We were set a task to make a sound clip of the children’s story of Billy Goats Gruff. We were given part of a script and it was our job to create an environment using sound. We were trying to make it realistic enough so that the listener could visualise the environment in their head. It took us an hour to record and quite a few failed attempts beforehand.

I would recommend scrolling to the bottom and listening to the final result before you read the bit underneath.

How can you get the sounds that you need for the task?

We will use a shotgun microphone (If you don’t know what a shotgun microphone then click here and scroll down to the shotgun microphone header) so we can isolate the desired noise from the background noise. Although this should eliminate most background noise we will still be looking for the quietest place to record as the microphone doesn’t eliminate all background noise. This is a list of the sound effects we used and how we got them: The stream sound – one of our group members recorded themselves urinating because the sound of a tap running or the water fountain wasn’t the sound that we wanted, as we wanted a quick dripping sound or a trickling sound like the water of a stream going over rocks and both the tap and the fountain gave off a constant noise that sounded more like a large river than a stream. The bird noises – one of our group members was able to do good bird impressions so we recorded him doing that although this sound wasn’t necessary we thought it would add a bit more interest. The splash sound – at first I did this by putting my hand in a sink to cover up the plug hole and filled up the sink then someone slapped the water but this didn’t create the effect we needed so we jumped in a puddle that we found outside instead. The hooves sound – we used two plastic cups from the café and we hit them against a wooden table.

What are the best methods to record your sound?

The best method for recording with a shotgun microphone is holding it above the sound source and pointing the end at it. It is best done with two people, one person to hold the microphone and one person to hold the recorder and listen through headphones/earphones. We found that whoever is holding the microphone needs the keep their hand very still as the vibrations caused by moving your hand on the microphone can be easily picked up and it ruins the end result.

What are the best tools for the task?

Editing the sound using tools such as Avid Media Composer and Audacity (editing software’s) can be a powerful tool to get the results that I needed. In order to get the best quality sound, we adjusted the zoom’s (a recording device that we plugged the shotgun microphone into – picture below) input volume in order to get the right sound levels. The shotgun microphone was attached to a zoom from which we could monitor audio levels. Making sure the levels are right is crucial as although you can change the levels in post-production the sound ends up either distorted or it ends up with lots of interference.

Image result for zoom sound recorder and shotgun microphone

What are the potential problems of the task?

We came across quite a few problems while doing the task. The day before we recorded it fully we did a test run to make sure everything was working. In this test run, we found out that the audio didn’t record properly. We later discovered 2 possible reasons for this. Reason 1: The zooms input settings were set to the other input port on the zoom, so it was trying to record from the port that had nothing plugged into it instead of the input slot with the shotgun microphone. Reason 2 (more likely): We found out that we had to press the record button twice in order start the recording and we were only pressing it once. After we finished the task we found out that one of the recordings that we had done was too quiet. Luckily there was no background noise at all so we could increase the volume in Avid Media Composer. Potential problems include holding the microphone too far away from the sound source. Another problem we encountered was that when we were recording the dialogue there were 2 people speaking. Someone was in charge of pointing the microphone between the 2 speakers. Unfortunately, some of the beginning or ends of lines were cut off due to the change of the direction of the microphone being too early or late. As the shotgun microphone doesn’t pick up anything unless it is directly pointing at the source, it made it very difficult to record. To combat this problem we recorded each voice separately and put them together in the editing stage. I later came into the problem when listening to it back afterwards that the bird sounds in the background got a bit repetitive. Next time I will make sure there is more variation of nature noises so I can make it sound less repetitive. There was a total of 3 nature noises: an owl, some birds chirping and some monkeys. If there was more, however, I would have been able to do more with it and it wouldn’t sound so repetitive. I also later realised we should have added the sound of the troll charging and that we should have found a larger body of water and threw something heavy in it, as the splash noise sounded a bit insignificant for a large troll to of fallen in it.

Billy Goats Gruff