Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Promo Video: A Robot In Every Home

I'm currently completing the extant promo videos for the Radioatomic album. Here's A Robot In Every Home. This time I tried my hand at mixing stock footage with footage from the studio. Up until now the two styles have been kept separate. I sourced scenes from three public domain films: Leave It To Roll-Oh, The Middleton Family At The New York World's Fair, and The Last Word In Dishwashing. Studio footage includes my trusty tin robot Mini Radiocon, the Parker Brothers' Merlin game, the Roland HS-60, and Novation K-Station.

To give you an idea how much effort goes into these promo videos, I devoted one to two hours to the editing each evening over the course of a week. The studio footage was accomplished in a couple of afternoon sessions, and sourcing and converting digital film stock about the same again. Rendering the finished film took roughly six hours. It would go quicker, but my system isn't optimal for the task.

So, without further ado, let's see what kind of future we might've had if atomic power was all it was cracked up to be ...


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Field Recordings: City Junkyard

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I take a Zoom H1 digital recorder with me pretty much everywhere I go. My job often presents opportunities to record all sorts of interesting sounds. I also have an affinity for junkyards, and waste places where junk accumulates, and seek these out in my free time. They also offer up photo opportunities, and a lot of my album artwork is shot in these locations.

This summer I was able to visit a site that was new to me: the city junkyard, which is hidden from prying eyes behind the city gravel pit. This is home to anything the City Works dept. doesn't have room for in their yard: lengths of various sized pipe and culvert, pieces of machinery and equipment that are obsolete or 'in reserve,' temporary signage posts, old electrical boxes, pumps, dump-trucks in various states of disrepair, giant petrol tanks (the kind usually buried beneath petrol stations), and miscellaneous other odds and ends. It all adds up into junk heaven for someone like me.

One of many electrical boxes left to the elements.
I spent a couple of hours going from one end to the other with my camera, digital recorder, and my trusty striker: a valve rod from a car engine. I mostly concerned myself with the various lengths of pipe, many of them over a foot in diameter. One of the coolest sounds I captured was throwing pebbles into the largest of these. The giant petrol tanks were also a source of impressive sounds.

I found that placing the microphone in the mouth of the pipes yielded the most interesting results: it picked up the optimum amount of reverberation. The mic placed in front, a foot or so distant, gives a subtler effect, and above merely accentuates the sound of the striker.

More pipes!
Among the iron/steel pipes were some of comparable size made of thick plastic. These produced good pinging echoes. If you've ever tapped on an irrigation pipe you'll know what I mean. They're somewhat tricky to record at a decent volume, so more experimenting is in order!

The end of the larger petrol tank. Both were largely obscured by brush.
A little about the petrol tanks. There are two at this particular location, and both, as far as I could tell, were sealed - which is a shame, because there's one at another location I frequent that has a gaping hole in the side, turning it into an excellent reverb chamber. So, I wasn't sure if my recordings would pick up the tremendous reverb that results from hitting one. The sounds resulting from holding the mic near the end and striking it weren't all that impressive. I had better results micing the space between the two tanks, which are cylindrical and lie side by side. But the best sounds by far resulted from micing the 2" threaded pipe that leads into the tank (and lets the sound ouuut!).

Part of both tanks can be seen in this pic.
One downside to this location as a source of audio recordings is that it's situated next to an MDF plant, which produces a constant low rumble. Its frequency is such that when I scrub it from the audio it strips more of the lower frequencies away than is ideal. It's a constant battle to preserve as much of the original sound as possible while making it clean enough to be usable.