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Re: More on Digital transfer MD to PC

Subject: Re: More on Digital transfer MD to PC
From: Walter Knapp <>
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 2003 14:04:47 -0400
Po-Jen Chiang wrote:

> I also agree comppletely. The front end may affect  80%. While striving in
> other aspects such as SRC, digital transfer or spending lots of money in top
> gears may improve only 5%. Point and shoot cameras can produce great images.
> It's the one who is behind.
> Being a photographer for many years, I know more about composition, field
> techniques of nature photography, and gradually have more and more feelings
> about "the decisive moment". However, disappointedly I didn't learn as much
> after years of field recording. For photography, many could list a lot of
> useful and creative field techniques or composition suggestions. For nature
> sound recordings, what is the list? Do we rely more on luck to get good
> recordings? Do we have less control over what we can record?

One suggestion I'll make is to move around. Even small differences in 
location can make a big difference in the sound. Only way to find them 
is to listen to what the mic is picking up. You can train your ears to 
pick up on this somewhat, but can only confirm with the mic. Restrict 
your use of mic stands if you really want to learn field recording. Keep 
the live mic in your hands, and use your headphones. Don't forget to 
take the headphones off some to listen to the real stuff too.

In the same vein, study how your mic behaves. No mic actually picks up 
the sound uncolored. Learn your mics. And vary how you use them, keeping 
track of what works and what does not.

There is some luck involved in good recordings, but a large part is 
skill. A expert recordist knows his equipment well enough he no longer 
really thinks about it. He can spend more time thinking about his 
players on a stage, for that's what they are. How does he want the 
various callers to be located in the stereo field, how will he place his 
mics to achieve that. I tend to think of a mic as a field it will pick 
up. I think about where everything is in that field.

Sound has composition the same way a photo does. Though there is little 
you can do in mono to show this, you only have variations in intensity 
in a single location (the middle of the listener's head). Stereo is 
where you start to have composition decisions.

Obviously with two frogs dueting you could have one in each side of the 
field, so they call across the field. And it gets more complex the more 
callers you have. Soon you think of the entire chorus. Do you want a 
bunch of frogs calling along the line of a drainage ditch to be across 
the soundfield, extending out into the distance straight out, running 
diagonally across the field? These are artistic decisions, and the rules 
are not near as formal as they are for photography.

Nature recording has only very recently become more than just scientific 
record keeping. It does not have the long time period that photography 
has behind it to have a tradition of set rules. We are still fumbling 
around creating rules.

> Does nature sounds recording have "the decisive moment"?

Sound recording is done over a time period, so does not have a decisive 
moment like the instant when a still picture is taken. It can have a 
ideal time period. This can depend on the enthusiasm of the animals, or 
may simply be a "opening" when unwanted noise is at a minimum. Or the 
right ambiance. Using your ears to recognize when to record is something 
that takes a lot of time in the field to perfect. Many just run long 
recordings and try and select the best time later. It's more refined to 
sort it out in the field and record less but get the best periods.

Sound recording relates more closely to movies than still photography.

I'm also a photographer, with a lifetime of experience. There are 
parallels to sound recording, but they are definitely different fields. 
Sound is more directly emotional, you control a listener's emotions. In 
photography emotions are generated from the composition, you create the 
conditions for the listener to create the emotions.

A book some may find interesting to read that's along this vein is "The 
Audible Past, Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction" by Jonathan 
Sterne. He gets much deeper into the differences between visual 
(photography) and sound. Be warned it's heavy reading, I've been reading 
for a while and am not done.



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