central Park. It’s located in the center of the park (laterally), close to the south entrance. Easy to get to and MUCH bigger thank Rockafeller Rink. Most of the time there is music playing, but I got lucky and have a good stretch of skating time with no music. So in this recording, you get to hear the sounds of the skates and the people talking while they skate, all with the distant sound of the city in the background. Very cool.






Last one I have is again at the rink. I was lucky enough to be there when they closed, so I have this binaural recording of the Zamboni cleaning the ice (with no one around). The whole thing is like 10 minutes long! Here’s a minute and a half long snippet of it:




Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little “Christmas Card” to all of you. I know I enjoyed recording it. The holidays just feel so right in NYC.

Merry Christmas!

~Colin

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!

So I’m really getting tired of answering the question “What’s the best handheld recorder” or “Which one should I get” or whatever permutation of that question gets asked. It’s not that I don’t like helping people, but I get bored of answering the same question over and over – plus, there’s really no right answer – it’s very much based on your needs.

So, a month or two ago, I decided that I was going to do a handheld recorder roundup. Not just one that compares specs and all – that’s as simple as data gathering, and anyone can do it with a little help from Google and your preferred audio retailer’s site. What I want to do is to round up all of these recorders and actually do listening tests, then post my results, as well as the recordings up on the blog.

Sounds simple, right? Well, almost – I need to get a hold of all of those recorders first! Not really an easy task. Fast forward to this past week, where all of the manufacturers and their execs / reps are in the same room. Sweet! So I got a number of companies (including, but not limited to Nagra, Tascam and Sony, plus the Olympus and Zoom I already have access to) to commit to letting me demo their recorders. So expect that in the next few months.

Little Tascam Recorder

There were a few new arrivals from Tascam at the show. One in particular caught my attention:

This little guy records two separate tracks at two different levels. It records the one that you are in control of plus a second track at 12db lower. Great for those moments when an unexpected transient comes along and peaks out your recording. Good for those “only have one take” sounds. Of course, in any serious situation, a 702 has more headroom, and you can tier a Deva’s levels…

I haven’t played with this one in a quiet environment to know how good it sounds, but I’d imagine it to be fairly comprable to a Zoom H2 (minus the 4ch capabilities). This is one of the ones I’m testing on the shootout, so I’ll have a better idea on what it’s about in a month or so.

Sweet.

Big Tascam Recorder

Tascam also debuted their new control surface for their Newish large format portable recorder, the HS-P82. It looks cool, and the system is offered at a good price, but I can hardly see it competing with a 788T/CL9 or a Deva/Mix12/Mix8. I’ll get over the fact that it feels a bit cheap. It’s made out of metal and all, but the buttons and switches just feel cheap. But then again, it’s cheaper than all of it’s competitors. Here’s the thing though – it has a TERRIBLE menu system. I mean come on, it doesn’t cost much to make a user-friendly menu. I played with the machine for about 5 minutes and couldn’t figure out input routing or metadata. So I asked a rep. He couldn’t figure it out, so he asked another rep. Took the two of them 5 minutes to figure out that they couldn’t figure it out. Now, I know it comes with a user’s manual, but I use tons of different recorders – Sound Devices, Devas, Nagras, Fostex stuff – every single day – I know how to navigate menus – they all have the same options, just in different places – it isn’t very difficult to figure out. Why this one is, I have no idea. Maybe in a few firmware updates, this will be better. More difficult to figure out than a Cantar X or a Nagra V.

Big Tascam Recorder

Speaking of Nagra, not too sure why this one doesn’t get more attention. The Nagra ARES series. Perhaps the price point, but it’s cheaper than the Sony D1… My only gripe with this one is that it can only do 48k (why?). You can buy different capsules for this one, making it stereo, omni, cardioid, etc… plus a reporter’s mic on a cable you can buy, and an XLR adapter. Pretty sweet recorder – plus it has Nagra Preamps. Legendary. Again, I’ve never used this one in a decent environment, so I can’t account for it’s recording quality, but I would venture to guess it’s one of the best sounding ones out there. It’s another one on my list to test in the next month.

Oh, and the guy I talked to from Nagra, Steve George (a US Nagra Rep and the US Service Manager) literally tracked me down on the AES exhibit floor the day after I met with him just to give me this sweet Nagra hat. They weren’t giving them away, he just happened to have one with me and knew I was a fan. Now THAT’s customer service :-)

Sony – nothing new to report – same few portable recorders. They’ll both be reviewed.

