Pacific Northwest sound ambiences Asbjoern Andersen


Experienced sound designer and recordist Andy Martin is making big plans: He wants to capture the sounds of the Pacific Northwest in the US in a way it’s never been done before, and he’s planning on spending a year doing it. To make the project a reality, he’s just launched a Kickstarter campaign, and below he explains the idea and approach for this big project – and how you can help make it happen:
 

Hi Andy, please introduce yourself and the Northwest Soundscapes Project:

Hi Asbjoern! My name is Andy Martin. I’ve been a commercial, television, feature film, and video game sound designer for over fifteen years. My credits include video games such as Grim Fandango and the inFAMOUS franchise and animated TV and films such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

I’m also an active field recordist. In my work, I’ve always sought out the most unique recording sources I can. Since moving to Seattle in 2007, I’ve been slowly recording and documenting my way across the Northwest. Most of my recording trips have been for my own purposes and collection as I experimented with differing recording techniques, and were not planned for commercial use. Now I want to return to previous locations and explore new destinations to document them properly.

Andy packed and ready to go

Andy packed and ready to go

The Northwest Soundscapes Project is a year-long series of field recordings from the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The series is divided into two libraries: Natural Location Open Air Impulse Responses and Natural Soundscapes of the Northwest. The Pacific Northwest, or PNW, is an area that covers roughly just North of San Francisco to the Canadian border, from the ocean coast to the Eastern edges of Washington and Oregon. If you’ve ever heard the term “Cascadia”, it’s somewhat synonymous with the PNW. The focus for this project will be primarily in the states of Washington and north-central Oregon.

Rather than just being “another ambience library”, the Natural Soundscapes collection has three goals: 1) environmental variety, 2) length — up to 30 minute long individual recordings, 3) comprehensiveness — multiple times of day at every location, covering at least dawn, mid-day, and dusk.
 

How did the idea for the Northwest Soundscapes Project come about, and what’s your goal for it?

The idea originally came about on a lark and frustration. I spend a lot of time recording. While working on inFAMOUS Second Son I became enamored with bird recording. All of the birds you hear in the game were recorded within the city or over in Bellevue, WA, where our office is based. There was a lot of effort and use of isotope RX to clean up the recordings and make them useful, let me tell you!

As I spent more and more time learning about bird recording, I began making soundscape recordings in a way I’d never done before. For influence, I read Gordon Hempton’s “One Square Inch of Silence” — it’s in the PNW, by the way! — and Bernie Krause’s wonderful “Great Animal Orchestra”. They helped me realize that what I was listening to was not just a cacophony of wildlife calling out to each other, but a carefully orchestrated soundscape of voices working with and around one another and the landscape to survive. An orchestrated soundscape, by the way, that we humans are increasingly tone deaf to and that is under threat by every plane that flies overhead and every car that drives through.

Another deep influence has been Trevor Cox’s “The Sound Book”, a travelogue of sorts about acoustics both natural and manmade and about how our brains understand what they hear. His book helped me understand that it’s not just the voices of the wildlife working together that make up the sonic palette, but it also the landscape itself. There’s a “feel” to every location based on the particular structures, materials, their densities and shapes. The wildlife in Hempton’s and Krause’s books evolved to inhabit these locations and their voices make use of it.

It made me realize that capturing the soundscape of a place is more than just capturing the sounds over an extended period.

One day, while recording in the forests, I brought along a small bag of balloons (a lesson learned from “The Sound Book”) and burst one in the middle of a dense cottonwood forest. I took the recording home and immediately tried using it as an impulse in Audioease’s Altiverb. The result was… enlightening. While it wasn’t the best impulse in the world, it made me realize that capturing the soundscape of a place is more than just capturing the sounds over an extended period. It meant capturing the space itself. I arranged to haul a speaker out on my next trip and conducted some sweep-based reverb impulse captures and was hooked.

At that point the idea was set: I wanted to create a massive library containing a huge variety of open air impulse responses and natural soundscapes. How I was going to make that happen, and how I was going to share it with the world would be questions I had to answer.

How you can help make the project a reality:

Andy Martin has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to get the project off the ground. Get more details about it, and find out how you can help, here.

