Posted by: recordingsofnature | August 12, 2016

Subjectivity of audio nature recordings

Evaluating of the sound quality of nature recordings is a volatile and delicate subject. Though, in this small essay I will try to collect my ideas on why there is actually a good reason for that.

My personal objective of my recordings is to reproduce a fully authentic listening experience as if being out in the field. Sound quality has been a main driver for my recordings, but also a source of frustrations as it seems after many years of field recording, I sometimes don’t feel like having moved much forward.

In general the sound quality of field recordings appears to be more critical than for e.g. hearing music. I think the reason is that ambient recording/sound needs to match the listener’s personal hearing experience and expectations quite precisely, in order to trigger the special memories and feelings of being in an other place. Nature recordings seem to be balancing on a narrower path between sounding good or not.

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Though, the main message here is that I believe there is a lot more to it than technical performance and specifications. Subjective matters will easily have a dominating part to play in the listening experience.

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Posted by: recordingsofnature | July 4, 2016

Acoustics of Nature recordings

In continuation of the post on Road noise and weather factors, I’d like to share a few more  thoughts and views on the topic of outdoor acoustics in audio field recordings, and attempt to give my guidelines on factors to consider when recording in the field. E.g. in terms of choosing the exact location of the microphones and planning with respect to weather etc.

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The dense canopy of a beech forest in summer will often create hall-like reverberation

In all, I think this is a very interesting topic which I am really just slowly starting to get a grasp of. There is no right or wrong recordings. When opening your ears to these acoustic effects it opens another dimension when listening to field recordings, like an ability to sense the surroundings, the environment and weather in a new way.

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Posted by: recordingsofnature | June 25, 2016

All-night recording from Vestskoven near Porsemosen June 17th, 2016

This is yet another all-night recording, this time from a beautiful calm, early summer night and morning in Vestskoven near Porsemosen  June 17-18th 2016. Temperatures of 16-14C, pretty humid and with dense smells of green moist vegetation. Apparently also a perfect weather for mosquitoes. This part of Vestskoven is only accessible by bicycle or foot and lies up to Porsemosen, which is a large and rather undisturbed peat wetland known for a rich plant and wildlife.
The recording starts around 22:30, with the twilight rapidly falling. I managed to find a suitable tree trunk just by a small creek, where I could mount the tree-ears microphones pointing North East towards a small wetland.

It is now the shortest and lightest nights with sunset at 21:57 and sunrise at 04:25 – in every way a lovely time of the year!

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View of the landscape of the recording, evening. The tree-ears microphones are mounted on the tree to the right. Vestskoven June 17, 2016, 22:30.

I think the recording came out quite well, despite mostly quiet and distant sounds. The recording starts with a quick rain shower. In following the many hours a variety of delicate different sounds and activity can be heard in the area, including distant nightingales in the direction of Porsemosen, common grasshopper warbler, reed warbler, strange heron calls, fox barks, sky larks. In the morning hours the microphones get close range visits by  singing yellowhammer, common whitethroat, wood pigeon and grey crow. Listen in headphones!

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Posted by: recordingsofnature | June 7, 2016

All-night recording from Sømosen, June 2rd 2016

All-night, unattended audio field recording from Sømosen, near Copenhagen June 2nd – 3rd 2016, – the bog I have been exploring a few times earlier this year; February 15th, April 22nd and May 13th. My aim with these recordings is just to observe and document, in an authentic manner, the seasonal variation of the nature and nature sounds. I think the night recordings give a special opportunity to imagine one self into that given place, in an endless recording, hearing the same as if you were a fly on a tree trunk. Your eyes are of no use anyway.

The summer has started with a bang since the last days of May, with daily temperatures reaching 25C. Everything is green green green.Though, I think the warm weather has caused the bird song to decline and this particular evening was surprisingly quiet. Later in the night the activity seemed to return to normal as the temperature dropped to 15C. A distant nightingale was however active more or less throughout the night.

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This time, I found a new spot for my tree-ears under a group of trees and bushes near the reed bed. I must admit, the place felt a bit creepy in the twilight, and I was not 100% comfortable when setting up the gear.

The recording starts 22:15 (almost dusk) and ends 5:35 am (1 hour after sunrise). Listen in (open) headphones.

