I can work on your project.

Find me! Call DAP at 214.350.7678 or email rene@dallasaudiopost.com. Also check out echocollectivefx.com for custom sfx, and tonebenders.net for my podcast.

Monday, November 19

movie review: Skyfall *spoilers*




srsly.  don't read this if you don't want spoilers.




ok.  This is my quickie review of the latest Bond flick: Skyfall.

Now, for reference I do my absolute best to avoid any and all media involved with any film I plan to see before I've seen it.  This means that I never saw that trailer or any other than the teaser before actually experiencing the film in its full glory.  I also never read a review, and I purposely stayed as far away from the film's online presence as I could.

I do this for every big film that I plan on experiencing fully in the theater.  I find it gives me a much better overall experience.  As an example, that trailer has probably 6 or 8 things in it that I sure didn't want to see before seeing the movie in context.  It gave away so many interesting moments that I have no regrets about avoiding it.

 I'm currently avoiding any mention of Lincoln until I see that one as well.  :)

I saw the film in Imax at the Northpark AMC.   While this theater isn't "true" Imax - its certainly impressive.  Utterly perfect digital projection, probably the second largest Imax screen in the DFW metroplex (second only to the true Imax screen with film projection at the Webb Chapel Cinemark) and a truly capable and well calibrated sound system.  Stadium seating, ample foot room, and we sat dead center about 1/3rd of the way up.  Tickets were $16 each.  As a theater experience this is close to as good as it gets.

So first off, overall impressions:

I felt that this was probably the best Bond film I've seen.  I certainly haven't seen them all, but I'm sure I've caught at least 80% of them going back to the Pierce Brosnan days, and this one is easily the best I've personally experienced.  I like Daniel Craig as Bond, even though I don't like him as much in almost any other role.  He brings a certain self-loathing to Bond that completely redefines the character in my opinion, and in a good way.  Its far more believable that Craig's Bond would get the girl and kill the bad guy than Brosnon's (or even *gasp* Connery's) would in my eyes.

(That said I hated the poker enough in Casino Royale to write off the whole flick.  That film was a complete insult to poker players everywhere, and Bond was not only written as an awful poker player in the film, he was a complete dick at the table as well.)

While Skyfall started fast - as Bond films tend to - it didn't launch at the flat out breakneck speed that some in the past have.  The opening action sequence was punchy and interesting, but not so massive that it overshadowed the rest of the film.

(Another aside - I thought that The Dark Knight Rises suffered from this.  The sequence where Bane hijacks and destroys the plane is probably the high point of the film, and it happens in the first 20 minutes)

The opening credits were typically epic - as Bond opening credits tend to be.  They hit all of the classic Bond marks - silhouetted women,  guns, tombstones, 2d graphic styles, and general avant garde imagery.  I've seen others complain, but I personally really like Adele's take on the Bond theme, and I won't apologize for that.  For opening credits to be that memorable after the film is over is an achievement in my opinion.

Once the film was off and running I thought the pacing was excellent throughout.  It never felt long or drug out, nor did it feel too short by the time the film was over.  The last third of the film was certainly loud and pretty challenging, but even then it didn't have that "when will this end" moment that most of the final battles in the Transformers films end up at.

Javier Bardem was an excellent villain.  Again, the pacing of the film revealed him at exactly the right moment.  Not to early, but not so late that you didn't get a good sense of him before the final encounter.  I think he should take on something more heroic in his next role, given how huge his No Country For Old Men and Skyfall performances have become.

There were certainly plot holes though (many of them typically Bond).  *spoilers*

Spies probably know better than to run from their pursuers in the dark while waving a flashlight.  Bond would have had his insides liquified by three or four of the explosions that he supposedly survived.  Hacking computers doesn't work that way.   Helicopters can't sneak up on you.  Two tanks of propane can't blow up a massive mansion.  Putting it all on black does not imply that you don't care about the money, it only implies that you're trying to double it.  Also, you aren't likely to get a gun into a casino of that stature, and if you do you're unlikely to walk out after only facing three people and making a bet.  The other assasin certainly wouldn't have brought his payment with him to the jobsite.  If a coworker shot you on accident and let the other guy get away, it'd be pretty hard to get rescued by a stranger unless that coworker just packed up and left.  Fire extinguishers don't have that much foam in them. Car doors don't stop bullets.


From a sonic perspective I thought the mix was excellent overall - with a couple of exceptions.

First I'll say that I felt I heard every word clearly - though I'll reiterate that I watched this in an excellent Imax theater that was clearly calibrated out well and running the film at spec.

I'll state again that everything I heard was 100% top shelf minus the couple of small things I'll list here:
  • There was a moment in the opening sequence where multiple car wrecks were happening simultaneously with big score moments, and I think they could have stood to clear out some space for some of the car wreck elements that were taking up room on the screen but getting lost in the mix. 
  • There were several moments in the latter half of the movie when the score contained a heavy brass section and was pushed loud enough to crowd everything else out.  I'm about positive that this was a director's choice (as well as an arrangement thing) rather than a mixer choice, but the end result clashed in the final mix.  It just felt like that typical thing where both the composer and the designers are trying to go to 11, but there's just not room for both to get all the way there. 
  • There was very minimal ADR in the film, but in the few spots where it was needed (helicopter scenes etc) it was pretty blatant and not always synced well.  I understand that these actors probably had to be wrestled from their various exploits around the globe to get the ADR cut, but it felt as if they were told certain lines were good enough before they actually got there.  Probably only 4 or 5 lines that looked like this, but boy did they.
  • Daniel Craig clearly speaks much more softly than the others on the set with him.  Again, I was in a very good listening environment there at Northpark, but boy howdy I heard that noise pumping on him every time he spoke.  In fact, it felt more like they were gating and editing around the noise on his lines than pumping Cedar or anything.  No one else seems to have suffered from that.  Its also possible that they were burying lavs a little more deeply in his costume than the other characters, but that can't really account for the big discrepancy between his dialogue and that of the others - especially on the very quiet soundstage moments.  I think his suits were noisy as well, which couldn't have helped. 
  • Those are American sirens.  I'm pretty sure zero percent of this film took place in the USA.
With those out of the way, I'd like to add a few more kudos to the sound crew:
  • The weapon sounds were probably the closest I've come to the feeling of an actual gun being fired in proximity to me.  Kickass field recordings of the guns being fired, and they were mixed LOUD, but somehow not painfully.  Bond fired his weapon indoors on multiple occasions, and in each case the sound of the gun in that space felt spot on, which I know is incredibly difficult to pull off.  Nothing felt exaggerated, but all of it felt very big and very real.  Probably one of the finest weapon sound achievements I've seen in film.
  • Ditto the explosions.  The edit and the mix decisions really did those explosions some good when they were unexpected and out in the clear, but they really did give a genuine feeling that you'd get if you were in close proximity to that kind of explosion.  My wife and I both jumped out of our seats in a couple of key moments where they surprised us with a bang, and despite coming out of my seat and looking around I felt as drawn in during those moments as I ever have in a film.  Those things felt REAL.
  • Vehicles were kickass, rare, screaming down the road, and as impressive as it can get.  The team recording them must have had a field day.   Ditto the extensive helicopter sounds.
  • Punches and kicks felt the appropriate size in relation to the weapons.  Not massive, but still very satisfying and intense.
  • BGFX from locations around the globe were deep, intense and clearly very accurate.  
  • There were three massive sound events - the opening car/bike/train chase, the train dropping through the subway station, and the final asault on skyfall.  All three achieved what they were going for, but only the train dropping through the subway really tipped all the way into "that has to be exactly what that would sound like" territory for me.  It was just flat out impressive, and even more so for me given that I didn't see it coming.
  • kudos to the production sound crew for scoring a place in the opening credits.  Well deserved IMO.

 that's all I've got.  I'd recommend it for sure.  Suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.

Friday, November 16

pouring concrete

Last week we poured some concrete for the foley stage concrete surface.  The pits in our breakaway floors are 4 feet long, thirty inches wide, and 8 inches deep.

After several days of curing the concrete has turned out very nice.  I was a total of 5 full bags to fill the pit, and the resulting slab has zero ringing to it and a very nice surface texture.

apologies in advance for the blurry photos.

Thursday, November 8

a twitter converation about piracy

edited to remove the persistent "@" callabacks (for readability)
original link

Jack Menhorn
Bummed that he even thought of asking the question: ‪http://socialsounddesign.com/questions/3928/pirate-audio-samples-how-risky-is-it-really …‬ ‪#piratessuck‬

Frank Bry ‏
‪@KomradeJack‬ Wow, he admits to theft. Even for personal use, stealing sounds is not a good idea and the Universe does not look kindly on you

Jack Menhorn ‏
‪Just noticed it was 2 years old and someone named "mikol" resurrected it.

Jack Menhorn
‪mikol saw all those replies and still replied trying to justify.

@KomradeJack @idaho_recordist there is a warez culture out there that the replies ignore.  the OP is probably culture shocked by the resp...

...and his contemporaries would probably scoff at it.  our replies should always remain aware of that.

not critiquing the responses.  just noting what I know is a disconnect between the two worlds.

I suppose im a bit astonished someone in that warez-culture would still not realize piracy ≠ professionalism

"Hey I need to record some ambiences, better go steal a stereo mic from Guitar Center"

don't be.  think of the beginnings of the hip hop sampling culture.  many professionals came from those roots.

the kid's trying to make the turn.  he should be encouraged, not slapped down.  my .02

Not entirely sure that's this case, but I understand the sentiment. We all start somewhere.

Frank Bry
Yes, at least he wanted to make it right. I hope things worked out for him. Every game I work on I have to...

Frank Bry
 … I Warrant that I have license to use ANY audio I do for the client or they come after my ass.

yep.  this kid is trying to learn that skill.  he should be encouraged IMO.

Frank Bry
Disney was the 1st client to require proof from me that I owned licenses for the assets I used.

I believe it.  we had to really re-work our echo collective license to sell it to warner games.

Frank Bry
yep. Ditto.

Frank Bry
It's REALLY cold outside but I'm going to go out and record the crazy wind right now anyway.

Saturday, October 27

touchscreen daw interfaces dont offer tactile feedback

saw this today:

and I thought to myself:

that's really not how I want to control my DAW.  I mentioned this a bit in the comments section of tonebenders episode 2 (check it out!) but I want to go into more detail here.

First of all, I get why random access control surfaces are probably the future - the ability to implement custom interfaces that are not tied to dedicated knobs and sliders is a powerful concept - but the fact of the matter is that finger access is never going to be as fast and accurate as mouse access for fast, sample-accurate and detailed editing tasks.

it also doesn't seem like you'd get the same "feel" as you would with a hardware controller if you're doing fingertip mixing.  All of these "pictures under glass" offer only visual feedback when you manipulate them, which IMO takes you out of the process of manipulating sound.

It also reminded me of this little rant I came across a while back - which very eloquently details the ways in which our hands manipulate the world and receive feedback, while pointing out that the touchscreen interface concept basically breaks that concept by refusing to give tactile feedback.  It forces us to use our eyes to see if we did anything and to measure the degree by which we've done those things.

We can close our eyes and turn a knob or move a fader, and instinctually feel the degree to which we've moved those things.  This is an important concept in manipulating audio, and all of these touchscreen interfaces break that concept.

I'd personally much prefer to see a system that looks like a flat tablet, but actually has a grid of actuators that pop up tactile feedback (much the way a refreshable braille reader does), and have that give feedback.  Maybe it could also be both touch and pressure sensitive, so that it could move with your hands as you manipulate the interface.

I think that would end being more useful for audio specific tasks, and as an interface in general.  Our hands currently aren't getting any feedback from our screens. 

Tuesday, October 2

A new podcast-launch of the Tonebenders

So I've gone off and joined/started a sound design podcast called Tonebenders with a couple of great guys - Dustin Camilleri (@pulsetrain) and Timothy Muirhead (@azimuthaudio and azimuthaudio.ca).

Tim has already written an excellent blog post describing how it all came together and how to subscribe - so go read that, subscribe to the podcast, and jump over to tonebenders.net and leave a comment.


Thursday, September 20

quad miking dual MS update

So instead of running more controlled experiments with regards to my quad setup, I ended up with a quick and dirty dual MS rig out in the field this past week.

The rig consisted of a pair of schoeps CMC6 bodies with the Fig 8 capsule and the hypercardiod capsule making up the front portion, and a Line Audio CM3 rigged up for the rear M all inside of a big rycote blimp.  The schoeps mics went straight into a 744t 1-2, and the CM3 went through a sound devices M1 and into the 744t channel 3. 

The obvious compromise in this setup was the fact that all three capsules weren't exactly coincident on the vertical plane, and since the idea was to use the figure 8 mic as the S to decode both the front and the rear M mics, I was interested to see how well this configuration held up to scrutiny.

