Making a sound effects library is an immensely fun experience. It forces you to think creatively and explore objects and sounds that we are used to hearing every day in much greater detail than we normally would do.
However, how do you approach the task when the subject you are recording is not an inanimate object but rather a living, breathing creature? This was the challenge we faced when setting out to record our Geese sound effects library.
In this article, we will explain our process for creating this library and share with you some of the lessons we learned along the way that can be applied to future projects.
Concept & Planning
The planning stage is an important part of any sound effects library, as it allows you to sketch out your visions for the library and exactly how you will go about recording them.
Typically this involves deciding upon a concept for the library, which sound sources you will be recording, and the desired aesthetic you want to achieve with the final product. You will also plan out how the recording will take place. Will the library require outdoor field recording sessions or can we capture all of the material we need inside a studio environment?
With Geese being wild animals, however, the planning process would be a little different, as we would have minimal control over the Geese' behavior and had to factor in the time of day we would be recording in, weather conditions, and the level of human background noise.
Additional factors that we had to consider when recording included:
- How can we gain their trust and make them not see us as a threat?
- Location and acoustics, canal, park, lake, wetland, etc?
- How do we record groups of geese vs individuals?
- How do we elicit the most natural behavior from the Geese?
- How do we achieve close recordings in a safe manner without disturbing their territory?
Getting up close and personal during field recording sessions for this library.
The recording process for this library would require multiple recording sessions in order for us to capture the wide range of material that we needed. Our home city of Manchester has a large canal system that attracts geese to its waters, but we would also be making use of nearby wetland areas, and other bodies of water such as rivers, reservoirs, and small lakes.
Our initial plan was to use a 2-person team using boom poles, with one person capturing sounds more up close and the other hanging back to capture ambiences. This approach proved to be unsuccessful, as the geese were discouraged by the boom pole and likely felt threatened by our presence. It was clear to us at this point that we would have to modify our approach to something more discrete.
This is one of the main things we learned about recording animals compared to objects or people. You have to take the time to learn their behaviour and work around them, rather than expecting them to react how you would like them to.
It would take a couple more sessions with lots of trial and error before we felt like we had an approach that was effective and would yield quality results. The change that made the biggest difference was abandoning the boom poles for the more discrete SONY PCM D-100, as this could be operated without the Geese noticing and they could remain at ease. We kept the 2-person team but only used 1 person for recording, with the other acting as more of an assistant, reading the behavior of the geese and trying to move them where we wanted them to go.
Once we had a better understanding of the animals and were able to be amongst them, we then switched our focus to capture as much of their natural behaviour as possible, and highlight the different personalities of the Geese.
Alex discussing our recording techniques for capturing the most natural behaviour of the geese.
Some Geese for example were more aggressive and territorial. Once we had gotten to know who was who, we would see two of the more aggressive geese moving into the same area and we could anticipate that there would be some kind of noisy altercation and we had to move swiftly into position to capture it. Other animals were more relaxed and had a less aggressive temperament., These were better suited to recording more close-up sounds, or sounds of the Geese co-operating with each other, swimming together, etc. Overall it was a really fun experience for us to learn the way these animals behave and show off all of their individual sonic personalities in the best light.
Some of the Geese sounds we captured include:
- Flapping wings aggressively.
- Flying away & flying in to land.
- Goose footsteps.
- Paddling and swimming into water.
- Diving into the water.
- Eating various types of foods.
- Varied vocalisations including groups and individuals.
- Injured goose nursing its wound.
- Geese in the morning, daytime, evening.
A group of geese enjoying the water on a warm afternoon.
The editing process for this library was fairly extensive, given the amount of material we captured. The main challenge would be sorting through all of the varied recordings, separating them out into different categories of sounds, and then selecting the best material from within these.
We would have to be quite brutal in deciding which content made the cut, and this came down to having a clear vision in mind for exactly what we want the library to be, and what it would contain. In the end, we felt it was necessary to complete multiple passes on the recordings to ensure the highest level of quality, and this involved pretty much the entire team at 344 Audio.
All in all, while this library presented a unique challenge we all found the experience to be very enjoyable and creatively rewarding. It's not often that you get to spend so much time with an animal that is commonly viewed as less-than-spectacular, so you really gain a fresh appreciation and understanding of these animals.
There are of course a few lessons learned from the process that we will carry forward to future projects when recording animals or something similar, so follow these tips for a successful time recording your local wildlife.
- Use the most discrete microphone/recorder that you can get away with.
- Record during at different times of the day to capture the full range of behaviours.
- Work as a pair or within a small team and communicate non-verbally.
- Train yourself to be relaxed when recording. The animals will pick up on your body language and this will affect how they react.
- Don't go into it blind. Do your research and take the time to learn their behaviour patterns and how to gain their trust.
We hope you enjoyed checking out this article!
If you enjoyed this post please check out our ultimate guide to audio post-production: https://www.344audio.com/post/the-ultimate-guide-to-audio-post-production-sound-design
344 Audio is an Audio Post Production studio in Manchester.
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