Hi all,

Soon they'll be a big airshow here on the coast featuring some beastly aircrafts such as the Vulcan and Eurofighter amongst others! I was thinking of hiring some gear and getting a day or two down there to get some recordings.

Anyone had experience of recording airshows (or aircraft) in general and can offer some tips as to how to get the most out of it? I'll probably end up going to hire an SD 702 but not sure what mics to use yet? I'm guessing stereo micing would be best? Toying with the idea of recording in M/S too. Will probably use my H2 for backup anyway.

Any thoughts greatly appreciated :)

Cheers, Andy

  • @Andy, is this the Southport Airshow this weekend your going to by any chance?
    – deleted
    Jul 21, 2011 at 14:31
  • Nah, it's the Bournemouth airshow towards the end of August. Just hope I can find somewhere round this neck of the woods that hires out the gear I need!
    – Andy Lewis
    Jul 21, 2011 at 17:00
  • Oh cool, only reason I ask is, that I've got a list of spots away from crowds, but on the approach path to the show, that I found on an "Airshow Enthusiast" forum that might be good for the Southport one. This seems to be the big forum for the UK - forums.airshows.co.uk , might have some tips for the Bournemouth one as well...
    – deleted
    Jul 22, 2011 at 7:37

5 Answers 5


Sometimes you are better no going into the official part of the show at all.

If you are lucky there is a field that you can gain access to on the far side of the airstrip away from the crowds there you can record everything from where hopefully the tannoy and the people will be masked by the aircraft.

For Bournemouth how about renting a boat and anchoring off the coast a bit. A rowing boat would be big enough. Take lots of towels, as you can soak them and tie them round anything that is moving on the boat.

  • Me and boats don't go too well together lol I think I'll scout some locations and try find a quiet field or spot on the cliffs that may work. Hoping the PA won't get in the way too much :/
    – Andy Lewis
    Jul 21, 2011 at 18:01
  • A boat is probably the best way of recording sea side shows, like most airshows they are usually full of screaming kids, fairground rides, PA speakers etc. Plus the flying displays tend to be further away in my experience. If you found out what airport most display aircraft are operating from it might be worth going there instead to record them taking off & landing. Jul 21, 2011 at 19:07
  • When I've recorded at the Chicago Air & Water show, I find myself a nice spot on the lake a half-mile north of the show and get some good plane sounds without the speakers or crowds. Jul 21, 2011 at 20:28
  • If you work out where the prevalent wind comes from you can partially mitigate the PA and crowd by being upwind. The aircraft sound won't be affected as much.
    – user80
    Jul 21, 2011 at 21:09
  • But then would it be like the jets not doing their strafing runs on you and the angles you catch would be different
    – Chris
    Jul 23, 2011 at 5:11

I go to Southend Airshow to record and my main problem has always been the apparent need for annoying tannoys giving a running commentary of everything the jet is doing. Unfortunately the sound travels quite far so is hard to get away from. Saying that, the sonic dominance of the four Rolls Royce engines in that vulcan will shut it out on the fly by. This is a jet well worth recording as many say it has another year, maybe two left flying at airshows before being retired forever. I record with shotgun mics following the jets so far into a 702 which gets some nice enough results. Unfortunately, this year I ran down from my house to record the Vulcan and was using my back up recorder (FR2LE). I quickly went to turn it on and realised batteries were dead AAAAHHHHHHH, when your panicking those 4 AA batteries in the FR2Le can be real fun. As always be prepared


I'd personally go either shotgun or MS and track the jets as they go by.

Also, a very light and mobile rig that you can carry easily will probably be best since you may need to move around quite a bit to find the best spot.

Inline pads can be useful, especially if you're cutting to a device with a post A/D limiter.

Crowds and announcers will hound you constantly if you're at the airshow proper.


I've only done one field recording at an airshow so far, but here's what I know from that.

First, check the event website and read the media policy. Are there copyright restrictions? Do you need to register for a media pass?

With military aircraft present security will be tight. However, they should also be used to seeing people with SLR gear so sound recorders shouldn't stand out too much. Expect metal dectors and fenced off areas as you search for a crowd free spot to record.

Get a copy of the schedule, but don't expect things to run on time. Allow for a whole day to record if you can.

Finding a place to record can be tricky. You have three main forces against you. First is the crowds of people making noise. Second is the speakers playing music nearly everywhere. Third is that aircraft are sharing airspace so it can be tricky to find a helicopter flying without a jet being audible in the background.

But good thing is the airshow space is huge, so you just need to find an outer area away from the intersections of aircraft. I found car parks and places and along the long driveway in were both people free and had isolated aircraft flying overhead. Expect to have to walk around a lot to find the best spot.

Onto the actual mics, I just used a shotgun on a boom pole in an attempt to get a directional mic above the noise level of any people. This seemed to work well, but time permitting I would have added a pair of stereo mics to this. The soundwaves bouncing off the ground is what really adds to the power of a jet - but you may need an assistant if you are going to move all this gear around

Obvious thing also if you're following the aircraft with a directional mic you'll aim a bit behind the aircraft, especially for jets. Lastly pre-rec is your friend for when that massive bomber flies low overhead. (Oh well, it sounded amazing so at least I got to hear it if not capture it.) Again obvious, but watch your levels, wear ear protection and record at the highest rate you can do.

  • Great idea about experimenting getting different tones pointing mics AWAY from the source. Works well for deep sounds like foghorns, so would be a neat layer for mixing in post. Jul 23, 2011 at 20:30
  • Adding onto this, Stephen Schutze did an amazingly comprehensive post on his experiences recording an entire library of numerous planes. This is essential reading: designingsound.org/2012/07/… Apr 9, 2013 at 13:37

Great tips so far.

I'd add, instead of going to the official show, some airshows have a more informal "fly in" or "fly out." Usually the day before or after the main event, when the planes arrive/depart the site the show. You might find that a more useful time to record as you won't have to contend with crowds, music, or announcers...the enemy of sound effects recordists. Plus one for getting away from the site of the main event.

  • Totally a good tip. While not an airshow proper, I find that recording the Blue Angels practicing before San Francisco's Fleet Week to be better than recording on the day...and it's like having multiple sessions you can practice with! :-) Jul 23, 2011 at 20:29

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