Audio menu for Reveil 2019

Okay, I’m glad to report that we’ve got it all working! Here’s our ‘audio menu’ for the upcoming Reveil 2019 live broadcast stream:

For the recording…

Following a suggestion from location sound recordist Martin Clarke, we are using a mid-sides recording technique to capture the sounds we hear near the sailhouse at Flaws’ Pier, Stromness.

In the middle: the sky.
– Sennheiser MKH 406 microphone (directional)

Time-, wind- and weather-depending, looking up we hear birds galore – mainly starlings, sparrows, gulls, oyster catchers and eider ducks at the moment – and the occasional helicopter too, taking folk on and off the north sea rigs.

At the sides: the land (left) and the sea (right).
– Schoeps MK8 microphone (with lateral figure-of-8 sensitivity)

Again, the soundscape here is completely time-, wind- and weather-dependent. The pier is adjacent to the main street through Stromness (to our left), but wheeled traffic is pretty infrequent, even at so-called busy times. There’s footfall at all hours – mainly human, some dogs, cats and horses too from time to time. The main feature of life here is the sea (to our right). The wind and wave noise dominate on the wilder days (which they mostly are, let’s be frank), but the marine traffic takes over on the calmer days – passenger ferries, fishing and dive boats in the main.

Bringing it together: the blimp, wind-jammer and audio interface.
– Rycote blimp and windjammer
– RME Fireface 800

It’s completely unrealistic to hope to eliminate the wind noise in our chosen location – indeed, not only the soundscape but the entire visual landscape here in Orkney is shaped by the ever-present wind!

Nonetheless, a few tips and tricks have gone a long way to reduce the effects of wind noise perceived in our trials to date. We’ve come to appreciate how directional mics are more sensitive to wind than omnidirectional mics, and how critical it is to have a good air gap between the microphones and the fur of the blimp… Every day’s a school day!

For the broadcast…

Software to minimise wind effects, decode and broadcast audio signals.
– Pd-extended

Since we can’t eliminate the Orkney wind noise at the recording stage, we’re aiming to minimise its dominating presence in our broadcast by adding an 80 Hz bass roll-off filter very early on in the signal chain.

Next, the mid-sides audio signals must be decoded into a left/right stereo configuration to suit traditional headphone or loudspeaker playback systems.

We selected Locus Sonus as our streaming host, and used their Pd-extended (mono) broadcast patch as a starting point for our own setup, adding the modifications described above for wind-reduction and mid-sides decoding and stereo broadcast.

So now – as for almost all activities taking place here in Orkney – we’re at the mercy of the weather! The outdoor listening spot is sounding lovely, but if needs be – i.e. with too high wind, or too much rain – we can fall back to an indoor listening spot as well.

Only time will tell which of these we’ll be using during our broadcast for Reveil

Reveil 2019 thanks

Enormous thanks to Mark and Nicol Summers for cooperating with my home-stream idea, to Grant at Soundtent for welcoming us to the project, to Martin Clarke for audio equipment and advice, and to Alan Leitch at the Stromness RSPB office for background info on Orkney shoreline birds.

Amy Beeston