11/10/13

The Recording of Smashing Pumpkins

I recently recorded myself smashing a few pumpkins. I’ve been thinking about doing this since last Halloween when we were throwing out our old — and at that point rotting — pumpkin. I kept thinking about how it would sound to record a pumpkin being struck with a blunt object of some kind. I imagined that it would have a nice impact sound like a punch, or something similar. This past Halloween I bought a couple of extra pumpkins so I could finally find out what it would sound like after thinking about it for an entire year.

The aftermath of the pumpkin smashing.

The aftermath of the pumpkin smashing.

My initial thoughts on how to approach recording this were pretty straightforward. I planned on putting up a few mics and then hitting the pumpkin really hard with a baseball bat, and that’s exactly what I did. First, I hit it with some smaller blunt objects so that the pumpkin would survive more than one single blow. After the first pumpkin collapsed in we took some of the pumpkin guts and rubbed them around to get some nice slimy, gooey horror-ish sounds. Then, we took some of the leftover pieces of the pumpkin’s shell and ripped them apart. First, we tore a few of them apart very slowly and then we broke some of the remaining pieces apart very quickly, and with more force, to produce a nice bone breaking/crunching sound.

Since I’d never recorded a pumpkin before I wasn’t entirely sure what microphones to use. I put up a Neumann TLM 103, an AKG C-414 and a Shure Beta 52A to capture the sound. My thought was that the condensers would pick up a lot of the detail and the Beta 52A would capture the “punchy” sounds down in the lower frequencies. I recorded everything into Pro Tools at 24bit / 192kHz to get the best representation of the recorded sounds possible.

I’d like to thank Angel Alvarez for all his help with these recordings. He stepped in and smashed the pumpkins a few times with several different objects, and then he also ran Pro Tools for a bit while I was busy giving the pumpkins a good smack. Angel and I did multiple takes of stabbing, mushing together and hitting the pumpkin with various objects. We even recorded some VIDEO footage of the smashing of one of the pumpkins. I’m in the process of editing the recordings mentioned above so that I can post everything for you to hear. Enjoy the VIDEO for now…

Eric

Angel Alvarez hard at work ripping the guts out of the pumpkin.

Angel Alvarez hard at work ripping the guts out of the pumpkin.

10/14/13

New Field Recording Sessions (Races, Guns, etc.)

My Tascam DR-100mkII and Sound Devices MixPre-D in a jumbled mess. When you have to act quickly your gear and cables aren't always going to be neatly placed.

Pictured is my Sound Devices MixPre-D running into a Tascam DR-100mkII used during the Beaver Invitational Race. Not pictured is the Rode NT4, which is a stereo X/Y mic.

In the past few weeks I’ve had a few field recording sessions that really stood out from my previous sessions–not only because I had a lot of fun doing them but also because of how challenging they were. I do like a good challenge though, and both the Beaver Invitational and the gun recording sessions presented me with some new challenges.

The Beaver Invitational:

I recorded the Beaver Invitational (the local college Caltech’s team is called the Beavers) cross-country race on Sat., Oct 5th. This was the first race, cross-country running or otherwise, that I’ve ever attempted to record. Everything was very fast paced and if I didn’t get my gear set up quickly enough it meant that I was going to miss that recording opportunity. Recording this race reminded me a lot of running live sound for bands at a venue because you have to think and act very quickly.

I put a lot of thought into how to pack up my bag with the recording gear so that I could access everything very quickly and easily when I needed it. I’d like to write a full article on this at some point and try to give some tips for recording events, etc. that require you to move around a lot and/or be able to set up and tear down your rig very quickly.

 

Me Shooting a 12 Gauge

This is me shooting a 12 gauge shotgun during the recording session. We periodically traded off duties so everyone could get a chance to have some fun and shoot a few guns.

Gun Recording:

Yesterday, Sun., Oct 13th Alex Lockett, Adam McGinty and I went out to record some guns. Most of the field recordists posts that I’ve read about recording guns talk about how difficult it is to get good sounding recordings. I’ve heard that all of the various guns you try to record can end up sounding very similar to one another–or you may end up getting what one recordist calls the “popcorn gun” sound, which is where your recordings have no weight (or low frequencies to indicate how powerful the guns really are).

Since guns are so loud it makes it easy to either overload the mics with the high SPL levels or your preamps to the point of digital distortion, which can ruin your recordings. This isn’t discouraging to me, it just means that it’s going to take a little more effort and will probably require some trial and error. The guns we recorded on this first round (there will be more outings in the near future) included two 12 gauge shotguns, two 9mm’s, a 223 bolt action rifle and a 22 caliber rifle.

After we take a few more trips out to record guns I’ll try to write up a full article about our recording sessions. I’ll include details about the gear we used, give some suggestions for getting the best sound when recording guns, discuss some of the complications that we ran into (which include almost getting hit by a ricocheted bullet from another nearby shooter), and go over a few safety tips for obvious reasons.