The whole rig fit into the rycote blimp very well, and when I took it out of doors the blimp still provided great wind protection to all three mics, since non were very close to the edges.  I generally monitored the schoeps rig decoded, but sometimes listened to all three mics in mono.

I took this rig to a local hospital to record ambiances for a documentary that we are working on.  I came back with about 3 hours of recordings from a half-day all access shoot, and got some really killer stuff (including a real live surgery).

Back in the studio, I decoded and evaluated.

I protools I decided to align all three tracks and mute them.  From there I sent the Schoeps MK41 (supercardiod) to bus 1 prefader, the Schoeps  MK8 to bus 2 and bus 4 prefader, and the CM3 to bus 3 prefader.

I then set two stereo aux inputs up - a front one fed by bus 1-2 and out to LR, and a rear one fed by bus 3-4 and out to LsRs - both with Waves S1 Imagers on them set to decode MS.

I was shocked at how good it all sounded.  Maybe some of the best recordings I've made in my life.

Imaging was spectacular throughout, the balance of direct to reverberant sound was excellent, and that $150 CM3 played so nice with the crazy expensive schoeps rig you'd never guess the price of that thing.  I didn't find the time differential between the CM3 and the schoeps MK8 capsules to present much of a decoding problem, probably because most of my sources were ambient and were sending as much reverberant sound to the mics as they were direct sounds.

Summing all three decoded mics to mono caused zero issues.  Summing this rig to mono effectively removes the Fig 8 mic from the sound, leaving only the sum of the schoeps mk41 and the Line Audio CM3.  Given that they were both aimed in opposite directions and recording ambient sources, the non-time alignment didn't do anything particularly strange or phasey.  It's possible that time aligned capsules would lock together even more tightly, but  the 2 inch or so differential was insignificant in this specific setup.

This is without question a killer rig to take into situations where you need to capture lots of surround ambiances while on the move.  I think I still prefer the spaced mic technique sound to this one when I have to luxury of setting it up and not having it change the vibe of the ambiance I'm recording, but honestly I only prefer that technique over what I got here a little bit.  Things didn't feel as "narrow" as they did in my initial dual MS test, and the use of the same fig 8 on both ends really locked the image down tight from front to back.

Color me impressed.  As I go through and edit the recordings more closely I'll find a couple of nice bits to post up of both the front and read decoded recordings.


update: here are some choice decoded sounds from the shoot:

Saturday, September 8

impromptu voiceover mic shootout

During a session this past week a voice talent friend of mine named Nick Alexander happened to have his set of Neumann TLM 103s with him for a different project.

We had a moment after the session was over to grab some random copy and run a quickie shootout.

First I set up our standard AT4050, Nick's TLM103, and my DIY Austin Ribbon Mic with the three membranes as parallel as I could get them. 

With the mics set, I had Nick stand about 8 inches away and centered up so that we could get the most fair test of the three at the same time.  I'd typically mic a voiceover slightly closer than we did here - though Nick did lean in near the end and work some proximity effect.

We read some random copy both in a regular and kind of laid back style, and then a bit more in a louder, more upbeat style - and we were joking around a bit throughout.  I kept rolling as we had a casual conversation for a minute or so after reading from the script.

All of the mics ran into a rack of John Hardy M1 preamps.  The ribbon mic went through a cloudlifter as well in order to better match the impedance to what the M1s offer and to help match the gain to the much hotter output of the condensers.

Here's a photo of the preamp settings that matched up the outputs.  The 4050 is channel 1, the TL103 is channel 2, and the Austin Ribbon (post cloudlifter) is channel 3:

Both the 4050 and the TLM103 had very similar output levels, and the ribbon was still 15 db or so softer than them even after the cloudlifter pre-boosted its signal by 20 db.

so given all of the setup, here's are the final recordings (downloadable via soundcloud)

 after a couple of listens, here are my thoughts:

The ribbon mic was its own beast - pretty thick and wooly and the p-pops would actually flutter  rather than pop.  In my opinion that recording would need a good bit of work to really fly.  Mostly just handling all of the low end that was masking a lot of the rest of the spectrum.  The mic kind of smoothed out the transients in a different way than the other two did, and kind of had a natural analog compression to it, which I liked.

Both the 4050 and the TLM103 are very good sounding mics and very smooth across the frequency spectrum.  The TLM103 is not quite as bright as the 4050 but I certainly wouldn't rate the 4050 as harsh in any way.  In fact, I'd probably say that the 4050 was the most detailed of the three - which really showed through when Nick was rustling the pages of his script a bit.

The 4050 makes a recording that cuts through music with less manipulation, while the TLM103 makes a recording that likes to stand alone a little more.

I thought both mics flattered Nick's voice and worked with both reads well.

Monday, August 6

quad miking techniques and listening test

In anticipation of an upcoming quad sound library for echo | collective, I've been looking to build a specific quad kit for recording ambiances. 

I ran some tests to help in purchasing decisions that I'd like to share.  To hear everything properly, you'll need a DAW, an MS decoder and a surround setup.  Files are downloadable here.

I really like quad for surround ambiances - four mic perspectives really does give a very cool spacial perspective to ambiances, and for film work they drop into bgfx tracks seamlessly while leaving the center channel open and clear for dialogue and foley.

The biggest question I needed to answer before upgrading the kit was: is it better to run dual ORTF, spaced pair, or dual MS to get the most natural sound?

Each setup has its plusses and minuses outside of the pure sound of the setup, but I chose to evaluate the pure sonics first, and then use that as the jumping off point for any further decisions. 

The main thing I was interested in was in seeing how the imaging would work for sounds that move around within the ambient field.  If a bird or person or whatever moves from front left to rear right, I want the clearest imaging of that movement I can get.  Of particular interest to me is the way the different setups track movement from L to Ls or from Rs to R, as this is the trickier movement to track realistically.

I chose to use four Audio Technica 4050s to conduct the test, primarily because  I have access to four of these mics, and secondly because the AT4050 can switch from cardioid to figure 8, so that meant that I could objectively evaluate the setup on its own merits without having to compensate for listening to different mics for the diff setups.  

I also chose to record in our warehouse because I wanted to test these arrays in a reverberant space with a moderate noise floor, since that'll be the primary type of ambiance that I intend to record.

