First recordings with Telinga + MKH8020

Telinga first recordings...


As I’ve mentioned a few times I recently added a Telinga flexible dish and universal mic mounting kit to my recording setup – the universal kit lets you use whatever mic you like, and I’ve added an MKH8020 with the MZF filter for this purpose…. So what’s it like? Well yesterday I went for a drive over the road from Upper Hutt to Waikanae, crossing the Akatawera range, with the hope of getting away from traffic, to do some test recording. It was only when I got over to the Kapiti side of the hills that the cicadas started to become less diffuse, so I found a place to stop where I could hear individual cicadas scattered through the bush and had a listen, as per the photo above….

Before you have a listen bear in mind that the first cicada I recorded would be approx 20m away from me, up a tree. It was completely still, there was no wind but there was plenty of other activity (birds, other insects) going on around me. The thing that first struck me was predictably the directionality of the dish – I know thats the whole point of it but its only when you’re holding it and slowly moving it that you realise just how narrow its beam is. I will shoot some video to demonstrate this at some stage (I didn’t have a second tripod with me yesterday to do this effectively) but basically the cicada you hear below was on mic, but if I changed the angle of the dish by 1-2mm it was off mic, to the point of being very distant. The localisation is unreal! The other aspect that struck me was just how close sound becomes – with my eyes closed it felt like I could just reach out & flick that cicada off the tree 20m away! Anyway have a listen, first at real speed, then half speed, then quarter speed…

I walked up the road a bit & recorded this cicada, which was further away and in a tree with other cicadas – so it is less isolated…


Telinga first recordings...

Next I headed in a valley following signs to the Kapiti 4×4 Adventure company to Maungakotuktuku Scenic Reserve. The road into this valley winds it way up the side of quite a large hill, with the bush dropping away off the side of road. So I figured this might be an interesting location to try, and it served to teach me a valuable lesson with the Telinga, which I already knew from my MKH70s but it bears repeating. Directional mics such as these basically compress distance and have a very long depth of field (the opposite to a camera lens with shallow depth of field) so if you are aiming to record object A at a distance, then it is important what else is in the same line of sight/hearing in a straight line from your mic to object A and beyond. So this next recording I was on a steep hillside pointing down into the immediate bush on the side of the road, aiming to record insects, but it also captured distant birds, a very distant dog and a very, very distant chainsaw. And when I say ‘very distant’ I’d guess the chainsaw was 10-20km away!

The effect of compressing distance is something to be aware of, as simply changing your location by a few metres and your angle of attack can eliminate unwanted background action to a degree… On a slight side tangent, another thing to always be aware of when using directional shotgun mics is their polar response pattern – a typical shotgun mic is below:

Note that a side effect of the front narrow directionality is the rear sensitivity. So for example if you are recording from above pointing down at an object and there are a lot of birds above you, then that rear lobe may well pick them up more than what you would like, and recording from under pointing up with the rear of the mic pointed at the ground may create better isolation. Same goes for recording in the city and trying to minimise traffic behind you. Heres the MKH70 polar pattern, but you should check what each of your mics polar response is so you know if its an issue you should be aware of….

The last recording I’ll post is a short bit of an insect I recorded & what blew me away was that when I took off my headphones I could not hear the insect at all! Its a short recording as a vehicle came past & the insect stopped & didn’t start again….. But it illustrates what a fascinating new microscopic world of sound that I’ve been given access to – I wish I bought a Telinga dish years ago! And re the PNG trip, I’m used to hearing most insects in New Zealand, I just hope I don’t have any panic attacks when in PNG and hear very strange insects VERY close up, via the dish like they are inside my head!


Field recording: Okarito kiwi aka Rowi

If you know anyone from New Zealand you will have likely heard the colloquial use of the word ‘kiwi’ – the kiwi is our national bird, and what a bird it is: sleeps all day, wakes about half an hour after sunset, and is rarely seen or heard…. I’ve spent almost my entire life obsessing about sound & yet I had never heard a kiwi vocalise with my own ears…. So when a friend visiting from Japan said he would like to ‘see’ a kiwi, I gently explained that unless you can see in the dark you do not usually see a kiwi & that most people who live in New Zealand have never actually seen a kiwi. He checked on TripAdvisor and discovered even people who visited a kiwi enclosure at a zoo in NZ complained that the ‘kiwis were all asleep’ – but really, what else would you expect, visiting a nocturnal bird during daylight hours?

Regardless it made me start researching: I wasn’t so interested in seeing a kiwi, but I would dearly love to hear one & preferably record it. Having suggested a field recording trip down the West Coast I was very happy to discover Okarito Kiwi Tours
I’ve made dozens of road trips down the West Coast, it may well be my favourite part of the country, but despite having driven past the turn off I had never actually been to Okarito. So I sent an email off to Ian Cooper, who runs Okarito Kiwi Tours and asked him what were the chances of us (a) doing a tour and (b) hearing & recording a kiwi. A few emails & phone calls later & we were confirmed, but with a caveat: his close relationship with the Rowi (Okarito kiwi) means he has over a 90% success rate of seeing kiwis, but hearing them was totally unpredictable. They may not voicalise at all on any given night, or they may sing once at 8pm or once at 3am… no guarantees but if we were keen he would do everything in his power to put us in the right spot to capture sound when/if they do vocalise… Challenge accepted!

A bit more research & I slowly began to realise the extent of our plan: the kiwi we were aiming to record was also the rarest in extistence!

kiwi distribution map via DOC

Not only are kiwis rare, the Okarito kiwi aka Rowi is the rarest of the five species: there are currently only about 350 living birds, which is a major improvement on the all time low of only 150-200 birds in the mid-1990s. My deepest respect goes out to the people who work tirelessly to save these birds from extinction, especially as I read of the process for a Rowi kiwi to make it to maturity! From the DOC website:

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So we arrived at Okarito on the 25th May, 2015 and found our rented cottage for two nights (any field recording trip needs some contingency for weather)
Okarito is a small coastal town, and when I say small the current population was in the order of just 30 people. No cell phone coverage, no shops, no bar, no restaurants – it isn’t somewhere you arrive without a plan. But it is beautiful! Surrounded by dense bush, the town is on the edge of a very large estuary, leading to the sea…


The interior walls of this great old boat house on the edge of the estuary displayed some of the fascinating history of the area, and I was surprised to learn that the fully intact Blue Whale skeleton that I admired as a kid at the Christchurch Museum was actually recovered from the sea near here in 1908 & duly transported across the alps to be preserved!


