Awareness with Field Recording


As you probably know, lately I’ve doing a lot field recording for Iterance, a documentary I am working on.

We have been recording and filming at places that were once functioning factories. All these places are now ruins, so they are partially destroyed with interesting remaining of what once was. While the picture is highly informative, I’ve been noticing some things by recording that make me wonder why isn’t listening a part of every child’s education. The sound of a place can be so rich and detailed and sometimes so much more than a picture that we learned about it by the way it sounds.

As I was in the last place so far, I couldn’t understand how some film makers don’t even bother to capture how a location sounds and I almost felt a little angry thinking about those who just throw some music on the picture.

With field recording you notice that some bird species chirp within a rhythm pattern and that wouldn’t be correct to edit a sound file in a way that this rhythm pattern would be broken.

The old factory at Pampilhosa is huge, with dozens of rooms, with train rails inside, even with and old bulldozer, lots of drawers, shelves, clothes, tools, machines. Dozens of little tunnels conducting to old ovens for clay; the upper floor barely as a roof, but just some zinc slabs, most of them loose and about to fall off; as it is with almost every structure. With just some light wind, those leftovers become alive providing the soundscape several details of the state of this place.

In the following sound example, I am recording with an M/S setup under the roofs of the fabric´s entry. What we first listen may just sound like a place with a natural soundscape: a dog barking, a lot of birds, insects, the gentle wind on leaves. But there is something more, which is the discrete noise of the quiet train station´s cables, saying it is there, sounding a little abandoned in such scenario, but still working and having trains passing once in a while. All this information is told by sound; imagine if you just see a picture of it, we would´t know for sure if the station is still active. Besides that there is a subtile sense of the reverberation caused by the fabric´s structure, which compared to an absolute open space it does make the difference.

The possibilities of sound designing and conveying more information, envelopment and depth are multiplied when these recordings are added to the picture.

Field recording is absolutely amazing and there is always so much to learn from it. I consider it extremely important to prepare the recording session in a previous visit to the place, discover these subtleties, knowing the space by listening and construct an image by its sound.

Happy field recording!

4 thoughts on “Awareness with Field Recording

  1. Hey Melissa! I absolutely understand you when speaking about how informative and descriptive sound can be. Some say that picture counts for more than thousand words, but dimension provided by sound is unspeakable. When you stop for a moment and realize that we can hear as early as fetuses in our mothers tombs, the fact that sound is our first connection with the world we are coming to is even more fascinating, to me. Informational, but also emotional and subconscious ways it affects us… Listsning really should be part of every child’s education! 🙂 Enjoyed your recordings btw! Keep up the good work!


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