Zoom, Roland/Edirol, Yamaha, Olympus weren’t represented there, but I’ll still try to get some of those to compare for my lineup.

That about does it for the portable recorders! Again, let me know if you have any specific questions about any of these posts or something that I didn’t cover!

Next up, microphones!

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!

I’ve just announced the release of my new drag racing library, “My Hart is Racing!”

This heart-pounding library is 1.2gb in size, 46 files wide, and 37 minutes long. It includes, dragsters, jr dragsters, super sport cars, bikes, imports, and more! There’s even a 7 minute qualifying heat included that comes unedited! Tons of good source for some epic sound design!

For this week only, while I’m at AES, I’m offering this library at a discount. Normally it will be $20, but until I return home from San Francisco, you can purchase it for just $10! The trick is that you’ll have to find my promo code to get the discount!

I’ll post it on twitter and I’ll be giving it out to whoever I meet over at AES, so be on the lookout!

Go check out http://hartfx.net for details!

Here’s a demo of some of the sounds:

Wow! Long time no write!

Been very busy lately, with the company launch and all… so it’s been a while since I’ve posted any cool recordings or talked about my escapades. So, time to start writing a bit again. This post will just be an update of what I’ve been doing, some cool recordings I’ve done on the side, etc…

So, where to being?

For my birthday, back at the beginning of October, my parents flew me up to DC (where they were at a conference for a weekend) so I could celebrate with them. During the trip, I picked up a car from them and then took the Autotrain back to Florida. Now, that’s a 19 hour train ride. So I’d be silly not to bring a recorder with me! So I packed up my RØDE NT4 and a Sound Devices 702T and I was on my way.

Quick Tangent: DC was awesome. PERFECT weather, got to meet up with Steve and Karol Urban and Shaun Farley to have lunch, then got to tour Karol’s studio at Discovery. Fun trip! Also got to grab some room tone in different areas (hotel was nice and quiet, and my room tone library is lacking!)

Perfect Weather in DC

So, onto the fun stuff. I was able to get three really unique recordings on the train. Two were ambiences, one was a hard effect. This first one I got was in the bathroom on the lower level of the train (it’s a 2-story train car). The bathrooms are similar to what you’d find in an airplane, just quite a bit roomier (big enough to change clothes in), and every surface was stainless steel. So I pulled out my mic, made a few adjustments, and waited for the train to steady a little. The following is a recording of the ambience in the bathroom while the train was travelling smoothly at about 30mph.

Very cool ambience IMO. Very “spaceshipy”.

Next, as you probably guessed, comes the vacuum toilet in the bathroom. Again, same room, same mic setup:

That sound reminds me a bit of the sound Ann Scibelli used for the Enterprise door sounds in Star Trek (See video here). I’ve always been intrigued by this sound. I don’t know if I think it’s disgusting or if its just awesome. Either way, I love it.

Next up is a recording I made later in the night. When you walk between cars on the train, you are in open air straddling the two cars for about 4 feet. It can get a bit bumpy out there, but nobody seems to have too much trouble transitioning between cars. I was sitting rather close to the door to the dining car, so there was a lot of traffic until around 12 or 1am, so I didn’t even try to get a recording before then. My plan was to get outside of the door and straddle the two cars for a few minutes, with both doors into the cars closed. I figured this would probably look a bit sketchy, so I waited until almost everybody was asleep (which didn’t take very long, since I was the youngest person on the train by 30 years…), and all the day time crew had retired to their quarters. Didn’t want to freak anyone out.

So I grabbed by gear, made sure everything was on and ready to go (didn’t want to be fiddling with gear while straddling two train cars…), and headed out. Closed the door behind me and figured out a stable way to support myself and started recording. Here is an excerpt of the recording:

So, those are my new updates for now. More to come soon (I have a few more recordings up my sleeve to share). You can probably expect most of this stuff to make an appearance in one of my libraries over at HartFX sometime in the near future as well.

Thanks for tuning in!

