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

Hyperhopper

Posted: June 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design

Sunshine on his shoulder makes him jumpy...

No sound designer can resist sound-making objects, so I did some recent damage at ThinkGeek for some small, inexpensive musical items…but then I noticed the robots.

Sadly,  buying a spendy mechanical robot arm just to record servo sounds seemed like a horrible investment. I learned this lesson last year. ;-)

However, I did get a tiny solar-powered grasshopper kit. An offset actuator in its abdomen makes the whole thing vibrate on tiny wire legs when it’s solar-cell carapace is hit with sunlight or a strong halogen source.

Of course, that would sound tiny and delicate. Which is OK. But how to make that sound bigger? Well, you put it on something that will resonate: Something with air around it that will conduct vibrations easily. (I’ve had loud, racous luck with this before.)

Being a hot, sunny Sunday, I chose the top of my closed Weber grill. I tested the sound with contact mics, but the steel was too thick. Truly, and unusually, where my ears were – close to the top of the grill – was where the best sound was. I switched to a hypercardioid mic in a windscreen, and captured today’s sound.

To accentuate the lovely low-mid resonant tones, I applied a huge -24dB cut at 5.5kHz , where the metallic feet where vibrating against the grill (I still wanted a tiny hint of chatter  in there), tand a +9dB boost at 180Hz. Could make for a nice layer with some other design elements.


[Sennheiser MKH 50 into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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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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Roomba in da Kitchen, What I’m-a Gonna Do

Posted: September 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design
The humble Roomba: Only a mistake could make it sound cool.

The humble Roomba: Only a mistake could make it sound cool.

We own two Roombas. When they’re not battling to the death like robotic Mexican cocks, they clean our floors.

I recorded one and, well, it wasn’t that interesting. A bit whiny. Not at all what one would expect from a 21st century robot: A lot of wide-spectrum noise without a lot of character.

But then I taped a contact microphone on the top of the Roomba…taped rather poorly, in fact. I followed it around all hunched over with a too-short cable, causing the contact mic to occasionally lift up from the Roomba’s chassis. (I could have turned it off to rig it properly, but y’know. Guy thing.) This sloppiness caused a pretty weird warbling as the flat piezo element wobbled around and slightly lifted off the robot’s chassis as it changed directions and the cable to the recorder alternated between taut and slack.

It sounded weird enough to post here, completely unedited other than trimming and normalizing, in all it’s lazy-man’s happy-accident glory.

Warbly Roomba by noisejockey
[Piezo contact microphone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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