Missing the fundamental

I’ve spent the last two months recording a set of props for the next HISSandaROAR library and the last aspect I wanted to record was via contact mics…. But which contact mics to use?

I recently bought a set of Leafcutter Johns mics and wanted to compare them, so eventually I decided the best way was to do a test recording. So here was my set up, recording to a Sound Devices 788T

1 Trance Audio Inducer contact mic L via TA Preamp
2 Trance Audio Inducer contact mic R via TA Preamp
3 BB Planar Wave contact mic via Barcus Berry Preamp
4 Leafcutter John contact mic via Barcus Berry Preamp
5 Leafcutter John contact mic via Hosa MIT129 impedance transformer
6 Dazzo contact mic via Hosa MIT129 impedance transformer
7 Leafcutter John contact mic direct line in SD788
8 Dazzo contact mic direct line in SD788

I know how the Trance Audio Inducer responds, and I know how the Barcus Berry Planar Wave responds, as I have used those mic/preamp combinations a lot. So in a way this test was to see how the other options compared. But I also decided to do a test, to verify the science of impedance matching…. hence options 5>8

To minimise phase and/or position relative to nodes, I attached all 8 contact mics and then performed sounds all over the surface of the prop… and the results? I wont upload all of the material recorded but here is a quick example:

So this file is:
1. Trance Audio Inducer contact mic via TA Preamp
2. BB Planar Wave contact mic via Barcus Berry Preamp
3. Leafcutter John contact mic via Barcus Berry Preamp
4. Leafcutter John contact mic via Hosa MIT129 impedance transformer
5. Leafcutter John contact mic direct line in SD788

To my ears the first three sound good – rich in harmonics with a present amount of bass tones. I think the BB Planar Wave sounds the best, followed by the Trance Audio – but in this example that may be placement… Leafcutter John contact mic via Barcus Berry Preamp also sounds good. If it was an instrument the fundamental is clear and present.

But both 4 and 5 are effectively missing the fundamental… If I zoom in on the low frequencies of the spectrum, it seems the Hosa MIT129 impedance transformer is not helping the situation.

Now this is not an exhaustive test by any means, when I mentioned I was doing this test on FB and twitter, a couple of people messaged me asking why am I not testing XYZ brand, and the answer: I do not own XYZ brand. I am doing this test to choose the best options from what I have today. The Dazzo mics did not seem to have the same sensitivity as the others, and by the time I had them at a comparable level the noise floor made them unuseable for my purposes. FWIW the Sanken MO-64 is the only other contact mic I am particularly interested in, but don’t have any plans for recording ants feet so I can live without it…

OK moving forwards, for these recordings I am continuing recording with these 4 channels

1 Trance Audio Inducer contact mic L via TA Preamp
2 Trance Audio Inducer contact mic R via TA Preamp
3 BB Planar Wave contact mic via Barcus Berry Preamp
4 Leafcutter John contact mic via Barcus Berry Preamp

But a final conclusion: if you plug a contact mic straight into your recorder, there is a good chance you will not be recording the fundamental frequency of the source… Whether that matters or not is up to you and what you are recording!

nuzic 20

▶ Nao – Bad Blood (SBTRKT Remix)


20 Years of Baduizm with Gemma Cairney, on BBC


▶ new Little Dragon


▶ new Lusine!


▶ Half Waif – Frost Burn, from upcoming EP “form/a,” out February 24th on Cascine


▶ Chino Amobi – The Prisoners of Nymphaion


Detritus 415

▶ beautiful obituary for sound legend Richard Portman – “his hundreds of film credits include Star Wars, The Godfather, Nashville and his favorite, Harold and Maude. He was the first in Hollywood to mix a film entirely by himself – typically there are three or four mixers – a practice he perfected and preferred. When he retired in 1995, he’d spent more than 90,000 hours behind the panel in a dark room….”

I love his advice offered at the end of the obituary… must read his book: They Wanted a Louder Gun…. also: an interview at Filmsound.org

CAS – You pioneered “one-man” mixing in Hollywood. What are the advantages and disadvantages of that style?

RP – The advantage was that it was my mix – I knew where every sound was – I built my pre-dubbs very carefully combining those sounds I knew would stand up and keeping separate those I knew would not. Because it was my mix I was able to build it in any order I saw fit and that order was completing a double reel before I went on to the next. I was able to record the reels backwards — that is to say I did the background sound effects first, the dialog second (the reason for this is the principle of masking), hard effects third, and lastly the music. However, there were those occasions when I would make a temporary music mix that I would play along whenever I wanted to see how some balance would work with all the elements. On other occasions I would do the foley feet after the reel was completed — only using those foley items which were needed for the domestic and when I did the foreign I would put the rest of the foley in. Another advantage was that I was working all the time with the director or whoever else was to say “yes” or “no” about my efforts and this really speeded up the mix — there was no waiting around. Communication was supreme and the result of good communication is a happy mix. This method had no dis-advantages as far as I was concerned — we were able to make the best mix we could in the shortest practical time. The key to this style is that everything be ready — not a condition that rerecording mixers find very often these days, and the primary reason why mixes sometimes resemble a fist fight.