As the sun began to set we headed over to Ians house, starting point for the Okarito Kiwi Tours


4.30pm meet for briefing
Ian explained the process of tracking and finding a kiwi – turns out the precious kiwi breeding pairs have transmitters attached to them & being territorial they tend to stay within certain areas of bush… But ‘their patch of bush’ can cover many square kilometres, so his recce the previous day had been to ascertain which pair were sleeping near a track that we could actually get to…
We also met a couple who would be joining us, and Ian was careful to check none of us were wearing ‘rustly’ clothes – not just to avoid ruining our recordings but to also avoid distracting him from audibly tracking the location of the kiwis in the dark…

4.45pm drive into start of hiking track
Four layers of quiet clothing, hat, gloves, two pair of socks – we got in Ians van & he drove us into the start of a hiking track


5.00pm hiked in 2km
The breeding pair who live closest to the carpark were a long way from the road or tracks, so we hiked about 2 kilometres further up the track… Ian regularly checked the location of our sleeping kiwis with his tracking device…

5.10 sunset

5.20pm set up & recording started
Ian had told us the kiwis usually wake 20-30 minutes after sunset, and then begin foraging…. So he made sure we were in position & recording well before then…. And so the waiting began… I had carried in a stereo pair of Sennheiser MKH8040 mics & a Manfrotto stand, plus an MKH8020 in a Telinga dish, capturing sound via a Sound Devices 744 recorder and 302 preamp.

After an indeterminate amount of time, Ian indicated the kiwis were both up & moving… And so began a gentle shuffling up & down the track, pausing to listen for sounds of movement. Turns out one part of a kiwis anatomy which is useful for tracking is its feet – Ian described them as being akin to a 4 year old human child walking slowly through dense bush, if they are close it is not a subtle sound…
He could tell their approximate distance from us using his tracking device, estimating them to be just over 100m from the track, moving in parallel to us… Suddenly the long awaited crunchy footsteps were heard, with my headphones cranked up & slowly moving the Telinga dish from side to side attempting to localise the source I suddenly froze, as the most ungodly sound I have ever heard began!



First the male kiwi screeched, and bear in mind I was monitoring via headphones at such a level that a footstep sounded big, so the screech was like someone standing right in front of me screaming their lungs out!! I grimaced & froze: this was such a rare event I wasn’t going to risk ruining the recording by bumping the mic!

OMFG#2 a duet!!

After a dozen calls the female kiwi joined in!! To hear one kiwi sing was rare, to hear a breeding pair sing a duet was so unlikely as to be a miracle! Eventually the male stopped, leaving the female to sing the last 4 or 5 phrases alone & then back to the silence… I stayed frozen for 30 seconds, hoping for more, but that was it. Slowly I became conscious again & with a moment of anxiety looked down to make sure my recorder was actually still rolling… YES! I hit the record button to start a new file & noted the filename of the successful recording: “KT10” – I’d been recording for over an hour, constantly triggering new files each time we moved location…
I almost laughed out loud when Ian leaned over & whispered into my mic “Tim, you can go home now” – and while he was joking, he was kind of right – I could have gone home right then, ecstatic & 100% satisfied… But Ian was committed to enabling us to also see these kiwis, so our slow shuffle backwards & forwards along the track following Ians directions continued…

6.55pm sighted the male kiwi
No cameras are allowed on this trip, only sound – this isn’t my bias or Ians – it is a specification of the Department of Conservation allowing Ian to run these tours. Imagine a group of over excited tourists armed with cameras, who may or may not know how to turn off the flash on their cameras – suddenly they see a kiwi & blind/stress it like a gaggle of paparazzi stalkers…
Following Ians body language & direction we slowly realised the male kiwi was coming out, to cross the hiking track we were on & using a red filtered light at the crucial moment we all got to visually witness the male Rowi kiwi, mere metres away from us. What an incredible moment…


By this stage I could not feel my toes – it was that cold! But we weren’t finished yet. Having met all of our goals Ian persevered and slowly tracked the movements of the female kiwi, deeper in the bush & further up the track. We slowly tracked along and just as my patience started to whither…

7.52pm sighted the female kiwi
There she was!


8.00pm pack up & hike back to car
Buzzing & relaxed after attempting to remain silent for over an hour and a half, we headed back up the track to the carpark…

8.30pm light fire, check recordings, celebrate!
A nagging anxiety of having successfully captured such an awesome sound remained until I could check whether the recording actually sounded as great as my memory of it. And given I was monitoring so loud I was a little worried I had actually distorted the recording – I know the 8040s can handle VERY loud sounds but had I cranked up the preamps too much!??? I transferred just ‘KT10’ to my laptop, split the poly file and first checked the 8040 pair… YES!!! Next the 8020 Telinga rig… YES!!!!
I was thrilled – we had achieved the most unlikely of goals: to record the rarest kiwi, in their natural habitat. And we’d succeeded! We’d had to work hard & be well prepared, but there is no doubt in my mind that it was a gift: that kiwi pair chose to sing for us! God/Jah/Buddha bless them and those who work so hard to protect them. Thank you Ian for being such a gracious & encouraging host. And to Hide, who motivated the trip. And to Fiona & Stu, random travellers who we shared a truly amazing experience with!


Some stats & a compressed timeline:

The male kiwi is known as ‘Fancy’ and the female kiwi is known as ‘Joelene’
They are both 17 years old (Rowi can live to 100 years old!)

4.30pm meet for briefing
4.45pm drive into start of hiking track
5.00pm hiked in 2km
5.20pm set up & recording started
6.37pm recorded duet call
6.55pm sighted the male kiwi
7.52pm sighted the female kiwi
8.00pm pack up & hike back to car

So after we started recording, we waited over an hour in the freezing cold to hear their duet:

perseverance & patience FTW!


And the recording?

First the stereo recording via ORTF pair of Sennheiser MKH8040s:

Next a mono recording via a Sennheiser MKH8020 in a Telinga dish

& for fun, the stereo recording slowed down to half real speed




Lastly, if you’ve appreciated me sharing this adventure can I ask a small favour?
Kiwis are an endangered species & need our help to survive – Kiwis for kiwi is carrying on the years of dedicated work by BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust, to help protect kiwi and the places they live.
Please visit their website HERE and consider making a donation to help support their efforts!



MKH70 vs MKH8070


I’m testing out a Sennhesier MKH8070 long shotgun mic this week – above is my MKH70 top, with the 8070 below… The 8070 is actually longer by about 6cm – 8070 = 46cm vs MKH70 = 41cm, although the 8070 is slightly smaller in diameter and is noticeably heavier than the MKH70… I’ll try & do a side by side comparison recording using my other MKH70, just need to work out how to fit the 8070 into my MKH70s Rycote suspension first!

