What Does It Mean to Say Field Recordings Capture Ambient Sounds?

  • By: Thorsten Meyer
  • Date: Sunday, 16 January 2022
  • Time to read: 11 min.
Field Recordist
Field Recordist

Field Recordings Record Ambient Sounds

It’s fun recording nature noise, places, devices, and other assorted sounds. I always make a recording of the sound I hear from my phone and the recordings.

Every season, nature unleashes a new and varied sound composition on Earth, which is made up of a variety of sounds. The sound of the wind, waterfalls, birds’ songs and other natural sounds are always changing.

Vivid ambiance will add life to any scene. So it’s important to know what ambient sound is and how to capture it. Rainy days are the best opportunity for field recording adventure. Whether you’re out in nature exploring or just looking to take a break from your day, this collection has everything needed! You can make your recordings sound as if they are coming from different places in the world, such as a small-town cafe or river. Try adding some of these elements to add more authenticity!

Field Recordings Capture Ambient Sounds 1
What Does It Mean to Say Field Recordings Capture Ambient Sounds? 9

Your recordings are like a journey through the different sounds of our world. 

The Art of Ambient Sound and Atmosphere

One of the things that I really like about field recording is capturing those kinds of moments; those little accidents sometimes where you’re walking down the street and somebody says something, or you bump into somebody, or if somebody comes up to you and says something, or if somebody drops something it’s kind of an unplanned event.

Especially when you get there and all the gear is set up and everything’s ready to go, and you’ve been listening to some sounds before you get there, half of the fun for me is not knowing exactly what I’m going to record while I’m there. In the end, that kind of spontaneity I think is really what makes things worthwhile capturing.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of field recordings being used as music in and of themselves because if you’re going to present it as a musical composition or performance piece – especially for live performance – there’s only so much you can do with it, and I think that people would expect to hear traditional instruments or voices or something like that. It starts to become more of a question of how close an interpretation can be before it becomes too important as the music, versus letting the sound work stand on its own merit.

The Art of Ambient Sound and Atmosphere
The Art of Ambient Sound and Atmosphere

Field recording is a complex art form. It has many different skills and tools that contribute to the process of capturing good sound. Understanding these components helps us to understand how we can use them in a creative way for our own compositional needs. Field Recording Techniques Field recordings are usually taken from the location where they will be used as part of the final project. We have to ask ourselves, what are we trying to record?

Field recording can be many things for many different people. It is not about the gear or equipment, but about capturing great sound and atmosphere of the location. It is an open-minded perspective with outside sounds included that makes field recording work. With this, knowing what you are looking for in the location is key to your recording. Next, deciding what you want to do with your audio after it has been captured can be just as important in making sure you capture great sound. Lastly, the way you present the sound to your audience is key. Sometimes managing expectations for what field recording can be will help you manage what your audience should hear. Pushing that envelope of ambient, environmental soundscapes is a great way to go artistically with field recording.

In this article about field recording techniques, I’ll talk a little bit about my approach for recording sounds in general and some of the things that I think make my recordings work well together with the compositional needs when it comes to sound design. Basically, it’s about how I perceive sound and atmosphere when I’m out there working.

Milford Sound 1
Milford Sound

Field Recording Equipment Although field recording is an open-minded method of capturing the world around us, understanding where you are in relation to your subject is important for finding the best position to capture it.

Finding the Unexpected

There is an incredible amount of musical variation that can make it difficult to know what to do first. When analyzing your specific sounds you might want to try to get outside the world or in the home to get to the sounds you want. You should also know two things: The sound may be different than expected without your visual cues, so expect to work harder for something evocative than the actual image you’ve seen. Secondly, be prepared to hear strange sounds; record this sound in upcoming projects.

What is an ambient sound called?

Ambient sound (also known as ambient audio, ambiance, atmosphere, atmos, or background noise) is the totality of sounds that exist in a location. Wind, water, birdsong, crowds, office noises, traffic are just a few of the common ambient noises. Ambient sound is critical in film and video production.

