Field Recording Weapons
So What Did I Learn?

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I recently spent a week recording a large variety of military weapons alongside a really talented audio developer and friend, Watson Wu. ( Watson has contracted Engine Audio to assist him in the past, and we are always excited to get another oppurtunity to do so. This time around, Watson also hired his good friend Aaron Marks giving me yet another oppurtunity to network and learn.

Aaron Marks is the author of several game audio books and has worked as a content developer in the field for nearly two decades. I really enjoyed working with Aaron and very much appreciated the humor and experience he brought to a challenging week of work.

First, I would like to say that just as important as all of the recording gear and techniques used on a major project is the people with whom you work. All great developers have their own history and experiences, so be sure to soak up as much knowledge your counterparts can offer. Remember that it is often easier to speak than it is to listen. When you are in company such as Watson and Aaron, please make sure you are doing more of the latter.

The main reason for me writing this article is to offer you some of what I learned from these veterans. These are a series of reminders that I have given myself, because they can often fall behind our concerns of dynamic range, sample rates and other choices. Unfortunately, there are things that I can’t discuss about this recording session, which brings me to my first point.

1. Thou shall be extra careful with your client’s information!
Clients spend a great deal of money bringing audio contractors into a project. It can often be difficult for your client to convince an in house producer to spend this money in the first place. The privacy of your client is paramount, and breaking their trust most likely will mean the end of them as your client. Be sure you understand the parameters of your Non Disclosure Agreement and follow them. Remember that communication is key, and staying on the same page with your client will make them feel more comfortable with you professionally. Do not play games with this one! (Excuse my pun)

2. Thou shall have multiple copies of your blank documents!
You need to carefully document recorded files, and you need your client to have a copy for their own notes. There are usually no printers out in the field so keep multiple copies of everything. Watson is also the master of the P-Touch and I learned that having sticker labels pre-printed could really help you keep your sanity. Remember that there is no such thing as over prepared.

3. Thou shall slate everything!
Things move fast when you are in the field. Proper documentation is essential, but nothing is safer than slating the take and situation directly into the recording. You should have a slate microphone set up for convenient printing to tape, and be sure to use the same naming as you have on your printed document. I.E. “Glock model 17_Full Mag Eject”.

4. Thou shall listen and watch very closely!
You have to constantly monitor the audio output of your system. Field recorders have meters on them so make sure you put them to good use. We rarely work without the limiters engaged, and the ones found in Sound Devices gear are fast! Do not assume that the initial sound of your set up hasn’t somehow changed, let your ears and eyes be the judge. Sometimes microphones move, cables become loose, and channels can go bad during recording. Be obsessive compulsive with your work, but don’t let yourself get in the way of a strong fast pace. It is not enough to simply say you demand excellence: you must prove it with constant diligence and attention to detail.

5. Thou shall keep people in good spirits!
One of the things I learned from this trip was that a director should keep everyone well fed and caffeinated. The people around you will be ready for hard work with a full belly and there favorite Starbucks in hand. I appreciated Watson’s honest concern that I was well supplied and comfortable at all times.

6. Thou shall Remain Calm!
Things can and will go wrong, just get comfortable with this concept. Great engineers and producers remain calm and solve problems calmly when amateurs are running around with their hair on fire. Creative skills are always important, but these less tangible qualities are what will keep you employed.

I really look forward to working with both these great Audio Jedi’s again, and I have one parting message for the young audio enthusiasts out there.

Keep recording, and show off your work! That is of course if you want people to know your name, and what you are all about.

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1 Comment

  1. Kyusik Chang
    October 5th, 2012

    That’s good,Tom ! :-)