Zoom SGH-6 Stream Test

Last weekend I spent a little bit of time getting to know my new stereo shotgun from Zoom, the SGH-6. It’s designed to work with a few of their portable recorders (in my case the H5) and is fairly reasonably priced as you can grab one for less than £100.00. It also includes a windshield which is a necessity if you’re going to be near even the faintest of breezes!

I spent the day recording various outdoor sounds, ambiences and random things I found but wanted to provide a quick test of the microphones mid / side capabilities whilst I had a few minutes today. In this example I’ve used a recording from May Beck, a small rocky stream that winds its way through a rather picturesque Yorkshire valley.

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I tried recording from a number of microphone positions but the examples below use this close riverbank location.

 

I downloaded the mid / side decoder that Zoom make to accompany their range of portable recorders and microphones, which is available for free from their site here and used this inside Adobe Audition to decode the recordings afterwards. As you can hear above I provided three examples exporting mid / side, mid and side mixes.

 

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It’s free, it’s easy, it’s effective… and I like the block diagram!

It’s a simple tool to use, and if you have one of their recorders then it certainly makes sense although there are obviously plenty of other plugins and ways of decoding mid / side recordings.

For less than £100.00 I’ve been really impressed so far with the SGH-6 – both using it in stereo, mono and mid / side modes (it’s worth pointing out you have to specially select this mode prior to recording using the menu function rocker switch). The windshield is well made and really makes a difference, although for stronger gusts you’d need something a bit heftier!  With all things considered it has definitely been a most welcome, inexpensive addition to my kit. I’ll try and post some more examples over the next few weeks.

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Building Site Sound Design

If you’ve ever lived next to a building site you will understand that it is not a particularly pleasant experience, especially when you’re trying to work. In Manchester at the moment there are lot of people excited about building sites, but I’m not one of them. It does however give the opportunity to do some sneaky field recording that offers plenty of scope for sound design and will definitely come in handy for any city / industrial environments you may well have to recreate.

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Fun to watch… but not fun to listen to 12 hours a day…

Yesterday I was busy working on a new composition, trying my best to articulate string sections amidst the sound of drilling and hammering when I decided to give up and make a coffee. I took my Zoom portable recorder (a H5 with the standard X/Y mics) onto the balcony to capture some of the noise taking place next door, whilst a few builders stared at me with curiosity.

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A mini windshield is a must for nearly all recording sessions with the Zoom!

Afterwards I spent some time working on mangling a few of the sounds up and creating some new assets that might come in handy for game audio projects in the future, a few of which can be heard below! (as well as a clip of the original audio).

As most audio folks will tell you… record everything as you never know what you can do with it!

 

 

Say No To The M60 – Noise Reduction Special

On Friday last week I went out to Clifton Country Park near Manchester for some field recording bits and bobs. It’s a lovely location, but despite it’s rural looks it’s within a few miles of the M60 and there is an audible bed of motorway noise pretty much everywhere. It’s a shame too, since it’s a great location for recording a variety of outdoor sounds and foley.

One of the things I was after on the day was some watery footstep / movement sounds. I’d tried recording some at home but my apartment’s concrete walls provided way too much reflection and I was having trouble getting the right sound so off to the woods I went! After a few hours on the day I came home and listened back to the recordings and was not surprised to hear the M60 (along with lots of wildlife) all over them, not ideal of course.

I’m always slightly dubious about noise reduction processing, but lately I’ve had some good results in Adobe Audition and thought it was worth trying it out on these. Listen to part of the original recording below.

 

 

As you can hear, there is a lot of noise on this clip and although it’s clear and offers a nice capture of the sound of the area, it wasn’t what I was looking for. Below you’ll see a screenshot of Audition in action, after capturing a short noise print from the file, I used the built in noise reduction processing to try and remove the sound of the M60. After a short while (mostly trial and error playing around with settings!) I was happy with the results.

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Noise reduction processing in Adobe Audition

I’ve also been using SPLs ‘De-Verb’ plugin for some time now, mostly for processing of indoor sounds to remove reflections but thought it might be beneficial on these as well.

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SPL’s De-Verb plugin

I dialled in a small amount of ‘reverb reduction’ and the resulting clip is below. You can hear that some artifacts are audible, and left over from the original, but I was surprised at how much I could remove using these tools.

 

 

I was pretty happy with the outcome, and since then I’ve been using this combination a lot more for processing foley, footsteps and outdoor sounds. If anyone has any more tips or suggestions I’d love to hear them.

DATA Lab Switch Interaction

Following on from my previous post on the creation of a new playable game audio demo level I’ve been working on audio implementation a lot over the last week or so. Today I was testing some light switch interaction for the level, utilising FMOD to run the audio it was simply made up of a bank of sounds linked to an interaction event in Unreal. I tried a few different sounds but in the end the actual ones I used were from my kitchen hob!


