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Hi,

I'm trying to record big impact sounds for a fight sequence - punches, body falls, slaps etc. but what I get when I listen to my recordings is nothing like what I heard when recording - either it's overloaded the mic completely and distorted or it sounds weak and too small.

I've got a good room, a good mic (Schoeps ccm 41) and good recorder (Sound Devices) so where am I going wrong?

Subsequent treatment of the files doesn't do much either (at least with ProTools EQ/Comp)

Suspect that my mic technique is wrong - anyone any ideas?

  • @rich, great question - looking forward to responses. – Jay Jennings Feb 2 '13 at 18:36
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A lot of it boils down to the materials you are recording, in addition to the mic technique you are using. If you could describe a specific example, we can give you more specific advice.

In general, creating "large" impact sounds involves a balanced combination of techniques including:

  • layering contrasting sound elements
  • layering different microphone perspectives of the same sound
  • filling out the frequency spectrum (mid and high frequencies are just as important as low energy)
  • judicious use of compression, limiting and EQ

It sounds like you have a good setup. If you have another mic sitting around, I would recommend double-miking your recordings. Try to put the second mic in a second position that "hears" a totally different performance than the schoeps. Record a couple takes with the mics in a close position, then record the same sounds with the mics a bit further back, but still contrasting each other.

In your DAW, experiment with using the sharp punch of the close-miked sounds in combination with the distant recordings. It's actually very similar to recording a drum kit in a way. The close-mics on each drum are not enough to faithfully reproduce the true sound of the kit—you need some room mics to add in the interaction of the drums with the room and give each drum it's natural, tonal decay. I often find myself lightly (or heavily) compressing room mics to exaggerate the presence of the room.

Hope this helps!
~Matt

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All the stuff Matt said was great. Id say with sharp transient material like the stuff you're trying to record you can easily get caught out when recording. With 24 bit recording you can afford to make the levels a little less hot then you'd think and still get a clean useful sound. Try experimenting with engaging the limiter too just in case.

A lot of the time I beef up sounds with heavy compression. Its not so much the initial transient but the few milliseconds after that give the impression of 'body' to the sound. I often find myself using parallel compression in multiple layers so that I'm not effecting too much of the transient that it loses the 'crack' but can blend in more meatiness if I want.

Frank Bry has done some articles on this kinda thing and Paul Virostek at Airbourne Sound too are really knowledgable in this area and have lots of useful resources to look up regarding techniques etc.

Have fun! ;)

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You are using very accurate recording gear in what I'm guessing is a dead room. Do the same recording in a stairwell, with dynamic mics, transformer coupled mic pres to analog tape and it'll sound bigger. The reason this is true is that "BIG" is a perception not a particular sound, and accurate gear and dead rooms only get you the sound. Our brains evaluate the sonic environment (reverb, delay, width of stereo field), frequency response (the fuller the better) and distortion as big.

You're in luck though b/c...as others mentioned...you can do all of this in post by layering other sounds, using a combination of short delays and reverb to spread out and deepen the stereo field, and apply varying degrees of compression and harmonic distortion.

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Experimentation is key! The baddest bass guitar I ever recorded was played ever so lightly and then amped heavily and processed.

Sometimes the lightest sounds amped up ( a lot ) can do wonders.

And as stated above, the sound of the space/room is key to get it big.

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Thanks a lot! Great advice.

Yes, it is in an acoustically treated room. That explains why when I've recorded this sort of thing (e.g. hockey stick hitting leather jacket) in my bedroom or backyard (with a cheap mic) it sounds way better than recordings made in the studio.

I get the same problem when trying to record two hunks of metal impacting. If there's a ring out it sounds fine but if it's two solid bits of iron with a sharp transient and no ring the recordings are no good. Is the solution the same? Or different because of the high frequencies?

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  • both, sharp transients are mostly softened by using a dynamic microphone (the capsule response time is slower). the high frequency content in metal sounds is much louder than in other sounds, not every preamp/converter combination works well. analogue tape will sound much better, for close sources (not the room mic ofcourse). – Arnoud Traa Feb 3 '13 at 15:26
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Add a dynamic mic to your set up, ideally something like an AKG D112, and get the mic nice and close. The dynamic mic will be less prone to distortion and will pick up the bass elements nicely, the D112 is designed for bass/kick drums. Layer the track with the Schoeps for the best results, but make sure that both mics are in phase with each other.

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Great advice here already - as already mentioned it is often the case that small sounds sound big and big sounds sound small, especially in a studio environment where you can't tell from the sounds interaction with the environment how big it is. As you guys already know this is because you turn down the gain so much to accomodate the transient of the loud sound it ends up sounding small. SoundDevices recorders have great limiters, have you tried really cranking up the gain on the recorder and letting the limiter of the recorder flatten out the sound. Not the sort of advice you'd give in 'recording 101' but maybe worth a try. Along with alot of other advice here I'd suggest using a less 'clean/flat/detailed' mic. Maybe a 416 or even go dynamic e.g. sm57 or something similar.

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