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So, I'm working on an American Old West point-and-click game, and there is going to be an absolute NEED for gun sounds; one of the main objects in our game, in fact, is a cursed pistol. Being in Utah, I have access to all the firearms I need -- not just modern weapons, but Civil War era rifles and pistols.

Unfortunately, my mic locker is far less stocked than my friends' gun lockers, and I don't have easy access to anything greater than a 2-track digital recorder (if I'm lucky, I'll get a Zoom h4N for Christmas).

My current idea is to use a shotgun mic from about 20-50 feet pointed at the barrel of the gun, and probably a small-diaphragm condenser pointed away from the weapon to record the tail.

If I can get access to more channels, my mic selection is still pretty limited, so I was considering a kick drum mic up close for a more bassy firing sound, and a large diaphragm condenser as well for the tail.

I have no doubts that a library of gun sounds may be the best way to go for the actual firing, and utilizing the condensers and shotgun mics to get unique gun Foley would be ideal, but does it seem possible, using that set up, to get usable gun sounds? Using the above-listed mics, and a handful of SM-57s, is there a better setup combination that you think would yield better results?

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I never want to rain on anyone's parade, but I'd guess you'll have a difficult time getting usable results. Gun recording is a difficult thing and even with an extensive equipment list, you'd probably come away with less than stellar results the first few times out. I'd think the masters like Fasal and Maynes could go out with a 2 track and come back with kick-ass results. I wouldn't expect that I would be happy with recording with just a Zoom. Often times, you'll record with 20 mics and be surprised that half of the mics don't sound that great.

There are a lot of variables you're dealing with; the sound of the environment, some mics just won't work well on guns, the quality of your recorder's Mic pres/limiters/gain staging, etc.

If I were going out with he 2 mics you mention; I would try placing the shotgun behind the shooter, pointed downrange, 10-20 feet back. I'd try the small condensed to the ejection port side of the gun, aimed at the gun, also 10-20 feet, give or take. These distances will usually get you a fatter gun sound. The further out you get, the less meat of the gun you capture.

And don't discount the use of libraries, Dynamic Range and Sound Ideas Guns both have some good stuff.

  • The more I think about it, the more I'm believing that, at best, this will just be practice. I've got more usable inputs at home, and I could easily get Foley with the mics I mentioned, but I was pretty much expecting to end up using libraries for the gunshots. – Dave Matney Nov 15 '10 at 2:28
  • Foley is pretty easy to get, even outside on the range, the sounds are short enough that you can usually edit around noise. Practice isn't a bad thing. I've done casual gun recordings where I've thrown the results away, but the experience helps get better recordings later on. – Chuck Russom Nov 15 '10 at 21:34
  • Good to know. Sometimes, it's hard to forget that guys who I admire had to start at the same point I did. – Dave Matney Nov 16 '10 at 5:44
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I have only done one gun recording session but I got some decent results my first time thanks to the advice i got from places like this. I was with another sound recordist who used a Zoom H4 and a RODE NT4 microphone and he got some material that sounded really good and could be usable in a game.

Most of our good recordings came from standing around 10/20 feet behind or to the side of the person shooting with the microphone aimed towards them. I have never used Zoom recorders but I think my friend was recording with a lot of gain on the preamps, so the input was clipping. Setting the recording level low enough to avoid clipping the loudest part of the sound might give you unimpressive results.

I think live monitoring will be hard to do because the pressure waves coming from the gunshots at close range can overwhlem what you hear from headphones, either monitoring from distance or listening back to the recordings when it is quiet will be more reliable.

Btw, a point n click Old Western game sounds fun!

  • Thanks. We've got some pretty big shoes to fill with the Western Genre, and we decided to try and make it a Gothic Horror / Western, at that! – Dave Matney Nov 16 '10 at 5:43
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You can hope that some of the material you record you can layer into your library gunshot sounds if you aren't able to record completely usable sounds.

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You've probably already got this covered, but as for all high-SPL shoots, if you don't own a pair of Remote Audio HN-7506 headphones, see if you can borrow or rent them. They can be a huge help both in protecting your ears and in determining whether what you're hearing is actually how it sounds on the tracks (as opposed to bleeding in through the phones).

Sounds fun -- let us know when the game's available! I'd love to check it out.

  • Oh, I will, on both counts. I don't have the headphones, but I'll look into renting some, and expect a post when the demo is released. – Dave Matney Nov 17 '10 at 23:34

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