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Cue list:

0:15:00 (22:30) Dusk
Distant Nightingale partly active, can be head together with gulls, geese and other waterfowl from the wetland.
Lots of road noise to the right (East), which is also the wind direction.
Some rustling nearby, but otherwise not much activity
1:42:00 (00:00) Reed warblers on/off, frogs, nightingale very faint.
2:45:00 (01:00) Road noise greatly reduced, overall very quiet.
Light winds cause some relaxing rustling and quirking.
More reed warblers on/off
4:14:00 (02:30) Something nearby?
4:29:00 (02:45) First cuckoo in the morning.
4:37:00 (02:53) Nightingale closer
5:04:00 (03:20) Gulls and birds wake up
5:14:00 (03:30) Wren, black bird start signing
5:21:00 (03:36) Dawn. Nightingale close again
5:30:00 (03:45) Black cap starts singing
5:40:00 (03:55) Great tit, chiffchaff starts singing
6:20:00 (04:35) Sunrise
7:18:00 (05:33) Loud crow nearby !!!

Weather: Clear sky, pretty warm and humid, 15-20C, 80%RH. Light eastern winds.

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Posted by: recordingsofnature | May 24, 2016

All-night recording from Vestskoven, May 21st 2016

This is an all-night recording from Vestskoven, a woodland just outside Copenhagen, 21st of May 2016. This time I found a location further west, about 50 meters into a very green and dense forest section. The visibility was only about 20 meters and I had no worries about any human finding my recording gear.

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View from the recorder in the morning, pointing in NE direction. Vestskoven May 22nd 2016. Click for larger version

The forest is full of whispering and rustling sounds, from all around. It sounds like rain, but it is not (only shortly at t=5:12.00). I really don’t know if it is insects, the leafs growing or small baby frogs hopping around (I saw a few). It is just there the whole time and the surroundings seem very much alive. At times it appears to be larger animals (mice and foxes?) that sniff around.

Recording starts 21:25, (at sunset, hearing me walk away) and ends 6:15 in the morning. Listen in open headphones.

Sunset 21:27 (t=0), Dusk  22:20 (t=0:53:00), Dawn 03:52 (t=6:25:00), Sunrise 04:47 (t=7:42:00).

In my latests recordings, I have been concerned with low frequency rumbling from roads and machinery. So I decided that this time should be different, and therefore spend quite some time trying to pick the best location in Vestskoven in terms of distance to populated areas, and in terms of wind direction with respect to the motorway. And a night between Saturday and Sunday should also help.
But it all turned out to be an utterly failure. The wind from South, which was supposed to be shielding the motorway noise, was far from effective. Furthermore, it turned out that the area is home to groups of campers who enjoy partying and playing music the whole night and morning. So lots of deep rumbling this time, as well.  All there is to say is I will try to succeed next time🙂

Weather: 14C, 80%RH, 3-5 m/s  wind from South, heavy clouds, with showers drifting in from west. Dry asphalt.

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Posted by: recordingsofnature | May 15, 2016

Dawn in Sømosen, May 13th 2016

This is an audio field recording of dawn in Sømosen (Friday 13.5.2016), the bog just outside Copenhagen where I have been recording a few times before. I am curious to know more about the night sounds of this wetland through the seasons. My last night recording was in February. Now, spring is well advanced, and the activity level much higher.

View from the recorder over Sømosen at 4:45 am, 13.5.2016. Click for larger version.

View from the recorder over Sømosen at 4:45 am, 13.5.2016. Click for larger version.

It was a night with a clear sky, no wind and 8C. Mist was developing over the water making the scene very picturesque in the morning.

I didn’t manage to do a full night recording, so the recording starts 3 am and ends at 4:45 am when the morning chorus had calmed a bit down. Listen in headphones.

The recording starts with me walking the last meters and placing the recording gear near the water. In the beginning, at 3 am, the only singing bird is a distant nightingale, but shortly with the first light, the colony of black headed gulls wakes up. Steadily, the sound level builds up with greylag goose, lapwing, cuckoo, redstart, wren, black bird, joining in. (Im still missing the balck cap, which was very active at this time last year)

Despite good audio recording conditions, I don’t think the recording turned out to be very sparkling. In the first half, the soundscape is mostly medium and far distance sounds from birds over the wetland, but (again) I experienced some persistent deep bass rumbling. This time, it appeared not to be from traffic, but humming from some fan or building ventilator. Though, I think the problem is also highly due to my recording setup being too sensitive to low frequency bass.

