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

Review: NextoDI NVS1501 Backup Device

Posted: December 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, gear

The Nexto DI NVS1501 is a burly, professional, and pricey way to back up flash media in the field without a host computer.

[Editorial note: This is an expression of my opinions about this piece of equipment. It was purchased and not provided by the manufacturer. I have no relationship with any company listed below.]

There aren’t many options available for in-the-field, no-computer backups for those of us recording to flash media, like Compact Flash cards, Memory Sticks, and SDHC cards. The most readily-available solutions are usually oriented towards photographers, focusing more on being digital photo albums than professional devices that makes our data more secure, and sometimes only accept JPGs, not arbitrary file types (like, oh, say, .wav files). Some devices, like the Sound Devices 700 series field recorders, will let you write to two pieces of media at once, but what about trips so long that you might need to reclaim CF card space? Or the other devices that we bring with us, like cameras, which can’t do that? Or the majority of trips that I take where carrying a laptop is more hassle or risk than it’s worth?

Enter Nexto DI, a little-known Korean manufacturer of field backup devices oriented towards filmmakers and cinematography digital imaging (DI) technicians. I decided to try the Nexto DI NVS1501 in its 500GB size as a field backup device for four specific pieces of media-capture gear, which could all be in my kit on some trips: the Sound Devices 702 field recorder, the Sony PCM-D50 handheld field recorder, the Canon 7D DSLR, and the GoPro HD Hero 2 POV camera.

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Abandoned Mine Shaft

Posted: May 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, sound design

Eton Mine, Lucky Boy Trail, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA.

[One in a series of posts from my spring 2011 trip to the southern California desert.]

Joshua Tree National Park is beautiful, but much of its history (prior to being designated a National Park) has scarred and pockmarked its landscape. In the Gold Rush, the Joshua Tree hinterlands held some of the most productive mines in California until well into the 1900′s. These mines were big, sprawling, and deep. To my knowledge, no Balrogs were released as a result. But that would explain a lot about Golden State politics.

We hiked on some lesser-traveled trails and found an acre of land with no fewer than five vertical holes in the ground: Mine shafts. They were all wired off and had metal grates over them. One in particular, the Eton Mine on the Lucky Boy trail, had warning signs on the wire fence surrounding it.

It was quite windy that day, and I just knew I had to get the creaking, squeaking sounds of this battered sign on the rusty wire. It took me a surprisingly long time to figure out how to protect my handheld recorder from the wind, but ultimately I decided to use my body as a shield and then stick it under my microfleece hoody. (I had the OEM fuzzy windscreen on it, which is one of the most useless strips of fabric I’ve ever seen, er, heard.) I just hoped that my body protected it from the 25+ mph wind gusts and that the fabric wouldn’t dampen the high frequencies too badly…and because of the sound, I had high-frequency content to burn.

With some judicious noise reduction in post – subtle, as always, gives the best result – it didn’t come out too shabby, considering the horrible recording conditions and super-no-budget wind blocking techniques!


[Sony PCM-D50 recorder, capsules at 120°]

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Wheezing Water Pump

Posted: May 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, sound design

"Ol' Wheezy" the Water Spigot, as we called him, at our campground in the desert.

[One in a series of posts from my spring 2011 trip to the southern California desert.]

Joshua Tree National Park is in the Mojave Desert. It’s dry. Only two campgrounds in the entire park have running water of any kind. Bad weather on the coast of California caused us to decide to stay in the desert at the tail end of a week’s vacation, so we were lucky to just show up at Joshua Tree and grab a spot at one of these prime campgrounds.

I camp a lot, all over the place, but I had never seen a water spigot quite like the one near our site. It was like the wet dream of a post-apocalytpic film production designer: Big, industrial, heavy, and red. If a common water pump could be bad ass, this one could.

Anyway, the draw-up of water sounded really neat, so I whipped out the ol’ handheld recorder and took some samples on our last morning there. It reminded me a bit of the sound of EVE coming out of her landing ship’s tube from the film WALL•E.

In developed campgrounds, you need to be up really early to avoid noise from fellow campers. No wonder I like backpacking so much…


[Sony PCM-D50 recorder, capsules at 120°]

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Desert Frogsong

Posted: April 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording

[One in a series of posts from my spring 2011 trip to the southern California desert.]

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the second largest state park in the lower 48 United States. It’s dry, as its name implies, but it’s very seismically active and has many natural hot springs and oases scattered throughout the park, so water is less scarce than you’d think.

Even so, it shocked me almost beyond belief how filled some of these hot seeps were with frogs, and how loud they got at night. Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of these tiny thumb-sized frogs, puffing out their chins to impress their ladyfriends, but I watched them for an hour with my headlamp while I recorded them from several perspectives. (Tip: Get a headlamp with a red LED or filter. This goes a long way in preserving your night vision while still illuminating nearby things like field recorder controls, and tends to spook animals less.)

Here is one long take from this session. It starts with distant frogs, one slow croaker nearby, and then gets really hopping (ugh, sorry, I had to do it) around 1 minute in. Then, after two and a half minutes, it dies down as quickly as it started.


