No Substitute for the Real Thing 1

When we travel to new places in the world, most of us at some point will go and ‘see the sights’. On my recent trip to New York City… I listened to them. A fascinating sensory experience to concentrate entirely on the complexity of sounds around you as you move through a new place. A superb ambisonic microphone and robust headphones (all Sennheiser for those interested) allowed me to submerge myself in an entirely different tourist experience for a full day in The Big Apple. Guided by my friend and film Director Ari Rubenstein and his cousin Josh Abeles (who basically had NYC printed through him like a stick of rock!) we turned down every street, rode the subway for miles and investigated walkways, bridges and heliports to capture the widest range of city sounds possible.

No Substitute for the Real Thing 2

It’s the little details you capture when spending time around your target sounds that make the difference. Could just be a street vendor reciting his patter as you walk by, could be a distant sound of a passing engine reflecting off a surface high above your head that you could never fabricate in amongst a soundscape. The beauty is sitting there in the studio afterwards and hearing the bonus bargains you caught without even realising at the time, the ones that turn into your best Sound Effects, your ‘go-to’ collection. It’s like buying the contents of a storage container then finding a gold watch in a shoe-box at the back! Most importantly an exercise like this is about really listening: How does an NYC subway car sound differ from a London Underground train? Different materials, dimensions, weight, the space in which it’s all moving, the tracks themselves. What would I have to add or subtract sonically to mimic one from another. The tannoy is a give-away, the general accent of the passing crowd’s voice too….this is just a little window into my mind’s process as I walk round recording!

As a Sound Designer with the digital world at my fingertips, it’s all too easy to find and use the hard work of other artists or to sit and fabricate an entire city-scape with samples of traffic, sirens, crowds and reverb plug-ins but…there is just nothing like capturing the real thing fit for purpose and making the effort to do so. I look forward to meticulously editing and filing all 6 hours of recording plus the captures from two other field recorders, used at times for a lighter frequency feeling, until that golden little library will sit and wait for its turn in production.

A brilliant day in the city with great company and wonderfully un-English weather will prove invaluable as our second film Small Blue Shadow gathers pace. A bit of jet-lag was a small price to pay for a stash of original material that nobody can ever question or hold their hand out for payment!

No Substitute for the Real Thing 3

Our last film The Blues Crab is still enjoying a fantastically successful film festival tour and I’m proud to be just one of a remarkable team who dedicated their own time to completing the gorgeous animation (http://www.curvstudios.com/bluescrab).

May our next be better faster stronger and may we all get the same feeling of satisfaction from our collective creation.

No Substitute for the Real Thing 4