After about 8 weeks of non-stop work, I’ve finally launched HartFX.net! I have my first library for sale starting today, my Industrial library! I posted a demo a week ago, but here it is again, for good measure :-)

Check it out over at HartFX.net !
HartFX

Excerpt of the library description from the site:

It’s HUGE. As in almost 24gb of sound. All in 192k/24b. If you played all of the the files back to back, it would take you over 5 1/2 hours to listen to it all. And that’s not even the cool part.
This is kind of a unique library. I recorded with a number of microphone (up to 8 at times) into two Deva V recorders (a single one didn’t like recording 8 channels of 192k/24b!). Then in post, I mixed and matched different mics to make the baddest, beefiest sounding tools I could. But the cool thing is that I’ve also included the separate mics on their own, all time aligned and all, so you can do your own mix, or just chose one perspective you like for a specific sound. So there are over 1000 sounds, but sometimes you have 5 different perspectives of the same sound. Completely customizable! It’s all labelled in the metadata too, so you can search by how many feet the mic was from the sound if you’d like, or from Close, Medium, or Far Perspectives.

I FINISHED IT!

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!

The new and improved, tanner, Ric Viers

The new an improved, tanner, Ric Viers

Ric Viers: he is a sound effects recordist extraordinaire, an author, a business owner, a husband, a father, a friend, and the owner of one sweet soul patch. Even better, he has kindly done an interview with me for the blog. Ric has a new book coming out next year that deals with production sound (which he can’t share details on yet), but I thought I’d get a head start and interview him about his production audio experience. There aren’t very many production audio resources out there, so his book will be filling a huge void.

Ric is the owner of Blastwave FX, a sound effects company, The Detroit Chop Shop, a post production house in Michigan, and author of The Sound Effects Bible, a great publication about recording, editing and mastering sound effects.



CH: You got your start in sound doing production audio for shorts and independent films, correct?

RV: Yeah, I got started doing location sound. I wanted to try to brush up my chops with mixing, recording, and using different mics, mic placement, and all that stuff in between gigs, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do it, because in order to do location sound you need talent, you need actors, you need a set, and dialogue, or something for them to say. So I got this idea that I could probably record sound effects, and then kind of just build up my own sound library, because I was needing sound and all for the films that I was producing myself, and so I though, “well, it’s a good opportunity to get used to the gear, get a little more familiar with mic techniques and all.” So I started recording sound effects as a side gig, well not so much as a gig as much as a hobby.

So I was just doing sound effects on the side and continued doing production sound. A couple years went by and I was starting to fill up my hard drive, and I realized how many sound effects I actually had, and I said, “Gee whiz, I’ve got over a thousand sound effects, I bet you I could sell this somewhere,” and I contacted a sound effects publisher and got a deal within a matter of a couple of weeks, I think it was. I just went down the road of sound effects – it’s a bit more challenging, and a lot more fun – certainly more creative than production sound, although I love being on set, and I love being a part of the filming process. It was kind of the best of both worlds.

CH: You just finished up a feature film that filmed in Central Florida, with you actually AD’d (Assistant Director), right?

RV: Correct. I was AD slash (which is an unofficial title, but…) pretty much the “Sound Supervisor” on set, because the sound mixer we had and the boom operator were very new. This was their first film, and I had 15 years under my belt, so I basically would run through the setup, mic placement, and all that kind of stuff – mic selection – to kind of give them a direction for each setup that we did. I was surprised at how fast they learned. After about a week or two, they were chiming in to the take, saying “Don’t forget room tone,” and they would question mic selection and say, “well what if we did this instead,” and came up with some pretty cool ideas. So, it was a lot of fun.

CH: Now you used almost exclusively RØDE microphones for that gig, right?

RV: Correct, actually all of the mics were RØDE mics except for the lavs. We used TRAMS for the lavs. I’m a huge fan of the TRAMS.

CH: I noticed in the the pictures you showed me from the shoot that you used a lot of plant mics on this shoot. Can you talk about your use of boom microphones as well?

RV: Actually we used NTG3 shotguns. I’d say 95 percent of everything we shot exterior was shotgun. I don’t think we used any shotguns indoors, although there may have been one or two times. For the most part, we used NT5s and NT6s indoors and the NTG3 outdoors.

CH: You didn’t use a mixer on the set of the film you just finished – you went straight into a recorder. What are your thoughts on providing post production a production mix, vs. giving them just iso tracks.