 

What’s so special about the Pacific Northwest in terms of sound – and what are some of the locations you’re looking to capture?

The PNW encompasses a vast variety of environments and eco-regions, from old growth forests with some of the tallest and most massive trees on earth to high desert plains of volcanic tuff, thundering ocean shores to quiet moss-laden secluded areas where you can hear your heart beat, tall mountain peaks to water-carved canyons.

To make this all the more magical, much of this is contained in protected National Parks and Forests, encompassing some of the largest tracts of undeveloped wilderness remaining in North America

It’s an area of North America with ecological and climatic extremes within a relatively short distance from each other. In a half-day drive you move from desert to glacier-covered volcano to dense forest to ocean.
To make this all the more magical, much of this is contained in protected National Parks and Forests, encompassing some of the largest tracts of undeveloped wilderness remaining in North America. This means they are also some of the largest tracts of open soundscape in North America with long, unbroken periods without anthropogenic — human-created — sound. Humanity being what it is, those periods are shrinking every day. Even without an ever-present onslaught of human sounds, the soundscape has still be irreparably harmed by human influence, from previous deforestation to loss of species that once filled out the sonic world even more than now.

The Columbia Platea

The Columbia Platea

With the dramatic changes in landscape and ecological regions comes the accompanying variety of wildlife and soundscapes. What we hope to capture with the Northwest Soundscapes Project is the variety of natural soundscapes as they are today to represent them in the future. With that in mind, it’s not so much the specific locations that we hope to record but the rich variety. Sure, we’ll be visiting and re-visiting a few specific locations such as Trout Lake, a natural refuge formed thousands of years ago when a glacial dam on Mount Adams burst, flooding the valley below, and the Columbia Plateau, known as a major destination for migrating birds.

We’ll also be visiting the remnant desolation of Mt Saint Helens, still trying to return to life thirty-five years after it erupted so cataclysmically. I’m particularly excited to make my first trips out to the Northeastern Rockies, the grasslands of the eastern-central Washington, and the Blue Mountains in central Oregon. Living in Seattle, these regions are normally too far away for me to take in on a day trip, and I usually spend my recording time in the Cascade Mountains and volcanos or in the Olympic Peninsula. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
 


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

Latest releases:  
  • House 01 – A virtual grab bag of normal. A complete house as a document. Doors, windows, more doors. Lots of perspectives and various strengths and positions of just about everything.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1598047199
    Add to cart
  • The All Metal sound effects library features 765 sounds of metal clashing, clanging and resonating as metal pieces are rummaged through, dropped, and tossed. Create with the various distinct sonic properties of metal objects — from squeaky gates, rattley wires, ringing wrenches, warbling sheet metal, clattering swords and more.

    Each sound was pristinely recorded at 192kHz with lots of variations for more creative freedom. Uncover the sonic treasures that await as you pitch and process the squeals, squeaks and moans of the metallic debris for limitless sound design opportunities. Strengthen your projects with the distinct buzzing, scraping and reverberation of metal impacts for both literal use and creative implementation as layers for intense sound design.

    Each sound file is embedded with diligent metadata to help you find the exact sound effect you need with fast, pinpoint search. Advanced metadata fields ensure compatibility across any database search platform such as Search by PSE, Soundminer, BaseHead, Netmix, Workspace (Pro Tools), Find Tool (Media Composer), Media Bay (Nuendo), Reaper, Adobe Premiere, and beyond.

    Key Features:

    • 765 sound effects (2GB)
    • 24 bit/96k, 24 bit/192k broadcast .wav files
    • Descriptive embedded metadata
    • 100% Royalty-Free

    Credits:

    • Saro Sahihi
    Add to cart
  • Chicago Ambisonics is a library of B-format city ambiences with “virtual microphone” software.

    Included software allows users to tweak perspective in real time for greater control and creativity. The Ambisonics format offers versatile use of the library, as the recordings can be decoded to mono, stereo, 5.1, 7.1 and beyond. The creative possibilities are endless!

