PNG Field Recording

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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!

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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

 

Humidity
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.

 

Guides
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.

 

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Rain
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

 

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Birds
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

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And a few other photos from the trip:

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6 Responses to PNG Field Recording

  1. Enos Desjardins says:

    Great post Tim! Looks like it was a great trip!

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  3. Alex Noyes says:

    Tim – Amazing sounds. I did the sound edit & mix on a short documentary about the Carteret Islands and Bourgainville called Sun Come Up. Spent most of my time trying to get rid of these insect sounds – INTENSE!

  4. @TheSoundMonster says:

    Great post!

  5. Paul Folley says:

    Well done. I spent some time in Milne Bay at night recording night sounds for a short movie I did. Was an awesome experience alone on a track in the bush listening to the night. I could almost feel the darkness. Your recs remind me! Most annoying was when a mosquito went up to the mic and over this nice “jungle at night” was the neeee-ee-ee of a mossie. Darn! Had to take over and over and cut out mossie. Mostly though it was recording village songs. Wonderful harmony singing. You can never plan – just got to grab the moment when magic happens. If you try to set it up they all get stiff and go quiet. Good luck with your movie.

  6. Pingback: ASSG – Dangerous Ambiences

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