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Old January 21st, 2010, 08:48 PM   #1
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recording rain sounds

Hi all! Any ideas on good ways to record rain sounds for sound design background track purposes? Every time I try to record rain, it ends up either being way too light sounding and "drippy", or it sounds like static. I've tried recording various intensities of rain, various materials overhead, but I'm still not happy. Any thoughts? Thanks...Andy
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Old January 21st, 2010, 10:22 PM   #2
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Rain is tough. I've also tried recording it, and I know exactly what you mean. It tends to sound like white noise.

The sound in my head is of the drops really smacking the concrete. They need to be well defined, and not too sparse. I'd want the sound of a stream of water in there too. You might try boxes of water with various numbers and sizes of holes at different heights. You could also try it falling on concrete, plywood, etc.

I would think that EQ scooping would help. Maybe compression would help keep things from being too drippy - it would tone down individual drops that stand out.

These are some ideas. I've tried recording real rain, but was never happy with it, so I can't offer a winning formula.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 02:06 AM   #3
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Get one of those multi-pattern nozzles for your garden hose, and use that to spray water at different surfaces at the various settings. Experiment with aiming the hose up in the air, or right at the target, you can get a huge variety of rain sounds this way that you can then play with in your editor.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 12:54 PM   #4
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It's also important to think about how we perceive the sound of rain. Often, it's really the sound of the stream of water coming out of a downspout or off a roof and splattering on the concrete. As Jordan points out, you get different sounds depending on the surface. I'd try a thin sheet of plywood, a plastic tarp stretched tight and some corrugated sheet metal. Just for fun, I'd probably also do the hose thing from inside a car with the wipers both running and off.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 05:22 PM   #5
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You may actually need to a mix of various sounds to get what you want, from a broad sound (wide), then add some more localised fx (med) and then some defined drips (tight). And do it in stereo for width definition. It is a technique often used for getting good sounds of crowds at sporting stadiums and concerts.
If you think about it this is infact what you would hear in real life.
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Old January 23rd, 2010, 01:36 AM   #6
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If you just need rain sounds and maybe some thunder, PM me - I have a ton of that.
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Old January 23rd, 2010, 02:51 AM   #7
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well i aint putting my MIC in the freaking water, so rain is gonna sound like it is hitting a Raincoat , cause that is what my mic is gonna be wearing. and you would be surprised to hear that is what it sounds like on the tv thing sometime too.
bag it and tag it, is a real foley(sp) guy going to stuff a $5000 mic in the rain? not likly so what rain sounds like in the movies is with a plastic bag on top (EQed), and that can take out the noisey wash sound quick :-) instead you get the heavy Plinking sounds of it hitting the plastic. (scratch that the plastic hit is a Put put put sound not a plink)

as we pull the camera away from the puddle on the ashfault we hear the plink plink plink of the rain hitting the ground, , , Uhh no we dont , cause that doesnt make hardly any sound at all, what does make sound? stuff that emits sound waves when it is hit.
leaves with water drivers :-)
downspout tweeters
tin roof speakers
Car tires splashing puddles
big aluminum sign warblers
the front of a windshield being pulverised at 60mph
The noise of it hitting your umbrella woofer
each differences in thickness/porosity and movement of any plastic/fabric your wearing
each of the different vegitation or ground strike locations.

stuff like that, everything that converts the gravity drop strike into more audible sounds. and wherever you are the sounds are all different.
what does a Human hear when they are out in the rain? depends. and it IS noisey, rain with WIND can almost be more irritating than what it ends up sounding like when you try and collect it with a mic.
so do you want singing in the rain, or dealing with the storm?

just thoughs. <---freaking cheapskate, which reminds me of the condom someone was using for wind protection, or do we say prophylactic. I have seen both types of microphones cardoid and condencer element with rust/oxidation forming in them, so depending on the price of your equiptement, you might want to try the condom trick.

i think it really depends on what your trying to portray, the location your trying to sound like, like they said already collect different sounds and mix them proper, and add in some of the noise wash, and wind if that sets the intended mood sound.

