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Recording endangered music while trekking in SE Asia
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Lives for gear
Recording endangered music while trekking in SE Asia

Greg Simmons (Simmosonic) has penned a fine article on location recording of endangered music in SE Asia, using MKH800 mics and now migrating to IOS devices, as well as his trusty Nagra 7.

There's even a nifty little 360 camera he mounts in the centre of his AB mic bar !

As usual with Simmo's articles, it's comprehensive and helpful, with many references to useful apps and tips/methods, and well illustrated with photos...I commend it to you as a great escapist read, the ideal antidote to a locked-up, rioted-down world !

https://www.audiotechnology.com/tutorials/going-further
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Lives for gear
Has he never used a MidSide rig and a proper windscreen, the obvious choice for musical archive in the third world.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Has he never used a MidSide rig and a proper windscreen, the obvious choice for musical archive in the third world.
I can't believe he wouldn't have tried it...maybe he just opted for something better !
I agree regarding the absence of anything Rycote-ish vs his use of foam screens, at least in these pics.
Hopefully Greg will hop in here with some background on his choices.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Has he never used a MidSide rig and a proper windscreen, the obvious choice for musical archive in the third world.
I know you like Mid Side, but "the Obvious Choice?" Really? Personally, I'd never use that as my only pickup.

I've worked with Greg back when he lived in Australia full time. He's very knowledgeable and I would gather that he's developed his rig based on what he finds works in many trying circumstances. And I've seen other pictures of his rigs, and yes, he has the wind protection that he feels is needed for a given recording. You don't always need a huge Rycote softie or similar.

--Ben
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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A pair of $3000 MKH 800 in foam gags on a space bar....
Come off it.
Have you ever recorded outside Ben?
Roger
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
A pair of $3000 MKH 800 in foam gags on a space bar....
Come off it.
Have you ever recorded outside Ben?
Roger
Yes. Hundreds of times. I have an entire tub of windscreens here. And 99% of them are foam.

-Ben
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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Having quickly scanned the article, I believe he set out to put together as small and as light weight a kit as possible, considering his extensive travel. Adding a full blown windjammer system would likely double the cube size and, perhaps more importantly, presented a much more intimidating setup on his subjects.

As much as I love my MKH30/40 all weather rig, I can't fault him for the decisions he made for this project.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Lives for gear
I'm wondering if the edited and produced videos he left them with, presumably to be played back on their smartphones...would be perceptibly, materially different (ie better) than if they'd simply recorded the same event using their smartphone's onboard video recorder ? I guess I'm simply referring to the 'levelling effect' of the replay medium, rather than the calibre of the original recording made by Greg
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Lives for gear
A pair of $3000 MKH 800 deserve proper windscreens as they deserve sensible mounts and stands
Its quite possible to mount such lovely mics properly and discreetly
Look at my SD 702 and a MKH 30/20 rig, this can record wildlife or music unobtrusively anywhere in the Globe
A furry jammer can provide gusty cover and rain protection
Feeble foams cannot.
Roger
Attached Thumbnails
Recording endangered music while trekking in SE Asia-img_0999.jpg  
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Lives for gear
It would only take 2-3 seconds of over-modulated wind-buffeting (monitored live on headphones of course...not simply watching meter flickers !) to tell any recordist that furry windsock (or similar) mitigation is required immediately.

Shall we not extend to Greg the benefit of the doubt to have realized this...and act upon it ? Let's see what he has to say, if/when he eventually chimes in ?
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Has he never used a MidSide rig and a proper windscreen, the obvious choice for musical archive in the third world.
I had a Schoeps MS pair (CCM4/CCM8) in a Rycote WS9 windshield for years; purchased it in 2004 (on the excellent recommendation of David Spearritt), sold it about 18 months ago. It, coupled with my Nagra V, became a veteran of over 20 music recording expeditions through Nepal, five or six through Tibet, six or seven through India, two or three through Myanmar, one through Borneo, and probably a few other locations not worth remembering. It didn’t like the humidity in the jungles of Nepal or the rainforests of Borneo, but I forgave it for that because it sounded so damn great and would usually come good after about 10 minutes of phantom power...

