DPA Microphones Get Under The Skin of Auto Audio


Sound effects editor Steve Browell uses a selection of company’s mics to capture the sound of vehicles for feature films and television projects

Last Updated: April 29, 2014 9:59 pm GMT
(London, United Kingdom--April 29, 2014) Recording audio for film and TV within the confines of a car is difficult enough, but actually capturing the sheer range of sounds that comprise car noise is an entirely different level of challenge. This, however, is something of a specialty for freelance sound effects editor Steve Browell who uses a range of DPA mics and a variety of techniques to achieve spectacular results.

Browell’s work involves many different locations, from racetracks to mansions, from anechoic chambers to scrap yards, and with him goes a matched pair of DPA Microphones’ d:dicate™ 4011C Compact Cardioid Recording Microphones and a selected pair of d:screet™ 4061 Omnidirectional Miniature Microphones, supplied by DPA’s U.K. distributor Sound Network.

“What I love about the job is that it’s so varied,” says Browell, whose recent projects have included recording sound effects for Scarlett Johansson’s latest film Under the Skin, directed by Jonathan Glazer. “Whether I’m enhancing the physical sounds on screen, bringing inanimate objects to life, designing effects to add emotion to a story or recording original sounds for each film, there is always a new audio challenge ahead.

Browell also has his own pair of d:dicate 4021 Compact Cardioid Recording Microphones in an DPA X/Y setup, which have been customized to fit into a Rycote windshield. “I have always liked the sound that DPA mics capture,” he continues. “When I started my career, I was involved in a lot of music recording and I can remember the first time I used a pair of DPA d:dicate 4011s, when they were still from Brüel and Kjaer. I loved the amazingly detailed and natural sound they were able to capture; it was like hearing the sound from the live source again. From then on, I have always wanted my own pair.”

One of the most unique recording styles in Browell’s repertoire is card recordings, which he first started experimenting with during a previous film production in which he was asked to capture car sounds. “Cars are fascinating machines that create a symphony of sound," he explains. “I liked the physical challenge of where and how to place microphones on a moving vehicle and still get a decent sounding recording with as little vibration and wind buffeting as possible.”

He explains that much of the action in Under the Skin takes place in the interior of a Mercedes Sprinter van. “To get a really authentic sound and the right coverage, I spent a day recording the van with a multi-mic setup, covering different aspects of the interior, the engine and the exhaust. Then, at a later date, I also recorded sounds of Scarlett’s character interacting with the van.”
Browell has been able to hone his techniques, not to mention widen the library of different cars he has captured, with work on the Need for Speed computer game franchise. As he says, though, it’s a delicate balance between the shielding wind noise and having it start to color the source sound.

“I had to find materials that would withstand the high temperatures, and a few Rycote windshields got burnt in the process,” he adds. “The McLaren MP4 12c was particularly bad for this; on overrun you can get a three-foot flame out of the exhaust. Another problem is with affixing the microphones to the cars and not damaging the paint and bodywork, which is important when some of them are valued at over one million dollars. Each car’s shape is so different and I need to be extremely flexible with my methods to get the microphones into a sweet spot: out of the direct airflow around the car but also avoiding some of the high temperatures and trying to dampen some of the vibration.”

For the future he says he would definitely like to own more DPA mics, but adds that remembering gasoline helps, too.

DPA Microphones is the leading Danish Professional Audio manufacturer of high-quality condenser microphone solutions for professional applications. DPA’s ultimate goal is to always provide its customers with the absolute finest possible microphone solutions for all its markets, which include live sound, installation, recording, theatre and broadcast. When it comes to the design process, DPA takes no shortcuts. Nor does the company compromise on its manufacturing process, which is done at the DPA factory in Denmark. As a result, DPA’s products are globally praised for their exceptional clarity and transparency, unparalleled specifications, supreme reliability and, above all, pure, uncolored and undistorted sound.

For more information on DPA Microphones, please visit http://www.dpamicrophones.com


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