Wind

Wind is a pain in the butt to record. While we hear it all the time, finding and isolating a source from background noise is near impossible in today’s hustle & bustle world. Even if you do find such a place, because wind and microphones are ancient adversaries, being in a position to physically record it without getting your mic pounded requires creative planning, perseverance, and luck.

Fortunately, I live in a building where the windows are so poorly made that wind seeps right through! Lying in bed in the morning I can actually see the plants in front of my windows fluttering around as the wind whips in from the ocean and through the gaps where my window will never seal. This gives me the perfect position not only to capture the wind, but to control its sound by adjusting said gap. Just this weekend I had such an opportunity when my neighborhood experienced a heavy storm with sustained gusts at 40mph.

Wind Sample by dsteinwedel

Since I’m attempting to give an idea of how I’ve used the recordings presented here in actual projects and this recording is a scant 3 days old, I’ll change focus a little bit and talk about some methods to eek more out of a recording like this. Now you might be saying to yourself, “But David, that sound is already AWESOME!!” And yes, it’s nice, but we can make it do so much more.

The next track is the same sound twice, raw and then with a small round of polishing. While the recording picked up a lot of nice wails and moans, there’s also a steady hiss throughout. To pull that back I used a high-shelf EQ, with a low Q to drop the high end and remove some of the hiss. Next, it’s too narrow for my tastes. In games, wind is often a BG element attached to the player, not placed in space as a 3d object. So it needs to be widened. A Stereo Enhancement plugin will do the trick. If you don’t have one, a chorus or other delay type effect that lets you set Left and Right delays independently will work. A touch of verb at the end will help round things out. Every effect I used the next recording is a stock Nuendo plug.

Hard Wind Duo by dsteinwedel

The difference isn’t all that dramatic but for 5 minutes worth of work it’s not so bad. To really get this right, automating the EQ will go a long way as each character of whistle needs its own settings.

Taking things a step further, here’s a sample that’s pitched down 2 octaves. The first octave is done without time correction and the second with.

Wind Pitched Two Ocatves by dsteinwedel

Spooky.

Finally, we can take things very far. In the following sample, a single EQ band has been isolated and boosted, noise reduction applied, and the same Stereo Ehancer/Reverb combo as before slapped on the tail.

Noisy Wind Duo by dsteinwedel

You can hear that all the junk (the birds and some exterior banging) is gone and we’re left with a spooky, ringing sound that has a humanistic vocal quality to it.

oooOOOOOoooO0Oooo0OO0ooooOOooooooo


Recording Geek Notes: Neumann RSM 191 (sans wind protection) direct to a Fostex FR-2.
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Toy Tops

Toy stores are a good source for finding things that make interesting sounds. As such, I try and stop in from time to time (this has nothing to do with my love for Legos, I swear). At one point, I found a pair of tops (made of metal) which made an interesting hum when spinning. Each top had a different quality to its hum, instantly cementing my double purchase. What I thought would be a quick recording session turned into two full days as I experimented and was able to consistently milk more and more interesting sounds from these puppies.

The first set (Tops_01) includes Pumps, Hums, Contact Spins, & Hanging Spins. The Pumps are pretty explanatory, that’s simply the pumping of the top to set it spinning. The Hum is the sound made when the top was left to spin on its own. The tonality of the hum could be modified by closing off a series of holes around the edge of the top. Contact Spins were a spontaneous find and occur when letting objects rub against the spinning top. These required the closing of all holes on the top to keep any hum from occurring--which also led to the top slowing down at a much more rapid rate and made getting long, loopable takes difficult. The recording here is one of the cooler sounds I pulled from that part of the session. Finally, Hanging Spins were made by pumping the top to a high speed and then holding it off the ground by the pump and letting the top spin freely in the air.

Toy Tops 01 by dsteinwedel

The second set (Tops_02) were made by attaching stuff to the top as if it had helicopter blades. The first few attempts were unsuccessful--I tried only attaching one or two blades which set the top off balance and caused it to crash. However, once I got 4 blades evenly spaced, the sounds coming out were fantastic. In this set you’ll hear velcro, zip ties, paperclips, and fishing line used as the blade source.

Toy Tops 02 by dsteinwedel

These sounds have been used all over projects I’ve done. The humming is great for looping and attaching to projectiles. The helicopter spinning (I label them as Spin Downs in my library) provide great texture and can be reversed to indicate a fast startup. I last used them as part of a sound for the upcoming XCom: Enemy Unknown. I remember the Contact Spins being used by Pam Aronoff on a project to make some awesome magic effects.

Recording Geek Notes: Neumann RSM 191 direct to ProTools via a Sound Devices 302 @ 24/48.
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