Cicadas, meet Pitch Shift

The start of summer in New Zealand is heralded by the sound of cicadas & while the start of summer is reason to celebrate, some people hate the cicada, especially production sound recordists! There is nothing more difficult to deal with than an exterior scene during cicada season. One local recordist I know has a special technique involving giant water pistols, but even that only buys a short moment of quiet. Heavy cicadas tend to mean ADR – there are multiple problems with their sound: they vary their frequency and intensity depending on direct sunlight so their intense sound can change radically between take 1 and take 3, and even more so between different camera angles etc… Even recording sound effects or ambiences I’ve headed out with the best of intentions only to be stopped by the cicadas. The only option then is to do what I did just now: record some cicada tracks! This one was happily chirping away in a tree outside my studio, so I put my MKH70 on a boom and went & stalked it!

cicada close up

photo by Antoine Hubert

Such a dense sound, but its rhythm becomes clearer once its slowed down. Here is the same track (recorded at 192k) at half speed, quarter speed and finally one eighth speed. If you’d like to know how & why the cicadas make their sound, have a read here

Just needs a bit of space echo!

5 Responses to Cicadas, meet Pitch Shift

  1. Hugo says:

    The number of days I have spent in the company of grumpy sound recordists due to Cicadas…. is substantial. Don’t tell them, but I actually rather like the noise. Summer just wouldn’t be summer without them.

    Now a cricket hiding in my bedroom gently chirping but now giving away it’s position…. now that is a noise that drives me mad!

    – Hugo

  2. Pip says:

    Hi Tim
    Really interested to listen to your recording and modifications. I was walking the ridge between Kaitoke and Te Maruia the other day and as we dropped down into a bit of a hollow the cicadas were more intense than I have ever heard before. The wave form says it all: https://soundcloud.com/iplham/tracks

    • tim says:

      So dense! I’ve noticed in the last few weeks that here in Plimmerton where I am surrounded by bush the cicadas are going 24/7! I’ve never heard cicadas at night in NZ before!! Making up for a late start?

  3. tim says:

    I’ve redone the soundcloud embeds, so sounds should stream here now…

  4. Pip says:

    That’s interesting. I think the numbers vary greatly according to the weather and this is quite a big year for them. Joys of a long summer!

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