the cinematic orchestra

the new album by The Cinematic Orchestra is not far off release & if you visit their subsite on ninjatune you can download a preview song….
Words cannot describe how achingly beautiful that song is!
But dont take my word for it – go here

air show – but not heard?!?!!

Don’t get me wrong – i LOVE the sound of air moving, and the more extreme examples are sometimes (but not always) the most interesting to appreciate. So why is it that if you go to an air show, you can be sure to have your ears assaulted by banalities more appropriate to daytime television?? Take this example, a friend photographed last weekend at Whenuapai – as awe inspiring as it is to look at, what do you think it sounded like?

We shall never know

If you are reading this after google searching ‘air show, sounds, amazing’ then your next stop is to complain to whoever you are about to buy a ticket from, to otherwise see (& not hear) some amazing aircraft…. A year or two ago I went to Warbirds Over Wanaka which is in all effect the geographically most awesome air show possible.. and here was me, DAT recorder (hey, it was the 90s) & mics ready to go, but after spending a day there I am not sure I even got to cleanly record half a dozen passbys…. if they didnt have music pumping through the lo fi PA system, they had some commentator commentating…
Please note I am not complaining about the enthusiasts, for it is they who fund such fantastic event.. .but they are smart – broadcast the commentary over some FM band & let the rest of us, with ears open to pure experience, have a PURE EXPERIENCE…. please?

diy music box

i’ve always loved the sound of music boxes & have recorded them attached to different objects – acoustic guitars, pianos, drums… but today in the mail I just got the coolest of all music boxes: a diy music box!

I think it is the same as the one I have seen that fantastic Icelandic band Amiina play. It comes with 3 paper rolls & a hand punch for creating your own music, although one of the rolls is already punched to play Happy Birthday, so buy one for the musician in your life at the Grand Illusion website


Combine the best roots/reggae/dub music with a perfect summer location and you have a good description for 48 hours of bliss – otherwise known as the Raglan Soundsplash…. last week still feels about 2 months ago…. check the location:

sunset on the second night

I have worn out much vinyl created by the Dub Syndicate, since the early 1980s when adrian sherwood first started working with them… and here they were, in Raglan, cranking it up on a wicked sound system… this pic was taken about 1am, and is considerably less blurry than the photographer…

a bit of recovery at a beach, Ruapuke, south by an hours drive, with surf that takes your breath away….

a moment of zen

and another…

touch the sound

I mentioned it in a comment somewhere but a DVD I recently got from that I have really enjoyed is Touch The Sound, a doco about percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who is nearly deaf. One of my favourite bits in the film is when she has an improvised jam with Fred Frith in an old empty warehouse… and thanks to youtube here it is:

I became an instant fan of Fred Frith after watching this!

walking in snow

Its summer outside, but inside it sounds like winter – thanks to a huge bag of rock salt! Someone told me adding coco-pops helps emulate the sound of snow as you get the crunch of crusty ice but so far the rock salt has been doing the trick… will get some next time i’m at the supermarket…

these boots were made for… chaos!

If you happen to live somewhere where there is snow right now & have access to a record kit, do please get in touch I am compiling FX for 30 Days of Night & as the entire film is set in Alaska my FX list is long….

dub reggae killed my bassbin!

doh! last night i blew the speaker in my bass amp

there were some quite beautful sparks coming out of it at one point
but for fear of blowing the amp I hit the off switch pretty quick…
hmmmm get it reconed? (sounds like a reggae term huh?)
or replace it with an 18″ bin?

i play bass through a Moogerfooger LPF pedal & always roll off
all the tops… so dont need or want much top end at all….
attack is what the drums are for!

BLACK SHEEP FX Recording 4

Aside from vegetables we also did a wood FX recording and some cloth ripping FX. We managed to find an old chest of drawers at the junkstore for $10, plus a selection of various blankets, towells, sheets etc for tearing apart… money well spent!

First to go was the individual drawers, then the outer shell filled with debris and then each of the remaining pieces until all we had left was a pile of debris.

I also collected up a bag full of drift wood from the beach, which provided many variations on breaks, snaps etc but we also found a number of great creaks by tightly bending & manipulating with pliers. Recording some of these sounds we switched the dynamic mic for my Trance Inducer contact mic, which made some of the very subtle creaks sound MASSIVE! Pictured is Age Pryor, FX Assistant, manipulating wood with pliers..

As the film is set on a farm there are a number of times when people clamber over wire fences so Age built a fence structure, great sounding but not so functional at keeping sheep in a paddock! By stressing & wrangling the wire, the wood resonated really nicely… another one for the contact mic, some of these sounds were also used as part of creepy ambiences when inside the shearing shed etc..

