Wednesday, February 2
Truck record-part 1: prep
Benavides Born has just premiered in the dramatic competition at Sundance, and as lead sound designer I thought I'd give a little insight into one specific element of the audio design: the truck.
The film is about a South Texas girl played by Corina Calderon who embarks on a journey of self-discovery in her home, the world of weightlifting, and college. Much of this journey happens in an old 1993 Chevy pickup.
During the initial spotting session I knew I'd need to find and record a similar truck to even hope to do that part of the soundtrack justice. We were working on a condensed schedule, so time and planning were very important.
Step one for me was research. I had done some recordings of my car a month or so prior, as much to scout possible vehicle recording locations as it was to acquire the sounds and practice the technique. I reviewed my notes from that session, and re-read the thoughts of Tim Prebble and Rob Nokes on recording vehicles. That Rob Nokes article is incredible and was pretty instrumental in both my car recordings months earlier and the truck record on this go-round.
I also had to find the right truck. I tried the usual methods of poking friends and family, but that didn't pan out as quickly as I was needing it to, so I started cruising craigslist, which was both enlightening and scary. In the end one of my good friends did come through with his father's vehicles which were conveniently located at his house outside of Ennis, TX - the middle of nowhere and roughly 45 minutes from me in downtown Dallas .
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The location I ran my car tests before was a strip of road behind a high school in Ennis, andI ended up ruling out that location for future records because of a crazy interference I was getting from what's likely a microwave tower in that part of town.
Strange flutter distortion by Rcoronado
Unfazed, I used google maps to scout other roads from afar and talked to the owners in advance to find other recording locations nearby. While I did not end up with some perfect mecca of car recording locales down there, I did manage to get what I needed cleanly enough to satisfy the film and the library.
The truck in the film was a 1993 Chevy V8. I had a choice of a 1993 Ford V8 and a 1995 Chevy V6. I went with the Ford.
With my location and vehicle secured, I set about creating my two main checklists: performances and gear.
Performances first. I opened up the film in a protools session and separated out every shot in which the truck appeared. Playing back at 2x speed helped the process. In the end I had a 20 minute compilation of nothing but truck movements. I output this as a separate quicktime in m4v format so that I could have it on my iphone or ipad during the shoot.
Then I sat down with my notepad and watched the 20 minutes down again, noting every specific move that I saw. Door open, door close, hit tailgate, pull up head-on, peel out on gravel, etc. If moves were repeated I put down a x3 or whatever it happened to be.
With my performance list in place I began compiling my gear list. From my experience and the Rob Nokes article I knew I wanted mics on the axle, exhaust, engine compartment, interior and exterior. I went with a pair of Senn 421's for the tire and exhaust mounts, a Sanken COS11 for the engine compartment, and an SM81 for another engine compartment angle. These all ran through a sound devices 442 into a 744t. For the interior I used my Sony PCM D50. For exteriors I went with a Senn MKH60 in a rycote blimp recording to a Tascam HD-P2. For wind protection on the truck mounted mics I stole from Tim Prebble and used ripped to fit terrycloth towels as well as good drafting placement. I had tested this in my initial car record and was very impressed with the results.
I was also sure to pack lots of batteries, gaffer tape, cash, cables, zip ties, water and snacks.
With my lists and gear in place I was ready for the record date.