My methodology was a follows:
  1. set up the mic array
  2. run all 4 channels direct into a 788t, and set the preamps to 3 oclock.
  3. no highpass, no pads, no limiters.
  4. suspend a string on a mic stand directly above or in the center of the array.  This string will be used to keep me exactly equidistant from the array as I move around it.
  5. record a pass of walking in a circle around the array while holding the string
  6. record a pass of walking the same circle while counting
  7. record a pass of walking the same circle while jingling some chimes
  8. stop and setup the next array


First up was the dual ORTF array.

ORTF is defined as two capsules about 17cm (6.69 inches) apart and angled 110 degrees from one another. 

110 degrees adds up to 440 total degrees, so adhering to that standard would end up with the wide 100degree  front and rear angles and a more narrow 70 degree angle between the L and Ls and the R and Rs (if all capsules are equidistant from one another)

Since I was so concerned about tracking from front to rear and back, I decided to narrow the angles a bit and go with a more symmetrical four corner design.  here's the difference:

In the recordings, I found this setup to be very natural sounding, and to have the benefit of being relatively compact.  If I were using small diaphragm condensers I'd be able to pack a rig like this into a large blimp or a pair of blimps.  I could also custom build a square framed mic mount that could just pop on top of a single mic stand in an indoor environment.

Tracking around the room seemed to be very stable with this setup, if a little compact sounding.


The second setup was a spaced pair.  

I left the angles of the mics at 90 degrees and set the mics themselves 6 feet apart at the corners of a square. 

In my final evaluation, this was easily my favorite sound.  the ambiance was super wide, yet the tracking across the various speakers was superb, and far more defined than the other, tighter arrays.  I could really feel where I was in the room, and at no point did I feel any holes or dropouts. 

If I have total control over a quad environment, this is going to be the way that I will record. 


The last setup was dual MS. 

 I ran each M at 180 degrees from one another, and kept them relatively close to each other. 

After running the test, I came across this photo, which showed a dual MS setup sitting comfortably inside of a single blimp.

In that setup the rear M channel is slightly offset, so if you'd like to approximate that sound with my test, just decode the rear portion using the S from the front portion (discarding the rear S channel I recorded)

Here's what my setup looked like:

Upon listening, I found the dual MS setup to be the least satisfying.  The fridge in the room kicked on during this test, but I felt that after decoding it sounded even noisier than what the fridge added. 

The pattern was also super tight, and it was more difficult to track movement around the room from the distance that I was walking it. 

The dual MS rig is clearly the most convenient, but also the least impressive sounding of the three setups I tested. 


In the end, I encourage you to pull down the files and listen to them to make your own assessments.  

After hearing the tests I opted for a quad cardioid approach rather than a dual MS one, and if I control things to the degree that I'd like, I'll be spreading those mics out very wide within the rooms that I'll be recording.

Quad four corners is probably the most cumbersome to setup, and it's impossible to do it stealth style, which is a shame because it yields what is to my ears the best overall results.  It'll be my default for quad nature recordings though, and for interiors where I have control over mic positions. 

When I need to have a smaller footprint the narrower four corners is a nice substitute for public space recording, and proper wind protection is probably achievable. 

I'm a little bummed that the dual MS didn't stack up better because that's by far the most convenient rig to put together (3 channels and it fits in one blimp), but I suppose that's why we do the tests.  :)

In the future I may run one more test where I place the mics in the corners of the room and walk the same circle inside of the mics instead of outside of the array. 


Thursday, July 19

Who can wear the "sound designer" title?

This is an age old debate, and it's not specific to our industry - but a recent question on Social Sound Design by Jay Jennings kind of re-spawned the debate.  "What makes you think you're a sound designer?"  or as it's implied, "what have you done that gives you the right to take that title within the industry?"

In lieu of just answering in short form there I felt like I'd take the opportunity to go more in-depth with my own perspective.

Initially, my thought is that discussions about titles are discussions about language.  The fundamental questions behind the question is: what are you trying to communicate with your title, and to whom, and for what purpose?

To preface this: in my opinion the title of "sound designer" has kind of devolved into a similar place as the title of "graphic designer" or really any adjective + "designer" 

The best of the best take those titles, and a whole legion of hacks take those titles as well.  Its why reels and credits have become so important.

Just because someone designed something doesn't make that person a designer, but the fact will remain that the person did design that one thing.  If that person designs lots of things, at some point that person will move across the broad grey area that separates novices from masters.  Many people will take the title of designer after the first thing they designed though, not after they've truly created their first masterpiece.

All this dilution reduces the level of meaning that the title itself holds.  There are no pre-qualifications or trade guilds that police who gets to use the title of "sound designer" and who cannot.  This is not a title like "doctor" - or even "nurse" for that matter.  There are no standards, there is no board that can strip you of your title, and just printing the title on your business card or email sig or resume won't get you very far.

So with that said, my perception of the basic skillet a quality sound designer would have includes things like:
  • field recording - including mic technique, signal flow, monitoring, etc
  • data management and metadata fundamentals
  • sync sound editorial
  • creative manipulation of sounds with eq, compression, delays and distortion
  • creativity in manipulating dynamic range
  • creative use of synthesis
  • a developed personal aesthetic
  • the ability to communicate and defend creative decisions
  • the ability to accomodate the creative vision of others
It's a tall list, and none of the things on it are easy or could be learned entirely in a year.

Of course not everyone that prints "sound designer" on their card can do all of those things well, and some of the things that really bring a person to the next level of sound design are not on that list.

I'll also note here, that generally titles can be pretty confining. They set up boundaries that imply both things that we do and things that we don't do.   My current business card implies zero about my ability to produce and edit copy, shoot video and timelapses, program websites, do public speaking, etc.

It also only peripherally implies things about my ability to cast, record and edit voices, mix for broadcast, and other more directly audio related things.

Its assumed that the titles we give use to describe ourselves are shorthand, but it's also assumed that it's shorthand for the most important thing that we do within the context of our jobs. 

So with that in mind lets get back to the underlying language questions about the title, and what my opinion of the answers should be.

First off: what am I trying to communicate with a title?

Going back to the "doctor" comparison, in the US, the title of M.D. means that you spent years in an accredited college attaining your bachelor's degree, and in school you learned anatomy, biology, chemistry, and other fundamentals of medicine.  You then went to med school and spent even more years learning the craft.  Once you've performed to the standards set by those institutions, you then enter into a medical residency program where you essentially act as an apprentice under other practicing and experienced doctors.  Once that process is complete you've applied for and acquired a license to practice in your state. All of this is implied with the M.D. title and the purpose of this title is to communicate these qualifications to the world in a standardized and uniform way.