Why such a long shotgun microphone? It seems it is the only way to achieve enhanced isolation and acoustic ‘reach’ – presumably by using some kind of voodoo science… While a Telinga dish provides directional gain, it doesn’t offer much side rejection and if you want to isolate a sound from its environment, side rejection is vitally important…

From the spec PDF:

The microphone operates on the RF principle that has been used by Sennheiser for more than 50 years, now brought to highest level of perfection. Among the many advantages of this principle are an extremely low inherent self-noise, the capa- bility to handle high sound pressure levels without distortion and a high resistance to adverse climatic conditions.

• Lobar pick-up pattern
• Very natural sound
• Off-axis sound is attenuated without colorations while a uniform sound structure is maintained
• Exceptionally low inherent self-noise prevents masking of delicate sound structures
• Symmetrical transducer technology ensures extremely low distortion
• Transformerless and fully floating balanced output: no coupling of spurious sig- nals, minimal distortion
• High output signal voltage ensures interference-free signal paths
• Rugged metal housing with non-reflective Nextel coating
• Extremely weather-proof due to high-frequency circuit

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Lens Addict

I know I’ve made the comparison between lenses and microphones many time before, but I at last have access to a lens that can focus to the degree that my Telinga can!

Little Huia

If you have ever held a Canon 5D you’ll appreciate they are quite a chunky camera – if its in your camera bag you feel its weight, but it looks like a toy hanging off the back of this lens: its a Canon 400mm F2.8, the newer version of which is US$11k on bhphoto!

Little Huia

And no I don’t own it! But sincere thanks to Topic Rentals for enabling me – check their site for great lens and camera gear rentals

First thing I did was head up to the same spot that I have recorded a Tui twice before – there is a tree that if you wait long enough he returns to… And sure enough after about 15 minutes of shooting/recording and getting nothing much, he flew in, I stealthly reframed & focused & I shot some beautiful close up video of him singing! Stayed there for another hour and only got one more shot of him… Planning, patience and perseverance…

Night Fishing (for Birds)

While I enjoy eating fish (especially sashimi & sushi!) I am not much of a fisherman – ten minutes on the water and I am about ready to head home again, although I do like the saying by Henry David Thoreau: “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” (And of course, the other funny but presumably untrue fishing quote: ‘the best two days of a boat owners life are the day he buys a boat, and the day he sells it!’) and while the idea of night fishing is intriguing, in my case it wasn’t fish I was after. And I also wasn’t on the water.

The first night when I arrived in Little Huia I was struck by a beautiful sound I hadn’t heard in years; the melancholic call of the Ruru/Morepork. The Morepork is an owl, native to New Zealand and as a night bird it is rarely seen, and generally only heard when you are in a quiet rural location.

The Ruru/Morepork has two highly evolved features that are amazing to witness. The first can be seen in a beautiful film by the other Artist in Residence in the Waitakere Ranges, Denise Batchelor. I very highly recommend you visit her website and watch an excerpt of her 2011 film Ruru here – the way the huge pupils of the Ruru expand & contract is astoundingly beautiful (and makes me wish for such a lens for my camera!)

The other aspect of the Ruru that amazes me is a sound you will never hear: its silent wings. Other native birds such as the Tui and the Wood Pigeon have beautifully audible wings, flitting through the trees they remind me of the sound of a Japanese fan being (very) rapidly waved – I have recorded some of these while in Huia and will post them in a future post. But the Ruru is a highly evolved night hunter, its incredible eye sight and silent wings means its prey don’t know to hide until its too late!

Here is a very short little doco with some great close up footage of a morepork in daylight:

That video doesn’t feature the morepork at night nor its call, but as I had heard them in the trees behind my house in Little Huia, I decided my first mission would be to try & record a Morepork close up. So here started my night fishing missions!

My first attempt was a dismal failure, and in hindsight laughable. I put together a portable record kit and prepared to head out into the night.

Little Huia

My night fishing rig included a Sound Devices 744 recorder & 302 preamp, a Telinga parabolic dish with MKH8020 and a pair of MKH8040s. I jumped in my 4WD and headed up the hill a bit, following the road to Whatipu and stopping every so often to listen. When I thought I was close to some Moreporks I would jump out, grab my backpack & start walking towards where I thought they were. But here was the problem: just as I started to get close to one, it would stop calling. And even if I waited, it would not start again. In hindsight, with its silent wings it had more than likely flown away without me realising. So after a couple of hours of this sort of behaviour I headed home with what I thought was only three single calls – a start but hardly what I was hoping for!

Apart from the beautiful plaintive call, the other aspect of the moreporks call that I am interested in is its timing. Unlike some birds which either sing rapid-fire bursts, or longer melodies, the Ruru calls sparsely & rhythmically – in a slow rhythm, more reminiscent of a temple bell than a drum beat. My ideal was to set my mic up under a tree with a morepork in it & record it for half an hour…

So I went to bed that night feeling a little disappointed, Ruru 1 Field recordist 0

By the next morning my sub conscious had come up with a better approach:

Little Huia

Being a clumsy city dweller driving around in a noisy 4WD, slamming car doors & lugging a backpack full of gear in hindsight is not really conducive to sneaking up on an owl who makes it living by stealth. Those moreporks probably heard me leaving the house & had a good laugh at my ridiculous antics. ‘Here he comes! Hee hee… let’s pretend we haven’t noticed him… ‘

So plan 2 was to set up my mics, and go home. As any bird photographer or recordist will likely tell you, even if you are being stealthy arriving at a location & then becoming silent, it usually takes 20 minutes before the birds will start to continue their behaviour like you aren’t there. The only part I was a little apprehensive about was leaving my gear in the bush late at night and it getting rained on. I have been out on a sunny day here shooting & a sudden rain cloud appeared from nowhere. So I solved that problem by asking the local ranger if I could set up my gear under a balcony by a currently unused camping building, Project K, late on a Sunday night. So about 8.30pm I headed up there, and rigged my mcid pointing in all directions – this time as I wasn’t having to be portable I again used Telinga dish, plus the pair of ORTF MKH8040s but also added a pair of very directional MKH70s, recording to five discrete channels on ym recorders. I angled & pointed each of the mics at trees where I thought Ruru might be hanging out, loaded a fresh set of batteries & went back home for a few hours…

Returning after 10.30 I had my fingers crossed – happily the recorders were still rolling, but it wasn’t until the next morning that I discovered what I had recorded… For the first hour or so, only distant mroeporks are heard, but then only about 20 minutes before I went & retrieved my gear, this is what I captured:

From the excellent NZ Birds website:It is hardly surprising that, in Maori mythology, Ruru which hunts by night on silent wings and has a melancholy hooting call, is associated with the spirit world. In fact the special ancestral spirit of a family group is thought to take the form of Ruru. Known as Hine–ruru, the “owl woman”, Maori traditionally believed that these owl guardians had the power to, protect, warn and advise. According to such beliefs, the presence of a morepork sitting in a conspicuous place nearby, knocking on a window or even entering the house signifies a death the family while the high piercing call of the morepork is thought to herald bad news and the ordinary call to indicate good news on the way.

