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.