Q: Do you know what an Explosion sounds like in the Vaccume of space?
A: Whatever we have been trained to believe it sounds like via movies and tv :-)
(sound waves dont travel well in space cept in the movies)
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Last edited by Marty Welk; January 23rd, 2010 at 08:45 PM.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 08:23 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Balla View Post
Hi all! Any ideas on good ways to record rain sounds for sound design background track purposes? Every time I try to record rain, it ends up either being way too light sounding and "drippy", or it sounds like static. I've tried recording various intensities of rain, various materials overhead, but I'm still not happy. Any thoughts? Thanks...Andy
Lets start with the basics...
What are you using as a recorder?
What microphones do you have at your disposal?
What is the arrangement of the microphones?
What is your location when you record?
What perspective are you trying to achieve?
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Old January 24th, 2010, 09:26 AM   #9
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I've a sneaky suspicion that this is one of those effects that's often faked in the studio.

On a film I made that had a load of rain, we used the BBC sound effects. This involved using a mix of hail, general rain, specially recorded rain drops that were synced in post by eye.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 10:32 PM   #10
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Relying on an expertly recorded library of environmental sound recordings is not "faked in the studio."

I record ambient audio constantly for background use. Nothing worse than trying to hit an editing deadline and having to re-record and hunt down what you need.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 12:18 AM   #11
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Done the foley thing and it's really up to the scene you want to create. Sprinkler on different surfaces is a great idea as you can have control and consistency. And you don't have to expose mics to water since you can aim it!

Seems to me though, that you have the sound "in your head" and that's good and bad. Good that you know what you want but bad if you can't create it. One of my worst foley sessions needed the sound of someone biting into an apple. I was the unlucky one chosen to perform the sound. After about a dozen apples (spitting out each bite) I finally asked the producer what the problem was since his only direction was "It doesn't sound like an apple!" I politely suggested he try performing and gee...2 takes and he was happy. The sound in his head was literally the sound he physically heard when he was biting the apple therefore, an impossible sound to record. The fact he performed it was enough to satisfy his request.
Just keep that in mind trying to find the "perfect" rain sound as no two people hear things the same way. What sounds like static to you may sound like bacon frying to me and rain to another person!

If you're not settled on foley, I have had really good success with the Sound Ideas library for many years. Plenty of good rain in there!
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Old January 26th, 2010, 06:58 AM   #12
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Thanks for all the responses! A lot of good ideas going on here. We got some good steady rain here the other day, so I managed to get a few minutes of decent sound from that. There's a tiki bar on this location with a metal roof, so I went under there. Turned out that the combination of the heavy rain hitting foliage, the lake, etc, with the more prominent sound of water dripping from the roof of the bar worked pretty well. I haven't done any tweaking on it yet, but thanks for the ideas on eq and compression. FWIW, I recorded with a Zoom H4n, using the built in mics at 120 degree setting. I didn't want to risk taking the Senn mkh 416 out in the rain! Andy
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Old January 26th, 2010, 09:18 AM   #13
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Did you use something other than the included foam ball windscreen for the H4n? I haven't had mine out in the wind yet.
I've also had success with rain recording from underneath an overhang. On my front porch at home pointing out over the front yard and street, as well as from a shelter with no walls in a local park. Stereo can be quite interesting, especially if there is thunder or sheets of rain on asphalt moving across your sound field.
In that case I was using an AT825 inside a zeppelin since it was very sensitive to wind noise.
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Old January 27th, 2010, 01:06 AM   #14
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I only used the lame foam windscreen. I was able to keep out from most of the wind since I was in the tiki bar, which is open, but protected. I did get a few brief bursts of wind noise, but was able to chop those out and cross-fade the cuts so it not noticeable at all. I plan to get one of those Redhead furry windscreens. I've heard good things about them, and the lame one that comes with the h4n is pretty useless in general.
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Old January 27th, 2010, 10:38 AM   #15
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Loads of great tips in this thread, and your additional context is very helpful. I've recorded a lot of similar stuff, and I found the high frequency content of Samson's H(x) built-in mic capsules to be hissy and inarticulate, verified by what Lectrosonics calls "the dreaded key test," where you jangle a keyring full of keys and see how articulate the high frequency response is. I'm currently using a Røde NT4 (inside a zepp, of course), which is definitely better, but my next step this or next year will be to an M-S rig with Sennheiser MKH30 and 40 (or 50) mics - super low noise and perfect for ambiences.

My approach has been to collect water sounds where I can find them, and mix them together in post. So, for example, the rain on a metal roof, rain on a lake, and rain on foliage might be best recorded separately...each not that impressive, but layered together may create quite an ambience, with the added benefit of being able to change those discrete levels on the fly to accomodate shifting camera PoV's in the edit.

Zeppelin/blimp users should also google for tricks using hog's hair (a type of insulation) or the Rainman cover at B&H. Both good solutions for being out in the wet, recording the wet!
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