I think that in the case of "sound designer" I'm not really trying to communicate a very specific skillset, and I'm certainly not going to be able to communicate any specific level of experience. 
I think that all I can realistically hope to communicate to a stranger with the title of "sound designer" is that I work in audio, that I do some sound editorial, and that I think that I'm being creative when I work.  To assume any more than that from the title would lead one to some misjudgements about people pretty quickly given how many people do take up the title these days.

Secondly: to whom am I communicating?

Generally speaking, professionals of any kind are utilizing their titles to communicate with everyone they come into contact in a professional context.  This includes clients and prospective clients, peers, vendors, management, etc. 

Given the wide array of people that I'm communicating with here, I really just have to try and lay a basic groundwork with the limited number of words I have available to use in a title.  My email sig and business card are not the place to get into a detailed analysis of what I can and can not do.

Thirdly: why am I trying to communicate this with my title?

Medical doctors utilize their titles to shorthand all of the credentials listed in the previous question.  This leads their clients to give them a baseline assumption of credibility that they can diagnose and cure many physical illnesses that they may be approached with.  The standardization of the titles in the medical profession has gone a long way towards improving the art and science of medicine.

Sound is not nearly as noble or dangerous a profession, and as such those types of standards aren't really as in demand.  The question of why designers of any kind utilize titles at all is kind of interesting. 

In my case, I use my title in context with my coworkers.  I'm generally the sound design guy, another guy is the lead composer, the boss does mixing and biz dev, and the new guy is still in the process of defining his niche within that dynamic.  This is not to say that I'm the only one that can do sound design in the shop (I'm not) nor is it to say that I can't do things like mixing and biz dev (I can). 

I think it also gives another level of insight into what I can do when I'm working with clients outside of the context of design.  If all I've done for this client is cut voices and they grab my card where it says "sound designer," they may think of me when its time to make cool noises near the end of the project.


In the end, we're not defined by the titles we assume because titles are confining.  They're a shorthand, a means to an end, and we use them despite the fact that we're always learning new things, doing different things, and evloving our perspectives.


for more thoughts on this, check out the second half of ep 56 on lets make mistakes, where  Mike and Katy struggle with the same issue in the web design world.  I don't think they came to any real conclusions there, but if nothing else it shows that audio people aren't the only ones who struggle with the whole title thing.  :)

Sunday, July 8

fun with dopplers

here's  a quickie tutorial I just did with regards to how I use the Waves doppler plugin to make bys out of steady onboard vehicle recordings.  In this case I used the onboards that I recorded of my motorcycle a few weeks back.

Structurally, the concept draws heavily from Charles Deenan's 100 whooshes in 2 minutes tutorial on designingsound.org

The main change I made to his process was to really work the ins and outs of each by using the faders.
Some things I didn't really discuss, but you can see how they would work are the fact that you can make stylized whooshes with this technique as well.  That 100 whooshes post goes into great detail on that, though my preference is to go a little more focused than what Charles does.  For example, I'll  substitute a bunch of bow waves  and streams running, and get a bunch of underwater waves going on.  

In the vid I'm using a controller instead of a mouse to move the faders (so that I can move several simultaneously)and I'm performing the moves in real time.

skip the first 15 seconds or so.  Vimeo seems to have a pause glitch in there.

My two wishlist items for doppler would be an option to make it stop at the end of the path, and 96k support.

Tuesday, July 3

Neighborhood Dogs

One of my favorite things about the new collaborative way that the internet has brought us sound people together is The Sound Collector's Club.

TSCC is the creation of Michael Maroussas, and the basic premise is that all members pay a nominal fee to help with hosting the files, then each month a new theme comes out and we all go out into the world and record it, with each contributing member contributor getting instant access to the other recordings from the group.

Its an insanely cool way to beef up your library, because it has you out recording on a regular basis, and it puts you in contact with a group of great sound recordists from all over the world.

Its multiplicative recording.

So after some twitter riffing on themes a while back Michael had decided to roll with one of my favorites:Dog Barks-BGs

In my personal library I call them neighborhood dogs.

I have a moderate collection of these recordings, the first of which I made when out walking my own dog.  She's actually very good at staying quiet while others are going nuts, so for a few weeks I just went on my walk and brought my trusty D50.

They say that if you take a closeup photo of someone and put it across the room, that doesn't make it into a wide shot.  The same is true of audio, and the reality you get from recording the dogs in space like that trumps faking it every time.

Once I had a few of these, they went into immediate effect as I was cutting BGFX for various films and shows.  The texture of the dogs is really great to add a little bit of stress or drama to just about any urban or suburban environment.

Having individual dogs was nice when I could get them that way, because it allowed me to just kind of edit it in some drama in the gaps when I needed them.  They make great little punctuation marks on an outdoor scene.

They're also fun to establish and have going for a while, then pull them out to jolt the subconscious mind into noticing that they're not there anymore. 

BGFX are all about the one off elements, and neighborhood dogs are one of the more useful outdoor oneoffs you can find.  I highly encourage any sound people to record some dogs from a good distance, join The Sound Collector's Club, and share with the group!

Thursday, June 14

A little podcasting

So this past Monday I had the privilege of being on The Home Recording show with John Tidey and Ryan Canestro.

Here's the link: http://www.homerecordingshow.com/2012/06/show-172-mixing-with-a-subwoofer-kickstarter-and-more/

I've had this podcast at the top of my list for a good little while now, and it was great fun to get to jump on and talk audio with those guys.  I actually catch quite a few different podcast on a regular basis, an THRS always jumps to the top of my list when a new one comes out. 

I dig this podcast because it's got a killer structure (Ryan and John read all of the reader's comments and joke around to start the show, then they do segments) and the guys are knowledgable, fun to listen to and the running inside jokes remind me of the antics that happen on my fav sports radio station (the Ticket).

The whole experience was super chilled out and fun.  John asked if I wanted to do a show, I said sure, he pinged me one day and asked if I would jump on, and away we went.  Because I've been a fan of the show for a while, it felt very comfortable just hanging out with a couple of guys that I feel like I already know and talking about whatever.

So head on over to their website, subscribe to the podcast, buy through their amazon link, etc.  This is a good show to support.

Good times. 

Friday, May 25

recording my moto: the VTX1300

My motorcycle has been sitting for too long, so I'm going to sell it.

Anytime an audio person makes the decision to sell a vehicle the first question is always "have I recorded it sufficiently?"

