This has been a very special 2 day recording trip, as it has marked our first attempt to capture some of the ambiences and sounds which will be used in our upcoming binaural audiobooks for children. This time my project partner Rich Hemming and I have been on the South West coast of England, around Exmoor national park.
We stayed overnight in Bardon Manor, where we were given full access to a maze of dusty bedrooms, reverberant kitchens, spacious halls and creaky, winding passageways. The manor was full of sonic character and the perfect setting for our first audiobook – The Thieves And The Cockerel. With the interior being almost completely silent, we were able to capture some of the foley on location.
We had several techniques to try with three different sets of microphones; the Soundman OKM II binaural mics, a pair of DPA 4060s (attached to the external ear, pointing towards the ear canal) and a Sennheiser 8060 shotgun mic for a mono representation. Something I learnt from past attempts to record binaurally is that foley effects can often sound a little weak. The reality is that we are used to sensationalised and treated sounds from films, that leaves anything less sounding thin and uninteresting. We found it was always worth recording with a shotgun as well, where possible.
First we recorded sounds in isolation, each time from a different angle and at different distances to give some options in post production. This included doors opening and closing, walking on the spot on various surfaces and any additional props we found in the manor, such as an antique wind-up clock.
The second technique was to do a live walkthrough of the house. Rich and I each connected up to a set of microphones and took turns to follow each other through the house, acting the part of the thieves in the story. We lit a fire in the hall and set a tap dripping in an upstairs bathroom to really make the most of the acoustic space. For me a real highlight was climbing a tight staircase which creaked and groaned as we did so. This left us with two perspectives, one from each thief. I’ll leave the microphone comparison for another post.
Day two saw us delving into the heart of the national park, where a farmer had agreed to let us record ourselves in a field of sheep for The Boy Who Cried Wolf (yes we did get some funny looks). After an initially frustrating period of sheep chasing, we eventually got the hang of it and were able to position ourselves on a very quiet hillside surrounded by bleating sheep. With no aeroplanes overhead and just the odd tractor passing we were able to get lots of clean audio. Rich was even able to do a spot of heading and created a mini stampede which you’ll definitely hear used in the audiobook.
Our return trip took us down to a forest and river, where we recorded for How The Tortoise Got his Scars. Whilst perfectly nice, the sound doesn’t really convey the sense of vibrancy and lusciousness that we need. At very least we should have recorded the dusk chorus for richer birdsong. Finally, walking into the middle of a field we attempted to capture a barren, windswept ambience for the same story. Once again this lacked something, this time a certain dryness. The sound would benefit from some bugs and maybe even some dust being whipped up in the wind – something we don’t have a lot of in the south of England.