Subwoofers

The two sub setup

Top: Hamasaki Square -- Bottom: IRT Cross

For this post, I thought I'd write about another recording session I did a while back. It was pretty cool and I think it's interesting so why not :)

Sometime last year I was looking to create some ominous ambiences for a piece I was working on. It was set on a large spaceship so I wanted to create the impression of this 'danger' outside, the effect of the environment outside on the hull of the ship or even the sound of the inner workings of the engines. A sound designer who has successfully done this many times is Richard King. I stumbled across a YouTube video at the time in which he talked about this technique of 'activating' environments through low-frequency oscillations. He's used this technique in Inception to give some kind of other-worldly feel as well as in Interstellar when he wanted the sound of the spacecraft under duress. This video shows it in action a little (around 3:17).

I thought I'd have a go at messing around with this idea so I set up a fairly simple rig in my college's canteen after hours. I had two large subwoofers at one end of the hall, each one hooked up to a signal generator. The idea was to create some interesting beat frequencies and sweeps with the two subs, and at a high enough SPL to get things shaken' in the room. 

The mics of choice were x4 AKG 414s, figure 8 pattern in a Hamasaki square, and cardioid IRT cross. This square turned out to be the better surround technique, capturing the sound of the space in quad (final product was in 5.1), but also decorrelating the front image as much as possible. After all, the aim was to record the sound in the space and as little of the direct sound as possible. 

The two subs pulsing in a beat frequency sounded really cool, like some crazy spaceship engine humming away, and playing around with the signal generators yielded some unexpected results. Ramping the subs faders in unison to create swells sounded awesome too and with some spare time at the end, captured some blood-curdling screams!  

Below are some short stereo examples and as always, feedback/opinions/comments/greetings always welcome!