Field recording is a term that comes from archivists, historians, and others interested in recorded sound. It refers to the practice of capturing sounds not being performed by musicians, singers, or actors.

What Does It Mean to Say Field Recordings Capture Ambient Sound?

The work involves going outside the normal realm of performance-based recordings and includes such documentation as bird songs and other natural sounds as well as background noise in public spaces, traffic sounds, fans at a distance, recordings of people talking in the background of an event that is being recorded for other purposes (such as a sports game or political speech), and anything else that does not fit into the normal definition of music.

Field recordings capture meticulously recorded nature sounds

The field recording technique is used in the recording of ambient sounds made by humans and non-humans for documentation purposes or for specific artistic purposes.

It’s important to record all available ambient noise when you make a field recording.

Kenepuru Sound Marlborough Sounds
Kenepuru Sound, Marlborough Sounds

Field recordings sound like they were recorded in nature

What does it mean to say that field recordings capture ambient sounds? The term “field recording” may be used to describe the act of making an audio recording, either for documentation purposes or for artistic expression. These recordings are usually made outdoors, capturing many different types of noises, both natural and man-made.

A Short Guide to Field Recording

Field recordings are intended to capture the ambient sounds of the location being recorded. Microphones are typically set up at least 30 feet away (and often much further away) to pick up the natural sound. They’re not intended necessarily to be heard by the visitor but are rather an audio record of what was heard at the time of recording.

Field Recordings Are Not Music, But Why?

Field recording is an audio recording technique where the sounds are captured indiscriminately within a soundscape, instead of being specifically composed or arranged for the purpose of recording. Field recordings are documentary in nature.

Soundscape

The sounds that are the focus of a field recording may be of any audio source, including music, everyday actions, events, organic atmospheres (such as wind or surf), objects in motion such as automobiles, aircraft, machinery. Field recordings often capture the audible effects of both natural and human-made environments. The process of accessing, and placing microphones in, remote locations can be extremely challenging.

Soundscape
Soundscape

Types of Field Recordings

There are many different types of field recordings:

  1. Natural sounds such as wildlife, thunderstorms, and insects
  2. Human-made environments such as streets, yards, offices and factories 3) Everyday activities such as communicating in a public space
  3. Atmospheric and weather phenomena such as storms, cloud formations, or fog
  4. Mechanical devices such as machinery and equipment.

Field recordings can also be naturalistic sonic portraits of a particular place, community, or people. A common theme in field recording is capturing the natural soundscape of a place unobtrusively so that it can be experienced as a coherent whole without being perceived in terms of individual sonic events.

Field Recording Versus Documentary Film Sound

In the world of documentary filmmaking, there is often a sharp contrast between “realistic” recorded sound and that which has been added during post-production. In reality, the use of background or location sound in the film is critical to the success of the final product. Field recordings are not designed for this purpose; they are intended to document events as they were heard by the person who made them but not necessarily as a finished or finalized useable sound source.

Field Recording With an Ambient Sampling Mentality

The goal of capturing a soundscape is not to create a “binaural” re-creation for headphone listening, but rather, an ambient sound portrait of a particular environment. The field recordist makes a conscious effort to avoid being too selective in choosing which sounds to record. This approach differs from the more conventional method of film and video production where everything in front of the camera is deliberately and carefully considered and set up.

Onsite Recording: The First Step to Respectful Advocacy

I think that the first thing that anyone interested in doing onsite recording/work should do is to go to a place where they are not familiar with, take a day or half a day, and just try to collect as much material as they can without any pre-conceived ideas on what that material may be. This will get them out of the mindset of, “I’m going into this place to create something.” You know, they’re not coming in to create anything; they are there to record what’s there in all its forms.

Recordings That Both Complement & Enhance Original Sounds

The best field recordings complement what already exists; they do not attempt to recreate the original soundscape. I try to only use the ambiance of a place as “support” for an original recording sound that I make. This is especially true if what you are making is music. The concept behind this approach is that people want to hear things they haven’t heard before; they don’t want to hear the same things over again.

