What is worse than a slide show at a friend’s place? Two slideshows! We know all about that, and almost everyone of a certain age (read: not digital age) has probably had to deal with those slide show nights. And yet, some slideshows were better than others. Some people added sound effects to the slideshow. Sounds like howling wind, rain on a tent or chirping birds. Back in the day, you could buy those sound effects on LPs for quite a bit of money. They were usually more expensive than a standard music album from, say, the Rolling Stones.
Back then, the idea was that the Stones sold way more of their albums than the sound effect creator and so they could keep their prices lower. That may be true, but there goes a lot more work in recording a sound in the field, curate it, clean it up and put it “out there”. On top of that, the recordist would also have to have decent gear to record and be somewhat inconspicuous when recording humans. Walking around with a portable reel-to-reel recorder was not something to envy. Most sound recordists were professionals, recording everything for a living, selling their sounds to the film industry.
Later, the synthesizers came in play to emulate the sounds of moving trains and virtually any sound from nature. The price of the sound effect albums went down considerably. So much, that nobody in his or her right mind would still go out with a recorder and do a decent job. Apart from the film professionals who still needed sound effects for films like Indiana Jones.
Not too long after that, the slide show evenings at Uncle Bob ended silently. Never to be revived.
And yet, there is something magical about recording sounds in the wild. The passing of a train, a marching band of musicians and the dawn chorus of birds in spring. So many sounds that we could record, if only there were recorders small and decent enough to record them.
Since a few years, there are recorders that do exactly that. I currently use a Zoom H2 from the Zoom Corporation. Nothing to do with the Zoom software for virtual meetings. It runs on 2 AA batteries for a few hours. Largely enough to record sound effects or even longer stretches of sound. Other companies like Tascam and Sony also make decent recorders, although I have never laid a hand on those.
As a first, a bit of nostalgia with a passing train. This was recorded a few years ago on a quiet railway crossing. The “passing train” was a classic on those old vinyl LPs with sound effects.
The Zoom H2 is (was) the first digital Handy Recorder on the market. It records wav and mp3 files onto an SD card. There are plenty (too many as far as I’m concerned) videos on how to use the Zoom Hx model on Youtube, so I’m not going to do that here.
This sound related blog will be about my journey into field recording. That is opposed to controllable studio recording or controllable Foley artist recording. Field recording has some uncontrollable elements that make things interesting. And sometimes also impossible.
Contrary to photography, where the saying “If it’s not in the frame, it does not exist!” is totally true, in sound recording, everything has to be taken into account, including the mouse in the wall you had though had vacated the premises years ago.
So if you are into some adventure with sound, let’s go for it!