StillWalks Production Kit and a Skylark’s Spectral Display

Last week’s production day on Ryer’s Down on the Gower in South Wales was a challenge. The weather suggests that the StillWalk to be produced will be “A Misty Gower Walk”. Fortunately, rain covers were not needed for the cameras but I was glad to have the waterproof case for the recorder.

I had all the sound and photography kit with me and alternated between them throughout the walk. This still meant that, for a relatively short walk, I was out recording and taking photos for 6.5 hours.

Kitted up and loaded down

Kitted up and loaded down

The kit includes:

  • Canon 550D x 2 (Canon)
  • Canon 18-55mm lens with stabilization
  • Canon 70-300mm lens with stabilization
  • Monopod (Manfrotto)
  • Fostex FR-2LE field recorder with Portabrace cover (Fostex, Portabrace)
  • Rode NTG-3 shotgun microphone (RODE)
  • Rode Blimp windshield and suspension grip
  • Edirol R-09 compact digital recorder (as back up) (Edirol R-09)
  • AKG K271 MkII headphones (AKG)

All this plus a small collapsible stool (essential piece of kit), food, water, spare batteries, filters, etc. all in a great Lowepro kit bag, meant I was pretty weighed down. The trick is to be patient, take your time and not try to fit too much into the day. The recce walks are essential to ensure this can be achieved.

The mist never lifted as I had hoped it would, and the day was not as peaceful as on the previous recce visit when the Skylarks sang for us and traffic was non existent. Instead, normal farm life was ever present with the sound of tractors and other farm equipment in the distance. The Larks, however, sang through it all and their sound was as beautiful as ever.

Virtual Walks – I hope, with StillWalks, to provide realistic virtual walks. We don’t always want to wait until a beautiful Spring day to go for a walk and sometimes the sights and sounds around us are not what we would wish. However, these things don’t stop us, and wherever or whenever we decide to go for a walk, there are always a multitude of fascinating things to see and hear. Producing StillWalks helps me to recognize and focus on these things and enjoy the surroundings wherever I may be. I hope that they do this for you as well.

Technical Problems – During the Ryer’s Down production day I came up with a problem on the Fostex recorder and had to temporarily revert to the Edirol. I can only guess that the problem was electrical interference of some sort. The problem is illustrated in the sound clip and image below. I tried switching my phone to airplane mode and then off altogether but to no avail. I checked all my settings in case I had inadvertently knocked something but found everything as it should be.

interference1

interference1

Fortunately, I was able to use the Edirol instead – it’s not as good but very useful as a back up recorder. The problem, however, was temporary as, when I tried the Fostex again about 15 minutes later and another 100 yards further on, there was no problem at all and I was able to continue using it for the rest of the day.

Spectral Display – When viewing the sound files afterwards I find the spectral display a valuable element in Adobe Audition when it comes to identifying various aspects of the sounds I record. The image above shows the pattern created by the sound of what I guessed was electrical interference – the bright, gentle curve of the sound at the higher frequency is inaudible to the human ear but the broader curve downwards into the lower frequencies and then up again is easily seen and heard.

Skylark Song – The image below shows the pattern revealed through spectral display in Audition by a Skylark – and, of course, you must listen to the 10 second clip to which the image relates – enjoy 🙂

Ryers Down Lark

Ryers Down Lark Spectral Display

More to come in the future about both the production and post-production element of StillWalks.

Posted in Photography, Sound, Travel, Walks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

0 Comments

  1. Some nice natural recordings!
    Just a thought on the interference – could be a touch of dampness in the microphone – keep a check on it as you may find it will reoccur – try a quiet test recording indoors!

    • Thanks for the interesting thought – it was certainly a damp day, what with the mist and so on. The mic was nicely cocooned inside the Blimp windshield but I guess that doesn’t mean the damp atmosphere can’t get to it. The effect has only happened once before but it wasn’t a damp day at the time. I shall have to investigate further.

      • Ok! The effect of dampness on microphones is evident irrespective of whether the conditions at the time are damp – in other words previous exposure to damp conditions can produce irreversible damage to the mic circuitry which steadily gets worse over a period of time. Often this type of ‘interference’ cannot be heard as it’s often hidden within the noise floor of everyday ambient sound – it tends to become more evident when recording low ambient sound levels (hence my suggestion of some quiet indoor test recordings) and becomes more annoying as the mic deteriorates over time! – but let’s hope it’s not the case!

  2. Think I’ve found the issue with the recorder/mic – through a process of elimination regarding cables, microphones and recorders and with the help of Adam (@Sonics60) at Community Music Wales (@CMW_CGC) we concluded that the XLR cable that runs through the RODE Blimp windshield grip is faulty or has a loose connection. Now that I know what the problem is, I can deal with it 🙂

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