RV: You know, this was my first time doing true multi-tracking with no mixing at all. We did summing with Boom on one channel and lavs on another, just so whoever was doing the edit could sync up everything quicker, but this was the first time doing it without a mix, and let me tell you, I’m a huge fan of it. It makes so much more sense to me. I would guess that that’s going to be the way of the future – there’s going to be less mixing on set. It makes perfect sense, I mean why would you mix something on set, that can’t, arguably, be unmixed, when you could just Iso everything, and have complete control over everything about the mix in post.

CH: How do you see that working with tight turnaround – like episodic TV, etc…

RV: Well, every production has it’s own unique needs. In our case, like I said, we did a basic mix down with boom on one channel and lavs on the other, and so, in theory, for the most part, hopefully we’ll never use the lavs – the lavs are just there for backup. So hopefully, we’ll always be able to use the boom, or the plant mics. But, that said, you could grab your one track (the boom track) as your main track, and if you need to go to a lav, you can run and grab that in the multi-track. I think that’s going to be the way of the future – the new technique used on set.

CH: Now this was a smaller production. How many mics did you have up and running at any given point? Did you ever find yourself running out of inputs?

RV: The only time we ran into a track count problem was when we had 8 microphone. We had an 8 track recorder, but the catch was – and I don’t know if this was due to the Florida humidity or what – but one of the tracks (we were using the Sound Devices 788T) went out. I don’t know if the phantom power on it blew or something. So we had to work around that problem, but ultimately, I think the most we ever had going at once was 8 mics. We had 4 wireless that we were using, and then we had plant mics, plus our primary boom mic.

CH: Are you a fan of the Sound Devices product lines?

RV: You know, yes and no. I really like their preamps. For any mixer or recorder, the first thing I think about – I don’t care about the functions, widgets, gadgets, or whatever – I want to know how good the preamps are. If the preamps are solid, then I’ll look at the rest of the specs. But there’s a lot of gear out there that have every possible function out there, but the preamps suck. So, for me, I love the preamps on all of the Sound Devices equipment. The only catch is that I’m not a huge fan of some of their engineering techniques. I’m a huge fan of real world, physical switches. If I need to turn the phantom power on, I don’t have to remember a couple of shortcut keys, or have to navigate the menu. I like to be able to say, “there’s the phantom power,” click, boom, done. I’m also very thorough when I work, so I like to look at a panel, and at a single glance, know where all the switches, all the knobs, dials, settings are – everything at a single glance, rather than having to deal with sub-menus and all. So that’s, for me, the plus and minus – the pros and cons – of the Sound Devices. Not a huge fan of the shortcut menus and all that kind of stuff, but at the same time, you have to give it up for them – the thing’s built like a tank, and it just sounds absolutely transparent.

CH: With laptops getting more powerful and stable, do you see production audio going to laptops any time soon? There’s a few people out there that use them as backup now. There are programs out there such as boom recorder and metacorder that function just as a field recorder (take-based recording), but with larger track counts, routing options, etc… You also have your DC powered interfaces, like the Motu Traveller, Metric Halo ULN-8, and all of the bus powered ones. Do you see a future in that at all?

RV: I think that laptops have the ability to be the primary recorders on set, but there are two main drawbacks. The first, and most important, is the fan noise. If you could get an absolute silent laptop, then yes, I think it would absolutely be my choice. Well, I don’t know if I would say absolutely, but I would certainly seriously consider it. The problem is, that when you’re in tight quarters, your laptop is going to be making noise, and one of the main tasks that you’re faced with as a production sound mixer is that you’ve got to eliminate as much superfluous noise as possible, and so you don’t want to be the cause of that noise. The second thing is obviously the instability – the laptop crashing for whatever reason. Whereas with your field recorders, that’s less likely to happen. When hard disk recorders first came out, I was a little hesitant about it crashing, but I’m a huge fostex fan – and I’ve never had a crash or any type of issue or problem. The recorders that are out now are all rock solid. However, with a laptop, it’s not rock solid. there are so many other processes that are happening in the background outside of the recording program that could cause the system to crash. Once it crashes, you could A, lose files and takes that you’ve been working on, and B, you have to reset, boot back up and all that stuff. If you’re doing an interview, for example, with Al Gore, and you have a limited amount of time, and you’re doing it for a major network, and you’ve got to get it right the first time, and all of a sudden your laptop crashes – that’s going to be an issue. So I guess my argument would be that I don’t think laptops, as they are now, are going to be in the field as a primary recording device any time soon. For that to happen, the first thing would have to be the fan, then the stability and the operating system.

