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I have a date with some WW2 guns and an armorer and am looking to brainstorm some unconventional mic choices and/or placements to capture something special. I'll be traveling with some heavy hitters who will have all the usual high-end mic suspects, so this could be my opportunity to bring something unique to the table.

Right now I'm leaning towards older dynamic mics (ie. RE-20. 421, 441, etc.). I have 6 channels at my disposal.

Ready, set…BRAINSTORM!

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When you win the Oscar for the film you're recording these for (and it will win) you should thank SSD on the "Thank you cam" backstage. :) –  Utopia Feb 29 '12 at 7:15
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8 Answers 8

As I recall, Richard King used lavs (or maybe contact mics?) mounted on the guns the get an interesting POV for Inception when recording with John Fasal and Eric Potter. Than again, they were recording more of the usual suspects (Glock, SIG-Sauer, Colt, etc) and it likely captured the mechanics of shell ejects. I personally haven't worked with/recording WW2 guns so I've got idea if there's be anything capture-able in this POV but maybe worth a shot. If these two fine gentlemen happen to be a part of your crew it may be worth asking for specifics about ;)

I wonder what kind of sounds you would capture submerging a hydrophone in tank/bucket of water both near the gun and at the distance, especially using different container types (metal versus plastic etc).

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Nice idea. I'm sure you'd get some interesting detail using this technique, even if dealing with older WW2 guns. –  Colin Hunter Feb 25 '12 at 14:08
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Sounds like fun.

If you can get your hands on/rent a Nagra, the sound of overdriving the tape will bring something special to the party. It's a bit of a pain to set up and run, but it squashes the dynamics of a gun in a really nice/meaty way. Much like recording a drumset on a 2 inch Studer.

I recently did a gun shoot and put an AKG D112 dynamic near the shooter, 3ft or so from the barrel. I thought a kick drum mic that could handle high spl would sound great and give me a nice close up perspective. It was probably the least interesting mic from the shoot. Thin and like a pop gun. The initial SPL from the shot seemed to choke it a bit.

I much preferred the sound of condenser mics much further away from the shooter. Of the mics I put up, a sennheiser mkh 8050 60 feet downrange pointed at the shooter sounded the best, capturing the acoustics of the shooting environment and giving me a nice fat, low end decay. I actually wish I had put if further away. I'd even suggest putting a mic downrange pointed away from the shooter, just to capture the acoustics of shooting space.

If you go with the DPA lav suggestion, which is a good one I think. I'd make sure that you use 4062s instead of 4060s. The 4060s won't be able to handle the spl.

Good luck. Would love to hear a report about the session. And don't forget inline pads, you'll probably need them.

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lavs are always fun, so i'll second that.

I'd also try some pzm mics for low end and amb.

Also, I'm very interested in seeing how ribbon mics fare in weaponfire situations. (its a common misconception that high spls damage ribbons - in fact its wind turbulence that does.) I think a nice ribbon blumeline setup could potentially yield some really nice stuff.

maybe try some crappy camera mics?

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Maybe some binaural mics? Perhaps a pair in the ears of the armorer as they're firing like some DPA 4060's? ;)

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The few times I've done firearms/explosive recordings, I've found that having one omni-directional up somewhere really helps define the low-end and the tail-out. I've never used it the recordings from one standalone, but it's great to mix with recordings from the other mics. Automate a low pass filter so it's really restricted to low frequency content on the bang and open it up for the tail.

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I always pair up mics so that you can have an extreme dynamic range. If you have 6 tracks try two lavs on the person firing the weapons, then two omnis and then two dynamics.

Make one mic so that it doesn't distort and then allow the matched mic to overload so that you have plenty of detail for the quiet parts.

The lavs (DPAs) will catch all of the handling noises. The omnis (4003/6 DPAs are best) will catch the fast transients, and the dynamics (RE-20 is ideal) will blur the transients and add warmth.

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Did it happen already? Sorry it took so long for me to see this question.

I would experiment with stuff I've learned from recording snare drums for albums:

  • Place a dynamic mic inside a styrofoam cup and record a round with it, see if it adds some brilliance in the early refs. (don't point it towards the bottom of the cup, cut out a hole and stick it through so it makes a sort of "lens hood")
  • Same as above, but use a cut-in-half milk carton.
  • Measure out 30 feet of distance from the source and place up some reflective items like metal sheets or doors or even cars. (results vary on what you have available). This will cause a discernible slap-back echo at 60 ms. Might sound pretty cool.
  • I would bring my 20 tube traps I have from my studio and set up a reflective sound field around the gun to get those high-end early refs to smooth over the recording to not make it so sharp but bright and present but also pleasant. http://www.tubetrap.com/tubetrap-history.htm http://www.acousticsciences.com/products/studio-traps/ (if you contact the dealer he will let you rent them. E-mail me if you're interested.)
  • Do a couple takes with the mics pointed away from the source to mix with (something I learned from Bruce Swedien's method of recording choirs)
  • Remember that the power of a gun is not so much in it's close-miked position but positions from far away to get the echo rolling through the surroundings. I learned this from Dark Knight's interview with the gun recordist - he made sure to get a long perspective because most of a gun's low-end is from the reflections around it.
  • Possibly place binaural mics on the shooter just to see how it would sound? Might sound horrible, but it might be an awesome perspective for when you need that "sniper's eye view" perspective in the movie. You know what I'm talking about.
  • Could be cool to record with a blumlein pair or another interesting configuration.

I've got quite a mic arsenal. Perhaps I can bring along some mics you need if I could only witness and observe how the session goes down....!!!

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@Utopia, some interesting ideas in there - thanks! Session is happening next week. Will let you all know how it turns out. –  Jay Jennings Mar 2 '12 at 7:38
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Do you have a Nagra handy? :)

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