The problem is that MS is a coincident technique, and for some of what I’m recording a coincident technique is not indicated. It’s fantastic on smaller ensembles with only a handful of performers, where pin-point imaging is worth pursuing AND assuming the musicians have a good internal balance. When mounted in a Rycote it’s also great for point-and-shoot recordings (random street busker) and run-and-gun recordings (following a funeral procession through the streets of Varanasi). But when it comes to larger ensembles, where a sense of size/space/immersion is more important then imaging, the music is better served by a spaced pair of some sort (e.g. AB, near-coincident, whatever).

Also, I’m often working in spaces where you simply cannot get back far enough to capture everything properly with a coincident pair. That might be due to the size of the space, or the sheer 160m ravine immediately behind you, or the presence of a ‘sacred area’ nobody told you about until you placed a mic stand in it (and caused a Holy Man to stop proceedings for 10 minutes while he removed the stand and purified the space again), or because the space is so reverberant or there is so much external noise (motorbikes, cars, chickens, goats, kids, etc.) that you simply cannot afford to go too far back.

Also, in some situations I’ll get a better result using two close mics instead of a stereo pair. For example, music where there is just a vocalist and someone beating a drum, and the drum is drowning out the vocal if miked at any distance as required with a stereo technique. In that case, I’ll get a better capture if I close mic each of them. I can’t do that with an MS pair inside a windscreen. I first had that kind of situation recording courtship music in Malaysia sometime around 2008: two old ladies pounding out the rhythm on a drum each, with one singing. There was no placement of my Schoeps MS pair in Rycote that could capture the voice loud enough, and no way to configure things to get the voice predominantly in the M channel and the drums predominantly in the S channel so I could tweak it in post. Very frustrating and a lost opportunity. The singer had a fabulously emotional voice.

So when I set out on my life as a digital nomad in search of endangered music (January 2017), I had to choose my ‘desert island’ pair. I knew it wasn’t going to be my Schoeps MS pair in Rycote. The right mics needed to be lightweight, super versatile, good sounding, excellent off-axis response, and able to handle humidity. The MKH800s ticked all of those boxes. No more humidity problems, I can create *any* two-mic direct-to-stereo miking configuration with them, and I can use them as two close mics in situations where close-miking is indicated.

But then came the next problem: windshields. I regularly scour the web looking for something small and light I can use with them. I’m very interested in Rycote’s BBGs, but the MKH800s are 27mm diameter and the closest fitting BBGs are made for either 25mm or 30mm microphone shafts. I emailed Rycote some time ago and asked if they thought the 25mm would stretch to 27mm but they were not sure, and I don’t want to spend money on a pair of those (plus return shipping) only to find out they don’t fit. I also asked if they thought I could get the 25mm and perhaps try to file back the rubber ring (rat tail file, of course) to make them fit, and was left with the impression that would not be a good idea. I have considered getting the 30mm and getting a plastic sleeve 3D printed that would allow it to fit, but I haven’t got around to it, mostly because what I’m using has been working so far. It is more than it looks, however.

The fundamental goal of windjamming is to create a zone of low turbulence around the diaphragm, and that’s what it does. If you were to take it apart, you would see it starts with a small foam pop filter over the mic. It’s only about 5mm thick all around; I had two of them hanging around, I cannot remember what they were from (NT6?) but they fitted nicely over the MKH800s. The larger pop filter (the visible one) is actually for much larger microphones (NT2A, U87, ATM4050, etc.). It’s about 15mm thick all around and has about 15mm of clearance when slipped over the smaller pop filter on the MKH800s. That 15mm air gap creates the zone of low turbulence which really helps to dissipate whatever wind makes it through the outer layer, and doesn’t leave much at all to get through the inner layer. I use a rubber band around the bottom to seal it shut, which creates the spherical shape (without the rubber band the outer foam is more like an inverted ‘U’ shape).

I have used these windjammers on the decks of boats (there is always wind on the water) and on beaches (always wind coming off or going on to the water) with no problems at all. When the wind gets too strong, you can hear it passing against the holes of the open cell foam, which creates a strange and subtle kind of brushing sound. It’s nowhere near as obtrusive as wind noise but I’d still rather not have it, so in those cases I will pull a black stocking or a thin sock over them and the problem goes away.

I’ve also learnt to position myself and others in the right positions to make windbreaks if necessary. I do not remember ever having to stop a recording due to wind, and most of my recordings take place outdoors. Also, bear in mind that I’m not likely to be recording music in the middle of a hurricane, and if I’m outdoors I’m often able to choose the location for the recording.

To summarise...