Event Horizon – Trailer Redesign

One of the bigger projects I’ve embarked on for my portfolio recently is a complete audio redesign of the trailer for ‘Event Horizon’ from 1996. It’s always been a favourite film of mine and I thought it would be a suitable challenge.

In a previous redesign video I worked on the opening sequence to Gerry Anderson’s UFO (check it out here) and I think this was good preparation for what lay ahead in Event Horizon. It was a longer piece of footage, even after I’d edited it slightly to remove scenes with dialogue in, and also involved a lot more opportunity for creative sound design.

I started looking at the sound design elements of the trailer before getting stuck in to composing some suitable music, I think this was really so I could see how the feel of the trailer changed over time and how I could fit the music around this. I used a mixture of library sounds (explosions mainly) and original audio assets recorded at home and from the past few years in various locations. All the audio was heavily edited to fit with the video, including pitch, EQ, reverb and modulation effects.

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Part of the project inside Logic – the edited trailer can be seen in the video channel at the top. I also included some markers to help with my workflow.

This was the first time I’ve created a project using this many audio assets (over 200 in total) and the screenshot above shows a little of how my project was laid out. Some sounds are used throughout the video (such as some low frequency rumble sounds) whilst others are just used for particular moments.

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Zoomed in to a small section of the project – here I’ve used a variety of home recorded and designed sounds including a hand dryer and my own breathing, as well as some stretched out violin stabs!

I recently posted about some sound design I worked on using a slate chopping board in my kitchen here that ended up being used to form part of the sound of the ship’s ‘Gravity Drive’ and I’ve found my library of sounds incredibly useful for this project. I used sounds from air conditioners, hand dryers, vending machines, cassette players and a lot more. I also used some excellent sounds from the Logic sound library and manipulated these so they worked, mostly this involved some pitch shifting or spectral effects such as blurring. Whilst I’d love to go out and record some electrical explosions and such like, it wasn’t really possible for this project! I feel it’s important if you use sound libraries that you give them credit, and that you have the right to use them in the first place.

I’ll be posting the video without music soon so you’ll be able to hear all the SFX without the music getting in the way and I’ll post more about  how I created some of the sounds in the near future.

Footstep Foley

I’ve recently embarked upon a joint project with a fellow audio enthusiast and as part of this we’re having to record and create a fair amount of sound cues and assets for a simple first person game. Whilst the game idea is simple there are still some interesting possibilities for audio implementation and I’m exciting about using FMOD for the majority of this, including the music.

The first ‘step’ (pun intended) is the recording of some character sounds, and there are a few different options required including grass, gravel, dirt and shingle ground cover sounds. A while back I recorded some gravel and slate footsteps at a ridiculous time of night to minimise any extraneous noise and was quite pleased with the results. I used a Zoom H5 portable recorder with the included X/Y mic capsule, and hairy windscreen to catch any unwanted breezes.

I actually carried the recorder around pointed at my feet, using the microphone adapter holder to minimise any sounds transferring to the mic capsules, and basically walked around in circles for some time…

I recently edited the footsteps in Adobe Audition, separating individual steps out and applied some simple fades ready for use in-game. For the purpose of this demo I loaded all the individual footsteps (10 each in total) into an EXS 24 sampler just to sequence and export.

For my first attempt at footstep recording I was quite pleased, however there are still lots more to do, and maybe I’ll fine tune these a little more as the project develops. I think some character clothing sounds might be a nice addition to the steps, as they feel a little dry. If anyone has any tips for recording similar sounds let me know, I’d love to hear them!

Woodland Asset Recording

A few weeks ago I abducted my good friend Ryan (check out his Twitter here) and the ever patient Nik and went for a wander in the woods to capture some sfx and ambience for some future projects I’m working on. I’ve yet to invest in some more flexible location recording equipment but have had good results with the Zoom portable recorders in the past, even with their built in microphones, although I wish I could have found the handy hand-holding adapter section!

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Without some decent foley facilities available at home or work I first wanted to try and capture some different footstep sounds, and experiment with their use for a few (basic) game projects I’ve started in Unity and Unreal. The Zoom was surprisingly adept at capturing these, and we found that walking in a semi-circle and following with the recorder worked quite well. We tried a selection of surfaces including gravel path, wet mud and undergrowth to get a good selection, although there are still plenty missing from my ‘footstep’ library to record in the future.

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We also spent some time recording a selection of twig, branch and log sound effects including snapping and breaking sounds, hitting branches against trees, throwing them into puddles and so forth, with some more successful (and messier!) than others.

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We ended up with around 50 minutes of audio which Nik kindly kept track of by naming each of the takes, some personal favourites include ‘Mindless Branch Snapping 1’ and ‘Squidgy Steps Nik’ which were all quickly added to my audio library. I’m going to be experimenting with the Zoom recorders again soon although  hopefully with the addition of some other external condenser microphones and definitely the hand-holding attachment! I keep one nearby at all times now, as I’m always hearing little sounds that may one day be very useful.

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