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I need a bunch of sounds of rugby balls being kicked. I need big, I need small, and everything in between. In the movie, the kicks always happen on the field outdoors.

I have an idea as to how I want to approach this, but I don't have much time to experiment so I want to get it right the first time. I'm sure there will be some great tips here, even maybe people that have already recorded kicked balls and can advise with specifics.

What to Record?

Does an actual ball being kicked sound good enough? Would I need to layer with many other sounds? I'm sure slapping the ball with my hand will allow me to get the resonance of the ball. Maybe a nice thump from hitting a bag of sorts, and a slap-ish sounding surface/object would give me the initial contact. Is this enough layers to play with and create lots of varied and full sounds? Any advice?

Recording Location

Should I go into a studio or quiet outdoors? I have access to a relatively spacious studio and I can empty it out, so I can kick balls all I want. I'm thinking I should go outdoors for the big kicks, and in the studio for the layers mentioned above? Even though the studio is quite well treated, I'm a little worried that I might pickup some slight reflections.

Mic Choice and Setup

To record the actual kick, does this make sense: Dynamic up close, a shotgun a few feet back, and if outdoors a nice stereo mic a bit further back?

I would really appreciate some pointers.

Thanks.

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I just had to say that this thread became incredibly valuable this week when I was asked to do some game sound design around the sound of struck dodgeballs (in the US, they're iconic orange rubber balls with a very hallmark sound) I returned to this set of questions and it helped tremendously. Thanks, Andrew, for both this question and this site in general - fantastic resource! –  NoiseJockey Apr 4 '10 at 15:18
    
Glad it was of use to you too :-) I just recorded these last week. A huge part of this site being a resource is due to all your great questions and answers! Thanks for being so active on here. –  Andrew Spitz Apr 4 '10 at 18:58
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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I would definitely do both (ie indoors & outdoors)

Outdoors & standing back a bit from the kick may well capture more low end & impact... And depending on the action onscreen, having a wider stereo recording could be very valuable for reinforcing perspective.. When you get there do some hand claps & see if there are any interesting slap echos off near buildings etc....

I would also try doing the kicks with a partially flat ball as it will have more oompf to it (obviously do all your recording with the normally inflated ball first) - try 1/4 flat, 1/3 flat etc... I have a soccer ball that sounds way better half flat....

Also worth trying while you are outdoors: I would record some grass swishes to optionally layer under the kick, partly leading into the kick as a swish of the leg moving & kick, but they may be handy for other things too.. If you are outdoors its quite easy to get interesting stereo movement in such a swish, try using a branch or a stick and do fast drags across the ground, or around the mic (without moving yourself) I did a rugby movie a few years ago & took a hammer out into a paddock & recorded various grass clawing sounds with it - it was a very useful sound for the traction in scrums ie the boots tearing into the ground when the pressure comes on....

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great tips, Tim! –  Jay Jennings Mar 12 '10 at 1:34
    
Fantastic tips Tim, thank you very much for sharing. Using a deflated ball is such a good idea. Also using a hammer for the boots during the scrums will be a nice layer to have. –  Andrew Spitz Mar 12 '10 at 11:03
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Hi Andrew,

A few years back I worked on a film with lots and lots of balls being thrown, caught, impacting, etc. Granted it was not a rugby film but I think some of the same principles may apply. The best results came from in-studio recordings with balls of different sizes and densities, ie. kickballs, exercise balls (the really big ones), etc. You can even experiment with items that have similar properties, ie. balloons, to give you a tonality that you may not be able to achieve from just a regular ball.

Regarding indoor vs. outdoor, I think there is merit to both approaches, but you will probably have more luck with indoor recordings simply due to the quiet nature of a studio vs. having to battle urban noise pollution, birds, etc.

Mics? Experiment! If you're in-studio, try all of the usual suspects, and maybe even a contact mic somewhere?

Have fun!

PS> As an addendum to my previous post, I should mention that the balls recorded in-studio were mostly stationary, ie. not being kicked against the wall or something. Find a way to anchor it to the floor and pound on it. You could also try suspending it from a rope or cable and then hit it; that way you'll get longer resonance and some motion.

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These are all very useful tips. Thank you! Regarding the noise from outdoor, it seems like I will be heading to a relatively quiet farm to attempt to record some gunshots next weekend so I can grab some kicks at the same time. –  Andrew Spitz Mar 11 '10 at 20:37
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Recorded some football kicks a while ago. I can say sometimes barefoot without shoes gives you a better "thump". I have also filled a sports bag with wet clothes and hit that with a thick stick. That worked good as well as covering the ball with a thin wet towel and hitting it. Definitely increases the "squash" factor. :)

These worked for my situation but in your case you might have to consider which angle the kicker is hitting the ball since a rugby ball is not sphere and you would expect different sounds from different sides of the ball.

I used a combination of a dynamic and a condenser mic together.

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Highly recommend using various flat and inflated balls with leather and synthetic coverings. I ended up using a mixture of barefoot kicks (hurts by the 20th time you have done it) and soft leather shoes as well as a punching bag impacts.

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Parallel processing can work well with ball kicks, ie heavily compress the ball kick to make it really thump but play it together with the original recording at an appropriate level so you can control the amount of impact without it sounding unnatural.

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