I have used a MidSide rig and a proper windscreen. In fact, I’ve used one of the finest implementations available, in some of the most microphone-hostile environments possible, for over a decade. What I’m using now (2 x MKH800s with DIY foam windjammers) is superior for my purposes and I get a higher rate of successful recordings.

Last edited by Simmosonic; 1 week ago at 11:10 AM..
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
I'm wondering if the edited and produced videos he left them with, presumably to be played back on their smartphones...would be perceptibly, materially different (ie better) than if they'd simply recorded the same event using their smartphone's onboard video recorder ?
That’s part of the reasoning for that line in the article that ends with, “because it doesn’t have to be perfect...”

They are only going to play it on smartphones or some banged up old laptop or whatever is hanging around. Also, they are not sophisticated listeners and aren’t going to say “Can I have a bit more 2.5k on the vocal?” or “Pity about the essing” or “damn that rooster”. The high quality 96k or 192k version is for me and for the Endangered Music project on line – if I ever get to finish this stuff. For that I expect I might have to move off the iPad to use RX or similar (unless iZotope make an iOS version before then).

BUT there is also the look on their faces when they hear themselves properly recorded for the first time, especially if through headphones. Even if it’s just a rough bit of on-the-spot mastering and I didn’t get my mic placement right anyway. They’re just amazed, and it’s very rewarding watching them excitedly hand the headphones around. The sense of awe and gratitude is palpable.

Last edited by Simmosonic; 1 week ago at 12:39 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
It would only take 2-3 seconds of over-modulated wind-buffeting (monitored live on headphones of course...not simply watching meter flickers !) to tell any recordist that furry windsock (or similar) mitigation is required immediately.
I have a pair of Rode Dead Cats with me that I don’t need, and my intention is to take them to a local tailor and pay them to make smaller furries to fit over the large foam pop filters. Any of the woman sitting behind sowing machines on the streets of Bangkok could do it, although I think the suit makers in the tourist areas would do a nicer job but at a significantly higher cost. (I swear those guys are continually trying to retire off a single job...)

These things won’t need zips or anything, just shaped to fit snugly over the inverted ‘U’ shape of the big foam pop filters. The rubber band around the bottom will close them up. I expect the result would be something like combining Rycote’s 30/55 foam with their 30/55 furry – that’s an actual solution that Rycote sells, BTW.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Gear Maniac
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
A pair of $3000 MKH 800 in foam gags on a space bar....
I’m sure my mics would agree that they deserve better treatment.
Old 1 week ago
  #15
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simmosonic View Post
but the MKH800s are 27mm diameter and the closest fitting BBGs are made for either 25mm or 30mm microphone shafts. I emailed Rycote some time ago and asked if they thought the 25mm would stretch to 27mm but they were not sure, and I don’t want to spend money on a pair of those (plus return shipping) only to find out they don’t fit. I also asked if they thought I could get the 25mm and perhaps try to file back the rubber ring (rat tail file, of course) to make them fit, and was left with the impression that would not be a good idea.
I am in awe of your field recording experience, but I have one piece of wisdom here on how to get a universal size Rycote ballgag:

Bicycle inner tubes. I was too tight to get a BBG to fit each size of mics so got one to fit a larger diameter. Inner tubes are stretchy enough to make the seal and you can use more than one thickness to fill up the gap. It's not a mod of great beauty but it's cheap and light, and works. You can fit out a lot of mics with sections cut out of an old inner tube
Old 1 week ago
  #16
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simmosonic View Post
To summarise...

I have used a MidSide rig and a proper windscreen. In fact, I’ve used one of the finest implementations available, in some of the most microphone-hostile environments possible, for over a decade. What I’m using now (2 x MKH800s with DIY foam windjammers) is superior for my purposes and I get a higher rate of successful recordings.
Im not trying to open the coincident /spaced argument yet again Simm but a $6000 mic array deserves sufficient mounting and gagging as appropriate.
I have a pair of MKH 800 and I love em.
I have even used one exterior with its supplied foam gag for an oral history project and that worked well,close miked in my garden.
I have been working on a MS 800/800 rig and unearthed a vintage Rycote basket from the late 80s, it has a Rycote furry to match
Its 20cm x 40 cm with a pistol grip and elastic suspension, this will do me fine for experimentation.
I was recording a Berber band outdoors in the high Atlas Mountains with a similar rig , but MKH 50/30 in the 90s, I used ECM 50 outriggers to enhance the space.
I learnt that in post I could replicate' space ' easily, so no longer used outriggers
I like precise rendering and Like ease of handling and mic protection.
There are many ways to skin a cat obviously , best of luck in your endeavours, I love recording ethnic music and didn't do enough, hey ho its fun finding out.
Roger
Old 1 week ago
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
Simmosonic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ermine View Post
Bicycle inner tubes.
BINGO!!

