Car FX, Car chases… & submarines

I spent most of this afternoon recording car FX with a V8 Valiant Charger being used in a film that I’ll be doing post on later in the year & meanwhile had a revelation – I need a six track recorder! Stereo just doesnt cut it any more…. I went & visited the set last night & sat with the production sound recordist (Ken Saville) & during the meal break we got to discussing vehicle recording and when I mentioned I only had a 722 stereo recorder but always like to record 4 tracks for car interiors (engine, exhaust & stereo interior) & he promptly volunteered to loan me his Fostex PD6, which he wasn’t using on set. Of course I jumped at the chance!

I ended up recording 5 tracks for the car: tracks 1&2 were my Sanken CSS5 stereo shotgun interior, track 3 was a dynamic mic in the engine bay and track 4 was a dynamic on the exhaust. I plugged my Sennhesier MKH70 into my 722 and synced the two machines together with a verbal ID and a finger click and left both machines rolling the entire time. When I was onboard I used the MKH70 out the window to get tyre sounds & objects passing by – there is a very distinctive bridge in the film, so it as great to capture the whoop whoop as we crossed it. But as soon as we stopped I could jump out with the 722 & MKH70 & record exterior FX (passbys, start/aways, up/approaches etc) and meanwhile left the PD6 still recording interiors… It will be weird to be able to play in sync an onboard & an away – two perspectives in sync! So anyway, after such fun I realised I ‘need’ a six track recorder, but i just need technology to catch up with my expectation/budget ratio!

After I got back from recording the car today I got into a rant with the picture editor his assistant about great car chases from films past & these three instantly came to mind:

Steve McQueen in Bullitt

The French Connection

& the ultimate Mini chase in The Italian Job

I must watch those three movies on DVD some time soon, with the sound cranked up!

And the submarine? Well I didnt get to go in one but The Wire blog has a great set of links worth a visit (here) about a project by sonic anthropologist Stefan Helmreich who went on a mission in The Alvin, a three-person submersible…. hmmmm I’m not sure what would be more claustraphobic, a big submarine or a small one! Beautiful sounds though!

6 thoughts on “Car FX, Car chases… & submarines

  1. Michael Maroussas

    Hi Tim, congratulations on the blog – been following it for a while now and always find it interesting.

    Just wanted to ask you how you found the dynamic mics handled wind and vibration noise when recording the Valiant Charger?

  2. Pingback: Designing Sound » More than 50 Articles/Tutorials about Sound Design, Recording and more, Plus Wooshes Sound Desing

  3. James Hayday

    Hey Tim… so many good articles on your blog, thanks for being so generous.

    I’ve been trolling through these car recording posts because I’ve got the chance to record an aaaawesome V8 Chevy this weekend so all your tips will be invaluable.

    My only problem is finding dynamics that arent rubbish.. I was thinking about using this ‘free’ JoeMeek condensor that came bundled (meaning that it was rolling around loosely inside the cardboard packaging) with some gear I bought…. Yeah so Im not too worried about it offering its life.

    Do you think wrapping it very snugly will be enough or is your aversion to using condensers on cars because they’re just too much trouble??


    1. tim Post author

      My fear of using condensor mics as onboard mics is probably more SPL & wind noise related…. If you can secure a condensor mic so that its protected from wind & vibration then go for it, but definitely test it at full revs to see if it can handle being being that close to a loud exhaust pipe…. if not, you would want to have a dynamic mic ready to replace it with….. People don’t tend to put a condensor mic 4″ away from a snare drum, so maybe try that too sometime 😉

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