A Commitment To Authentic Original Sounds

I try to reflect my own perspective and experience in everything I do, not just what it sounds like. That’s why I’m very particular about making sure that whatever it is that I take away from an experience or location is something that reflects myself back at myself, back at my own experience and perspective.

carousel Ambient Sound and Atmosphere
carousel Ambient Sound and Atmosphere

How To Capture Ambient Sound Using a Field Recorder

In order to capture ambient sound, it is important to first identify the type of sound that you are trying to capture. Once you have determined what you are looking for, it is important to choose a location that will best represent the soundscape that you are hoping to capture.

Once you have arrived at the chosen location, it is important to set up your equipment and get familiar with the surroundings. This will help you to better anticipate any potential sounds that may occur during the recording process.

It is also important to be patient and allow yourself time to experiment with different recording techniques in order to find the most effective way to capture the desired sound.

Microphones

The microphone is the main instrument used when recording. Literally, almost all mics are available for field use but some are particularly valuable: Shotgun mics offer very good side resistance and a strong forward movement. Often used in identifying sounding places when a listener has little or no room to dwell. The Sennheiser XY condenser microphone Mk416 can easily be found in smartphones and tablets. They can create an effective way for making stereo recordings of ambient environments and are often employed for miking close. Binaural mics create realistic space recording by combining human-body and head-related transfer functions.

Wind protection is not a myth, and it should be factored in. If you do not cover your ears/microphones with a furry covering while filming even the slightest windy weather, you will hear lots of wind noise when you capture sounds. You want to get rid of this unwanted noise during recording or can use tools like RX9. Built in mics can be protected as well with small “dead cat” wind protection, there are no dead animals involved, this is just a term that is used to protect your mics from wind noise in the outside world. Sound Effects is all you want, we also have an article if you are interested in “How to Record the Sound of Wind

Field Recorders

The mobile recording industry has grown exponentially over the past year with a growing number of mobile devices being sold. Decent Stereo Recorders are available for around $200-300 dollars. As the price increases, you get higher-quality preamps, a bigger channel, and ambisonic encoder capabilities. For beginners, I would recommend these minimal specifications. Several devices contain this attribute. Zoom has been shown to be an excellent solution that can be used in many applications. Sound Equipment 888 16 channel field mixing with 20 tracks Zoom FM9 nm field recording.

Transferable Recording Sound Skills

Traditional studio recording techniques can be beneficial in this context, particularly the golden rules: listen to yourself first. The key differences with this technique are that you record objects you did not design to listen to or use in situations that might work against you. In addition, there are less tools to manage the negatives. It does not matter what rules are followed besides the ability to make the recording and travel light, but it is extremely rewarding and rewarding and allows for refinement techniques that could also be applied to a recording studio session.

Conclusion

Field recording is the process of capturing soundscapes using a field recorder. In order to capture the best sound, it is important to first identify the type of sound that you are trying to capture, and then choose a location that will best represent the soundscape. It is also important to be patient and allow yourself time to experiment with different recording techniques in order to find the most effective way to capture the desired sound.

Once you have found the best location, it is important to consider what equipment will be needed for the task. Although it might be tempting to use too much equipment, field recording requires a minimalist approach in order to respect the natural soundscape. Once all of these steps have been completed, listeners can create a more immersive experience by using binaural or ambisonic techniques. Although this process can be difficult at first, with a little bit of patience and determination, field recording is a rewarding activity that allows for the creation of more immersive experiences.

Village ambient
Field Recordings Capture Ambient Sounds

Do it with the right setup. There are many different options out there, but I chose one that was inexpensive and a cheaper alternative. This can be accomplished by using similar quality files. Additional resources that are available to you for free: Field Recording for Beginners. With this basic tutorial, you’ll learn how professionals use their recording device to improve music production, contemporary music, underscore films or trailers, and utilize the sounds gathered.

After recording the work stops not there, when you return to your studio any Field Recordists is editing the specific sound with additional software like a DAW, effect plugins, or tools like RX9.

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