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Close Encounters of a Special Kind – Part 5

Art and Technique of Sound Design

Close Encounters of a Special Kind – Part 5

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Beware of handrails in the park

I would never had imagined, that the art and technique of sound design included even eavesdropping, and that the handrails in our local park are perfectly working monitoring tools, and that in every sound design 101 should be a chapter called “beware of metal bars longer than 10 meters and men with contact (piezo) microphones.” Alright then. I had manufactured a couple of different contact microphones, which I was going to use for underwater recordings of beating and scratching at sunken wrecks (quite small wrecks on the ground of a creek – not under the ocean!).

sound design 101

Before going and doing the real recording I wanted to test my DIY piezo mics in their waterproof cases. I went to a local park, which stretches along our largest river and under diverse bridges and their steel constructions to record some vibrations (not only metallic sounds, but all sounds that my microphones fixed at the steel constructions would catch). Cars driving across the expansion joints of the bridge suddenly changed into the roar of dangerous dragons. The Groaning of the metal carriers changed into the scream of monsters from Tolkien´s “Lord of the Rings”. Amazing. But the most exciting experience I got shortly before leaving the park. Walking along a handrail of about 150 meters length I thought to catch some indirect sounds from the highway, which ran along the handrail in a distance of about 10 meters. I pulled out one of my DIY piezo microphones, held it against the metal handrail – and thought I was listening to the radio! I heard two women talking. Quite loud and astonishingly clearly. They were talking about usual things, about things elderly women use to talk about when they are walking alone in the park. Yes, I could even make out, that the voices belonged to elderly women. But it was not radio waves, that my microphone attached to the handrail was receiving. It was the chatting of two women, who were standing at the handrail (not touching it, but looking into its direction) about 50 or 60 meters away from me! So, beware of handrails in the park when you intend to talk about secrets things!

how sound design is done

The secret life in your water kettle

Even after that many years I´m gobsmacked what exciting sounds you can get from absolutely common things and at absolutely common places. Have you ever thought of travelling into your little water boiler to discover what´s going on in there, when you start boiling water for your tea? I can only recommend this – but take a very cheap microphone with you – you are going to destroy it. And, well, if destroying a microphone – even a cheap one – should bring some extraordinary experiences. So filled my kettel with water (only about a third of its volume), ransacked my boxes with “electronic waste and other valuable useless things, which are not (yet) meant to get thrown away” and found an old – but still functional – computer microphone. Further I found an old fiddle stick (not that expensive one I use for sampling real string instruments), and a – I don´t even know what this thing was/is, some kind of steel wool thingy. I wrapped the microphone into a little plastic bag (they use these bags in our local greengrocer´s shop to put apples and other healthy things in), and held it in the kettle. - But stop! What about shooting some photos! Or even better: why not shooting a film? Alright, I needed light inside the kettle. With a battery, a little light bulb (a remainder of one of these old electric experiment kits for beginners) and another plastic bag I got what I needed. I positioned my camera in front of the “nose” of the kettle, where the whistle normally sits (about 15 cm away from the opening to prevent the steam from “disturbing” the camera´s lens), started to record audio and video and lit the gas flame below the kettle. To make things perfect I “bowed” the kettle (outside of course) with the fiddle stick as well as with this steel wool thingy from time to time. The first sounds were not that exciting. Some kind of hollow metallic sounds – as expected. But then – when the water started to get hotter and hotter, but was still far from boiling – things started to get more interesting. The sound of the bowing (fiddle stick as well as steel wool) changed dramatically. It was as if some creatures inside the kettle were awaking and yawning. Then, when the first bubbles occurred in the water these monsters in the kettle´s cave started to fight each other. Screeching and screaming could be heard, and the steel wool actions outside the kettle sounded like drums from an approaching army. At last, when the water was wildly boiling my fiddle stick seemed to rouse Lovecraft´s Cthulhu and othe monsters from the deep. Let me tell you: BE VERY CAREFUL WITH YOUR WATER KETTLE!

... to be continued

to part 1: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/337

to part 2: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/345

to part 3: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/353

to part 4: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/362

to part 6: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/376

to part 7: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/383

to part 8: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/388

to part 9: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/394

to part 10: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/405

to part 11: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/409

to part 12: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/417


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