CH: Speaking of fan noise, tell me your thoughts on…

RV: Ah, you’re going to ask me about the RED, aren’t you!? (Laughing)

CH: Yes, yes, tell me a little about the RED and your feelings towards it, both in the image quality and as a sound person.

RV: The image of it is phenomenal. I’m very happy with the images that we gathered. However, what we found, very similar to the laptop issues, is that we had them crash on us a number of times, which wasn’t very good. And then, of course, the fan noise, which was absolutely hideous. If you’re doing any kind of film work and don’t have the fan turned off, even when it’s on it’s slowest setting we could hear it. There is a menu where you can actually go in and shut off the fan, but it’s like – if you don’t do that, you might as well record a blow dryer in the room and use that as room tone – it was just absolutely garbage. We actually got a couple of weeks into the shoot, and finally I was just fed up with it, and I said, “look man, you’re going to have to move the camera or something, or we’re going to have to ADR this entire film. We were in close quarters, and at that point, the DP said “Oh, there’s an off switch I can turn off”. I said, “You know, we just shot 2 weeks of stuff with a blow dryer in the background, and I could’ve isolated that problem by turning off the fan?” Basically, it’s a huge brick with a fan.

CH: What would you suggest to someone that wants to get into either sound effects recording or location sound mixing. How do you get started, what are your thoughts on working for free, etc…

RV: Well, you know, you certainly can’t get a real world start without working for free. It’s just not going to happen. I wish it weren’t true, but you gotta believe, you’ve gotta intern somewhere, you’ve gotta shadow somebody. You know, there are creative ways around it. I think you could probably get in at a lower rate and help out as a utility or something until you get your feet wet. When you’re production sound mixer, you’re basically taking a studio into the field. You’ve got mixers, mics, recorders – basically what you’d have inside of a studio, but you put it all on a cart, and you go around the world. So, you’ve got to be able to understand not only the film making process, which in and of it self takes time – you have to have experience – you can’t just read a book and then hop on a set. Then you’ve got the recording process – which again, you can’t just read books, you’ve got to get your hands on gear, learn mic placement and everything. The other thing is confronting all of the unique challenges that you encounter in the field. I’ve been doing this for well over 15 years now, and I still run across unique situations where I have a problem and say, “Gee, how are we gonna mic this situation.” And of course, I draw back on my experience of things that I’ve seen people do or things that I’ve done in the past, and then try to take the best of those ideas and try to apply it to whatever situation I’m in. So, you just have to get experience. There’s a lot of independent films out there that don’t have any money, so they’re looking for guys to help, which is a great advantage for the guys that are trying to get into the field. The only problem with that is that the independent film itself is going to lack the quality of sound, and as you know, sound is 50% of the experience. So, you’re going into the independent film – you’ve got free labor, but you’re not going to get great sound. Eventually that sound mixer will get experience – he’ll work his craft and get better at it, but in the meantime, the film isn’t going to have the quality of sound that it’s supposed to have. So, it’s a catch 22.

CH: What’s your best advice for somebody that is going to do sound, but has no experience. What would you tell them is the most important thing to capturing great sound.

RV: I would tell them that they need to record at the loudest levels possible (without getting system noise), and get the microphone as close to the talent as physically possible. I mean, that’s the very barbaric, nuts and bolts of location sound. Ultimately, you want to record a nice clean signal with good level, and get the mic as close as possible to the talent. Some of these mixers that are out now, I just got the Fostex FM4 – and I just love the sound of the preamps. A big thing I noticed about the Sound Devices stuff is that, man, you’ve got to really crank the preamps up to hear anything, whereas back when I got started, the Shure FP33 was the goldenboy of field mixing, and no matter what company I worked with, everybody had the Shure FP33, and if you listen to it now – oh my gosh! It’s just noisy as all get out. You can’t open up any mic without having some kind of mixer noise. Whereas the stuff that’s out nowadays, the preamps are getting so good, that you can really crank up the mic without hearing any noise from the pre.

CH: Speaking of gear, if someone was trying to put together a budget kit, obviously you’d go for the RØDE mics, but what kind of package would you recommend?

