mattia-cellotto-fairground

Today’s guest is Italian sound designer and field recordist Mattia Cellotto. I first discovered about Mattia when adding his libraries to my sister sound portal website, Sound Effects Search. I was captivated by the sounds and the album cover art, and even moreso when I read an interview of him on the A Sound Effect blog.

I was thrilled when Mattia reached out to me to share his field recording experiences with us here on the blog. In today’s post, Cellotto describes a thoughtful approach to the craft of field recording born out of patience and cultivating a controlled environment. The secret to his intriguing sound effect recordings? Mattia describes his desire to pursue characteristic sounds that led him to the Italian Alps using a unique microphone arrangement.

Creative Field Recording: How did you first begin working with audio?

Mattia Cellotto: My first experience in recording was a full replacement of all the sounds in “Works Armageddon” using just my voice captured with a cheap desktop microphone. After that I started acquiring better equipment to create a home studio in Italy for music production purposes. Not long after I became a sound engineer in a Milan recording studio, mostly working on recording and editing. At that point I had no clue what a blimp or a dead cat were, nor had I ever heard of shotgun microphones.

As opportunities to have a stable career in the music industry slowly vanished, I decided to widen my options and join a sound design course which took me to Vancouver for a year. There I discovered all the wonders of field recording thanks to a great teacher, Curtis Wright. As soon as I was given my first portable recorder (a Tascam DR-05) the world became a much more interesting place and I found myself taking it everywhere and placing it in the most interesting places, one of these being a metal lift where my dear Tascam met its demise.

In memorial, you can see it here, initially brand new, then under a 2 inch thick layer of ice, then after the metal lift had crushed it.

CFR: What was your first experience field recording? What sounds did you capture?

MC: My first step in field recording was taken with the wrong mind set. It reminded me of the first time I went fishing, back when I assumed that as soon as the bait disappeared under water I would have caught something. Something great! The reality is it takes a lot of patience in certain cases, specifically when you are trying to record walla in public areas. I started to believe in Murphy’s law when crying babies would appear out of nowhere as soon as I would start rolling. Although I’ve got better, I also know that I am not the most patient recordist, so I try and pick the places accordingly and try to have a controlled environment. Apart from walla, I think the first fascinating sound I ever recorded was a very close mic pencil scraping on a series of wooden dents. It was the first time I recorded an organic sound that could be used for something like a computer language.

CFR: How do you choose the sound effects you record? Do you have a favourite type of sound fx?

MC: Sometimes I pick certain sources to try out a new microphone, like with “Metal Groans and Slams” where I recorded a lot of surfaces with a Jrf contact microphone, or more recently with “Glacier Ice” for which I recorded lots of ice textures with a Sanken CO-100K for extreme pitching purposes. Other times I will just experiment with sources to gather sounds that maybe haven’t been recorded before, like freezing vegetables before tearing them apart or by creating weird compounds, like I did for the “Borax Experiment” library. Generally, I don’t make a conscious choice about what to collection to sell ahead of time. All my libraries start as experiments or tests and make it into commercial release if I think I’ve raised the quality bar and if I believe I am bringing something new to sound designers.

Mattia Cellotto recording ice sound fx

Mattia Cellotto recording ice sound fx

My favourite type of sound would be unique, characterful and round. Sometimes I need to create the roundness myself by adding bass to a rock smash or removing some harsh frequencies from a celery snap, other times the source is just perfect and all you need to do is press record. Generally, this tends to happen with things that don’t last for long, here is an example in the form of a boiler not quite functioning as it should:

CFR: You've often recorded in the Italian Alps. Can you share with readers how a specific environment affects the field recordings you capture?

MC: I do a lot of recording during my holidays, but don’t pick my destination based on the sounds I want to gather. I prefer visiting somewhere nice and (hopefully) being surprised by what the area has to offer. When I go home to Italy, I usually spend some time near the Italian Alps. I started bringing my gear there after remembering how quiet it can get at the right altitude. Recording there helps me evaluate my gear. Preamps suddenly become more important when recording the tiniest water splash in a completely silent valley. It allows me to spot the weakest link in my gear’s chain.

mattia-cellotto-recording-river

I know I’ll need to carry my recorder with me during every hike, as that kind of silence lets every source shine. Everything about recording at those altitudes is amazing, I love hearing silence following the sound of what I wanted to hear, it’s very relaxing. The wind doesn’t meet enough vegetation to trigger a sound, birds are less present the higher up you go and in the right season you can pick blueberries too, what more could you ask for?

