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I'm looking for some guidance on recording clean sounds that I can use as a base for manipulating into SFX. I think the trouble I'm having is ambient artifacts in the original recording creating some unpleasantness later on in my SFX. I noticed the highs seem kind of shrill. I'm currently only using a Sony PCM D-50 which seems to pick up all manner of ambience. Should I be using a shotgun mic instead? If so, any reasonably affordable recommendations? What's the best way to clean these sounds free of ambience and sibilance before I start manipulating them. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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    This obviously depends a great lot on what kind of sounds you're talking about. – leftaroundabout Feb 8 '15 at 3:38
  • @leftroundabout is right: explain us what you're trying to achieve and perhaps we can help. regarding the pcm-d50: ambient noise hard not to pick up, even with a great recorder like that. – Arnoud Traa Feb 9 '15 at 10:32
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any mic that is more directional will get you a more focused sound so a shotgun mic would help you in that aspect. What kinds of sounds are you trying to record? You might be ale to aim more of one side at the sound your trying to capture and then use only that channel if its a sound that will be ok in mono which most will be.

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To me it may be better that you do this from a foley perspective. Record in an acoustically controlled space with little noise, wind, reflections, etc.

Research foley, and how most of the sounds are captured. You can record field FX but usually for sound design of any kind you will be doing some foley. It comes down to your recording environment.

A shotgun mic can be useful but it may not always get your the sound you're looking for. I would say that your best bet is to have a more controlled environment with low reflections.

What types of sounds are you trying to capture?

Waves has some great noise reduction plugins. There are many. If ambience is your main issue, I'd try to get the ambience controlled and thus you'll be capturing the best possible source.

Just to be clear, it's not clear to me if this is musical or for picture.

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You just need to get rid of the ambience. If you are trying to record foley style sounds at home try disabling everything that makes sound (fridge/freezer, air condition, heating). Might be impossible and there might still be too much noise. I've given up recording anything that's not really loud at home, because there is just way too much traffic noise coming from outside.

For field recording sessions fur windshields are must, but other than that it's again the environment that matters more than gear. Find places that are away from roads with high traffic (10 kilometer distance is absolute minimum imo) and check if there is anything else that might make noise. Google Street View is great tool for this!

Also get ready to be disappointed with carefully planned field recording sessions. We once did a water sound recording session far away from roads with high traffic and then there was logging machine working on the other side of the lake and helicopter sweeping the area. At least we got some helicopter sounds :)

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Thanks for the responses. I'm not really trying for any specific "real" sound, so in that sense it could be anything. I'm just looking for clean original sources that I can combine and use for SFX, more on the experimental side. I'm thinking there must be a reliable method for doing this given the onslaught of libraries on the market. I'll confess to being a bit unschooled in technique, so just fishing for ideas that can get me closer. The recorder by itself seems unreliable for getting sounds without so much ambient bleed. Sounds like room treatment and shotgun mic is the way to go. Any recommendations on the mic? Is the Rode line worth using?

  • Both NTG-2 and NTG-3 are great mics. NTG-2 is nice budget mic and also works very well in a minimal field recording set, since it can be battery powered. NTG-3 is generally thought as better sounding, but you need to have phantom powered preamp with it, which your PCM-D50 lacks. This won't be a problem if you have a decent audio interface or mixer which can supply phantom power and you are fine with fixed location. – sauli Feb 10 '15 at 9:18
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I know some audio editing programs literally have an effect called "noise reduction"

for example: Wavepad

Try that. If it doesnt work play with the microphone distances. The placement of the microphone is crucial, sometimes the necessary distance can be up to 20 feet from an instrument.

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