Binaural Field Recording – The Fun Bit!

Having finished recording the voice actors and narration for our three forthcoming immersive audiobooks, we have finally been able to get out of the studio and on the search for sounds! For me its the most stimulating part of the whole process; the first chance to get really creative and practical. Collecting the sounds for the story sometimes requires expeditions to remote or unusual places. Other times its simply a case of recording the kitchen sink, but even that can be fascinating. Often i’ve found the recordings that sound the most realistic binaurally are the ones we are most accustomed to. In any case each recording session allows for experimentation with positioning and best practices in recording – something I hope to share with you in this blog.

We started by going through the story and listing all the sounds we could possibly think of that we might want to create. Next we split them into categories: Ambiences, spot sound effects (Foley) and then any pure synthesis / sound design. Finally we looked at whats sounds we thought we could record┬ábinaurally with mics, and which sounds we might have to capture or source non binaurally and simply position with emulation software. I’ve found that not all sounds translate well when recorded as true binaural – particularly the more dramatic / exciting sounds, which you might want to beef up first in post production.

We then looked at what foley could be done on location and what would be best in the studio. On one hand its preferable to record foley ‘live’ within an acoustic space, so to capture that natural reverb and realism. On the other however, binaural mics are inherently omnidirectional, meaning one has very little control over unwanted noise, other than moving location. Lastly we looked for locations where we could maximise the number of sounds gathered in one go, aiming to tick off multiple sounds from each audiobook per session.

The most important things for us to record are the ambiences. These are what give the audiobooks a sense of space. After that everything else could be positioned within that ambience if needed. The list of ambiences are as follows:

  • A rural nightime ambience
  • An old manor ambience
  • A cave ambience
  • A forest ambience
  • A field ambience (with sheep if possible)
  • A bustling village square ambience
  • A barren, windy ambience

The majority of these we were able to cover in Devon, UK. Exmoor national park is largely free of noise pollution and is full of sheep and forests. The most difficult were sourcing a good sized cave and finding a lively but traffic free town square.

My next post will cover these trips.

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