CFR: What is your favourite field recording equipment?

MC: I recently purchased equipment for a setup I’ve been dreaming about for the last few years – a 4 channel recorder coupled with a stereo ORTF configuration and two central mics. This allows me to capture sounds with energy up to around 100KHz and a stereo image holding up until 50/60 KHz.

Zaxcom Maxx

Zaxcom Maxx

I currently own a Zaxcom Maxx recorder, it’s a pretty neat device. Perhaps a bit scary when you start using it if you’re coming from a Sound Devices 702 but it does offer 4 clean preamps and records up to 24 bit at 192KHz which is all I currently need.

The stereo image is captured by a couple of Sennheiser MKH 8040s, I originally only had one and loved how it sounded similar to a 416 but generally richer on the spectrum’s extremes, so I got another! The center image is captured by a Sanken CO-100K, I love the extended frequency response and how aggressive it can sound when recording explosions and other high SPL sources. Lastly, on top of the Sanken sits a Sennheiser MKH 416. I normally use this for its clarity and focus in the mid-range and to make up for the omni pattern of the Sanken with something more directional.

Sony PCM-D100

Sony PCM-D100

When I really need to be mobile or don’t feel like bringing all of that with me I carry a Sony PCM-D100. I took it on a recent recording trip in the Azores where I captured hot water springs sounds.

Mattia Cellotto recording in the Azores

Mattia Cellotto recording in the Azores

When the source demands it, I use an Aquarian H2A hydrophone.

Aquarian H2a-XLR

Aquarian H2a-XLR

CFR: Why do you prefer that equipment, as opposed to other equipment you've tried?

MC: Well, before I acquired the Zaxcom Maxx I had and still have a Fostex FR2. Much simpler to use and as far as I can tell the preamps are just as good. But it’s a two channel recorder and I needed four. Since I didn’t want to double the size of my setup with an additional Fostex, the Maxx felt like the right choice, especially when I found a good deal on a used one.

mattia-cellotto-4-mics-setup

I prefer the microphones I have for most applications, due to their extended frequency response and versatility. I might replace the 416 with a Neumann KMR 81i for close up recordings and hope to acquire an M/S rig eventually.

Audio quality aside, I like my setup because it’s quite portable and as a colleague of mine always says “the best camera is the one that’s with you,” I think that applies just as much to sound.

CFR: Can you share a favourite field recording experience or sound effect you've captured?

MC: I have a few favourites for different reasons. I like this one because all I did was place my recorder outside for an hour on New Year’s Eve. This recording reminds me that sometimes things just come easy:

Another good memory comes from a recording trip in Boston where I recorded a metal structure called “Life Force”. Although the area was incredibly busy the contact microphones revealed the most peaceful gong-like pure tones. You can hear them in the middle of my “Metal Groans and Slams” library demo.

Mattia Cellotto preforming on "Life Force"

Mattia Cellotto preforming on “Life Force”

Last but not least, here is a beautiful sample that could potentially fit the longest mosquito death scene ever. The source is dry ice on a metal colander.

Note: Mattia Cellotto has also generously shared a preview of his field recordings, exclusively for CFR readers. You may download them free of charge.

Thank you to Mattia Cellotto for sharing his experiences with us.

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PLC_in Big Sur

Readers first met today’s field recordist in an earlier article on this site. That post introduced Paul Col and his new crowdfunding-inspired website: CrowdsourceSFX.

Since that time Paul and I have kept in touch. He’s told me of the success of his website’s first sound libraries. He has also described to me field recording missions using a rare kit: ambisonic microphones.

We first heard about these flexible, multi-channel microphones from an earlier field recordist, John Leonard. Since that time, ambisonic field recording has become a bit of a buzzword in the community.

I asked Paul if he would like to share his field recording experiences with us. He kindly agreed. So, today Paul relates revealing experiences with this kit as well as his efforts pursuing a focused vocabulary of sound fx.

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Max Lachmann - Recording Switches on Me109

I first discovered field recordist Max Lachmann’s work when searching for vehicle sound libraries. His sound effects are hard to miss: he hosts almost 90 car, motorcycle, aircraft, and boat sound collections on the respected Pole Position Production website, which he runs with Bernard Löhr and Mats Lundgren. The Web shop also provides collections of weapons, military vehicles, and more.

