Portable Recording Setup

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be in Lausanne for part of Complicité’s ‘The Encounter’ tour. I took the opportunity to test out my portable recording rig thats slowly been pieced together the past few months.

Lausanne 2015
Lausanne 2015

Earlier in the year I went on tour to Asia and took my Rycote Blimp and found so many places where it was just unrealistic to whip it out and start recording, the inevitable “whats that” would be all over the recordings.
So in comes the portable solution, I have a bunch of portable all-in-one recorders which are much less attention grabbing. But having put money into a Sound Devices recorder I bought a set of DPA 4061’s to try out with it.
I’ve had some reasonable success with sticking these things in my ears to get binaural recordings, but wanted to mount them onto a bag that also contains the 702 so it was super inconspisuous and can just sit there when I want to put it down. A camera bag seemed like the most logical solution, there may be better ways, but I went and bought a messenger bag from a nearby camera shop.

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A customisable camera bag with multiple sized velcro panels was able to fit everything and any excess cable to sit below the 702, plus having a weird sized battery is was also fine!
Heres a short recording of Lake Geneva, I stood maybe a 1.5 metres away from the shoreline and let the bag dangle in front of me…

I’m looking at other solutions to how I can attach the mics to the bag to allow for less movement noise and perhaps better stereo imaging, there seems to be a little dead spot in the centre on some recordings… Either way, the fact that no one asked “what is that” made it all worth it!!

 

Free Ghanaian Gyil Kontakt instrument – PMvst001

Since the last post about recording Stephen Hiscock’s Gyil (Yes I was spelling it incorrectly! O dear) I took some time to edit and put the resulting hits into Kontakt.

Here is a link to the Current Ghanaian Gyil V1.0,

Free Ghanaian Gyil download
Free Ghanaian Gyil download

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to download and play with it if you’re looking for something authenically african and I’d love to hear any feedback.

I don’t want to dive too deep into a ‘How to create a velocity sensitive instrument in Kontakt’ post, but there’s few thoughts from the process I thought it’d be interesting to note.

My main DAW’s are Ableton Live and Logic, but I decided to try using Ableton for this process. The first step was to record the Gyil into Ableton through my SD 702 and soundcard. I only had two Preamps available at the time, so used an XY setup about a metre away from the top of the Gyil. The first note, having a few different mic positions would probably help with integrating the sound of the Gyil with other libraries, but starting with a fairly dry, close recording is great starting point.

The Gyil has 14 notes and I wanted to try 2 round robins of each and have 5/6 velocity layers for each note played with both ends of the beaters. So that’s 336 individual samples to edit.

Manually this takes a while and is fairly tedious. Both Logic and Ableton have a feature which slices a piece of audio from its transient markers and creates a new MIDI instrument. However, neither of these cut the audio up usefully for Kontakt. Logic does have a ‘Split Silence’ feature that does a better job at slicing the regions, with a bit of tweaking, by transient. Either way there is an amount of time spent finessing this, as the hits need to be very closely trimmed to the start of the transient.

Logic Strip silence
Logic Strip silence

Once each hit was edited and ready to slot into Kontakt, I set up a new instrument and using the mapping editor placed the 6 velocity layers  for the first note on it. Spreading them across the 127 potential velocities.

Again this could take a while, but you can quite easily copy and paste one set of 6 velocity samples onto another key on the mapping editor, then re-locate each of the copied samples to the next note in the sequence to save time (I didn’t find this out until I’d spent a good few hours on a fairly bumpy flight trying to be precise with my trackpad… Bad idea!)

Kontakt 5 Mapping editor
Kontakt 5 Mapping editor

A similar process applies to the second takes (Round Robin takes) this was fairly simple. The mapping editor works in groups, for each round robin you create a new group and set that group to be a certain either the first or second set of round robins. Again copying the already mapped first takes and pasting that into a new group meant I could re-locate the samples within this second group with the second takes.

I did the same thing with the hard wooden end of the beaters and placed those into two new groups. Had a play with photoshop and added the Attack and Release knobs through looking into the inner workings of other Kontakt instruments scripts.

A little messing with key switches and it was prett much there.

So please do have a play with the Gyil and enjoy!

 

P

African Gil – Recording session

For the past couple of months I’ve been working on a show called Lionboy with Complicité and we’re coming to the end of our run at the Tricycle Theatre. The show had a live percussionist on stage, so this week I’ve decided to record Steve’s (our percussionists) Gil.

The Gil is an African ‘tuned’ percussion instrument that steve plays in the show for a few of our ‘African’ scenes. It’s not the most common instrument I’ve ever come across!
The notes are pentatonic and so, as Steve usually suggests, you can play almost any notes and they will likely fit together! Steves instrument was made by his teacher in Africa and has gaudes underneath that amplify the sound. It has a bit of a weird unique buzzing sound on some of the notes and watching people play them on YouTube it’s really meant to be part of the overall sound of the Gil. To create the buzzing sound there is a spider egg membrane covering holes in the gaudes which vibrate, strange but true!
African Gil, last years version
So having decided to record the Gil properly Ive also thought it would be interesting to learn how to make a kontakt instrument using those recordings, so have taken a bunch of different takes at differing dynamics and will have a go soon. I managed to find a few hours without anyone else in the theatre and got recording. Wanted to get some use out of my sound devices 702 and a pretty neat pair of DPA 4011’s which we use in the show.
Here’s a dry clip of me messing around on the Gil, i’m no percusionist so forgive me!
Now on to editing the single hits and trying to make a virtual instrument from it!