    Featuring 35 high-quality urban ambiences (over 3 hours total), Chicago Ambisonics includes SurroundZone2 software by TSL Products that allows you to point “virtual microphones” any direction with a wide range of polar patterns. Unparalleled flexibility lets users match backgrounds with the specific setting of any scene.

    With more productions filming in Chicago than ever before, a Chicago sound effects library is an asset for any sound editor. Chicago Ambisonics features 24-bit/96 kHz city atmospheres captured all over Chicago including recordings from from Magnificent Mile, Chinatown, the L Train, West Loop, Kennedy Expressway, O’Hare International Airport, Lake View, & Wrigley Field.

    This library is also perfect for use in 3D Audio applications including VR experiences and 360º video – prepare your sound effects library for the future of immersive media! Pre-rendered stereo versions of all of the recordings are included as well.

    Key Features:

    • 35 pristine recordings in B-Format (FuMa) & Stereo (14GB)
    • Over 3 hours of immersive Chicago ambiences
    • Average recording length of 6 minutes
    • Diverse Chicago atmospheres: Including streets, parks, & subways
    • 24-bit/96kHz broadcast .wav files
    • SurroundZone2 software by TSL Products: Gives you full control over “virtual microphone” position and polar patterns
    • 100% Royalty-Free

    Notes:

    • Your DAW must support Quad (4-channel) tracks in order to use SurroundZone2 plug-in.
  • RAW CELLO FX features manipulated and mangled cello sound effects designed to provide the full character of the instrument and harmonic richness in order to create a completely unique set of organic samples between music and noise, intimate and vivid bold sounds expanding new possibilities out of this instrument.

    Different techniques and less-than-conventional microphone placement have been used to create gorgeous harmonics and a wide array of interesting sounds. We “played” with fingers and hands, different bows against the strings, objects and kitchen utensils, bowing, scraping or hitting single and multiple strings or parts of the wood body. 

    The collection features designed hits, bow, crescendo, screech, woosh, swell, bonus fx folder and is ready for trailer and soundtrack projects.

     

     

    Add to cart
  • This is a collection of old and modern doors.

    The collection includes wood doors , glass doors and metal doors recorded in an old theater , a cottage and an appartment.
    There are 124 files of slamming doors, doors opening and closing, creaking doors, doors handles and locks.

    Add to cart


Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

Any sounds or locations you’re particularly looking forward to recording?

Not to sound facetious, but all of it!

What I’m looking forward to most are locations that are far outside my normal range in the Cascade Mountain foothills. There’s a decommissioned nuclear missile base far out in the middle of Washington that I’ll camping at in May. It’s privately owned now and nestled way out in the prairie.

I’ve become enamored with coyotes calling during the night and listening to their voices echo and bounce around

While one doesn’t normally think, “nuclear missile base” and “natural soundscape”, the exciting part lays in its remoteness and that its centrally located to use as a basecamp for traveling up into the Rocky Mountains. Camping out in the middle of the prairie is exciting itself. I’m hoping to record a lot of coyotes and birds-of-prey on this trip. I’ve become enamored with coyotes calling during the night and listening to their voices echo and bounce around.

The Hoh Rainforest during winter

The Hoh Rainforest during winter

Also expect a lot of forest recording. From new forest to old-growth we’ve got a lot of it in in the PNW. Hardwood and softwood, deciduous and coniferous, it all reverberates differently when excited by a sine sweep, and it all sounds different when you sit down and listen.

Being able to really illustrate that for others is exciting to me.
 
 
 
 

What’s your recording setup for the project – and how do you plan on capturing the ambiences and impulses?

All Natural Soundscape recordings will be multi-channel recordings made with Sennheiser MKH and MKH8000 series microphones via a Sound Devices 744t recorder at 192khz sample rate and 24-bit depth. This is similar to current configuration, but with added channels! My regular go-to rig is a Sound Devices 702 with Sennheiser MKH30+MKH8020 microphones for stereo omni-mid-side recording. I really like the openness and spatiality of the omni-mid-side pattern, so will retain that for the front channels, adding an ORTF configuration of MKH 8040s for the rears.

All Natural Location Open Air Impulse Responses will be recorded with the same microphone configuration, but the 744t will act as a backup recorder, passing through via an AES digital connection to an interface on my MacBookPro laptop. I use Impulse Response Utility to playback and record the sweep through an Adam A8X speaker.
 