In my case the answer was no.  I'd recorded the bike before, but I had never really given it the full treatment, so I rolled it to work last week and set about recording it after hours but before the sun set.

This bike is a Honda VTX1300 with aftermarket Vance and Hines big shot exhaust.  Honda's VTX line has a big, beefy transmission that clunks loudly when you drop into and out of first, and the big shot exhaust really does that distinctive chopper cruiser sound well.

Outside of those two main elements I didn't see much else on the the bike that I felt as though I could record cleanly and at speed.  Tires were pretty out of the question, as was any noise that my feet made on the gear kicks.  My plan was to find the best compromise of drafting placement and proximity to the transmission/exhaust for the onboard mics.

Drafting is a huge deal anytime you want to record a vehicle going faster than about 10mph.  Drafting is the concept of placing mics within the shape and structure of a vehicle in a way that minimizes direct wind exposure when the vehicle is in motion.  No amount of wind protection will stop an 80mph direct exposure to wind, but proper placement will allow for minimal wind protection to be sufficient even at that speed. 

Motorcycles are a little trickier than cars and trucks when it comes to this because they have less surface area on which to mount things and the bodies don't divert nearly as much wind around them, so drafting options are more limited.  This bike is pretty sporty and stripped down, which limited my drafting options further.

I decided to go with the following mic placements, wrapping each mic in a few layers of a cut up T-shirt:
  • Line Audio CM3 behind the shock and near the exhaust
  • Line Audio CM3 behind the engine block and aimed at the transmission
  • Sanken COS11 lav behind the engine, under the seat for general engine bite
  • Crown PZM 6D behind the license plate and near the exhaust.
here are the placement pix and isolated tracks of a 60mph run.


Of all of them, I feel as though I could have walked away happy with just the combination of the PZM and the Lav (which I almost didn't put up).  Both mics capture a ton of detail, and the PZM in particular felt like the gold standard of someone behind the vehicle moving at speed with a mic aimed right at the exhaust and no wind.  That mic just had tons of low end, and got the quick transient nature of the cylinders just right.

The CM3s acted a little wooly and took on the most wind of all the mics, though they were certainly still acceptable and in the end gave me some interesting lower mid punch that the other two mics weren't picking up.

When they all came together I just about came out of my seat because I heard for the first time a representation of what it really does sound like to be piloting that bike.

Everything is there.  The transmission kicks when I'm climbing the gears,  the whine as the engine lets up, the fluffy kind of release in the exhaust, and all of the power of that bike feels like its there.  The only thing missing is the wind, which is a pretty crazy experience given how intimate I am with the sound of this thing.

Its easily one of the best recordings I've ever made, and I feel like that PZM near the exhaust is going to be my new secret weapon when it comes to the exhaust portion of vehicle recordings.  That thing took zero wind behind about 4 layers of cotton T-shirt even at 80mph on the highway over a 10 minute ride I did the same day.  It was kind of magical.

I had my intern out helping me on the shoot, and he captured a perspective that I'm less familiar with: the exterior by.  He was running a 416 in a blimp and was tracking me as I passed.  These recording also came out great:

In all I got a full compliment of sounds from the favorite moto I've ever owned in about 3 hours of recording (including setup and teardown).

Things never seem to come together this well, so its important to sit back and appreciate it when they do.  Feel free to use these recordings in whatever context you see fit.


Monday, May 14

quickie M/S mic shootout

Here's a quickie mic shootout I recorded today.

I wanted to test the new ribbon mic in a setting that would naturally compliment it.  That mic likes loud bright things because it has relatively low output and a smooth darkness to it that kind of tames things that can get shrill or scratchy.  It also has low end for days.

As such I figured a good garage door impact slam would do the trick.

I've only got the one mic, so I decided to run it as the figure eight of an MS config with my trusty Line Audio CM3.  That line audio mic has a similar personality to the ribbon (lower output and a darker sound) so I figured the two of them would get along great as an MS pair.  I also had a cloudlifter in line on the ribbon for impedance matching and signal output purposes.  I pretty much don't run that mic without it.

I also wanted to test this rig out against a known quantity, so I put up the workhorse Audio Technica 4050s in an MS pattern right next to them.

The results were pretty interesting.

In many ways the results were as expected.

The 4050s were significantly brighter than the CM3/Ribbon combo, and tracked the transients more closely.  They also sounded cleaner and more clinical, which in some situations is a good thing.  With that said, they still had significant low end punch and didn't sound thin at all. 

The CM3/Ribbon combo was much darker, but the difference really was in how thick this combo made the low mids sound.  There was just tons of punch down there that was very satisfying.  This kind of rig takes EQ very well, but even when I experimented with adding some high end the predominate characteristic was that huge low mid presence.

The difference in the high end was most apparent when I opened the garage door and let the sounds of the birds and traffic from outside through.  The 4050s just opened up and revealed all of the damping that the doors were doing to the outside world.  The CM3/Ribbon combo kind of hung back and let the game come to them.

Given how these two signatures seemed to wrap around one another I figured I'd just add them together.  When overlaid against one another I got this huge thick sound that still had all of its detail and clarity.  Its a lot of mics to put up for one sound, but the end result sure seemed worth it.

Here's a spectrogram of the impacts, with the 20k line marked.

Feel free to download these sounds and use them in whatever context you see fit.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22

building a ribbon mic part 2: listening test

One of the best pieces of advice I got after building my ribbon mic was to test it through different preamps (thanks John Sanacore).

At my house I noticed some RF buzz, which is actually typical because my house is an RF nightmare.  I decided to ping the designer, Rick Wilkinson, and ask his advice.  Rick responded almost immediately with a comprehensive and detailed troubleshooting list that was incredibly helpful.  The problem ended up being a faulty cable, but I learned that the brass grille was part of the faraday cage from the exchange.

I took the mic to work the next day and ran it through the John Hardy M1, but wasn't very impressed with the sound.  It actually had sounded louder and clearer at the house through the RF buzz.  I then plugged into a sound devices pre similar to the one I used at home and was much happier with the output.  I also began looking into getting a cloudlifter to help with impedance loading and output gain from the mic.  My research was showing that ribbons in general tend to want pretty loud sources, but I have designs on using in more delicate situations and needed get it up to par there.