My one other inspired idea for violence sound effects was seaweed!
When I was out collecting some of the driftwood we recorded, I stood on some old dried out seaweed and it made some VERY interesting snapping sounds! I suspect its because seaweed has a lot of pockets of air trapped inside it, not sure… So we collected up a big stack of seaweed (well Kristin did, much thanks!) and then totally dried it out using fan heaters & set to & broke, twisted & gouged it in as many ways as possible. It also created some good debris sounds as it broke down into smaller pieces.

Its good for the garden too!
I’ll post a photo of my 11 foot high sunflower once it flowers!

BLACK SHEEP FX Recording 3

Ever since doing Worlds Fastest Indian I really enjoy recording vehicle sound effects and Black Sheep had two main vehicles we needed to augment – a good old Landrover and a classic Morris 1300… Luckily we got access to them both at Pikarari, a farm south of Titahi Bay..

The Landrover was a bit stuffed – first gear graunched & grated like crazy (which we also recorded for the library) but once I got going it ran well & I spent an hour or more performing variations of all of the moves in the film. We had the landrover wired up to record onboard sound the whole time so we ended up with lots of good onboard recordings (one dynamic mic on the exhaust & the other on the motor)

Matt Lambourn recorded all the exterior moves using his Sound Devices 722 & my Sanken CSS5 mic. We also recorded some good heavy body falls onto grass by throwing around an old tractor tyre that happened to be on the back of the landrover…

The mighty Morris 1300 – I drove again, but this was a bumpier ride as the Morris had been lowered & had hardly any suspension… a fun car though – i’d love a restored one except refitted as a hybrid, future retro style!

We got finished just as the sunset…

30 days of night

A new year, a new project and this one looks to be seriously wicked!

The film is based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and is being produced by Rob Tapert and Chloe Smith for GhostHouse Pictures and directed by David Slade, who’s last film was Hard Candy.

GhostHouse have a production diary with some great location video clips. The shoot was finished just before xmas, so post production has just started – not sure what the release date is but will update here when I find out….

BLACK SHEEP FX Recording 2

For the sounds of violence & gore in the film I decided to do a major studio based FX recording session involving as wide a selection of sound generating vegetables as we could muster. I did this for a project a few years ago & got great results, but wanted new material for this film.
Age Pryor, the FX Assistant went off to the supermarket & came back with los of crunchy material (such as celery, cabbage, carrots, pumpkin, eggs, nuts) and squelchy material (such as oranges, persimon, rock melon, water melon, mussels in their shells, baked beans, yoghurt) for some seriously messy fun! You would be surprised how wide a range of incredibly gross, revolting sounds can be made, even with a simple orange or a rock melon! If you dont believe me, wait until you see Black Sheep & have a good listen to the offal pit scene!

Matt Lambourn, FX Editor, manipulating some celery… this was great for bone break elements & wrenches. We also recorded some of the celery wrapped in cloth, which worked well as elements for some of the body tranforming sound design.
We recorded to my FR2 24bit/96k using a dbx preamp and a combination of a Neumann KMR81 short shotgun mic and an EV RE27 dynamic mic.

We also wanted a selection of bites & eating – so each person involved in the session had their turn at contributing variations. Pictured is Chris Todd, dialog and ADR editor, munching and fully in character!

Many vegetables died for a good cause, including these two!

Sound Design Book List

Here are the best books that I own & reccomend on the subject of film sound design!

The Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound by David Lewis Yewdall – if you only buy one book, I would buy this one. It is very practical & talks through every department & element of the soundtrack. The only caveat would be that it suffers slightly from the ‘bigger is better’ syndrome, but that comes down to aesthetics & taste which I wont debate here…

Audio-Vision by Michel Chion – this is the best book on film sound theory I have read – it is very thought provoking with a great foreword by Walter Murch.

Soundscape by Larry Sider – this is actually a copy of various lectures given at the School of Sound, a week long course held every two years in London. This book features lectures by Walter Murch, David Lynch, Randy Thom, Michel Chion, Carter Burwell and Mani Kaul amongst others….

Sound-On-Film: Interviews with Creators of Film Sound by Vincent LoBrutto – this book contains some very interesting interviews including Walter Murch, Ben Burtt, Skip Lievesay, Gary Rydstrom, Mark Mangini and many others..

The Foley Grail by Vanessa Theme Ament – great insight into the world of the foley artist!

Dialogue editing for Motion Pictures by John Purcell – a very thorough, if a little dry, explanation of dialogue & ADR editing

The Sound Effects Bible by Ric Viers – a handy guide to recording sound effects

The Reel World: Scoring for Pictures by Jeff Rona – I don’t write music/score for film, but on every project I get to collaborate with film composers so I figure the more I know about film scoring the better!

Finally, its not a book but its the best online resource for sound design:

BLACK SHEEP FX Recording 1

We did quite a lot of sound effects recording for Black Sheep and I was just sorting through the photos & thought I’d post a bunch of them…
it was a hell fun project!

Sheep recording
While I had a few sheep recordings in my library from my brothers farm, I knew I’d need more than a few for this film! I collected up some great recordings from the personal librarys of Kitt Rowlings, Don Paulin, Beth Treadray & Tom Miskin (much thanks!) & did a first pass of all of the sheep FX in the film. It became obvious there were still specific FX I needed (aside from vocals I also wanted sheep hooves on various surfaces) so I set up a recording session with the animal trainers for the film – James & Caroline of Hero Animals. Wow – what a great experience! The photo above shows the trained sheep responding to a few whistles from James.. After watching sheep attack people on film for the previous month I almost laughed out loud when this mob came bounding down the hill & swarmed us!

James could even blow a whistle & get the sheep to baaa as a group, very funny to see & hear I can assure you! I recorded lots of sheep vocals as well as close up breaths when the sheep were eating, for the carnivorous scenes in the film. I also recorded single sheep footsteps at various speeds, on grass & then inside the woolshed on wood. Everything was recorded using my trusty Sanken CSS5 stereo shotgun mic and Fostex FR2 hard disk recorder.

An intriging side note, James & Carolines farm is the one & same that was used as a main location in Peter Jackson’s first film Bad Taste and that James still had one of the alien’s masks form it! The trailer for Bad Taste is on youtube, here:

Ambience recording Dec 2006

I havent processed these recordings yet either, but here are a few snapshots of ambience recording locations from my travels….

The east coast of the South Island, near the Ashburton river mouth.

Lake Te Anau, Fiordland – the water was crystal clear.

Totaranui beach, Takaka
I captured three different timelapse shots/ambiences here & I plan to make them into a DVD. When winter gets nasty in Wellington I’ll just turn the heater up & watch/listen to it!

Wharariki beach, Takaka

A gentle breeze in dry long grass – near Wharariki beach, Takaka

I’ll upload the sounds soon, promise!

Impulse Responses Dec 2006

I managed to capture a few impulse responses for Altiverb while away on holiday. I haven’t gone through the recordings yet but once I have I’ll upload them and then update this post…

My nephew Morris firing my .22 starter pistol into a small metal silo on my brothers farm in Southland.

This IR had a nice metal zing to it!

This is inside a tin shed – figured it might be useful for ADR….

This is Echo Point, a spot on the road of the Western Inlet from Takaka. I discovered this spot many eears ago, when there was a sign saying: ‘Echo Point – startling echo heard here!’ The signs now gone but if you happen to explore this area, its by the road marker #99 on the Western Inlet. No doubt it sounds quite different when the tide is in…

my remote studio

While on holiday in Takaka I set up a temporary music studio, much thanks to Gaylene Preston who loaned me her cottage & woolshed… its such a peaceful spot

The woolshed was the perfect size to set up in & the acoustics were nice! Aside from cows the nearest neighbour is about 2km away…

its the toy orchestra!

I love my contact mic

The executive producer seems to like it!

happy new year!

I finished 2006 by going on a road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. The main destination in the far south was Fiordland, quite probably the most remote spot in the whole country!

I went on a boat trip to Manapouri Power Station & then out Doubtful Sound to the open sea on the West Coast…. totally awe-inspiring! I was so impressed with the company organising the trip, Real Journeys, as they took us into a beautiful spot, deep into one of the branches of a sound & then turned off the boat motors & requested total silence from everyone, so we could just listen & appreciate where we were.

I also drove in a 4WD track to Lake Monowai & then onwards to the bottom of Lake Te Anau, following an access ‘road’ for the power pylons…

Many times on my trip I would stop, set up my sound recording kit & DV camera & record an ambience/shoot 20 minutes of video of a beautiful location to later speed up ie pseudo-timelape… the only annoying thing was if I did it anywhere near an obvious viewpoint, sooner or later a tourist bus would pull up & 20 people would scramble out of the bus, quickly take a photo & then depart again!? I think its like being there by proxy – advice to tourists: DO NO SEE NEW ZEALAND VIA A BUS TRIP!

This is the Mt John Observatory in Central Otago, a place I have always wanted to visit & on this trip timed it so I could. Its run by the physics department at Canterbury University & although it was too late in the day to get the proper tour/talk I did get to have a look around. The view is SENSATIONAL! I can only imagine what its like to be there on a clear night..

This was the main final destination – a week in Takaka, at the top of the South Island. Takaka has a fantastic climate & lots of great swimming beaches, especially Totaranui at the end of the Abel Tasman track.