One thing which it is quit


One thing which it is quite easy to do, and which I would recommend, is setting up a sound effects archive. Actually I don’t regard these as ‘effects’ in my case, as they are more in the nature of essentials. Some time ago, I invested in a’Micro-TrackII’ audio recorder and I have put it onto a special pistol-grip, along with a sturdy mini-tripod, for use. It is coupled to a ‘Sennheiser’ microphone which has a particularly broad frequency-response, giving the entire unit a fairly high-performance. Where most of my filming/video is done, there is almost no such thing as a calm day; if there is such a thing, it is usually during winter, when I do a lot of my shooting, to dodge the very harsh lighting characteristic of New Zealand’s clear atmosphere, said to be the harshest lighting, contrast, etc, on the planet. Every time I go out, I now take my sound unit with me. In fact, sometimes I go specifically to record sounds, the calls of various native birds, and so-on.

However, if you have particularly good audio recorded by your camcorder, it may be able to furnish good ‘archive’ sound as well if recorded in a calm atmosphere.

If all else fails, you ‘cheat’. Bear in mind that on some days of shooting, I return home with not one scrap of audio I am able to use. If the missing sounds are those of the sea, (it’s always in the background somewhere), I fall back on ‘Plan-B’, which is to synthesize the sounds of surf, open sea, etc, from ‘white noise’ in one of its many forms, which includes ‘pink-noise’ and, my favourite ‘Brown noise’. You listen carefully to the faulty wind-blast affected sound to hear if you are able to isolate which, of many ‘sea-sounds’ it is, then by using one or more samples of ‘white’ to ‘brown’ noise, you may synthesise the exact sea-sound you need. I usually employ about 50pc ‘white-noise’ derived sound, and intermix that with actual samples, where splashes around rocks and other specific sounds are needed. Although, white/pink/brown noise are not frequency-specific, but a mix of all frequencies, they nevertheless respond to being run at speeds different from the originals in a DAW such as ‘Reaper’. A few months ago, I found I didn’t have the sound of thunderto go with a particularly excellent series of shots taken of a menacing sky building up into a thunder storm. What I used, finally, was a deepish ocean roar, slowed down as far as ‘Reaper’ would permit, something like 1/20th of the normal speed, or less. What resulted, was highly convincing ‘thunder’. Frequently the audio from a particularly well-recorded video-clip may be ‘split’ from the parent footage, and the audio cleaned-up to give a better signal-to-noise ratio and added to the archive, as well. I frequently have the need for large flocks of black-backed gulls wheeling overhead. Without the accompanying video,such samples are not location-specific and so, they may ‘taken’ anywhere, (although I draw the line at going to the local garbage-tip to obtain them, all the same). A mere handful of gulls may be built up into a vast flock, simply by adding the same, or similar tracks and mixing together. Needless to say, these need to be staggered a bit in the mixing process, to avoid that ‘squeaking bicycle-wheel’ effect.

A bit off-topic, and not specifically about composition and music, but brought to mind, by the need for me to obtain the sounds of boots, walking along a gravel road. Harking back to Compulsory Military Training for eighteen-year-olds in the 1950’s, (I was in the Royal NZ Airforce), I characteristically pace at about 120 beats-per-minute. If my music is ‘performed’ at the same rhythm, I can go for quite long periods where the footsteps match the beat of the music. Believe me, nothing sounds worse, however, when the paces drift out of time with the music. Like most things ‘music’, that might seem like something of ablack-art, but in such situations as those I have described, ingenuity generally comes through and ‘delivers’ in-the-end.

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