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Old July 28th, 2008, 10:01 PM   #1
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Outdoor recording

Hi,
I am completely new to recording and so i will need quite a bit of help. I would like to record some really amazing animal sounds that I have been hearing from my house at night. My biggest restriction is money. So I am really not looking to spend a lot (as in less then $200). I am looking for something that can record quite sounds from far away, and then allow me to download then to my computer, so that I can listen to them again and again, and eventually play them back to the animal that is making noises, and to a few loca biologists. I am not looking to use a camera, I just want the audio. Thanks in advance for your help!

I wanted to add that I will be recording through 100 yards of thick woods or more. i thought about maybe using a wireless Mic, but I didn't think it would work unless it was line of sight or I could hard wire it. I can hear the sounds OK from my house, but they still are quite a ways off. So I will need to get a Mic and something for recording audio (I assume). Thanks!!

Last edited by Peter Sampson; July 28th, 2008 at 11:03 PM.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 12:54 AM   #2
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less then 200 eh? Maybe just a handheld recorder and stash it in the woods...
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Old July 29th, 2008, 04:43 AM   #3
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I often use a cheap consumer DV recorder for stereo audio. Small, light and usually cheaper than a dedicated portable good quality audio recorder
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Old July 29th, 2008, 05:00 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
I often use a cheap consumer DV recorder for stereo audio. Small, light and usually cheaper than a dedicated portable good quality audio recorder
Unfortunately the audio sections of "cheap consumer DV recorders" are often marginal at best, tacked on as an afterthought by the camera manufacturer.

I tihk Sacha nailed it. Scout the area to find out where the critters are congregating and hide something like a Zoom H2 close by. Set it to record and leave it to retrieve later.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 09:09 AM   #5
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Hi Peter,
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Originally Posted by Peter Sampson View Post
I am looking for something that can record quite sounds from far away
One of the most important rules in sound recording is to get the microphone as close as possible to the source of the sound. That is true even when working with shotgun mics. So I second the advice given earlier: to hide a recorder where you expect the animals to be. It should give you a better recording for less money than trying to capture the sound from a larger distance in your home.

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Old July 29th, 2008, 09:26 AM   #6
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That sounds like a good idea. Thank you all for the advice! One of the problems is that I don't know exactly where the sounds are, and so that part might take a while to figure out. Another problem with animals though is that they move every night, and I would want to get many different animals in different location from my house.

I want to run one more idea through you first though. Here what I was thinking:

I was going to get a digital handheld recorder, and then hook an Omni mic up to that. Then I was going to take an old satellite dish and put the Omi mic facing the inside of the dish, replacing the receiver for the normal signal, so that it would be able to pick up concentrated sound. I figure that satellite dishes are used to pick up signals anyway so they should be able to work for sound also. I heard of someone that did this once with a huge dish he used to carry around on a trailer to record animal sounds, so maybe it will work. Basically I would be creating a parabolic dish. Please let me know what you think, and by all means don't hold anything back! Thanks again.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 09:48 AM   #7
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The parabolic should work fine, though I think I'd use a cardioid mic capsule at the focus to minimize stray sound from the sides interfereing.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 12:45 PM   #8
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Omni mic is better. Otherwise you are not listening to the direct sound which is coming from the field. It's a common misconception with dishes that a cardioid would work better but the mic would then have it's back to the action.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 01:55 PM   #9
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Omni mic is better. Otherwise you are not listening to the direct sound which is coming from the field. It's a common misconception with dishes that a cardioid would work better but the mic would then have it's back to the action.
Yes, the back of the mic would be pointed toward the subject and the front of the mic into the dish. Just like a Cassegrain telescope (which is what it essentially is). You want the mic to be responding to the sound focussed on it by the dish and nothing else, excluding the direct sound as well as sound from the sides. Sound from the sides is interference, direct sound can have phasey interactions with the reflected sound. I stand by my suggestion that cardioid or even hypercardioid would be better.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 04:09 PM   #10
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At that distance I would think the phase issue is very small. Sound reflects more like water than light and smudges. It's not like a laser beam. Therefore you are losing level by pointing the mic away.

But since I'm not an expert on the subject.... I'll not labour the point until such a time.

Most dishes have omni's though I think...
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Old July 29th, 2008, 08:28 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Peter Sampson View Post
Hi, I am completely new to recording and so i will need quite a bit of help. I would like to record some really amazing animal sounds that I have been hearing from my house at night. My biggest restriction is money.
They'll do it for nothing maybe some nuts :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Sampson View Post
I am really not looking to spend a lot (as in less then $200). I am looking for something that can record quite sounds from far away, and then allow me to download then to my computer, so that I can listen to them again and again, and eventually play them back to the animal that is making noises, and to a few local biologists. I am not looking to use a camera, I just want the audio. Thanks in advance for your help!
$200 is hard and you really have to get *close* to get any decent sounds at all. Scout out for a Sony HiMD minidisc recorder, with excellent uncompressed audio they'll record for 90mins unattended. They're tiny so you can hide it out in the field. You load it to your computer and edit away.

Cheers.
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Old August 1st, 2008, 01:18 PM   #12
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I just got a Zoom H2. The built in mics are really good, and there are four of them for surround sound. It is under $200. Check it out!
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Old August 3rd, 2008, 07:18 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jimmy Tuffrey View Post
At that distance I would think the phase issue is very small. Sound reflects more like water than light and smudges. It's not like a laser beam. Therefore you are losing level by pointing the mic away.
...
Most dishes have omni's though I think...
The ability of the dish to focus sound depends very much on precise phase alignment. Sloppy phase equals no concentration of sound energy and if that were the case there would be no point in using the dish and an omni would be fine. In fact many implementations use omni's which does allow one to hear things out of the beam which are usually considered "interference" but this is often considered acceptable because the situation isn't much improved with a cardiod. Theoretically the ideal mic would accept sound only from the solid angle subtended by the dish as viewed from the focus. Omni and cardioid both accept sound from the side and that is where most of the interference comes from. Only if the sound is on the axis of the dish is the cardioid's response appreciably reduced. But that doesn't matter because the sound flux impinging on the back of the mic is insignificant (1% or so) relative to the amount striking the surface of the dish most of which gets reflected onto the front of the mic. Given this it doesn't matter whether the sound striking the back side of the mic (cardioid or omni) is in phase or 180 deg out of phase with the focused energy. There isn't enough to reinforce or cancel the reflected signal.
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Old August 4th, 2008, 02:29 PM   #14
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you want to play back to the animals - and have the animals think it's live

forget it - recording devices are built for the very limited range of the human ear.
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Old August 4th, 2008, 03:02 PM   #15
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Years ago my brother and I saw a NOVA program on PBS about birdsong in which biologists got birds to attack models of birds by playing recordings of bird calls at them. My brother and I thought this was neat so we decided to try and repeat the experiment.

We used a simple battery-powered cassette recorder (it was the 70s) from Radio Shack and the crummy hand-held microphone that came with it. We just sat in our woodsy back yard and waited for a bird to come near enough to record.

We played our recordings of the birds back via a 3" speaker, also from Radio Shack, housed in a small wooden box we made with about a 15' - 20' wire lead.

We had no trouble getting birds to attack the speaker, just as was shown in the NOVA program.

I am sure that any number of the solid-state recorders that are now available ( http://www.sweetwater.com/c860--Flash_Players_Recorders ) would work just fine.
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