Lachmann is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on vehicle field recording. His sound fx include such elite vehicles as Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and other luxury and sport cars. Capturing such tricky vehicles is exceptionally challenging, and requires contending with wind, overwhelmingly loud sound, and the complex mechanics of attaching equipment onto the vehicles themselves.

I was curious how Max captured such difficult subjects, and the kit locker he uses to get the job done. I emailed him and asked if he would like to share with us how he began field recording, how his craft evolved, and the role equipment plays in his work. Max graciously explained.

So, today Max Lachmann shares an insider perspective of a rare and specialized field recording discipline, a special tip to help capture valuable sound clips when they appear, and the story behind a rare exclusive field recording Max has shared just with us.

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cameltalk05

A while back I was browsing field recordings on the fascinating American National Park Services website. There are dozens of field recordings from US parks, including some from Yellowstone National Park. One name kept appearing: Peter Comley.

It was a coincidence that not long after I heard from Peter through the blog. I learned that in addition to his work in game audio, Peter Comley has recorded nature sounds from Pacific Northwest to Indonesia to Belize. I was curious to know how equipment selection affected balancing nature field recording with his work in game audio.

So, in today’s post, Peter shares his thoughts about field recording gear, and how it helped him during a remarkable field recording mission in Yellowstone Park.

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Image courtesy of Liminaria.org

Image courtesy of Liminaria.org

The majority of field recording mentioned on this site is for a practical purpose: you need a sound, you fetch it, and then you use it. But does that mean all field recording is only captured, cut, and lined up in commercial projects?

Of course not. Many field recordists capture audio beyond the studio for enjoyment alone. Others explore boundaries of the sonic world itself and express them not in games or episodic television, but present them in pure creativity as art itself.

Miguel Isaza is one of those people. He has founded industry-leading sound websites Designing Sound and Sonic Field. He is editor for sound for media, sound art and sound technology at the Spanish Hispasonic Web portal. He is well known for his artistic field recordings, which he releases on via Bandcamp and on his own label, Éter.

I approached Miguel and asked if he would like to share his philosophical approach to capturing field recordings. I was curious what role – if any – equipment plays in his deeply creative approach to capturing audio.

I was quite thrilled that he agreed. So, today Miguel Isaza shares how his field recording explorations of the sonic realm delve into an interconnected “sonic web” to create a unique listening experience that reveals a deeper understanding about the experience of field recording itself.

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Gordon and Veggies

I’ve mentioned my admiration of Kickstarter in the past. That can be a great way for audio pros to fund field recording projects. I’ve kept my eye on the website. I’ve noticed over time that one category continually tops the most-popular crowd-funded campaigns: indie games.

In fact, the stunning success of 2012’s Double Fine Adventure/Broken Age’s successful $3.3 million campaign is largely believed to have been the project that establish crowdfunding as a viable platform. Others such as Star Citizen and Wasteland 2 have been just as successful.

I had always wondered how field recording fit within the scope of the indie scene. I had to look no farther than to indie game audio pro Gordon McGladdery to help. Gordon was part of a successfully-funded indie game title himself: Parkitect. McGladdery also shares his wisdom and experience on the Beards, Cats and Indie Game Audio podcast with his co-host Matthew Marteinsson.

In today’s post, Gordon includes his thoughts about the difference between field recording for AAA and indie game titles. He describes his approach to capturing sound for his projects to ensure the sound fx are the right fit all while using a flexible collection of multi-pattern microphones and a stealth field recording kit.

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Christine Hass

Nature field recordist Christine Hass captures wildlife field recordings with a compelling aim: to connect to nature through sound. Her vocation has led her to capture clips of coyotes, marshes, bird choruses, and other rich ambiences.

I’ve been following her blog on her Wild Mountain Echoes website and her SoundCloud profile for some time. What is interesting is how her field recordings work with one another. Her profile showcases over 100 wildlife clips that combine to create an evocative portrait of the American Southwest. The thoughtful field recordings blend to create an immersive snapshot of a sonically rich part of the planet. She showcases this unique sonic identity in a number of CD releases focusing on specific slivers of the US landscape: the Great Basin, the Sonoran Desert, and others.

