WRITTEN BY ERIC PAULSEN

SOUND EFFECTS EDITOR, BOOM BOX POST

Without question, location recording is the most difficult part of the process of making sound effects. Selecting the right location is just as important as what you will record there. Environments shape your sound. Be sure to select a location with your ears and not with your eyes. 

Here are a few things to consider when planning your next field recording:

 

  Image by  jinsngjung

Image by jinsngjung

The Time of Day to Record 

Each time of day has its perks and downfalls. Night recordings are usually optimal, but locations that might be willing to let you record may not be willing to join you for all of the fun at two in the morning. Morning recordings in urban settings are subject to traffic noise. It is best to scout a location during the time of day that you plan to record. This will give you a sense of what you may have to deal with, so you can plan accordingly.


  Image of a cicada by  Josch13

Image of a cicada by Josch13

Everything Makes Sound

What should you record?  Anything that makes sound.  Kind of an easy answer to a simple question, right? With the advent of DAW's and the countless number of plug-ins available, just about any sound you can think of can be used to create something new and fantastic. If you find yourself wondering what to record next, that's when you need to experiment! Sometimes you'll find new and exciting sounds that you normally would never have thought to record.


  Image by  Petra

Image by Petra

Make a List

When working in the field or on a foley stage, be sure to create a gather list of the things you want to record. Use this list as a guide and try to get as many sounds as possible.  But, also allow yourself to be creative and have fun. You never know what you'll discover while recording or editing. Just because a spaceship, train, portal, etc. sounds a certain way in a movie does not mean that's the best sound for it. Try new things. Push your boundaries. Don't stop experimenting. Some of the coolest sounds come from the most common sources! 


  The perfect mobile recording kit as proposed by  Videomaker .

The perfect mobile recording kit as proposed by Videomaker.

Selecting the Right Gear for the Job

You need to be able to have the right gear that will allow you to work with any location or scenario at a moment's notice. Much like anything else in life, it comes down to what is your budget? The higher the budget, the higher quality and vice versa. 

Here are three different examples of field recording setups:


Basic Field Recording Setup

This setup gives entry level recordists the basic tools to record in the field and in the studio.

  • A digital recorder with a built-in stereo microphone
  • Batteries
  • SD memory card
  • Headphones

 

Standard Field Recording Setup

This setup is considerably more pricey than the basic setup, but the results will considerably higher in quality.

  • A field recorder
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Compact flash card/micro drive
  • Wind protection
  • Shock mount
  • Microphone stand
  • Headphones
  • Cables

 

Professional Recording Setup

  • A field recorder
  • Professional grade rechargeable batteries
  • Compact flash card/micro drive
  • Stereo microphone
  • Shotgun microphone
  • Wind protection for microphones
  • Shock mounts for microphones
  • Microphone stands
  • Boom pole
  • Cables
  • Carrying bag
  • Headphones

 

Extras to bring along

There are a ton of various little devices you can add to your field recording setups that will make certain scenarios much easier. One of the best investments you can make is the right case for your equipment. Spending the money to protect your gear is highly advisable. I would highly recommend Pelican cases. They're indestructible and waterproof. 

Here's a list of some common household items that you should try and bring along with your field recording setup:

  • Connectors and adapters
  • Extra batteries
  • Umbrellas
  • Sound blankets
  • Sandbags
  • Flashlights
  • Rubber bands
  • Equipment manuals
  • Gaffer's tape
  • Headphone extension cables

 

To end, always always always check your equipment before going out into the field. Working in the field is very similar to going camping - you only have what you bring with you. Have your gear prepped and ready to go before you leave for your location. It will save you a lot of stress once you arrive at your destination.

So, go out in the field with confidence and start recording! Always explore and be creative. You never know what cool sounds you're missing out on if you're not recording!

 

QUESTION: WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR CAPTURING THE PERFECT FIELD RECORDING? SHARE IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW!

 

*Eric is a huge fan of The Sound Effects Bible: How to Create and Record Hollywood Style Sound Effects  by Ric Viers and used much of the knowledge he learned from it in writing this post.  He recommends purchasing this as a standing resource or visiting Viers' blog.  

**Main Image credit to https://inovember.wordpress.com/

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