I emailed Rick again, and again he was again super responsive and detailed.  here's a quick excerpt of what he said to me regarding my experiences to this point:

High end response is determined by the input impedance of the preamp.
Generally, a higher input impedance delivers better high-end response in ribbon mics.  A REALLY high impedance preamp (10k ohms or higher) like the AEA TRP, or my DIY Preamp Kit made especially for my mics (available in another month or so) will really help the top end.  
"loading" is the term for the interaction between the output impedance of a microphone and the input impedance of the preamp.  The correct description of this interaction is something like: "The microphone has to work harder, if the input impedance of the preamp is lower."  This makes sense if the microphone is overly-simplified to a current source: It takes more current to drive a low-impedance load.

A simplified version of this is:

A lower input impedance requires the mic to work harder to deliver a signal. Thus, low-energy, high frequency soundwaves do not get transferred to a low impedance preamp as efficiently as to a high-impedance preamp.

You can see this interaction in my own design, by looking at the impedance curve on the specification PDF on my website.  As the measured frequency goes past 10kHz, the impedance soars - literally off the chart - lowering the effective output of the mic in those frequencies.
That's probably why an Austin Mic through your Hardy sounds like it does... I just looked at the specs, and their Jensen input transformer is 150 Ohms. The current flowing through the ribbon is trying to keep the foil inside the gap, not allowing it to move with low-energy, high-frequency soundwaves.
Supporting that theory, the Sound Devices input shows an input impedance of 2000 ohms - 13x higher than the Hardy.  Better high-end, right?

 And of course, he was correct.  The thing that the cloudlifter provided me was a good impedance load (3000 Ohms) in addition to the extra 20db of gain.  Here's a quickie listening test of the mic through the three different configurations.  All of this audio is 100% as recorded - no gain or eq adjustments of any kind. Note that the gain settings are described in the recordings, and in the first two examples its all the way open, and in the last clip its around 12 o'clock.

So, the impedance loading clearly makes a huge difference with regards to the tonality and the output level of the mic.  IMO it's not very usable straight into the John Hardy M1 unless you're talking about very loud and bright sources, but the sound devices pre and the cloudlifter/M1 combo make the mic much more versatile.

So, given an input chain that I liked (cloudlifter/John Hardy M1) I did a few more little tests with bright, transient things and the mic performed extremely well.

To my ears the mic is certainly mellower on the top end than my usual LDC, the Audio Technica 4050, and its certainly got its own personality.  It handles transients like a dynamic, which is to say that its a little jumpy on the loud stuff and it drops off on the low level stuff more quickly than a condenser.  To me that generally means that its not going to catch as much detail on a highly transient source, and will be happier with something relatively consistent.  It's also got low end for days.

With all of that said, that little strip of aluminum leaf I bought at hobby lobby, cut, corrugated and mounted into that chassis is clearly capable of capturing frequencies well above 20k, which is impressive.  I only ran the instrument tests at 44kHz, but check out how easily it handles all of the frequencies up to the top of that 22k spectrum.

This is the spectrogram of the instrument file linked above:

And here's the zoom in on my voice slate and the tambourine.

This mic is clearly capable of capturing ultrasonic frequencies.

I'll run another test soon where I use it as the S in an MS config on some thick metal movements and see how she does.

Sunday, April 15

building a ribbon mic: part 1 - construction

Way back in July 2011 recordinghacks.com did a $60k ribbon mic shootout, and I had the opportunity to listen to a wide variety of ribbons on different sources due to the hard work of those dedicated pros. 

Around the same time, I was making a big personal aesthetic shift away from bright and quiet mics and towards warmer mics with more character - especially for recording bright and transient sources.  I knew then that I had to have at least one ribbon in my collection.  The problem of course, is that ribbon mics are expensive and I only spend so much money on gear any given year.

The solution to my problem ended up being the DIY Austin ribbon mic.  I don't have a ton of DIY experience, but I can work a soldering iron competently, so I felt like I'd have a shot at building the mic successfully.  I googled around a bit and found a few people that had built the mic with relatively little experience. 

In the end, the audio samples and the $200 price tag had me sold, so I took the leap.

Initially I didn't know exactly how much pride of ownership I'd feel or deserve after assembling the mic.  I certainly wasn't the one who designed it or even who sourced the materials.  In my mind, I was just going to essentially step into the shoes of a mic plant assembly line worker, so how would I feel when the mic that I built with my hands was complete?

Within a short time of the online purchase I had full detailed instructions in my inbox and a link to a series of videos detailing the construction.  It was great to get this in my hands early, as I was able to review the videos and instructions a few times before the mic even arrived at my door. 

The instructions and videos are not high on production value, but they are entirely informative and thorough.  I never felt wanting for instructions or reasoning in assembling the mic.

Once I had cleared out my workspace I set about building the ribbon motor, which meant gluing the two powerful rare-earth magnets onto the brace with a plastic spacer holding them against the walls. Next was to glue the conductive sheet to the edges of the brace and solder the lead wires to it.

All of that was the easy part.

The trickiest part was cutting and mounting the ribbon.  The ribbon in these mics is made from aluminum leaf whose thickness is measured in millionths of an inch.  It is incredibly fragile, and the process requires cutting a 1/4" ribbon with an exacto knife and then corrugating it with a wooden dowel inside of a sheet of paper to make it springy.

I shot a little timelapse of my building the first part of the mic, but the camera ran out of space as I tried again and again to cut and mount a proper ribbon into the ribbon motor.

first part of assembly-austin ribbon mic from rene coronado on Vimeo.

The kit only comes with one sheet of aluminum leaf, and by the end of the evening (and the timelapse) I had ruined all of it.

Undeterred, I went to hobby lobby the next day and bought more.  I spend the next evening ruining even more, but with every attempt I got further and further into the process before making some fatal error.  At one point I had cut and corrugated 3 consecutive ribbons with my exacto knife in a row, and was only breaking them in the mounting process, so I knew I was getting close.

Finally somewhere in the middle of my third sheet of leaf I managed to get a proper cut, mount and tension and I was so excited I was texting pictures to the wifey. 

With the ribbon motor built, I soldered the screen together and assembled the rest of the mic.  A quick test through a sound devices mixpre confirmed that I had a working mic, and I went to bed exhausted and happy.

So what kind of pride of ownership did I have at the end of this?


Cutting and mounting that ribbon required a fair amount of skill, and that skill had to come through repetition.  It really took some stiking with it to make the thing work but knowing that I cut and mounted the ribbon that's translating the air movement into the sounds I'll record through it offers a very high sense of pride and ownership of the process.

With that said, Rick at Austin Microphones has put an incredibly high amount of research and development into this project, and I'm positive that even though I spent a few long evenings putting this mic together, Rick has invested far more hours than I have into the creation of this mic. 

