Why Editing Recordings is so Rewarding

In the current week I’ve been given the very cool task of recording and editing mechanical sounds for my Sound Design course at the Masters I am attending.

My first idea – and actually concretion – was to record a copy machine. I love machine sounds and now I do even more. So, I was given a Zoom H4n, and there I was looking at the machine and figuring out what could I get from it. I turned it on, off (from the plug – but don’t tell anyone), printed pages and pages, pressed all the buttons, started to print and cancelled before it ends, let it idle, let it rest, let it scan…

I recorded with the Zoom placed in front, then inside the area where the printed sheets get out. It was a lot of fun, I assure you, but the better was the editing.

I couldn’t just do a simple straight editing of a paper sheet being printed, that is not even  fun, but most of all it’s not that useful. I’d upload that to my SoundCloud page and it would be just another normal recording.

A few days before, I read this article from Paul Virostek. That got me seriously thinking of a more useful approach to edit recordings. As I really enjoy sound editing myself, I kept to a line of thought centred on how would a sound editor want her sfx pack of a copy machine. (And not only copy-machine: from here we can do a lot more.) I myself spend precious minutes listening to files with several things happening, waiting for the desirable sound to appear; if it appears at all.

Thinking this way, I started to categorize the tracks in different types of sounds:

  1. buttons, clicks;
  2. scanning;
  3. Idling;
  4. Initiating;
  5. printing to idling;
  6. shutting down.

Then I opened tracks with the same names (except for the buttons and clicks) for the recordings that had the Zoom inside the machine. Ok, the idea of listening to a machine like this from the inside may seem unreasonable to many, but it can be more interesting in terms of timbre, so we should just explore (as a note, once I started to hear the idling sound from this perspective I could immediately on my head hear a storm sound, and we know how we sound designers work…).

Sounds like ‘Initiating’ were very straight cut at first, but if I let them separated from what would follow, even if the rest worked well on its own, it would sound like it was incomplete. Thinking from the sound editor perspective (what will he/ she need?), made me realise that the sound would be useless even if it is the most awesome in the world. Because when one sweep-like sound was about to start where some other is finishing, it would be a massive error to have it cut right after or before and not even a fade out would work. I really learned that cuts and fades should only be applied when the sound turns really static.

In the end, only the sound of the buttons being pressed and the idling sounds were the only who could get completely separated from the others, as if doesn’t need a context and it’s not tangled between others that last longer to develop. This means I had to make sure if the audio track has a clear beginning and ending and that the action is fully perceived.

In cases where there was a long static idling sound followed by a short and direct action, I opted by letting some more handle, as to save the editor the work of picking an idle sound do cross-fade with it; she / he can still do it, bur a longer handle will definitely help the guy out.

Back to this post title, I felt this editing process made me gain awareness of the several sounds we are able to take from our recording object. Having the files cut this way, I don’t look at it only as a printer but it can be tones of other things that may sound alike. Next times I will have a more abroad perspective of how to explore any kind of recording, be it recording techniques or manipulation the object in question.

I will publish more mechanic sounds during the weekend.

Happy editing! 🙂

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