The DOC website has some interesting info about the Ruru, including what you can do to help the Ruru live long & prosper

I suspect I will do more of the set up the mics and leave it recording approach, and one idea I had help protect the gear incase of a sudden shower was to somehow rig up a small umbrella. After doing a quick search I found & ordered this handy device, the UC-6 umbrella and clamp made by Velbon.

Little Huia

While checking out other Velbon products I also came across their ultra compact tripod: the Velbon UT series looks like a more compact AND more sturdy tripod than what I am currently using as a mic stand for my MKH8040s!

Destruction Gully

Little Huia

With a name like Destruction Gully of course I had to check it out! Please comment and correct me if I am mistaken, but I think the name originates from the number of ships destroyed when trying to enter Manukau harbour, the worst being the Orpheus in 1861, with 189 lives lost. The track is on the road to Whatipu (maybe ten minutes past Little Huia) and the section across to the lookout is an easy, flat five minute walk through beautiful native bush….

Little Huia

Past the lookout, the track then winds steeply down to Makaka Bay (I didn’t do this part as I was lugging a lot of gear, but I am evolving a small, very portable alternate record kit for such excursions – probably just the SD722, MKH 8040s and Fuji x100s)

Little Huia

It was a little windy, and I could hear gusts travelling through the trees, until they arrived at the lookout and sometimes knocked over the Telinga dish! So beautiful to stop and listen for a while…

Little Huia

Listening back through the recordings I managed to find two melodic fragments of bird song that instantly made my eyes glaze over & set composition ideas into motion. And I appreciate I am a bit late to the party but I also have to say Izotope RX3 Advanced – Wow!! I had used the plugin a bit but hadn’t messed with the freestanding app much at all, but have fallen in love with just how much manipulation can be achieved with it, noise reduction aside! Along with AudioSculpt, this is going to be an invaluable tool for this project!

Little Huia

I will start posting some recordings next week!

Little Huia

Destruction Gully Track

Little Huia

Auckland Parks Artists Residency!

I am THRILLED to announce that I’ve been confirmed for the 2013 Auckland Parks Artists Residency! I applied back in January and have been trying not to think about it, as I know a lot of people apply and I am SO keen to pursue the project I have planned for it…. Anyway I got the call a few days ago and the news is now public: both myself and filmmaker & photographer Denise Batchelor are the Artists in Residence for 2013! Wahooooooooo!!!!

So what does it mean? Well, I’ll be spending 8 weeks living in a fairly remote part of the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland, working on a project. Where exactly? Well, as part of the residency I am allocated a house, Barr Cottage, in Little Huia – check this map to see the proximity to Auckland, its a rural location but is only a 40 minute drive to downtown Auckland, for when I get that craving for sushi!


The yellow line on the map is the direction of the sun rise, so basically out the front gate from the house is both the beach of Manukau Harbour and the sunrise!



When I lived in Auckland back in the 1990s I remember a number of times driving out to Little Huia, parking my car & riding my mountain bike up & over the hill to the West Coast beach of Whatipu. And I have a number of recordings in my library dating from back then too. This topo map shows a bit more detail of the area, it is basically the south end of the Waitakere Ranges.


The main project I will be working on while in residence combines my three primary skills (field recording, sound design and composition) and I will be expanding on the proof of concept I created for my Pecha Kucha talk, of recording and analysing native bird song, and using it as the DNA of music – see HERE from slide 13 onwards, with audio examples using a Bellbird recording…


Being based in the park 24/7 will provide a LOT of opportunities for recording native birds, and there are a number of initiatives underway in the park for reintroducing some of the rare and endangered native bird species which I hope to also observe, record and document.

My residency is from late October through to mid December, so I can also imagine being based in such a beautiful park at the start of summer will mean I shoot a lot of photos and timelapse too! Also maybe of interest to any local Auckland soundies I am considering the idea of organising a listening workshop and a field recording workshop while there too, but I will work that out closer to the time….

Huge thanks must go the Auckland City Council for organising such a fantastic creative opportunity! Applications open for the 2014 residency in Decemeber 2013, so save that link if you’re interested.


Relative to my project, I am especially fascinated by the idea that a significant part of some bird song is beyond the hearing range of us mere humans, so I intend to explore this with the help of my Telinga dish, Sennheiser MKH8020 and some fun with pitch shifting! For example have a listen to the amazing tonality of the Tui, first at real speed then played at quarter real speed. (Maybe this IS the droids we’re looking for! R2D2s long lost brother?) Note: it wasn’t recorded with the 80X0 mics

Junk Store Shopping

Last weekend Friday turned into Saturday, and the weather was just perfect – hot, but not too hot….. predictable but not too predictable…. So I started to scheme an excuse to hit the road & go find something, to record/shoot/find/experience/whatever…. I decided to go do something I have meant to for ages, and that is shoot sync video of recording with the Telinga parabolic dish. Sync, because I want to share how amazing it is to move that dish less than a few degrees and hear sounds come into focus & then go off mic/out of focus…. But also to experiment with other mic choices with the dish. So I headed over to the Wairarapa and as ideas of a quiet location came & went I realised I wasn’t too far from a town with a couple of really great secondhand stores… One of them I remember stopping at years ago & in conversation with the owner I suggested he should put some of his stuff for sale online. There followed a great rant by him, as to how the internet is killing the whole concept of his business – random people finding random things… ‘We don’t use the internet’ he muttered…. And god bless him – none of what I bought there would survive a few days online. It’d be snapped up & probably resold…. So what did I score? Two musical instruments, an LP, three books and two really great sound effects props for the next HISSandaROAR library, total cost nz$90!

I’ll do another shoot with the Telinga hopefully this weekend – I got some good material last weekend but haven’t had free time to either finish it or get it online as yet…. soon come! In the meantime here are my junk store bargains!