In part 2 I've put up some listening tests through different preamps and with a cloudlifter in line.  The impedance of the preamp actually makes a huge difference on these mics, and I'll share some advice that Rick gave me in some subsequent correspondence regarding that and other things.

In the meantime, here's a much better timelapse of Rick building the mic to completion and testing it over a 2 hour period.


Wednesday, April 4

a short love letter to Mike Monteiro

My phone is constantly loaded up with podcasts done by people I enjoy listening to.  Many of them are audio related, some are not.  But some of them fall in between, and the Lets Make Mistakes podcast on the Mule Radio Syndicate is one of those. 

First a little background - LMM is hosted by Mike Monteiro and Katie Gillum of Mule Designs.  Mule Designs builds websites, but they podcast about design which is what interests me.

Mike is one of my favorite types of internet people.  He's intelligent, opinionated, a little eccentric and not entirely full of himself.  Matt Gemmell and John Gruber also tend to fall into that category.

With that said Mike is more on the eccentric opinionated side of that scale, which is why I love his stuff so much.  He also gives excellent advice to audio guys about the business and process of design just about every time he opens his mouth.  My first exposure to him was this video (which is NSFW if your job frowns upon frequent cursing)

so there's that.  The podcast actually doesn't have that much cursing and it rambles a bit more than a formal presentation like the video above would, but its very worth it nonetheless.

The episode that inspired this blog post was a recent one called "Another Stupid RFP process" There's just so much gold in there that it's difficult to do justice with a quick blurb, but I'll try:

An RFP is a Request For Proposal and is typical of agency workflow.  In it, multiple vendors will make a pitch to work on a specific job at the same time, and the committee needing the work done tends to decide who gets the job based on a number of metrics the derive from the pitches that are made.

It's also an awful awful process, and Mike and Katie just do a masterful job of taking down the entire RFP mentality.  In the audio world RFPs are common to music composition (even if they aren't labeled as such), and so many musicians make their livings writing and pitching music for free to committees on corporate boards.  Its also a dynamic that comes into play when pitching one's self as a sound designer for a project.

In the podcast, Mike illustrates that a good working relationship requires both give and take, not just give - and when you enter into a relationship where you'll be making emotional decisions you have to be able to figure out if you can work together. 

"it's more important to have people who can work together than it is to have like the smartest people possible" - Mike

"at my most pessimistic I think all of that stuff is an elaborate trap to make sure that nobody can be blamed if the project goes wrong" - Mike

"There's a huge difference to the relationship you end up having with a group of people, or even just the conversations you have when you're being called a 'vendor' and when you're being a design studio" - Katie

"There's something about the process that makes it seem more like picking a commodity than on creating a relationship" - Katie

"A 'vendor' is somebody who sells you things, and its the things that have the value.  A 'partner' is somebody who works with you, and its the working together that has the value" - Mike

"If you show up at an initial presentation with comps of what you're going to do for that company's site you are an idiot.  You are an idiot.  And you should be laughed at and you should be thrown out of the building and you should never get to call yourself a designer again, because what you're doing is making shit up out of your head and putting it in front of a client irresponsibly and passing that off as design work.   You have no idea what they're trying to solve, you have no idea what their internal mechanics are, you have no idea where they're trying to go in the next two, three years.  And yet somehow you've pulled a solution out of your ass.  And then you have the balls to take it into a presentation and present this as 'this is how we think, this is what we think you should do'" - Mike

"I think 'let me tell you how we approach design, ' and you can actually say 'let me tell you how we'd approach your problem'" - Katie

"This is a goddamn endemic with designers.  They are afraid to do the thing they know is right...I'll be sitting with a designer and going over some work and it looks dead.  It looks like they don't know what they're doing.  They're pushing their food around their plate. There's no joy in it, they're not trying things.  And at some point they'll say something to the tune of 'well if I were doing this my way...' and I'll just say nothing and let that silence hang like a Mike Daisey apology interview, and eventually they'll realize what they just said, and they'll get back to work." - Mike
"It's a really sad form of self-censorship, and it kills designers because they do crap work, and its also incredibly unfair to people who hired you to do this work because they hired you to do the best work that you possibly can, and instead you think they could think of." - Mike

anyway, I could transcribe the whole episode or you could just take my advice and listen to the podcast.  Also, don't follow @Mike_FTW on twitter, its a little too erratic.


Thursday, March 29

contact mics and guy wires

Everyone knows that Ben Burtt made the blaster sounds in Star Wars by striking guy wires and recording them with contact mics.

Countless others have done this as well, but I needed to test out some new gear so I figured I'd give it a go.

Gear included my recently acquired Jez Riley French contact mics and my new Sound Devices mixpre that I bought to use as a front end for my PCM D50.

The entire signal path was:  doublesided carpet tape --> JRF contact mics --> Hosa MIT-129 impedance transformer --> mixpre mic ins --> mix pre tape out --> PCM D50 line in.  These recordings are 100% unedited (including gain changes - this is the level I cut them at)

re: contact mics, Tim Prebble has an excellent post outlining the entire process, but the long and the short of my setup was that the impedance transformers were absolutely required to get all of that low end out of my rig.  This is because contact mics are high-z sources and the mixpre is a low-z preamp.  In the past I've also had good luck running straight into an H4 with other contact mics, but I suspect that's because the H4 takes hi-z inputs by design.  With that said, I've never quite recorded low end like this with contact mics to date, so I was very happy with the result.

Also, I laughed a little when I saw that the BBC went into an anechoic chamber and recorded a few very tiny insects using these exact contact mics and preamps.  It's quite the testament to what they're capable of to hear them seamlessly running from centipede feet to the huge guy wire hits I got.

Here's that BBC vid (check out the contact mics visually at 2:00 and then the recording at 3:40):

Now onto my vids. First up are the guy wires.  The single most interesting thing that I discovered was that I could resonate one wire by striking the other, probably through some connection that they were making underground.  You'll see in the vid that they're not buried right next to each other though, so it's possible that the contact mics are actually just picking up sympathetic vibrations.  It's all very cool though, and there is TONS of low end, so crank up the speakers.

Again, this audio is 100% unaltered - not even gain changes.

Next up is the metal fence that was nearby.  I did some similar stuff where I was striking the surrounding objects and getting indirect vibrations, which was pretty cool.  The distortion sound in one of the channels isn't clipping, its the effect of the sticky tape losing its grip.

And for fun, here's a 96k downloadable soundcloud vers of the guy wires.  Enjoy!