Easy Fix Ambience

I’ve focused on portraying my friend Jeroen’s key cutting, shoe repair and engraving business through sound because there’s some really interesting ambient sounds that happen there. There’s the jingling of keys, conversations with customers, different types of noisy machinery being used, and there’s also shopping centre sounds, with the hum of people talking and checkouts beeping.

The biggest challenge with portraying Jeroen’s work place through sound is that there’s vast differences in volume of each of the different types of sounds. The key cutting and engraving machines start off relatively quietly, but once the metal starts being cut, the volume jumps up in a big way. I found the trick to capturing these sounds without too much distortion was to adjust the levels on my audio recorder so that it would start capturing the audio at a lower level than normal. This meant that when the machine began cutting into metal and the volume jumped, it was capturing the sound at a normal level, retaining clarity.

For this exercise, I was also using a H1 Zoom Audio Recorder for the first time, so I had to get my head around things like using earphones while recording so I could hear exactly what was being recorded, and being aware of mic handling noise when I was adjusting the position of the Zoom, or when pressing the record button.

In future, when I know I will be recording sounds of varying volumes, I’ll make sure I do separate sound grabs of each type of sound so that I can have the levels on the Zoom adjusted accordingly.

Here’s my second sound portrait of Jeroen at work, with 3 sound grabs stitched together using Hindenburg.

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