I found the above instrument first – hard to tell how old it is but it looks old, one string is missing but it sounds quite strange – thats a gourd with a skin over it acting as the resonator, and the neck appears to be an animal horn of some kind. Its exactly the kind of thing I’d try to bring back from an overseas trip, only to have it confiscated by biosecurity… or find online for a ridiculous price (it was $20!)
As I was paying for it I asked the guy if they had any other musical instruments – nothing was the reply, but then I noticed the piano on a dusty shelf above his head: ‘how much is that?’ $60 – sold!


Yes, the black notes are only painted on, but the tines inside it make the most melancholic sound!


I bought this LP more for the concept than the music: Classical Miniatures? nice one Franck! (and you can never have too many versions of Clair De Lune, Ave Maria etc….)


This book I got for $4 partly for the cover, but also the backstory. Its a sequel to an earlier book, Harmonic 33, about UFOs, ley lines, harmonics… (that book also inspired a compilation of NZ electronic music back in the 90s if my memory serves me correctly)


This book is co-written by an NZ pilot who had a close encounter…. and has since created all sorts of theories, many based in complex maths… The inside cover has a map of Auckland, with a sidebar identifying:



While this next book is a little gruesome & deadly serious it does make me wonder:
why does ‘evil’ have such great art department!?




Lastly, this is just plain silly, mixed with some absurdist nostalgia – THE GOODIES were on TV when I was a kid and in hindsight they are a bit like Monty Python for kids or something….. I’d suspect this book is valuable to collectors of such things, price NZ$3… And I really only bought it to balance out the evil book above!






The two sound effects props I’ll share soon!

Detritus 160

Burial + Four Tet – Nova by Four Tet


> Beautiful architectural photos, actually macro shots from inside orchestral instruments – you’ve probably seen them posted elsewhere but just incase…… reversing the concept, I for one would love to hear the instruments that Tadao Andos architecture would evoke…



> Some words just have a great ring to them eg Bass Cannon or War Tuba


> Instead of saying “I don’t have time,” try saying “It’s not a priority”



> So…. Hokusai’s The Great Wave inspired Debussy’s symphonic sketches La Mer – who knew? – relatedly a photo I shot in Denden town aka Osaka’s Akihabara (8 Jan 2008)


> Two recent & intriguing 3D printing sound projects: Paper note creates a tangible waveform from laser cut disks of paper & 3D printing a waveform case for your iPhone
Me? I’m waiting for the scaleable (resolution & physical size) 3D waveform model generator for use with Ponoko – now THAT is something I would help fund on kickstarter, but it has to be scaleable in three dimensions eg say I want a 3D FFT of a particular, that is the size of a fridge….


> Wouldn’t this be amazing to stumble across: a clockwork forest



> Seems I’ve just inherited a 3 week hiatus! The notion of which instantly had me planning & scheming how to best make use of the suddenly ‘free’ time…. the result of such scheming is a road trip north, to record a number of 1940s era military vehicles for my next film project, plus a stop on the way to record Aratiatia Rapids (check the description – 90,000 litres per second! How exactly do you properly prepare for such a recording mission? I guess via the only way: try, learn from the experience, and repeat) & the return trip via Lake Waikaremoana for some Telinga dish meets reticent bird moments… And then back to Welli to finally finish the Tortured Cymbal Library, DUB45 #2 and some other long overdue personal projects… and maybe a day off somewhere along the way….. ciao!


PNG Field Recording



Well it was a field recording trip that was equals parts inspiring & exhausting! By the end of the week I had recorded total data of:

744 24 bit 96kHz 4 channel audio = 70.74GB
722 24 bit 96kH 2 channel audio = 30.5GB
Canon 7D photos = 833MB
Canon s95 video & stills = 11.44GB

But please bear in mind most of the recordings from the trip I cannot post due to them being specific to the film I’m working on – the sounds I have posted below were recorded in my own free time….
To hear the remainder, you’ll just have to wait until the film is released!



Day vs Night
One of the first things I discovered after arriving in Arawa, Bougainville was the huge differential between the ambient sound of day versus night. Here in New Zealand night is generally pretty quiet and from dawn until dusk the birds, insects and activity are far louder. But in Bouganville it was almost the opposite, both in terms of volume & density! Daytime usually had insects, but they were often sparse & high frequency – closer to grasshoppers in NZ. But at night a full orchestra of insects woke up & sang their little hearts out! The house I stayed at in Arawa had mesh windows to keep out mosquitos, but it basically meant the house was acoustically open to all exterior sounds and on the first night I walked from room to room, listening to the range of insect sounds – there was a different tone and rhythm to the insects in every room!!

PNG Insects 01 1pm by timprebble

PNG Insects 02 1.20pm direct sun by timprebble

PNG Night1 by timprebble


On my trips to Samoa I didnt really have any gear problems with humidity, but due to it being the rainy season in Bougainville the humidity was far higher and I noticed some odd behaviour from the first moment. I had tested everything back in NZ but when I set up to record the first sounds, a river, first one of my MKH8040s didn’t work at all, and then I noticed one of my MKH70s was emitting no sound other than a loud splat every few seconds. I can’t describe how difficult it is trouble shooting in such hot & humid conditions – even sitting there listening I was sweating non-stop! I managed to quickly eliminate cables as the source of the trouble, but that worried me even more – to lose two of my six mics on the first recording!?! No way!! I reconfigured and did a quad recording of the river and then we moved on…. At the next location the 8040 was back fully functioning and I discovered the MKH70 was also actually ok, it was one of the inputs to my SD302 preamp that was causing the trouble, so changing over to the third input solved it… But I noticed from then on how important it was to get the mics set up and get phantom power to them for a few minutes before recording, to give them time to settle in to the new location and humidity level.


Everywhere I went recording I always had someone local with me as a guide, and many times it was some of the local boys who showed me to specific locations, and the second place I went after that river I learned a valuable lesson that I kept very present in my mind from then on. After recording the river the plan was to head into dense bush to record insects & birds. We were near Barini Village, which was a few miles inland down a muddy 4WD track, and a local boy from the village was our guide. The path we were to follow was across the river, and he proceeded to step and jump across the big stones by the rapids that I’d just recorded and then indicated for me to follow him….. I had 20kg of equipment in my backpack and apart from it potentially causing me to lose my balance and fall it, I simply could also not risk the gear getting wet. So I chose a stable part of the river and slowly waded across, getting wet up to the waist in the process, but I thought to myself: these kids have lived their whole life in this environment & can read it like the back of their hand. They happily went everywhere barefoot, but were so sure footed in the process that it was potentially delusional for me to think I could do the same.