[Sony PCM-D50 recorder, capsules at 120°]

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Mexican Ceiling Fan

Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects

Home of the ceiling fan in question, and the weirdness that followed.

When in Mexico two years ago, the villa in which I stayed had a ceiling fan with very different voices when set to low and high. I’ve included a short sample of this fan at low, sounding like a grinding motor, and high, when the motor when silent but the blades sounded like a small helicopter.

Weirder than this sound was the villa, which was huge and beautiful, and overlooked the beach and the Pacific Ocean. It was surrounded by a river choked with human filth. Then the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders showed up. Then I thought I would die from food poisoning. All in one day.

True story. Tell you more over a beer sometime. Sorry, no cheerleader sounds were recorded.


[Zoom H2 recorder]

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Field Workshop Notes, Part 1: Video Diary

Posted: July 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording, news, video/motion

I’m just back from the 26th Annual Nature Sounds Society Field Workshop. I thought that I’d share some video diary entries that I shot with my new iPhone 4. As far as I know, this is the first time that video of this workshop has ever been seen online.

I’ll be sharing more of the learnings, experiences, and recordings in the coming weeks. For now, I hope you enjoy this set of dispatches from the field.

[You can read about the gear I took with me in a previous post.]

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The Many Voices of Water

Posted: March 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording
Blackstone Canyon, my local refuge from Bad Things.

Blackstone Canyon, my local refuge from Bad Things.

I live at the foot of a number of hills that converge into a canyon not five minutes from my house. We have a very Mediterranean climate, so this canyon is dry in the summer. In the winter, the canyon is alive with creeks, streams, and small waterfalls. These winding watercourses have quite varied voices, from deeply resonant hydraulics to burbling, rock-strewn runs. Its sound never ceases to calm me.

This short piece is an aural tour of my local watershed. It crossfades from one water “tone” to another, from the rivulets at the end of the canyon to some of the waterfalls at its head. Of course, the limitations of MP3 encoding sadly adds some warbling and artifacting to the higher frequencies.

When doing this kind of recording, a medium to long boom pole is essential to get nice up-close perspectives without going into the drink yourself.


[Røde NT4 stereo mic into a Sound Devices 702 field recorder]

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New Zealand: Meet Mr. Mutters, the Wacky Weka

Posted: February 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording
weka

Meet Mr. Mutters.

[This is the last in my series of recordings from New Zealand, recorded December 2009 – January 2010. Thanks to every wonderful soul I met along the way, and for readers who have helped with identifying certain sounds.]

While on the Queen Charlotte Track, two DOC rangers were sitting under a tree and said that this weka – an endemic, flightless bird somewhat similar to a peahen – was acting super weird, talking to himself non-stop for no reason. I proved that the best way to silence a vocalizing creature was to point a mic at it…they had a good laugh when that actually did happen. Never fails. *Sigh*…

Eventually, though, the weka I dubbed Mr. Mutters started up again, and I got a stream of avian obscenities from him. He was tasting a canvas camping chair at the time. Brainpower not keeping up with curiosity.

But check out the really strange, squeaky chatter this guy was making. Pitch it down a few octaves and it sounds like some of the other talking-to-themselves dudes who hang around my office.

The Wacky Weka by noisejockey
[Zoom H2 recorder]

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New Zealand: Bird As Flute

Posted: February 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording
This recording might not be of the bellbird, but what the heck. They produce the most amazing birdsong, so he deserves this photo just 'cause!

This recording might not be of the bellbird, but what the heck. They produce the most amazing birdsong, so this little green dude deserves this prominent photo position just 'cause!

I recorded some pleasant-enough South Island birdsong one day along the Queen Charlotte Track, and found that there was this amazing, flutelike call deep in the background that went off every 10-20 seconds. It’s pretty far in the distance, but you can still make it out. I’d love to hear any identifications if a reader might recognize this.  [UPDATE: Reader Barney from Nevada City, California correctly identified this as the call of the Australian Magpie. Thanks, Barney!]

(Listening directly on SoundCloud will show my comments where these specific calls are happening, if you don’t see them below.)

NZFlutelikeBirdsong by noisejockey
[Zoom H2 recorder]

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New Zealand: Engines of the M.V. Tutoko

Posted: February 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, sound design
The smokestacks of the M.V. Tutoko, motoring towards the sea on Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand.

The smokestacks of the M.V. Tutoko, motoring towards the sea on Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand.

I went on an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound on the M. V. Tutoko. Her diesel engines made a throbbing hum that I found enveloping, comforting, and even calming. I headed to the upper deck and recorded her at the exhaust stacks. It took a little EQ to get rid of the splashing water alongside, but this recording should give you a nice sense of the unique timbre and rhythm. Easily looped, this could absolutely make a cool vehicle sound (with granulation and dopplering), or a unique interior thrumming for a vehicle or mechanical interior.

MvTutoko by noisejockey
[Zoom H2 recorder]

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