Tips & Tricks January 2008
Even with high-rejection shotgun microphones, blimps, softies, and windscreens, wind din is the bane of location recording. An entire industry caters to addressing the problem. Yet, we still regularly encounter wind-related noise when we set up outdoors and slip on our headphones. Here’s some practical advice gleaned from customers in the field who know how to whip wind into submission.
Wind Noise and Shotguns
Here's a tip passed on from a client of our own Bill Dexter, ENG recording guru-at-large, that should save you time, money, and a good deal of stress, while on location. Most softies are designed to cover the entire shotgun capsule, and they do a good job. But further down the mic, below the capsule, is the typical location for a High-pass filter, which provides a convenient, uncovered aperture for wind to sneak into, particularly if the mic is positioned in the wind's direction. The solution? A piece of scotch tape. No joke. Cover the filter with the tape, and the wind noise will disappear instantly, allowing for a consistent sound the length of the entire bore.
Empower yourself with battery power
As you work in audio you will find that there are certain tools that you don't need to use everyday, but having them at your disposal when the need arises is critically important. A relatively inexpensive adapter or gadget can rescue an extremely expensive recording session or field job. One piece of equipment that fits into this category that you may not have thought of is a battery powered mixer. With a battery powered mixer in your arsenal you will be prepared if you get asked to mix some sources at an outdoor location. You never know, there may be a situation where you run out of power outlets but still have a microphone or two that need preamps. Ideally it would be nice to have a high quality field mixer to do the job, but here are a few affordable options that will do the trick:
Stabilize your Studio Monitor Stands
How you position the monitors in your studio is critical for effective mixing. Studio monitor stands help to position your speakers at the correct height and distant from your mixing position. If you have recently purchased a set of these stands for your studio, there is a finishing touch you can do to give them maximum stability. Most monitor stands designed for use in a studio are hollow with removable end-caps. This hollow space can be filled with sand or lead shot to give the stand added mass. This additional mass couples the stand/speaker to the floor, resulting in more precise bass response. Using Lead shot is the more expensive option, so some studio owners use a combination of shot and sand to cut down on the cost. The most economical solution is just using regular washed, dried white sand from a building supply or hardware store.
Don't Forget to Record Ambient Sound
If you are working as the sound man on film or video shoots, try to get into the habit of recording 30-60 seconds of ambient sound or "Room Tone" for every location you are shooting at. This will come in handy when you are editing and mixing in post production. When recording the ambient sound, make sure that your talent and crew remain completely silent. This "silent" recording is not really silence; it's the subtle, low-volume sounds present in the room or environment you shoot in. When you add new sounds or re-recorded dialog in post production, the Room tone is used as a sound bed to help match these new elements with the existing audio tracks.
Add Delay for a Little Spice
A great way to add a little fullness or double a prerecorded vocal or instrument take is to make use of the delay effect built into your software, or with a hardware effects processor that you may already own. Start by panning your selected track to one side and pan the delay's output by a similar amount to the opposite side on another track. Make sure your delay's output is set so that it is outputting only the delayed signal (100% "wet") with no regeneration, and slowly begin to increase the delay time up from 0 milliseconds. You will notice at very low settings that the source will seem to be smeared or spread across the sound field, while at higher settings you will start to hear a definite repeat. By varying the pan width for both tracks as well as the delay time, you can achieve loads of useful results.
People will spend lots of time and money in the recording studio in search of exotic and compelling sounds for both instruments and vocals, hopefully intensifying the atmosphere and emotional content of a recording. Distortion and extreme EQ settings, particularly on the human voice, often help to create memorable musical textures and sonic images. The mighty, much-neglected megaphone can be a cheap, plentiful source of instant recording gratification, delivering healthy amounts of both distortion and telephone-like EQ in a single serving.
Here's the recipe: Take a megaphone and drain the battery to within 1.5 - 2 hrs. of the battery life claimed by the manufacturer. Use a small-diaphragm, dynamic instrument or ENG microphone and adjust placement to the presence desired. Have the vocalist speak or sing the appropriate lines or verses as loud as possible, get a level, and press record. The result should sound pretty bizarre, yet more organic and natural, than the typical stomp-box and EQ chain. For more flavor and murkiness, tape a cardboard paper towel roll, thinly perforated, to either the microphone (covering it), or the mouthpiece of the megaphone. Have fun!
If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact us on the phone, online, or in person at our SuperStore in New York City. 1-800-947-9923