A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, sound effects, and music.

Robot’s First Steps

Posted: November 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, sound design
I'm now the proud owner of an NJ-1 Heavy Lifting and Utility Unit!

I'm now the proud owner of an NJ-1 Heavy Lifting Utility Unit!

I’m very excited to share a new audio recording: The first steps of my new NJ-1 Heavy Lifting Utility Unit (HLUU). The HLUU is a do-everything kind of robot, and I’m hoping to use it for landscaping and home improvement projects. It was a big purchase in a pretty down economy, but my significant other and I think it’s a solid long-term investment.

I was so excited that I had to grab my field recorder and document its first steps. The manual says to let it charge overnight and then calibrate its voice command recognition system, but I just couldn’t wait to just let ‘er rip. Unfortunately, that meant that it only took a few steps before losing power and automatically shutting down, so that’s why this clip is so short.

This puts my Roomba to shame. Check out the recording below and say hello to HLUU!

WalkingRobot 001 by noisejockey
[Røde NT4 stereo microphone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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Doom Vibrations

Posted: November 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, sound design
That tiny little hand massager created holy aural hell inside that metal shed.

That tiny little hand massager created holy aural hell inside that metal shed.

How could I possibly have guessed that a cute little  hand massager from the impulse-buy bin of our local office supply store would sound like a tool of pure, unmitigated doom?

There’s a motor inside, of course, and its four round, glowing “legs” are for distributing vibrational goodness. Its animal-like appearance made me put it on the floor for my cat’s amusement…and when I turned it on, the entire floor of my dining room groaned. The vibrations went into the long floor planks and just sounded lucious. What else could I put this on for even cooler sounds?

Glowy vibrational awesomeness

Glowy vibrational awesomeness

I quickly was testing this little bugger out on all sorts of things, and then I put it on the roof of our all-metal outdoor tool shed. It sounded like space/time itself was coming apart, or like a 60′ metal automaton was coming to life after hundreds of years of dormancy…the possible uses were many. I used my modded Oktava MK-012 with its omnidirectional capsule – a first for me, in fact – and stuck the mic into the center of the shed on a boom pole, where I assumed most of the sound waves were meeting. My steel wheelbarrow was whining, every surface was vibrating…it was intense.

The unholy racket you’re about to hear is about three layers of this sound, from different takes, one of which is pitch shifted down just over half an octave as a slight thickener. The lowest bass rumbles, however, are from the raw recording.

Who says subtlety and dynamics are always good things? ;-) Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

MassiveVibration by noisejockey
[OktavaMod MK-012 microphone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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Street Sweeper: Attack of the Drones

Posted: November 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: field recording
Street sweeper on South Van Ness, San Francisco.

Street sweeper on South Van Ness, San Francisco.

Why do I like the sound of street sweeping trucks? I see them every morning in San Francisco’s Mission District; I’m a morning person, so I wind up parking for work right as they come through the neighborhood.

I think it’s their distinctive, constant drones that I like. That whine so full of midrange tones that it drowns out the actual engine until it’s right next to you. Drones pronounce the doppler effect when they pass, as well. But hey, I just like drones. I use a white noise machine to sleep to, and heck, the Drone Zone is my favorite internet radio station!

I recorded this one while having a coffee at a sidewalk café. A short loop of it could be used for industrial ambience, or properly filtered (and dopplered further) it could be a neat spaceship pass-by. (Sidebar: While I largely dislike the new Star Wars prequel trilogy as a set of films, the sound design is still up to Ben Burtt’s awesome standards, and the spaceship pass-by’s are pretty distinctive.) Drone on, man.

Streetsweeper by noisejockey
[Zoom H2 recorder]

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Bird Ambience, Point Lobos State Park

Posted: November 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording
Birds can be so demanding...and chatty!

Birds can be so demanding...and chatty!

While tiny, Point Lobos State Reserve in of California’s Big Sur region packs a wallop. Big surf, sea lion colonies, petrified dunes, amazing rocks, and a dense forest with many birds. There’s a loop trail that is full of rocky, coastal, dramatic goodness, but there are also little-used paths that cut right across the park. They’re not long and have a utilitarian feel, but one August I was there alone and happened upon a pocket of songbird insanity.

I wasn’t equipped for, or anticipating, an audio recording event, but one must always be prepared! I stood recording for about five minutes and was surrounded by what I think were juncos, sparrows, and warblers (although I’m not a birder, so I could be mistaken – identifications in the comments are encouraged!). I was surrounded by surf but the forest and hills kept the background roaring to a minimum. But the main reason for the clean recording was the volume – the birds stayed in their trees, ignored me, and were just singing their hearts out.

A pretty magical moment, captured as best as I could on the gear I had (some bandpass filtering was used to clean up the recording a bit). Enjoy.

PointLobosBirds.mp3 by noisejockey
[Zoom H2 recorder]

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