Music world of October

Each month I setup a new playlist on spotify full of bits of music I’ve never listened to before, I thought i’d share a few that stood out over the month and some more recent finds.

I’m really interested in some of the Orchestral/Electronica crossovers going on and becoming more aware of it, so these are aimed in that direction.

 

Koan Sound & Asa – Mix of Small orchestral arrangments with electronic beat taking focus.

 

 

Phoria – Chilled out acoustic version of this track – original version here

 

 

New album from A Winged Victory for the Sullen

 

 

Clint mansell came to The Barbican earlier this month and I’d never heard this before and loved it

 

 

Enjoy!

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War Correspondents 2014

During April of this year, I worked with Helen Chadwick and Steven Hoggett on a project Helen has composed called ‘War Correspondents’. A sung theatre piece about the lives and experiences of War Correspondents over recent years. The lyrics of the sung music were taken from interviews with War Correspondents talking about situations of conflict they had covered and their thoughts on ‘War Journalism’.

From a sound perspective there is a lot of interesting material to play with from the original interviews as well as finding the best way to integrate the voices of the interviews into the music and between songs. We also worked with Sound effects with specific pitches hidden as an extra layer so the singers could catch a pitch to work with for the next song they are heading into.

Movement is such a big part of the show alongside the music that I decided to bring a Leap Motion device into rehearsals to play with. Using the LEAP with a piece of software called GECO, it allows the user to manipulate effects and trigger cues using the movement of your hands, In our case pushing downwards towards the device triggers a filter effect which is dialed up and down depending on the height of the singers hand, when it is lower it allows a recorded musical Drone through, but when its higher we hear a helicopter and no drone, the singer has direct control over this mix during the scene and uses it as an instrument to accompany his song.

Leap Motion/GECO GUI
Leap Motion/GECO GUI

The show initially toured around the UK in spring this year, but will also now be playing in London in October with a few dates around the UK after that.

War Correspondents @ Birmingham Rep 2014
War Correspondents @ Birmingham Rep 2014

2014 Jan – July

So I realised its already July and most of the year has gone by without any updates here. So will be posting a bit more frequently now. To start off just a quick backlog of the year so far, starting in January!

I began by Shadowing the lovely Carolyn Downing during a few of her tech processes, which was a great insight into her working process and general views on Sound Design, a lot to learn from an intelligent designer doing some very interesting Sound work.

I then went on to design a, slightly alternative, theatre piece located inside St Leonards Church in Shoreditch called SUN produced by National Art Service, It was a really friendly company to be part of. Talking technically one of the most enjoyable experiences was being able to locate sounds around this huge expanse of space whilst also (if needed) dislocating the sounds from specific places and abstracting the sounds of the exterior central London evening. Shoreditch is a very active part of the City and it doesn’t let up for anything, Its not something I’ll go into lightly again but it opened up a different world of using the spacial relationship with an audience.

SUN 2014
SUN 2014

Then worked as Associate on the Almeida verison of 1984 for the very talented Mr Tom Gibbons after having worked with him on Lionboy last year. This then went onto transfer into the Playhouse in London.

 

Following this designed and operated a double bill of new work funded by Aldeburgh Music, Royal Opera House and Opera North called The Commision/Café Kafka, through which I worked with Elspeth Brooks to integrate an element of Sound Design and live sound into her composition.

 

The Commission 2014
The Commission 2014

Then went on to Sound Design a project called War Correspondents Directed by Helen Chadwick and Stephen Hoggett which then went on to tour the UK. It will be back for some London dates in October followed by some more touring and I’ll talk more about in a separate post.

Brothers Stag doo…

Brothers Wedding!

I then worked with Mr Gareth Fry once more on a design for 59 Production’s projection map of the Sydney Opera House.

For June I’ve been in Aix en Provence with The Magic Flute once again as Gareth Fry’s Associate, helping to fit the design into their fairly unique venue and transferring all the changes we had made back into a German version of the show after re-making it in English at the Colloseum for the ENO last year.

The Magic Flute Aix en Provence 2014
The Magic Flute Aix en Provence 2014

July so far, I’ve been in Salzburg (Hallein to be exact) Sound Engineering and Operating a new production for the Salzburg Festival. A Katie Mitchell/ Leo Warner piece Sound designed by Gareth Fry and Melanie Wilson called The Forbidden Zone.

 

 

The Noise – Digital Playscript Phase 1

The Noise (Unlimited Theatre), a show I co-sound designed last year has been turned into a digital playscript. We took a few days to go through the Sound Design for the show and added cues into the text – which hopefully represent what would have been heard in the theatre to a certain degree – alongside a whole array of awesome features that make the script a much better representation of the show than a paper version. Making a more engaging and easy to follow script to take away from the show!

Pop some headphones in and check it out here! http://uneditions.com/

The Noise Digital Playscript
The Noise Digital Playscript