RV: I mean, everybody’s got their favorites. I bet if you took 100 seasoned professionals, guys that have been mixing for 40, 50 years, sat them all in a room, and told them to each build their dream package, I bet you’d have 100 completely different answers. Everybody’s got their favorite mixers, everybody’s got their favorite mics, everybody’s got their own headphones – not everybody is using the same headphones in the field. So there’s a lot of choices. I tend to go with a balance between quality and economy. Price vs. Value, which is why I tend to like the RØDE mics, because there’s an insanely great sound that they have, and the price is probably half of what it should be. For me, that’s a good bargain. At the end of the day, it’s a craft – it’s an artform, but it’s also a business. I’ve got to put my kids though college. I have to take my family on vacation, and if I’m going out an buying $3000 mics left and right, there’s less money for me to be able to spend on my family. So, I’ve got to make wise choices. That said, I’m a huge fan of the Fostex products. I think that the FR2s are great. I’m not crazy about the plastic design, but if you’re tender with your gear – we know people who take those FR2s all over the place and they still work great. So, I like the Fostex stuff a lot. I think the Sound Devices stuff is great. Built like a tank, the preamps a great. They tend to be a little more pricey though.

For mics, obviously I’m a huge RØDE fan, and I love TRAMs for lavs. I’m a big fan of the [Sennheiser MKH]416 shotgun for sure, but once I got the [RØDE] NTG3, at [much less than] the 416, I said,”Forget about it, I’d rather have 2 NTG3s than one 416.” You can double boom a scene and get better audio by booming from 2 positions, versus having one 416 that costs a lot more.

Headphones – [Sony] MDR7506s man. The Sony MDR7506s are the way for me. I’ve probably got about 12 pairs of those for the different packages that we have.

Recorders, and mixers, like I said the Fostex stuff is good stuff.

CH: A little off topic here, speaking of microphones, what’s your go-to microphone for high-spl recording?

RV: Well, it depends, if I’m doing, you know, gun shots and stuff, typically I place mics all over the place. I like the [RØDE] K2s (which aren’t really good for the field, because they need a tube power supply). Those mics can handle an insane amount of SPL, and they just sound just so fat because of the tubes. Typically when we go into the field, we bring NTG3s and stuff. Those things can handle about up to 130db. I think the condenser mics these days can handle way more SPL than they used to be able to.

CH: Have you ever used a tube mic in the field?

RV: Not ever in the field, especially because of the price – I’d be a little nervous taking one in the field. You know, I got the K2s and the NTKs about a year ago, and the K2 – it’s kind of like guitars. You buy a new guitar and its your favorite until you buy the next guitar, which is your favorite until you buy the next one, so on and so forth. You know, I was loving life with the NTG3s, then I got the K2, and it’s a completely different design, obviously, and a completely different application, but I just love the sound that I get out of the K2. So that’s my favorite until the mic comes along.

CH: That’s all from me. Is there anything that you’d like to add?

RV: I think what’s important for guys that are working production sound is that you have to be alert and you have to anticipate problems. In the film making process, crap hits the fan on an hourly basis – not even a daily basis. It happens all the time – every scene, every setup, there’s always an issue. If you’re going to be successful and have a long career with it, you need to really anticipate worst case scenarios, and be standing by for the worst case scenario to happen with whatever problem solver you can come up with, be it more cables, a different microphone, another transmitter – any kind of problem that you can anticipate happening – you have to be ready for it. And, you know what, the film makers will know that, because every department has their moment where they’re working on set and then something goes wrong, and they have to scramble to fix it, and you’ve got like 10 departments working at the same time, and each one of them has a problem that has a few minutes to solve – that’s a half our of production time that you have to stand around waiting. So I think directors and producers appreciate when departments anticipate problems and already have a solution in their hand before the problem even happens, so that they can correct the problem and keep the production moving.

And of course, my golden rule for production sound is “Bring two of everything”.

Thanks so much Ric for your time!

I’ll be posting more information about Ric’s upcoming book as soon as the information is released. Stay tuned!

[Disclaimer: This was a phone interview that I have done my best to transcribe accurately. I have made minor edits to eliminate pauses, backtracking, and to make this piece work for a blog format, as well as to clear up my questions. I have not changed Ric's sentence structure or grammar, so that you're hearing him, not me. Ric has approved all edits.]

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.

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