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…
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!