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Posted by: recordingsofnature | May 9, 2016

Early morning, early May forest

Morning chorus atmosphere in Vestskoven, early May (7.5.2016). The chorus is at its maximum around 4:30 am, when it is still dark. The recording is from about 5 am, where the birds have calmed down a bit and the light has set in. Some warblers, including the Nightingale are not yet present, but I’m sure they will on my next recording.
The early hours have a special atmosphere. Especially now when the very first light appears very early, and before the traffic noise kicks in. It is like the forest, for a moment, has forgotten all human presence. It sure sounds like the best part of the day.

Vestskoven, May 7th. 2016. (click for very large version)

Vestskoven, May 7th. 2016 at 5:30 am. The last couple of days have been warm and summer-like, but only 5C this morning. (Click for very large version)

Posted by: recordingsofnature | April 24, 2016

Sunny April morning by Sømosen

This is a sound recording and photo capture from a sunny and windy April morning (22.4.2016) by Sømosen, where I have been recording a few times before. Fairly cold winds were blowing from North west. However, in the shelter of a row of bushes and trees, the sun felt incredibly nice. Many were out for a walk or walking the dog this morning.

April 22, 2016 Sømosen, Ballerup. Microphone setup

Spring is slightly late this year, as compared to last year. Still not that many singing birds, but chiffchaff and robin are surely active. About 200 meters ahead you can hear noise from the bog, mainly from a colony of black headed gulls and greylag gees just appearing with crowds of young gosling. This sound is however quite faint due to the wind direction coming from the opposite direction.

The audio recording is intended to be as authentic as possible, with minimum post processing. Listen in headphones.

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This is an update on the CYL-filter method for anti-aliasing of DSLR video, and a description of how to get a filter which has a variable anti-aliasing filter strength. The method is to simply use two filters in a stack, and by adjusting the rotation it is possible to vary the filter effect from zero to the double amount. Almost like a variable ND filter.

In this article I will sum up the developments, and give a demonstration of a prototype filter. Unfortunately, I am not able to do any manufacturing or selling. Instead, I will try to give all details to make way for trying it DIY.

Variable anti-aliasing filter (CYL-filter) for digital DSLR video

The original CYL-filter method has limitations in terms of a strict working range with a narrow set of working points with respect to aperture and lens focal length. A very strong filter is normally needed for wide angle lenses, while a very weak filter is needed for long lenses. Add to this the dependency of the aperture size. So, a variable solution is really an advantage and extends the working range.

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Posted by: recordingsofnature | April 2, 2016

Road noise and the influence of Weather factors

Deep rumbling road noise is a true companion on my nature recording trips around in Denmark. Maybe it is due to modern headphones or to bass sensitive microphones – the rumbling is just ever present when I get home and hear the recordings. Noise from cross-cutting motorways can be particularly audible over long distances, however the noise level do vary surprisingly from time to time at the same location.

I have started to realize that weather conditions play a major role for this ambient background noise. The typically far distant nature of these sounds gives a high sensitivity to weather conditions. The atmosphere plays an active role in reflecting and guiding long distance sounds. It is actually a well-founded but highly complex research field. Sound differences of 10-20dB are often stated.

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To my experience, road noise (closely followed by aircraft noise) is the most common and persistent type of noise encountered on my field recordings. Other man made noise types include trains, industrial activities, shooting ranges, lawn cutters, dogs and …wind turbines. I definitely don’t see this as all bad. The background ambience is very important for the identity of a place, often at a subconscious level. Imagine 100 years ago how completely different the ambience must have been, and again in 100 years time it will likely be completely different, e.g. with the emergence of electric cars and climate changes etc.

All in all, I have come to see that studying weather forecasts and road maps can be very instrumental when planning audio nature recordings. Considering weather factors is, in general, a great help to understand the often surprising outcomes of audio field recordings. In this blog I will try to dig more into this topic and compile various related information.

 

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