That is a great suggestion, and easy to do!

I only need to make up 1.5mm all around to fit the 27mm diameter MKH800s into the 30mm tube. One or two layers of inner tube should be no problem.

Thank you for that suggestion, it makes great sense. I’m also adding to that ‘bag of tricks’ we all have in our minds to solve problems, because I’m sure that will come in handy in other ways too.
Old 1 week ago
  #18
Here for the gear
I use an AT8022 XY mic in a 25mm Rycote BBG. Two layers of inner tube from my road bike Schwalbe SV15 for 3/4-1" width tyres pad out the nominal 21mm diameter body of that mic. It's lasted for a few years now. I made the outer layer longer which gives you a chamfered edge. I don't think the Sennheiser MKH800 has a larger head like the AT8022 so this may not matter, but if so start with the mic in the BBG, and push the inner tube onto the mic from the back, as the BBG rubber grommet is flared wider towards the back of the mic to make it easier to insert the mic. As a result you only have to get it to within 1mm, the grommet will take out the slack.

I guess mountain bike tubes might be too large, but I'm sure any bike maintenance shop will have lots of the raw material from junked tubes. It's not like you're fussy on wheel size.
Old 6 days ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
...I believe he set out to put together as small and as light weight a kit as possible...
It’s always a balancing act between performance, weight and utility. For example, the DIY foam windjammers I described in my reply to Rolo weigh nothing, do their job quite well, and also serve as useful cushioning when packing all the gear into the backpack. They’re one of the few things that don’t require careful packing or handling.

I have my simple ‘sound guy’ rule that really helps in this respect: the total weight and financial value of the sound gear in my pack must always be considerably more than the total weight and financial value of the video gear. That really helps me to keep things in perspective. It also reflects my philosophy: “I’m not making videos, I’m recording music and filming the process.“ [That’s also my fallback line when some condescending dick says “Pity the mics are in the shot...” The mics are where they need to be, and if the camera doesn’t like it then it just has to deal with it, LOL!]

Adding the iPad Pro was a no-brainer. It weighs very little, takes up almost no space, and when it’s not doing on-the-spot post-production it can be used as an additional camera, a backup recording device, a wireless remote control with external screen for my Sony and Insta360 cameras, a protractor, a ruler, a level, running helpful apps like Image Assistant, a map with GPS, or just simply taking notes.
Old 6 days ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
...but a $6000 mic array deserves sufficient mounting and gagging as appropriate.
We’ve talked about the windjamming but I’d like to say a few things about the shock-mounting because it’s not seen in either of the magazine articles: On The Go or Going Further.

I was initially using the shock-mount clips provided by Sennheiser, but the MKH800s are so light that a slight breeze on the windjammer, a bit of flexing on a flimsy hut floor, or the bobbing up and down of a boat on the sea, will cause the mics to wobble up and down in those shock-mounts. The cable provides a bit of helpful damping if it’s properly threaded through the grip on the clip, but I still don’t like seeing the mics wobbling around every now and then.

The wobbling wouldn’t happen in a concert hall or recording studio because you’re not likely to have a breeze or a wobbly floor, so I’m sure the supplied shock-mount clip is fine in those applications. Also, I suspect there would be less wobbling in my situation if I was using a standard size mic cable, which would add considerably more mass than the cable I’m using (one channel of Mogami 2930 multicore).

So I bought a small sheet of spongey foam that’s about 4cm thick. I cut it to the right size to fit in the bottom of the backpack as a general bit of cushioning for all the times the bag is put down onto its bottom. I then further divided it into nine small rectangles. Three of these can be placed under a mic stand or tripod to provide isolation (as seen in the attached pic).

I really only needed three blocks but I ended up cutting the original piece of foam into nine pieces because at that size each block seemed to be in the right part of its elastic phase to be effective (it was too stiff when cut into thirds). The foam blocks isolate the whole system and the mics aren’t wobbling around any more because they’re not in the shock-mounts. They might move subtly one way or the other if the floor moves, but it’s very slow and subtle and better than wobbling.