Being the rainy season there was plenty of opportunities to record rain, and thankfully I never got caught out with a sudden downpour, with all my mics out in the open. A few times you could feel the humidity change, and then gentle spots of rain would start but that would be ten minutes warning before any actual downpour started. If anything, the really heavy downpours were even more intense than in Samoa! The house I was staying at in Pidia Village had a tin roof with no insulation or ceiling and at one point I had to put my headphones on just to have a break, as the sound was overwhelmingly loud and some of the showers lasted 20 minutes! Apart from recording the rain from under the shelter of the house (it was on stilts, with the house being 3m off the ground) I did try a few other approaches including using a brolly but became frustrated with the rain on brolly sound. But while lieing listening to the rain inside I had a sudden thought – the rain wasn’t actually cold, I didn’t mind getting wet, it was just the gear that was critical… So I put the recorder in a waterproof bag and hooked up my tiny DPA 4060s, put one in each hand and went out into the rain and recorded some great sounds. The DPA4060 mics are so small it was easy to use my hands as shields from the rain, and my hands are solid enough to not hear the rain hitting them in the same way that you can hear rain hit a brolly!

PNG Rain DPA4060s by timprebble


Time of day recording
As with my trips to Samoa for THE ORATOR I did an overnight ambience recording session while in PNG – while having good recordings of night crickets was essential, its even better to be able to skip through a whole nights worth of recordings and hear how the insects change…. and then choose which feel most appropriate to use… This type of recording is the hardest on battery useage, and it was made even more difficult by the fact that the village I recorded in had no power source. So I couldn’t rely on swapping between sets of batteries while simultaneously recharging – once all my sets ran out that was it, no more recording! So I set my watch alarm for every 2-3 hours, and woke to check the recording & battery status… Heres a little time slice of the nights recording – there is a gap in the middle as I woke to heavy rain, which went on for quite a few hours, so I set my alarm for pre-dawn and went to sleep!


PNG Timelapse 5.30pm+ by timprebble






Apart from documenting actual locations from the film, one of my aims is also to collect elements to make a scene more interesting and that involved going to as wide a variety of locations as possible… Heres some beautiful birds I managed to capture using the Telinga dish with the MKH8020 mic:


PNG Bird Telinga 8020 by timprebble


And a few other photos from the trip:









Ambiences for Film

As a starting point I figured its worth explaining why I’ve chosen the mics and configuration that I have for the Papua New Guinea trip – specifically about capturing elements for the ambiences for the film. As I worked through my reasoning, this post slowly became a generalised discourse on my approach to ambiences for film, so I changed the title & now it hopefully serves two purposes…

First, as a caveat, I have huge respect for the incredible research that goes into single point 5.1 mics like the DPA5100 or the Sanken WMS-5 or the Holophone and Soundfield mics and appreciate there are many applications where these kinds of mics are perfect, but…. while the considerable cost is one issue, it is the use, on location and then working with the resulting recordings, where my aims & process differ from the single-point-microphone concept…

This article on the development of the DPA 5.1 mic explains my stance exactly: “It is also important to distinguish between produced surround and acoustic surround. Produced surround is where a sometimes high number of mono (and I add, stereo, LCR, quad and 5.0) channels are surround panned in the sound field. Most modern mixers and workstations are able to deliver this functionality to create a virtual reality. Acoustic surround, on the other hand, aims to increase the feeling of presence in a specific acoustic sound environment by capturing the characteristics of the acoustics using surround microphone techniques.”

That statement “capturing the characteristics of the acoustics” is where single point 5.1 mics excel. But as a film sound designer the end results of my work primarily requires produced surround – the recording of any ambience is just the first of many steps in creating the ‘right’ ambience for a scene in a film. And the best way to capture material in a location for this use is, imho not necessarily a single point mic – sometimes it might be (and it sure would be more convenient than lugging a bag of seperate mics and stands and Rycotes across borders) but other than placement there is no flexibility with a single point microphone – this isn’t about criticizing, they definitely serve a purpose, but it’s worth thinking about the two aspects I mentioned in passing: the recording, and the use for the recordings….


The Final Result?
I’m going to discuss this is reverse order, since the reason for recording is not academic – the only reason these ambiences are being recording is for their use in a film. So the ends dictates the means; given the opportunity of actually being on location, the aim is to capture elements of that location in a way that is likely to be of the most use for the film. And what is the ‘most use’ for you will depend on your experiences and how you’ve edited ambiences for a film before, and even more importantly how those ambience tracks worked when predubbed and in the final mix. The ends dictates the means.

A typical ambience editing session for a film for me looks a bit like this:

AMBIENCE session


So each predub stem is being fed by Cx4, LRx4 and LRsx2 – the number of stems required depends on the film and scene, as does the number of elements actually used on the tracks, but I would likely assign stems as:

AMB_A + AMB_B – primary ambience
AMB_C + AMB_D – secondary ambience
AMB_E + AMB_F – spot ambience elements 1
AMB_G + AMB_H – spot ambience elements 2

The edited ambiences are ‘checker boarded’ to allow for transitions between scenes. Its worth noting there is no set length for a fade overlap between scenes, as it depends on a number of factors. The first consideration is the cadence: dramatically do you want the scene change to be seamless, pronounced or somewhere inbetween? A pronounced scene change might be required for a time change where it is important the audience realise that time has passed. Another consideration is relative levels: cutting from a scene set on a surf beach to a scene in a quiet library requires a different approach than cutting from a street scene to a rain storm. Each scene change requires individual attention.

So the ambiences for a scene may have somewhere between 5 and 20 layered elements to create what appears as a single ambience in the final film. I layout my session starting with centre tracks because an important role of ambiences is to support production audio. Most production sound has an ambience/background behind it which may change between different angles and the centre channel of ambiences must match and help that inherited background. And when a scene is 100% ADR then the C channel ambiences need to be plausible as 100% of ‘normal’ dialogue background. In a worse case scenario i.e. your final mix is heard with only the centre channel playing, I believe the ambiences should still work for the film.

Elements for C, LR and the surrounds are layered to suit the scene, and also for perspective cuts within the scene where necessary. And its the choices and layering of those elements that allows you to shape the ambience for the scene, and then allows the re-recording mixer to balance & place the elements on the dub stage. There are many tactics or approaches to choosing material – one I use sometimes is foreground, mid ground & distant. So for example, a street scene might have foreground elements of pedestrians & street activity, mid ground might be traffic two blocks away and distant elements might be general city rumble. Another approach would be to split elements by type for eg a park AMB A+B might be park birds AMB C+D wind in trees AMB E+F insects and AMB G+H kids playing.