It’s a one-year endeavour – can you give an estimated timeline for the project?

The biggest hurdle is the Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it is successful, finishing the supplemental gear acquisition will occur during the month of April. After that it’s off we go! My goal is to have the first expedition ready by the end of April, but any delays in funding or acquisition could set it back to May.

Assuming it is successful, finishing the supplemental gear acquisition will occur during the month of April. After that it’s off we go!

Expeditions are generally set for the third week of every month, lasting 4-6 days depending on destination. Editing and mastering will commence immediately.

Deliveries will be rolled out to Kickstarter backers on a rolling basis as assets are completed. The final recording expedition will wrap a year later in April or May 2017 with the library complete in July 2017.
 

How can people help make the project happen?

Simple! By going to northwestsoundscapes.com! For the duration of the campaign, northwestsoundscapes.com will forward directly to the Kickstarter campaign page. After the campaign is complete, northwestsoundscapes.com will revert to a blog and travelogue for the project but will also have a storefront link for anyone who missed the campaign, offering the same early-bird buy-in discounts as the Kickstarter, but without the extra Kickstarter goodies (sorry!).

 

Please share this:


 

A big thanks to Andy Martin for sharing the story behind his ambitious new project. Help make the project a reality on the Kickstarter page here.

 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Badlands Sound went to the future to recorded 42 room tones of various spaces like computer rooms, engine rooms, bathrooms, and much more all in 24bit / 96k. We also recorded electrical buzzes and distorted sci-fi winds. More than 2 hours of futuristic room tones and ambiences included in total.

    83 %
    OFF
    Add to cart
  • BEAMS is a comprehensive toolkit for beam sound design. Sounds are separated into activation oneshot, activation/deactivation mechanism, and active loop categories. Each category contains subcategories for small, medium, and large beams. You can design anything from the smallest spy-watch laser cutter to a planet destroying column of chaos. As a bonus, you’ll also get a diverse collection of burning ignition sounds as source for beam environmental destruction.

    Add to cart
  • Footsteps Ultimate Footsteps Play Track 1176-3056+ sounds included, 237-610 mins total From: $160

    Need footstep sound effects? Get 5 Shoes, 25+ surfaces, 15+ variations – created by Foley Supervisor Joshua Reinhardt and professional Foley walker Lara Dale.

    Deep heavy metal, crunchy snow, old boat wood, crisp grass, gritty dirt, clean tile – this library has it all. Not only does this library contain walking but it's got pretty much every performance you can think of, from scuffs to jumps and lands and scrapes. With this library you can cut Foley for pretty much any film or game that comes your way.

    Highlights:

    • 17 different Performances – From slow walk to RUN, 5 scrapes, bodyfall/land, stomps and more
    • Every file is labeled with a description of the shoe, surface and performance type.
    • Every folder has a picture of the shoe and surface plus a description of the distance of the mic from the Foley walker.
    • Combine wood creak sweeteners with Ultimate Interiors wood for scary creaky wood or add grit to a clean interior to give character.
    • Same recording studio mics and preamps used in over 50 major motion pictures
    • Same boots that were used for Sylvester Stallone in The Expendable
    • Mix and match shoes, surfaces and sweeteners to make your own custom characters
    • Can be used as a stereo or separated and mixed/matched as a mono depending which mic works best for your project

    Specs:

    Foot wear type:
    Boots, Dress Shoes, Flats, Heels, Sneakers.

    Performances:
    Extremely Slow Walk, Medium Slow Walk, Walk, Jog, Run, Stairs Slow, Stairs Fast, Stomp, Land, Scuff, Scrape 1, Scrape 2, Scrape 3, Scrape 4, Scrape 5.

    Surface Types:
    Asphalt, Carpet 1, Carpet 2, Concrete, Hardwood, Hardwood house, Hardwood deep, Hardwood parquet, Hardwood boat wood, Hardwood Dock, Lino, Marble, Tile, Dirt, Grass, Metal grate, Diamond plate Metal, Metal Slab, Wood Creak 1 old, Wood Creak 2, Gravel, Rocks, SNOW!!, Puddle, Water shallow, Water Deep.