When I’m finished recording the foam blocks are used to line the bottom of the backpack, returning to their original purpose.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
I was recording a Berber band outdoors in the high Atlas Mountains with a similar rig , but MKH 50/30 in the 90s, I used ECM 50 outriggers to enhance the space.
I learnt that in post I could replicate' space ' easily, so no longer used outriggers
The late David Lewiston said something along those lines: “The other thing I add to my field recordings is a very discreet amount of reverb to provide a sense of ‘place’. Samplitude’s Room Simulator has a Nature category, and there are a couple of setups there (‘forest’ and ‘valley’) I very much enjoy. I use just a touch, typically setting dry at 0dB and wet at -18 to -24dB. For outdoor recordings I remove most of the early reflections to create the illusion of limitless space.”

Interestingly, he carried two mic rigs with him: a pair of dynamic omnis, and an MS pair. Between them he was able to record just about anything. Last year I tried recreating his approach to Balinese gamelan using two omnis (he was using RE50s, I used the MKH800s) placed as he recommended, but Bali is a much noisier place now compared to when he was recording there in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and omnis aren’t so helpful. It would be smarter to use cardioids now, rejecting the traffic noise with the rear nulls and using EQ to bring back the lost bottom end due to the proximity effect roll-off.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
I like precise rendering and Like ease of handling and mic protection.
The one thing I really do miss about my Schoeps MS rig in Rycote was the ease of handling, speed of set up and that very precise imaging. I don’t do much spontaneous stuff these days because my rig takes too long to set up for that kind of thing. My approach these days is heavily biased towards intent rather than spontaneity. (I bought the Shure MV88 for those spontaneous things...)
Attached Thumbnails
Recording endangered music while trekking in SE Asia-b3ebfb28-b2d7-4064-b082-00cbc57ac4c6.jpg  
Old 6 days ago
  #21
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i very rarely do ambient recordings in remote places - on those rare occasions i do, i have been using the soundfield sps-200 (with its elastic suspension in a zeppelin and a dead cat) with great success: the soundfield is as tight as with a m/s rig but as spacious as wanted when decoding to 5.1...

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 4 days ago at 11:40 AM.. Reason: edited for clarification
Old 6 days ago
  #22
Lives for gear
No microphone manufacturer seems to produce a decent shock mount or windscreen
This is left to 2nd party developers like Rycote, and they do a terrific job imho
You should spend at least 10 to 20% of your mic costs on these devices, just dealing with the capsule of a mic for wind buffet is insufficent, airflow is over the entire microphone and must be suppressed. Suspensions need to compliant to the exact degree or footfall and traffic can overload a mic amp.
Its all common sense really.
I like the ability to rig very quickly and capture 'the moment' Cartier Bresson style.
I also like stealth, for many years a pair of spaced Sony ecm 50s mounted on my Senny HD 25II cans provided this service, (into a MiniDisc )
I dug out my ecm 50s recently, I have 10 of em! They still sound very good, far better than my 8 Tram TR50s (but not so easy to hide under clothes)
The larger capsule has more bottom end ,less noise and a more pleasant rising eq.
Must compare them with my DPA 4060s.
I am in the middle of a Garage Covid clear out, EBay is my friend, I am amazed at the appetite for old dynamic mics (AKG D25, STC 4033A) and Nagras seem to back in demand, the last example of mechanical recorders made with Swiss engineering precision and much loved globally.
That and converting my Cannondale Bad Boy to a mid motor Bike has kept me sane in lockdown (plus a brilliant spring !)
Roger
All hail to ethnic recordings, I worked at Womad and Glasto, loved the African bands best.
Heard them first in the late 60s in Nairobi and Mombassa, hypnotic stuff that went on for hours it seemed
Old 4 days ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
You should spend at least 10 to 20% of your mic costs on these devices, just dealing with the capsule of a mic for wind buffet is insufficent, airflow is over the entire microphone and must be suppressed.
Thankfully wind buffeting the body of the mic hasn’t been a problem on any of my endangered music recordings. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, just that I haven’t noticed it against the overall level of background sounds: rustling leaves, chickens, goats, general village atmos, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
I dug out my ecm 50s recently, I have 10 of em! They still sound very good, far better than my 8 Tram TR50s (but not so easy to hide under clothes)
I think I’ve only used the ECM50s once, to mic up an orchestra for the PA in an outdoor performance. The PA system had about half a dozen of them available, and I put them on the end of boom arms over the strings and woodwinds. I thought they were great little mics
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