November Images 2015
Recent Images out and about in North Yorkshire. All taken with an iphone 6. I used this tiled mosaic template that WordPress suggested (for a change)
Field Recordings (a return to)
(Please note, the non-technically minded followers of this blog, may find this post to be a tad dull…)
I was once a keen field recorder, my trusty Sony MZ-R35 mini-disc recorder (in a very fetching blue)
and a pair of home-made binaural mics made from a pair of Panasonic WM-61 capsules was considered to be a half decent set-up many moons ago. I used this combination to make a lot of recordings and have used them throughout the years, incorporating some of them on my albums (‘Orcus’ in particular) and for creating sound art installation soundtracks. For me, binaural recordings capture a spatial ‘realism’ (unsurpassed with other recording techniques).
I’ve now returned to making recordings, since my canine companion Maxa is sadly with us no more, I haven’t had the motivation to return to my music projects. I still feel the need to do something, so I decided this was better than (creating) nothing.
Doing some research, I found that there was an omni-directional microphone capsule with very good low noise specifications now available and it has been used pretty extensively by nature record-ists and the like. It’s called the Primo EM172 (I ordered some in UK from FEL Communication, who are very good – http://micbooster.com/). I bought a couple of matched capsules and made a binaural set-up from them. This works very well – much better than my old ones, much quieter and better low frequency extension. They are a tad ‘heath Robinson’ in their construction, but they work fine. The set-up I made allows the capsules to sit in the ear canal (just resting, not full insertion), I think this helps with the spatial effect, as it is closer to how the ‘inner ear’ picks up sound as modified by the pinnae (the outer ear). I used some flexible but decent quality cable from an old pair of Sennheiser HD580s and some silicone / heat shrink tubing to secure the cabling to the capsules. One of the advantages of binaural recording, is that it’s discreet – people just presume that you’re listening to music, so you don’t get the attention that you might do with lots of prominent gear. This ‘stealth mode’ yields interesting results when moving around whilst recording.
The cost of this set was £30 (approx), which is pretty darn good, considering the results.
I also bought a Zoom H2.n recorder to replace the ancient Sony Mini-disc recorder.
The MZ-R35 still works, but transferring the recordings to the computer via it’s line-out jack and the whirring noises it made in operation convinced me to ‘archive it’. The Zoom isn’t exactly a ‘pro-audio’ device, it’s internal mics are fairly noisy, with not a great lower frequency response, but it works very well with the high sensitivity Primo mics. It actually does some nifty surround type recording itself a combination of Middle and Side and X/Y pattern mic configurations and it can record these simultaneously as two stereo files. I’ve found processing these files independently to be interesting.The Zoom is small, light and it stands upright. It has pretty bad handling noise, but if stood up / tripod mounted thats not a problem and with external mics its not an issue either, as it’s the plastic body that picks up the noises.
As well as the binaural set I’ve made, I’ve also made the following (also with the Primo capsules):
A pair of Stereo mics – to experiment with different mic configurations – spaced pair etc. (components bought from FEL, assembled by myself)
A Mono mic – for intended use in combination with the Middle and Side mics on the Zoom, I’ve found some interesting spatial ‘position-ings’, particularly with music. (bought pre-assembled from FEL)
Windshields for these types of mics are generally made from a faux fur type of material and are pretty expensive for what they are. Necessity being the mother of invention and all that, I decided to make my own. I found the very thing – a rug made from long haired fake fur for £10, which I bought locally. I cut this up and made a windshield for the Zoom’s internal mics and a rather cunning re-use of some ‘Earbags‘ I bought last winter (for keeping ears warm, away from cold wind), I was able to make some windshields for the binaural mics. These are very difficult to come across, so making them myself was my only option. Contradicting my earlier point on discretion, I would look a ‘proper charlie’ with these things on, so perhaps not for public recordings (this may be less of a fashion crime in winter, though).
The material isn’t ideal – it has some high frequency attenuation, but it’s not that significant and some gentle Eq boosts can compensate for this at the editing stage of things. This is certainly preferable to the completely ruined recordings that anything more than gentle wind blowing (or movement) will create (particularly with binaural recording).
I’ve made a number of windshields for the Zoom and the external mics too (and a larger one), sewing and copydex galore ! I should say that the juries out on these at the moment though, as the Zoom foam windshields that came with my IQ7 mics seem to work as well – if not better.
So, I’m now making better recordings (technically) that i ever did with this new set-up and I plan to make many more. I’ve put some recordings which I probably won’t use in my music, up on my Freesound page: http://www.freesound.org/people/Iggyf/
I’ve used other people’s recordings myself from there, so I thought it would be good karma to ‘give something back’ (so to speak).
I have also posted a few montages of these some of my recent recordings up on my Soundcloud page:
(Headphone listening recommended)
I’ve recently acquired a Sony PCM-M10, which is a better recorder than the Zoom in many ways, so I hope to get some improved recordings.
We had to put our beautiful dog, Maxa to sleep on Tuesday (22/9). She was 15 and a half years old and physically, she was worn out.
Maxa was a very strong spirit – stubborn, dominating and yes, rather difficult ! To be fair, she was difficult all throughout her life, yet her companionship far outweighed this.
We got her in 2001 from the NCDL (National Canine Defence League), now called the ‘Dogs Trust’, from their old centre in Leeds. As a young dog, she was incredibly energetic and could run like the clappers. The combination of this and being bright as a button, very independent and a prolific hunter caused us a fair few problems. She would run off regularly (sometime for hours), ‘on the chase’, only coming back when she was ready. She certainly used up at least seven of her nine lives that way !
She was always very affectionate with us and loved meeting people and dogs she liked. She was a great companion dog and lay in her bed in my studio every day for the greater part of her life. She was a huge focus in our lives, for the fourteen and a half years that we had with her. We’ll miss her so very much, the house now feels very empty.
Finally, I’d like to say that I feel the experience of having Maxa, has improved me as a person.
Here’s a selection of photos of her taken over the years (in no particular order). It’s a nice way to remember her – as the strong, spirited creature she was, not just the physically and mentally (to a lesser degree) worn out dog who needed full-time care in her final years.
I’ve just completed a rework of the track ‘Dream of Form’ from my ‘Iris’ album’.
Spatial environmental recordings from a Zoom h2.n recorder were incorporated with selected tonal drone textures from the original to create a very different track. (The track is down-loadable as a 320kbps mp3 on the Soundcloud page)
Here’s two recent Images:
All images taken with an iPhone 6 using the ‘Average Camera Pro‘ app. Which (according to the developers description), does the following:
‘Average Camera automatically takes multiple pictures (immediately or after a timer expires), calculates the average picture out of these and normalizes the result’
It was a balmy day today, so the trees swaying in the garden seemed a good subject for this app. I took a lot of shots and this selection showed off one of the effects that the app can create. They are best viewed large, in order to see the ‘blur’ effects from the motion of the foliage. All the images were post-processed in Lab Color mode.
The app is available here: