An appreciation for empty grain silos

Two fragments of nostalgia; the first I have no doubt mentioned before, that on my parents farm we had three grain silos and some of my earliest sound memories are as a small kid running around inside them, generating thunder. And while that might seem like simple fun, the philosophical aspect I hold to be true is that at a very young age I got to learn that sound can be generated. Now we all generate sound, from our first cry at birth, then learning to speak & potentially learning to play musical instruments. But discovering you can create thunder?

Second fragment: decades later a friend bought one of the first Roland samplers, I can’t remember the model – maybe an S10? But it was a rack unit, had a mic input, saved to floppy disks and had a total sample time of 4.4 seconds! What can you do with 4.4 seconds? Well, I joined up three extention power cords, and took the sampler out to the grain silos and with a beaten up old acoustic guitar sampled myself playing a single chord. And while it sounded great, the next step (which must have been a built in function) was to create a backwards/forwards loop. So from nothing grew this massive reverbant acoustic guitar chord, which built to a crescendo and then disappeared back into the massive reverb trail, cycling like a king tide. I loved that sound, and despite losing the floppy disks a decade or two ago, I can still hear that sound in my head any time I like….

So I spent a few hours yesterday messing with a grain silo – ages ago when I decided to record a library of heavy metal sounds, one of the first props that went on the list was an empty grain silo… And after attempting to find one on my own that I could access locally, I started asking friends… and through a friend of a friend, at last found one (thanks Rob!) So I loaded up the car & left home early Saturday morning for the 90 minute drive to get to the farm location at Gladstone in the Wairarapa.

I met the farmer & he took me across the road to their yard & showed me the props

Silos

Until this point I didn’t know if they were the ‘right’ silos i.e. would they actually sound as I remembered them. Thankfully the three on the right of that photo were, due to the solid metal angular base which provides the source of solid metal hits & resonance, and which then reverberates in the space. By comparison the silos on the left were made of flexible corrugated iron and rattled but had none of the solid resonance I was after.

So I rigged the silo with mics: a pair of MKH8040s on fully extended stand, as high as I could get them inside the space, then an MKH8020 omni inside for the low end, an AKG D112 for the attack and a pair of Trance Audio Contact Mics on the metal frame – I tried the contact mics directly on the metal body and they instantly over loaded no matter what I did – contact mics built for subtle vibrations of an acoustic guitar or piano are not built to cope with the massive vibrations coming from a silo!

Silo_base

I recorded until I had exhausted all the sounds I could think of – apart from hitting the body with various grades of hammers, mallets & velocities I also did a lot of recording hitting the steel pipe support structure, which pushed a sharp higher pitched metallic strike into the reverb field of the silo – just watch until I pitch you down an octave or two!!

But before I moved on to the next prop, I had one more set of sounds to capture

starterpistol

I fired a dozen or more shots with my starter pistol into the silo, and then carefully climbed up the outside of the silo and fired a few sets into the top… then on to silo #2

Silo2

I didn’t spend so much time with this silo – it was very rattly & lighter sounding, but I was also keen as hell to get on to recording other big metal props which just happened to be sitting in the yard, and the farmer had kindly encouraged me to try any of them…

sheeptruck

This sheep truck made some great impacts & rattles, but after capturing those sounds i got totally obsessed with two metal attachments on the side of it.

sheeptruckbits

I’m not sure what their purpose was, but these two long bracket things were hanging freely, so by lifting them up & releasing them I could get great gravity powered rhythmic decay from their impact! And if I timed the release I could generate a real-world ping-pong delay effect…

metalplate

next was this heavy metal plate thing…

sheeptruckbits2a

then on to these suspended truck deck sides – I recorded from the outside & noticed how the decay from an impact travelled along the side, and when I ducked down to have a look discovered I could get inside it…

sheeptruckbits2b

There were a number of machines parked around the place, and after one hit on this digger bucket thing & hearing the deeply resonant tone produced I immediately rigged it for recording.. it has a purity of tone that reminded me of big temple bells

diggerbucket

By now I was getting tired – physically from wrangling gear & hitting things, but also psychologically from discovering the sounds hidden in these props…

I hadn’t even noticed these props when I first arrived, but again it took one listen to know I wasn’t leaving without capturing them. I started off doing straight impacts & hits, but then discovered if I offset the angle of the steep plate I could use its own weight & gravity to make a more complex, extended impact….

metalstack

Last was this metal gate: sitting on top of the large metal box meant there were a ton of variations to be had, and I wanted to pursue it as I had set up something similar in my back yard & really liked the complex decay & variations possible. But at home I used a 44 gallon drum as a resonator, whereas this gate was heavier & the box far larger…

metalGatebox

Here’s the setup at home for comparison:

homegate

Apart from the metal recyclers in Paraparaumu I’ve also done quite a lot of recording at home for this library too, and while these sounds are mostly all LOUD high SPL sounds the only time I’ve had trouble with distortion was in a weird situation. The MKH8040s can handle up to 142dB so if the gain staging is carefully managed, there should be no distortion. Dealing with such loud sounds requires constant vigilance, but there was one instance where I was recording a sound that didn’t seem so loud and my gain staging was definitely ok, but… when I checked the recordings in my studio the 8040s were distorted. Here is the setup:

44gallondistortion

So the mics are actually inside the drum, and while that particular steel drum is a standard size 44 gallon drum, this one weighs about two or three times what a normal 44 gallon drum weighs.. So it is VERY resonant, but the mics should have been able to handle it and I still don’t know why they didn’t – I can only guess that the resonance at the fundamental frequency is huge inside there & overloaded the mics at that frequency – so I was doing the classic noobs trick of cleanly recording distorted microphones!

But thankfully it was a prop I own and could easily re-record, so I set it up in my foley room and re-recorded it, this time placing the mics just outside the drum…

foleymetaldrum

Problem solved!
And by being in foley room I could capture more subtle material too!

So I have one more recording session to do this week – I want to revisit the 5 ton concrete block, swinging on the crane at The MetalMen recyclers (I just can’t have enough of that sound!) & then the library is all captured…

When people ask me whats involved in making a HISSandaROAR sound library I usually offer the slightly glib response of ’20+ years working in the film industry and hundreds of hours of research, recording, editing, metadata, video editing, output, marketing etc’ but this image illustrates a point too:

PTmetal

Note the timeline – while all the regions are not closely joined up, that’s still a 12 hour span across all the existing material.

The folder on my RAID with all of the material for SD021 HEAVY METAL IMPACTS = 416.44GB
(although that includes the native compressed video and the ProREZ version for video editing)

So my quandry now is managing the size & scale of the library for release. So if you are someone who supports HISSandaROAR and are interested in this library, what is your opinion on size? Whats a viable maximum download size? This library could easily end up being 30GB download – is that viable?
Over the last four years I’ve had maybe two people complain about download speed eg ‘why is the download so insanely slow?’ When I pursued the issue with one of them it turned out their idea of insanely slow was it taking 3 hours to download 10GB!?! Sheesh, I wish I had those sort of download speeds! When for example I buy a large Kontakt instrument library, I don’t complain about it, I just leave it downloading overnight and it really isn’t a problem. After all, it is a scenario of downloading it once & using it for a lifetime…. And it is that long term thinking that motivates me…

And equally whats your opinion on pricing? I have always aimed to avoid increasing the price of my libraries, but this library is shaping up to be the largest scale HISSandaROAR library yet and even if I only included the MKH8040 recordings, US$99 seems under priced… My instinct is to sell the library for a step up in price, eg US$149 or US$199 (still with a significant early bird discount) and include all the mics, but make the primary library include: [the MKH8040s and a mixed/processed version] with the recordings from the other mics [MKH8050 or 8020, the AKG D112, and the contact mics] included in the library but as secondary downloads.

I do appreciate for beginners the scale & depth of this library may well be overwhelming, and would require more from them than they have to give – it is far easier to grab the fast food equivalent of such sounds.
But as I said, I am not thinking short term. People soon evolve past being beginners and a core aim of HISSandaROAR is to release libraries that are on a scale that in the past, only large facilities or projects with deep pockets would have had access to.

Opinions?

If you’d prefer to discuss directly, feel free to fire me an email

 

Here’s the teaser video, featuring the previous recordings for this library:

 

Scattered Light 157

tyre_swing

metaphor shot at Ocean Beach 9th October with Canon 5DmkIII and EF16-35L lens

Detritus 321

▶ interesting idea: ‘found’ field recordings via youtube

 

 

 

 

▶ DPA at AES: “The heavy-duty 4060 and 4061 microphones….. features stainless steel housing, sturdy cable relief and a thicker .08-inch cable. Both enhanced models are exceptionally durable and ideally suited to the rigors of various productions.”
via

 

 

 

 

“▶ …to make sense of the world everything is contradiction and paradox and no one really knows much for sure, however loudly they profess to the contrary….

 

Scattered Light 156

oldtruckIR01

 

oldtruckIR02

 

#2 in a series? (#1 here) – shot today in Gladstone, with Canon 40D infra red with EFs10-22mm lens