Telinga Island?

So are the LR and surround LR elements actually stereo recordings? or quad recordings? How does a 5.0 recording fit with this? The only answer is that it depends on the point of view of the visuals in the film. But it also depends on what works – the best advice I have ever been given is TRUST YOUR OWN EARS ONLY. But to make the best decisions you need to have the material to experiment. One of the concerns with stereo, quad or 5.0 recordings is how they are perceived by the audience. If only the entire audience was sitting in the sweet spot of the theatre then this might be less of a concern but imagine how differently they would be perceived from a seat front left compared with someone sitting at the rear of the theatre. A simple example: a stereo recording of a river might seem realistic in your edit studio when played as it is, from left and right speakers. But for someone sitting left in the theatre, they are not going to hear much of your right side due to the Hass effect. In this example, taking one side of the stereo river recording and offsetting it by eg 30 seconds effectively creates a representation of the river as two discrete elements – like the mics were spread so far apart they were capturing totally different parts of river. For a visual wide shot, the original stereo recording might be most suitable whereas if the p.o.v. is as if you were standing in the river then the discrete would be more dramatic, and potentially interesting. And someone sitting front left will still hear unique material from right, because it is essentially discrete.

You’ll maybe notice in my ambience edit session there are no quad or 5.0 tracks, and there is a good reason for that. I prefer to place quad recordings across two stereo tracks so I can edit them more effectively and experiment with offsets. I bought Tonsturms new library of very beautiful quad ambient recordings and its been great working with that material in a few scenes of MR PIP. I did quad recordings for THE ORATOR but was pursuing discrete elements so its been interesting to work with coherent quad recordings captured with omni mics. In some cases I broke apart the quad recordings & turned them into discrete elements (eg a river & stream) and in others I retained the coherent quad image across a LR and LRs tracks. But it again showed me there is no ‘one technique works for all’ approach when editing and layering. One of the dangers of using the offset mono approach is that it can make an ambience seem busier. Take a example of a recording of a suburban street with sparrows chirping – when you offset one side of that recording it is in effect doubling the amount of birds chirping, as if there are twice as many birds! And that may potentially not suit the scene in the same way that the original recording did. So TRUST YOUR OWN EARS ONLY.


thinking seat


Capturing Useable Elements
My ideal when field recording is to capture both coherent images of an ambience as well as discrete elements. As per my previous post I effectively have a six channel recorder so what is the best way to use those six channels to achieve this? A single point 5.1 mic would let me capture a single image of a location, but as soon as I start thinking about that scenario I start to have questions. What if there is an element in that ambient field that I do not want or want to minimise? Also if the scene dictates that an offset-mono or discrete approach will work best, what are my options with a single 5.1 recording?

The conclusion I came to for my current mic rig is this:

– I want a coherent but discrete L-C-R image, which I can choose the spacing (ie discreteness) depending on the location. The low self noise & extended frequency response of the MKH80X0 has huge appeal – for ambiences & for all of my recordings, hence the choice of MKH8040-MKH8050-MKH8040 as L-C-R

– I want to capture discrete elements for surrounds and/or as spot elements – my pair of MKH70s have proven themselves in Samoa to be excellent at pulling focused sound from within a complex environment, and the Telinga dish with an MKH8020 takes that approach to another level

– At some stage I can imagine upgrading to a Sound Devices 788 and potentially adding a pair of MKH8020 omnis to capture diffuse surrounds. I like the tonality of omni mics for ambiences but their biggest advantage is also their biggest potential fault – if there is something in a location that you do not want, then an omni mic is likely to pick it up more than any other mic. And other than being in very remote quiet locations, avoiding or minimising unwanted elements is an important part of the process. Bougainville in Papua New Guinea is a remote location, but I suspect avoiding or minimising the sound of distant generators and boats may well be a challenge. So I’d love the best of both worlds…


Mic Rig



While thinking through all of this I came across this mic setup for surround recording: the DPA S5 – has it listed for US$2,703.32 which is a lot to invest in mic stands, but the DPA site also mentions the inspiration for the rig: the work of Akira Fukada, senior recording engineer at NHK Science & Technical Research Laboratories in Japan. Here is a link to an outline of his work and a PDF of his surround mic configuration. Very interesting food for thought…




1. What?
I’m off on Wednesday for a field trip for ten days or so….



2. Why?
To collect ambiences & sound effects for my current film project


PNG satellite photo


3. Where?
The ultimate destination is a village called Pidia, which is where the film is set and most of it was filmed. Pidia is on the island of Bougainville, up in the Solomon Islands. Here is a description of getting there:

– Fly Wellington to Brisbane: 3 hours 7min
– Fly Brisbane to Port Moresby: 2 hours 36min
– Fly Port Moresby to Buka Island: 1 hour 40min
– Boat trip across to Bouganville Island: 10min
– 4WD trek to Arawa: 4-5 hours with 11 river crossings (!)
– Boat trip to Pidia: 30min

We’ll be staying in the town of Arawa most of the time (which has power for charging batteries) but I will be spending at least 3 days/2 nights in Pidia Village with no access to power, hence all the batteries in my gear list below…








4. How?

On every major field trip my field recording setup has evolved, and as this trip is more difficult and more remote than any previous trips, I am very thankful for the experience I gained from my two trips last year to Samoa, when working on THE ORATOR. I evolved my record kit a lot, especially on the second trip, removing things that were unnecessary & reducing my excess baggage charges to a mere NZ$25.

For this trip I have managed to evolve my microphone collection significantly, although I have also had to strategise packing a little differently, as the flight from Port Moresby to Buka Island is on a small plane where the carry on baggage is far more restrictive in size than a normal international flight. Accordingly I will have to check both my hard suitcase (with the big mics & stands in it) as well as check my LowePro PhotoTrekker AWII backpack and will take a smaller backpack with the breakable essentials (recorders, cameras, laptop, drives, essential mics.) Th carry on bag is also my mission critical gear – if all my checked baggage was lost I could still function… plus I need to record ambiences in both the planes and in an Australian airport for the film…. I’ve also been doing a bunch of things to make life easier



Tim’s Field Kit v3

Mic Rig
mics: 5.0 + Telinga

Same backpack + mic bag as Samoa (checked in a hard case)






there will be rain

There will be rain (but it won’t be cold!)


