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


Posted: April 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: gear, theory

Use gear made by those who make gear they themselves use, and make gear for other users. That's prosumerism.

[Gigantic über-thanks to Tim Prebble and Richard Devine for their contributions to this article.]

The title of this article isn’t what you think it is.

You can’t shop for electronics or technology without hearing “prosumer.” People assume this portmanteau is a contraction of “professional-consumer.” Only marketing wonks have made it so.

That is neither its original meaning, nor the topic of this post.

The term was coined in Alvin Toffler’s seminal book Future Shock as a contraction of “producer” and “consumer,” predicting the merging of the roles of consumption and production into the life of one individual, primarily due to customization of mass-produced objects and the creation of highly specialized products. That is, person A makes widget X, who sells X to person B who makes widget Y, which person A, in turn, buys…it’s a massively networked set of cottage industries. This trend has exploded in the last decade. When Wired writes about micro-manufacturing and “no more factories,” we’ve probably arrived at a prosumer tipping point.

That, dear friends, is what this post is about. And yes, this is audio-related. Chances are, this article is probably about you, too.

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Hard Drive Guts

Posted: April 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design
Hard Drive Guts

I'm killing this platter slowly with a screwdriver, and it never sounded so good.

Nothing puts Moore’s Law in perspective like ripping an 80 gigabyte hard drive out of an enclosure and swapping with a 2 terabyte drive. 80GB isn’t even big enough to act as a Photoshop scratch disk in 2010.

It’s not new ground by any means, but I did get some pretty interesting results, ranging from IDM-like chirps and squeaks to all sorts of weird drive vocalizations when I slowed the platter down with a screwdriver – much to my surprise, the damn thing came to a stop, jittered around, and then spun right back up again. Most of the sounds were pretty subtle (perfect for the MKH 50), surprisingly, but with lots of surprises. [I shot video of the whole thing, a still of which can be seen above, but really, a hard drive spinning is not that interesting. Trust me on this one.]

I had a great time until Chuck Russom suggested on Twitter what might happen if the 7200rpm drive would have come loose…

These sounds have only been normalized and no sound processing has been applied.

[Sennheiser MKH 50 microphone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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Ambiences with Boundary Mics

Posted: April 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, gear, theory
Boundary Layer Mount

UFO or listening device?

I learned a long time ago to share my mistakes with others. It keeps me humble, and reaches two groups of people: Those more experienced than me who can help correct my errors, and those who might not have tread these waters before and who can learn from my experiences.

Which brings us to today’s post: recording ambiences using a pair of miniature omnidirectional microphones in boundary layer mounts. I learned a ton doing this, but the end results weren’t great. Today we’ll talk about what I accomplished and why it might not have worked out as well as I had hoped.

After my recent post on urban ambiences, I decided to record some fresh ambiences using a pair of DPA 4060 microphones using two techniques I hadn’t tried before: spaced-pair stereo and boundary-layer microphones.

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Sump Pump

Posted: April 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, sound design
Sump Pump

"Sump pump." I mean, ewww. What is "sump," anyway? Sure sounds like it's something in need of pumping!

Our house is very poorly placed on its lot. Since our place is downslope from the street, water runs down the driveway towards the house.  Thankfully, someone long ago put a pretty good drainage system with an electric pump that pumps the water back to the curb, where it can run to a drainage grate in the street.

In the midst of a week of spring rain, I decided to toss the ol’ hydrophone into the drain box and record the pump, which is activated when a bobber reaches a certain height. The drain box is poured concrete, so it’s acoustically reflective. The pump kicking in is my favorite part, sure to be used for something later on. The big dropoff in volume is where the hydrophone was left high and dry when the water level dropped. Notice how the sound of air bubbles become more pronounced as the water level meets the capsule, and then passes by it. Water turbulence right on the capsule tends to be very loud, as it imparts direct mechanical vibrations to the mic element itself.

[Aquarian Audio H2a-XLR hydrophone into Sound Devices 702 field recorder]

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A Quick Thank You

Posted: April 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: news

Just wanted to thank everyone for the amazing response to yesterday’s video. A hearty welcome to all new visitors, and much respect to my longtime readers! More posts and videos are coming in the future.

Speaking of longtime readers, many of them are linked in the Aural Linkage sidebar of this page, and you should visit their sites for Serious Sound Wisdom™. If you haven’t done so, also read Designing Sound’s recent post on the growing online sound design and field recording community. All these links belong to people who are way smarter than I am, and their insights and techniques are legendary. Check ‘em out.

It’s also worth noting that a couple of the sound design elements of yesterday’s clip has been previewed before in previous posts on this site…

Some of the other elements include public-domain soundtracks from 1950′s films, the sound of a struck mezzaluna, and even a DAT tape read error.

Thanks again, all,  stay tuned for more sonic mayhem.

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Fun with Bikes

Posted: April 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design, video/motion

I’m pleased to offer the first video content on Noise Jockey, and outgrowth of an earlier post on recording bicycles. More to come.

Audio nerd bonus quiz: This was recorded double system with two microphones. The visible one was for the sound effect itself, aimed at the bike wheel. Where’s the other mic?

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