I’m a huge fan of her field recordings. I was curious how Christine worked to record wildlife sounds in such unforgiving, diverse, and often subtle environments. I reached out to Christine and asked if she would like to share with us how she works, and the kit she prefers. She kindly agreed.

So, today we learn how science and research informs Christine’s work, and influences her gear choices. She also shares a special experience with us: how removing a field recordist from an environment helps capture authentic sounds, including a surprising wildlife sound clip of her own.

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Axel Rohrbach

I remember the first time I discovered the Boom Library sound effects Web shop. I was writing a post about creating sound library previews.

I’ve always believed that a sound library preview is one of the most important parts of a sound fx collection release. It’s not easy, though. It must showcase your sounds, creativity, and intent in an incredibly short period of time. The best audio montages also convey a narrative or the distinct personality of its creator.

While researching that post, I happened to stumble across Boom Library’s preview video for their Cinematic Hits collection. I was immediately impressed with not only the sounds themselves, but the craft behind the preview itself.

That was years ago. Since then, Boom Library has followed with a string of impressive sound fx releases of challenging field recording subjects ranging from wildcats to historical firearms to vehicles and more. The crew behind the Boom Library are well respected across the indie sound fx library landscape for the quality of their sound fx and their diligence capturing them.

I was eager to hear their thoughts on field recording. I was especially curious to know the gear they use to capture such a range of subjects so thoroughly. I reached out to Boom Library team of Pierre Langer, Axel Rohrbach, and Tilman Sillescu to learn more.

So, today Axel generously shares his thoughts about beginning a sound collection in an effort to capture superior sound fx. He shares a peek inside the Boom Library workflow as well as some interesting gear selections the team use to create their elite sound fx libraries.

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Melissa Pons

I first discovered Melissa Pons’s work in an excellent article about her on The Audio Spotlight back in 2014. Melissa is a sound pro that explores a wide range of audio disciplines on The Sound Design Process blog, including field recording, sound design, creativity, production sound, and more. Her field recordings are just as diverse, showcasing a range of clips from her native Portugal and her newly adopted home of Sweden.

What I found particularly interesting was her carefully considered approach to field recording, and pro sound in general. Self-described as “very patient,” Melissa has reflected upon the role of awareness and detail to field recording (article one, two, and three).

I was curious to know how her creative, observational approach affects her field recordings. I introduced myself to her, and asked her if she would be interested in elaborating for us. She kindly agreed.

So, today Melissa Pons shares with us the kit she uses to capture her thoughtful sound clips, and explains the value of a key field recording skill: awareness.

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Rick Hannon

This series began discussing gear choices of audio pros. Over time, we have been treated to an unexpected bonus: each field recordist’s fascinating origin stories.

As we all know, the community has yet to see a formal field recording training method. Sure, there are workshops and partial-credit courses. However, a focused, intensive method of learning field recording has yet to emerge. That’s why learning each sound pro’s history is revealing. No two are the same. That’s a testament to the determination of each pro and the support our community provides.

The are common themes, though. Field recording often evolves from music work or a love of films. Of course, there are others. A passion for theatre or game audio are other common approaches. We’ve also heard from the sizable group of wildlife recordists who combine their love of nature and preservation with pro audio.

Now, it’s an sensible leap from crafts such as feature film sound editor to field recording afficianado. What is the impact on field recording if the creator arrives from other, more distant arts? Will the field recordist capture audio with the same ear as the rest of us, or perhaps introduce new insights? How does that influence equipment selection?

To answer that question I turned to a gentleman named Rick Hannon. I met Rick through this website. He is an award-winning photojournalist. His work has appeared in a number of publications from Wyoming’s Casper Star-Tribune, Columbia, South Carolina’s The State, and Baton Rouge’s The Advocate. His photos have appeared in The New York Times, Life, Newsweek, People, and the National Geographic hurricane Katrina special edition.

What’s especially interesting is that Hannon is self-taught in his field. Of course, that’s the same journey we have all traveled with field recording. I reached out to him to learn about both his field recording and photographic experiences. I was curious how the craft of field recording blends with other arts, or is amplified by them.

So, today Rick Hannon shares his experiences with two very different crafts as well as a special treat: his insight how – just like his accomplished photographs – field recordings can tell stories, too.

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