SONIC MMABOLELA – a report for fellow sound designers/recordists

When I first read about Sonic Mmabolela, I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to partake in. A two week sound recording workshop/residency held at a private game reserve in South Africa, rented out in its entirety for the sole purpose of recording and thus promising minimal outside interference – it’s a field recordist’s dream come true. And further reading of its description, plus the fact that it is organised by renowned sound artists Francisco Lopez and Barbara Ellison, promised that this was going to be thematically quite different from other recording workshops out there, which tend to focus a lot on the technical side of things.

Pictures from a previous year of Sonic Mmabolela

I had many reasons to join up, but chief among them were a longing to go back to the African continent for more sound recording, and a growing interest in sound art. I was curious to learn from people who work as independent sonic artists and perhaps find a new outlet for my love of recording sounds of the natural environment and its wildlife.

All that being said, the biggest draw was simply to go out and spend two weeks of non-stop recording in the bush. If nothing else, perhaps I could gather enough material to release another African wildlife themed library. And so it happened that I found myself at the end of November of 2016 as one of the participants in that year’s Sonic Mmabolela.

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Slowed down blackbird + tawny owl = deep sea chorus

Slowing down recordings, yes we have all done it, but would I ever get bored of it? I slow down sounds to my heart’s content. It is like Christmas every time – what wondrous goofy or awe-inspiring sonic textures lay beyond the pitching down of this here sound? Those are the sort of questions I heroically and relentlessly seek answers to.

Here is a recording I made of a blackbird doing what it does best, sitting on a tree branch singing its guts out, showing off and telling all other nearby songbirds how it’s done.

And this here is a male tawny owl hooting wistfully from a perch to a distant female.

Now what happens when we slow these recordings down and combine them?

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Creature sound design tutorial

In this post, I want to show a little sound design demo I have done utilising material from the awesome new Boom Library release, Creatures. I was a beta tester for this library. As the name of the library suggests, it’s intended to create Creature vox with, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

The purpose of this demo is to show how important it is to work with high resolution audio, and also to share a few tricks that I have learned with regards to vox processing. One of the great things of the Boom Library products is that they’re all recorded in pristine quality at high sample rate and bit depth (192kHz/24 bit), and made available at 96kHz/24 bit. This means that for a sound designer, there’s a lot of possibilities to tweak their material, as the high resolution audio means you can pitch and process until the extremes whilst still keeping good quality sound. Conversely, if the same source samples were provided at ‘standard’ or CD quality (44.1kHz/16 bit), you wouldn’t be able to do the amount of extreme pitch shifting shown in this demo without a significant quality loss.

So, basically this demo is going to explain how to get from this:

to this:

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