Category Archives: SFX

Theatre of the Mind

The Witch?
The Witch? Let’s not see her, let’s hear her…

I like to work with a technique known as Theatre of The Mind, which usually refers to radio plays and storytelling with sound. It allows for listeners to tap into their imagination and visualize what might be happening. Each person will “see” something different based on any memories real or imagined.

Is it going to cost you a few thousand dollars to crash those cars in an epic car chase? Can’t seem to come up with a creature that is horrifying enough? Have it appear just off screen sonically and let the viewer create the visuals themselves by tapping their “Theatre of the Mind” capabilities. Study how radio plays are constructed to get used to telling stories with sound.

Your mission: Practice telling stories with only sounds to become better at using sound as a narrative tool in your media work. The BBC World Service has a great resource on How to Write a Radio Play. You just might find you want to continue using sound only for a lot of your media productions.

Some great radio plays can be found here:

– John


The HartFX Interview with Colin Hart

Colin Hart Home Studio


I recently had a chance to spend a day with Colin Hart of HartFX in Orlando, Florida. I interviewed him on two topics: Field recording, and how his Blog and social media have impacted his work with sound designers all over the world. Colin was a gracious host and gave me a tour of his home studio and showed me some of his work in film production as an instructor at Full Sail University. The Interview was recorded on my H2 Zoom in his car as we drove around Orlando. Enjoy!

John: What is a must for gear every time you go out in to the Field?

Colin: I always start by figuring out what I’m going to be recording and then I make my microphone selection first. I decide if I’m doing a big, or small mic session, and how many mics I’m going to need. If I’m recording something really loud, I always make sure I have a dynamic mic with me, as well as the Condenser mics and Lav mics. I always make sure I bring backup mics, in case one I selected has an issue, or doesn’t work the way I thought it would. One of the number one things I’ve learned from experience in recording is that things generally don’t work out always the way you planned.

Second, I start thinking about recorders and a mixer if I need one. If I’m doing something really loud, then Sound Devices is always king as a recorder. The Sound Devices preamps and limiters are incredible for loud things. I’ll do a track count as well, and if I’m doing a two-channel recording, then I’ll bring a 702T recorder, or a 744T. You can use a 744T with up to 4 channels; you just need a mixer to go with it.

Power is next and having more then enough power is very important. A battery might die quicker than you thought. Also, you might have planned on doing a 2-hour recording, but you could find more material to record and need 6-hours of recording capacity to really capture everything.

I always take: Extra cables, TA3F extra adapters for the 7 series recorders, mic stands and wind protection.

John: What about the setup for recording fireworks and firecrackers in the field?

Colin: If I’m doing a bigger rig then I’m going to need close mics, medium mics, far mics, lots of Shotgun mics pointed directly at the sound and then a few mics away from the sound to grab reflections. Also, dynamic mics are a must! You can put dynamics right up to your firework source without too much worry. I always bring a Shure SM57, or a Beta 57, and I bring a MD421. The SM57 I can treat as a disposable mic, but I’m a little more cautious with my MD421. Included in this mic mix is a pair of 416s and I bring one of my favorite new mics the CS3E, which is very directional and can pick up a good crack from a firework. I usually bring a stereo mic like a Sanken CSS-5 as well.


John: In regards to your blog, What interested you in getting your blog started? And how has it been beneficial to you?

Colin: Being a sound effects recordist for me started as just a hobby. I would record for my own personal library and collect sounds, which is fun… it’s exciting to use my own sounds in a project. But then I started talking to my mentor and she suggested I get a blog started to create a buzz around my work and to make more connections in the Industry. I released the first version of my blog in January of 2010.

After I started with a few blog posts, I began to notice more recordists on the web with their own personal blogs and I started to connect with them on Twitter and we would start following each other. I started getting featured on a few blogs and really started to build some momentum.

Then, in August of the same year, I decided to start a sound effects company and offer my own sound libraries online. I saw a lot of guys were doing it and I didn’t think it would be too hard for me to start. Of course, I was wrong, and it became a lot more work than I thought it would be. I’m the Webmaster of my own site and that was a big challenge getting started. But, by November, I had two libraries up; and things were starting to move. Miguel from Designing Sound has really helped me out a lot too by featuring me in the “Independent Sound Libraries” section of his blog. At first it was difficult to come up with more then one blog post a month, but I recently brought on another recordist and editor to help me out. We started really hitting things hard and he makes life easier by editing a lot of SFX, which frees me up to record more and manage the site. It’s allowed me to be able to offer up to two blog posts a week.

With support from Designing Sound and now with Twitter, I’m getting between 10,000 and 15,000 page views a month. I started with Google Analytics, but I recently started using a Premium Sound Cloud account that has more advanced statistics. I put up one blog post and was getting hits from more than 54 countries. It really has been a great communication tool for me as an independent recording artist.

Check out Colin’s blog and SFX libraries at his main site:


Frequency Range Variations for SFX

ProTools HD-Control 24s

Mixing my SFX session on ProTools HD-Control 24s, in the 5.1 Surround Sound Lab.

One of the techniques I’ve learned from Sound Designer, Steve Smith, is to give multiple frequency ranges for SFX. I.E., when assembling the sounds for an impact of a body fall, always be sure to have a Low, Med, and High-end sound effect option on separate tracks, and mixed together as one sound. Not only does having a wider range of frequencies give fullness to a sound effect, it allows the mixer options if they have competing frequencies in the Music, Foley, SPFX, etc.

I.E., if the music has a low-end drum part at the same time as your low-end body fall, you’re likely to see your SFX cut, because of a doubling of Low-end frequencies that will end up clouding the final mix. If you give frequency rich Low,Med, and High-end sounds on multiple tracks, you give the Mixer variety to use the Med and High-end part of your Impact, which will give you a greater chance of hearing your SFX in the final mix.