Part One: I Am Going To Do This
For two years in a row I’ve been recording the local airplane fly in here in Sandpoint Idaho. This event features many small vintage and modern airplanes on display and flying around during a hot August weekend at the local airport. The first year I attended I had low expectations on what kind of sounds I would be able to get but to my surprise I was able to get a lot of good prop plane engine run ups, ground taxiing, and passing by while at the South end of the runway. This year I focused on getting plane recordings from the North end of the runway and was able to get many clean take offs, fast pass bys and ground taxiing.
While I was taking a walk around the show during a break in the flying I met up with the owner of a Baron 58P twin prop passenger plane. During the show I had recorded the plane flying around and it sounded really cool so I asked if I could book the plane for a recording session. After slight sticker shock on what it would cost I figured what the heck, Let’s take an hour and see what happens. I chartered the plane for later in the week and the weather was beautiful. This is part one of a two part series on the recording experience and what I learned.
I Need To Wake Up How Early?
The pilot recommended we do this early in the morning since there won’t be any planes operating and the airport should be calm and quiet. So, I’m up at 5 AM for a 7 AM recording session. The airport is less than 20 minutes drive from my ranch at that hour of the day so it’s relatively painless to get there. Once I’m there though I discover it’s a lot louder during the week than the weekend. The airport is located in the industrial area of the city and there is a concrete plant operating, trains passing by and other vehicle noises that are not present during the weekend. After fueling the plane and finding a location far away from the concrete plant I set up for a multi microphone shoot.
I Have To Have a Plan?
Since I only had an hour or so to get what I needed I had to build a multi-channel recording rig that I could move around and quickly change locations and simultaneously record the inside of the plane. I decided on the Sanken CSS-5 and the Sennheiser MKH-8040ST for the exteriors and a Sony PCM-D1 and D-50 for the interiors. The CSS-5 and MKH-8040ST microphones were each connected to a Sound Devices SD-702 that were sync locked together. The CSS-5 was on a boom pole and the MKH-8040ST mounted on a small profile stand. My plan was to track the plane movement with the CSS-5 and have the MKH-8040ST be stationary.
The Sony PCM-D1 and D-50 would be recording the interior of the plane while doing the exterior takes. These are not synced to the other rigs so I would have to time align them later while editing and mastering.
Part of the plan was to document the session with two video cameras and photos. I was fortunate to have my wife come along with me and she takes great photos. Once I showed her how the video camera operates she was up to speed in no time. I used the other video camera while I was recording with the boom set up.
Everything Always Goes According To Plan, Right?
Most of my recording sessions are on or near my ranch and I can take my sweet time setting up the gear and recording. This time was very different, I had to set up fast and be prepared to move the microphones around quickly while running a hand held video camera. Yeah right, this will be awesome! Well, I have to say that something like this is way more than one recordist should handle. From planning, logistics to the actual recording, anything can go wrong and it did.
First thing I goofed up was I forgot to bring my “Boom-cam” mount for the Flip HD video camera that I had tested during the recent fly in. I had to hold the video camera in one hand and the CSS-5 on the boom in the other. (Some of you know how heavy a CSS-5 is) I really did not have to do this but I felt comfortable enough with the set up that I could still focus on the main objective which was getting good sounds.
The second minor goofball moment was I forgot to set the interior recorders while the plane was doing the engine run ups. This would have been very cool and I am thinking about recording these sounds when I go back for the doors, switches and wing flaps later this week. I did get them set up for the ground taxi and flying.
The third thing was maybe we should have started an hour earlier since some planes started to show up and we had to wait for them to pass and get out of range. Precious time wasted but the pilot was flexible with the clock. Phew!
Time To Record, Clock Is Running.
The first thing I recorded was the plane approaching and parking on the tarmac. I set up the CSS-5 directly in front of where the plane was going to stop. I place the MKH-8040ST 90 degress to the side. These microphones were placed where I was planning to do the engine run ups and that’s what we did next. I was careful not to set the input gain to high on the SD-702 recorders as these planes can get very loud when running both engines at high RPMs. We started with a single engine start and run up then started the second one. The pilot then brought the engines up to 1700 RPM and I’m sure he had the brakes locked down as it seemed like it was going to move at any moment.
Next up was recording the start and ground taxiing. I moved the microphones out toward the airfield taxi lane. I had the CSS-5 directed so the plane would taxi by right to left and I pointed the MKH-8040ST towards the plane and slowly turned it to follow it’s path. Now I had to quickly gather all the gear and run it out to the middle of the airfield for the pass bys. We had planned the usual take off and landing along with some fast and medium speed pass bys. I had very little time since it does not take long for the plane to taxi down prep for take off. The pilot did offer a radio but since I had so many gadgets in my hands and to move around I though it best to just go without it.
The wind had changed direction since we arrived and the plane had to take off to the South. I positioned the MKH-8040ST mostly for a side to side stereo field but I had the concrete plant running sound to the South so I postioned the microphone slightly to the North to have that noise behind and rejected.
After the plane took off it made a high speed pass and a medium speed pass with the landing gear down. I did have the D-50 inside the plane and was hoping it would not fall out of postion. It’s amazing what I think about when out recording, no wonder !’m exhausted after one of these days. The plane landed and rolled on by and I had to grab the gear once again and run back to the area where we did the run ups and set the mics up again. I did tell the pilot to take his time while taxiing before he took off, I hope he remembered. After the plane shut down. I took a few minutes to check the recordings and then prepared for the next phase: Onboard interior perspective.
Part 2 coming soon. Enjoy -Frank
Airplane Recording Aug 18th 2011 Part-1, Camera 1
Recording the sound of a 1980 fixed wing multi engine Beechcraft Baron 58P propeller plane. This video contains the footage from video camera 1 operated by my wife as I was recording the airplane. The sound is from a Sanken CSS-5 microphone which I had on a boom pole following the airplanes’ movements. I recorded the plane at 24-Bit/96k to a Sound Devices SD-702 that was sync locked to another with a stationary MKH-8040ST microphone rig on a microphone stand.
I only had an hour to record the plane so I had to have a minimal set up that could be moved around the airstrip. This first part in the video series showcases the sights and sounds of engine run-ups, ground taxiing and pass by’s from the CSS-5 perspective.
Airplane Recording Aug 18th 2011 Part-2, Camera 2
Recording the sound of a 1980 fixed wing multi engine Beechcraft Baron 58P propeller plane. This video contains the footage from video camera 2 operated by myself as I was recording the airplane. The sound is from a Sennheiser MKH-8040ST microphone which I had set on a microphone stand. I recorded the plane at 24-Bit/96k to a Sound Devices SD-702 that was sync locked to another with a boom pole mounted Sanken CSS-5 microphone.
This second part in the video series showcases the sights and sounds of engine run-ups, ground taxiing and pass by’s from the MKH-8040ST perspective.