Rain cover


Gear List:

– Sound Devices 744
– Sound Devices 722
– Sound Devices 302
– Zoom H2 + Rycote

– Sennheiser MKH8040 x2
– Sennheiser MKH8050
– Sennheiser MKH8020 with MZF Filter
– Sennheiser MKH70 x2
– DPA 4060 x2

– Rycote + Wind Protection x5
– Telinga Dish + Universal Mount
– Slik camera tripod

– 8m mic cable x3
– 5m mic cable x6
– 3m mic cable x3

– Sennheiser HD25 MkII
– Sennheiser PX200 MkII

– F960 6000mAh x 10
– F960 Chargers x 4
– AA x50

– Canon 7D with 10-22mm and 60-200mm lens
– Canon s95

Rain cover:
– Travel umbrella x2
– Hat umbrella x1
– Petrol Rain Poncho x1
– 15″ Fotosharp rain cover x3
– 30″ Fotosharp rain cover x2
– Rain cover ex Kathmandu for mic/stand bag
– LowePro PhotoTrekker AWII has rain cover built into the base
– Pelican desiccant silica gel packs x2

– Laptop + PT10 ilok
– 3 x 250GB drives

Random stuff:
– iPod Touch
– Sun Protection
– Anti Mosquito spray
– Anti-Maleria pills
– LED Torches: head lamp & lamps built into recorder bag
– Water bottles

– A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
– Ghost Written by David Mitchell


5. How with what?
Tomorrow I’m going to head out & do a test recording with the full rig, so I’ll write a seperate blog post about how and why I’ve made the mic choices I have, plus I’ll post a copy of a ProTools sessions with some of the recordings for you to have a listen. The Telinga with the 8020 in it has particularly fascinating potential; the combination of focus & isolation of the dish with the extended frequency response of the 8020 should make for some unreal insect recording in PNG! The cicadas and crickets in NZ are singing on a sunny day, so presuming tomorrows forecast is right I should have some tests with it for you to check out too…


6. Meanwhile…

Apparently internet access is dial-up speed (remember that?) at best in Arawa, so I won’t be blogging much at all until I get back. In my absence, rather than total blog silence I wondered if you are up for a challenge? I had an idea about creating a set of FIELD RECORDING TIPS – no matter your experience, field recording is an endless learning curve & some of the best field recording tips are often simple ones – things that you may not have otherwise have thought about until you are in a certain situation. A simple example; the best field recording tip I have read recently was in issue 335 (January 2012) of THE WIRE & was written by Chris Watson, where he eloquently describes setting up his mics and then sealing his recorder in a waterproof bag, “leaving my equipment to the mercy of the ever-present mosquitos, leeches and inquisitive macaques. I retreat back down the trail for fresh mango and coffee and anticipate rewinding the results…”

So I’ll make a section for tips about recording in adverse conditions such as this – nothing ruins a beautiful field recording like the slap of the recordist fighting off maleria-carrying mosquitos!! But the same goes for weather, and of course, personal safety must always be at the top of that list… I’ll structure the tips as a timeline, since all field recording requires preparation of days & often weeks, so any tips you want to contribute can be tagged to the timeline… I know I often remember gems of ideas when I am not in front of a computer so hopefully it is a post you might contribute to while I am away…



Lastly a few beautiful glimpses of Papua New Guinea:






My only New Year resolution is 24bit 192k multichannel, and in preparation for the Papua New Guinea field trip I’m investing in a few new mics – first is a pair of MKH80X0 mics, suspect it will be a matched 8040 pair in the tiny Rycote rigs but the other mic I am interested in is a parabolic dish, to put either my DPA4060s in or an MKH8020.
I have to confess I have never used a parabolic dish, although I understand how and why they work, and their shortcomings (eg low frequency response is dependent on the size of the dish) but I’d still love to try one before I invest – anyone local know anyone local with one? And failing that, have you used one? What was your experience? I understand they are super narrow in their pickup, which is why I’d like one for PNG – to isolate birds and/or insects – whenever I’d use it I’ll also be recording with multichannel ambience mics, so my motive is to capture isolated spot elements for ambiences….



I read this article about Bernie Krause who mentions the Telinga parabolic dishes and also his own DIY efforts – after checking the Telinga site it seems their flexible dish would be ideal for travel – ‘virtually unbreakable’ combined with the Universal kit for mounting and holding it…


So if you’ve used one, how have you found them for handling noise? And seeing as they are very directional, do you work with headphones on or off? What mic do you use with it & how are the results?


A few links to read if you’re interested:

– Nathans experiences at NoiseJockey

– A relevant question (and answers) on Yahoo Group nature recordists group

and a few example recordings:

Jim Morgan: “The recorded sound of a kitchen timer bell at 15, 30, 60, 90, 150, 300 feet. Note the significant attenuation of the higher frequencies that increase with distance. Recorded with a 23 inch Telinga Twin science parabolic microphone in an open field with no obstructions between the bell and microphone.”

Bell test 15 30 60 90 150 300 ft by fundador


Melodious blackbird by Martyn Stewart

Håkan Olsson: “Bat sound recording with Telinga and AT 4022 in an opening in the forrest. I only noticed one bat hunting.”

bat sound by nordicnature

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) by nordicnature



sonic tourism

This is one place I am definitely visiting next time I am in the UK!

If only you could rotate & point them at things!

For the record the above photo is of a sound mirror which was used for early detection of approaching planes during the war… thankfully they have been preserved & its possible to visit them on a guided tour.

They employ the same physical technique as parabolic dishes used by bird spotters/recordists the world over – the dish collects & focuses sound to a point which is exactly where people like me place a microphone. The main problem with parabolic dishes is that their frequency response is based on physical size – for recording birds the target sound is mainly in the upper register so a portable dish is very useful whereas for recording the full spectrum (or the drone of an approaching bomber) requires a large scale parabolic dish, hence the sound mirrors

Not quite as spectacular but a bit closer to home is a location with an intriging acoustic phenomena; the Massey Memorial, which is up in the bush on the city side of the Miramar peninsula here in Wellington. It is a big marble monument & at the sea end it is like a big dome with windows in it.

In the centre of the dome is a raised platform which if you stand on it & make any sound, you get an instant acoustic reflection from all angles of the dome. It feels almost perspectiveless, like wearing headphones with the foldback turned way up, while being mic’ed up in an anechoic chamber… Visit it, with your ears open!

& if you know of any other sonically interesting locations in New Zealand, please tell me about it!