 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • House 01 – A virtual grab bag of normal. A complete house as a document. Doors, windows, more doors. Lots of perspectives and various strengths and positions of just about everything.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1598047199
  • The All Metal sound effects library features 765 sounds of metal clashing, clanging and resonating as metal pieces are rummaged through, dropped, and tossed. Create with the various distinct sonic properties of metal objects — from squeaky gates, rattley wires, ringing wrenches, warbling sheet metal, clattering swords and more.

    Each sound was pristinely recorded at 192kHz with lots of variations for more creative freedom. Uncover the sonic treasures that await as you pitch and process the squeals, squeaks and moans of the metallic debris for limitless sound design opportunities. Strengthen your projects with the distinct buzzing, scraping and reverberation of metal impacts for both literal use and creative implementation as layers for intense sound design.

    Each sound file is embedded with diligent metadata to help you find the exact sound effect you need with fast, pinpoint search. Advanced metadata fields ensure compatibility across any database search platform such as Search by PSE, Soundminer, BaseHead, Netmix, Workspace (Pro Tools), Find Tool (Media Composer), Media Bay (Nuendo), Reaper, Adobe Premiere, and beyond.

    Key Features:

    • 765 sound effects (2GB)
    • 24 bit/96k, 24 bit/192k broadcast .wav files
    • Descriptive embedded metadata
    • 100% Royalty-Free

    Credits:

    • Saro Sahihi
  • Chicago Ambisonics is a library of B-format city ambiences with “virtual microphone” software.

    Included software allows users to tweak perspective in real time for greater control and creativity. The Ambisonics format offers versatile use of the library, as the recordings can be decoded to mono, stereo, 5.1, 7.1 and beyond. The creative possibilities are endless!

    Featuring 35 high-quality urban ambiences (over 3 hours total), Chicago Ambisonics includes SurroundZone2 software by TSL Products that allows you to point “virtual microphones” any direction with a wide range of polar patterns. Unparalleled flexibility lets users match backgrounds with the specific setting of any scene.

    With more productions filming in Chicago than ever before, a Chicago sound effects library is an asset for any sound editor. Chicago Ambisonics features 24-bit/96 kHz city atmospheres captured all over Chicago including recordings from from Magnificent Mile, Chinatown, the L Train, West Loop, Kennedy Expressway, O’Hare International Airport, Lake View, & Wrigley Field.

    This library is also perfect for use in 3D Audio applications including VR experiences and 360º video – prepare your sound effects library for the future of immersive media! Pre-rendered stereo versions of all of the recordings are included as well.

    Key Features:

    • 35 pristine recordings in B-Format (FuMa) & Stereo (14GB)
    • Over 3 hours of immersive Chicago ambiences
    • Average recording length of 6 minutes
    • Diverse Chicago atmospheres: Including streets, parks, & subways
    • 24-bit/96kHz broadcast .wav files
    • SurroundZone2 software by TSL Products: Gives you full control over “virtual microphone” position and polar patterns
    • 100% Royalty-Free

    Notes:

    • Your DAW must support Quad (4-channel) tracks in order to use SurroundZone2 plug-in.
  • RAW CELLO FX features manipulated and mangled cello sound effects designed to provide the full character of the instrument and harmonic richness in order to create a completely unique set of organic samples between music and noise, intimate and vivid bold sounds expanding new possibilities out of this instrument.

    Different techniques and less-than-conventional microphone placement have been used to create gorgeous harmonics and a wide array of interesting sounds. We “played” with fingers and hands, different bows against the strings, objects and kitchen utensils, bowing, scraping or hitting single and multiple strings or parts of the wood body. 

    The collection features designed hits, bow, crescendo, screech, woosh, swell, bonus fx folder and is ready for trailer and soundtrack projects.

     

     

  • This is a collection of old and modern doors.

    The collection includes wood doors , glass doors and metal doors recorded in an old theater , a cottage and an appartment.
    There are 124 files of slamming doors, doors opening and closing, creaking doors, doors handles and locks.

 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.