CAS – Do you think that one-man mixing is still practical, given the huge number of tracks of today’s shows and the limited amount of time to mix them in?

RP – No and Yes. Mainstream movies are vastly over-built and now require more hands. I believe that a Master Mixer working with a good second is the way to go. Now in the low-budget movie world, where things are more or less like they were a number of years ago with a lot less material provided, the one mixer concept is still the way to go.


▶ this is cute, kids would love it: a whalesynth in your browser
via Kottke


▶ Master blaster: the woman making Björk, Aphex Twin and Eno sound so good


▶ interview with La La Lands female sound team


▶ love this photo project: Salaryman Blues by Yusuke Sakai


▶ via Collossal


▶ an infinite drum machine in your browser



▶ a euclidean drum machine in your browser


▶ sound recordists ready when you are… #woollymammoth


▶ Max Richter: Composing with new colors


▶ Listen to the sounds from the deepest hole ever dug


▶ warning: NSFW, if you’re not allowed to swear loudly at work…



by Martin Heck
Within the production-time of 16 weeks, 185,000 photos have been taken, 8TB of raw-material shot, over 220 hours of time captured, 8000km driven and over 1000 hours have been spent for post-production. Visit website for information about the project: timestormfilms.net/new-zealand-ascending/

Cameras: Sony A7RII, Sony A7s, Canon 6D
Lenses: Zeiss Otus 28mm, Canon 11-24mm, Tamron 15-30mm, Zeiss Milvus 35mm, Canon 70-200mm
Motion-Control: eMotimo Spectrum ST4, customized Dynamic Perception Stage One

Incredibly beautiful work!


Such great work from all of the team, including locals (& almost neighbours) Dave Whitehead and Michelle Child

Congrats on the BAFTA… fingers crossed

ARRIVAL Sound Department
Mimi Allard – sound special effects editor
Pierre-Jules Audet – sound effects editor
Niels Barletta – foley mixer
Mathieu Beaudin – sound effects editor
Nicolas Becker – foley artist / foley artist: Special sound effects
Sylvain Bellemare – supervising sound editor
Luc Boudrias – re-recording mixer
Olivier Calvert – sound designer Aliens shell-Vessel
Michelle Child – sound designer: Alien Vocals
Valéry Dufort-Boucher – dialogue editor
Bernard Gariépy Strobl – re-recording mixer
Yannick Gauthier – technical support
Ilyaa Ghafouri – sound assistant
Steven Ghouti – foley mixer
Simon Girard – assistant sound editor
Olivier Guillaume – foley mixer / foley mixer: Special sound effects
Barbara Heller – post adr
Kyle D. Krajewski – adr mixer
Claude La Haye – sound mixer
Gabrielle Labelle Joly – re-recording assistant
Louis-Antoine Lassonde – adr mixer
Gilles Marsalet – assistant to foley artist
James A. Moore – adr recordist
Tyler Newhouse – adr recordist
Steve Perski – sound recordist
Claire Pochon – dialogue editor
Francis Péloquin – boom operator
Patrick Rioux – sfx recordist
Stan Sakellaropoulos – adr supervisor
Joey Simas – technical support
Kathie Talbot – sound designer: trailer
Gregory Vincent – foley artist
Dave Whitehead – sound designer: Alien Vocals
Justin Scott Wilson – sound recordist

The absence of blue

“Within the visible range of light, red light waves are scattered the least by atmospheric gas molecules.
So at sunrise and sunset, when the sunlight travels a long path through the atmosphere to reach our eyes,
the blue light has been mostly removed, leaving mostly red and yellow light remaining.”

Detritus 414

▶ Ever wondered what the rich 1% worry about – what keeps them awake at night? this – it is somehow reassuring to think that despite all their wealth, they live in fear…


▶ ten seconds is plenty…


▶ the average Spotify employee salary is $168,747… which apparently equates to 288 million plays – good luck with that!


▶ How great – a website that lets you send pizza to protestors!


▶ RadioNZ had a great interview the other day with Susan Rogers who was audio engineer for Prince, have a listen here – so many great anecdotes!


▶ ELEKTRO MOSKVA available here


▶ beautifully made!