Hi Rick, please introduce yourself and the Tesla SFX library project:
My friends say I am a “bordering-on-mad audio geek” that just can’t stop recording sounds. I’ve been doing it my entire life. I started my career in broadcast sound design. After working in New York City for 10 years, I launched my own sound design studio. As I expanded into game and audio-for-video/film projects with companies like Disney, American Express, Hewlett-Packard and Starbucks, I was constantly trying to up my game with original and unique sounds to use as starting points in my sound manipulations. That’s how I started recording my own sound effects. It quickly became an obsession.
Quite a few people have mentioned that recording an electrical car is challenging because it hardly makes any noise. How did you go about doing it?
It all started when a buddy noticed the motor and servo noises his Tesla Model S made when he ran a recent software update. He invited me over to record those sounds and of course I couldn’t let it go at just that so we took the car out of a spin. After that, I set up several more sessions with other Tesla models to gather more interior sounds such as door opens, turn signals, trunk slams, and dashboard alerts.
It all started when a buddy noticed the motor and servo noises his Tesla Model S made when he ran a recent software update
Then someone mentioned that a Tesla might be a great way to capture various wheel and tire sounds without worrying about the bleed of engine noise … so we found several out of the way spots to record a Tesla driving on different road surfaces. After recording hours and hours of raw sound the collection just grew and grew.
Given the number of recordists out there, why do you think it’s taken so long to capture that Tesla sound?
My guess is planning to record a “quiet” car isn’t the first thing that a sound effects recordist thinks of. I must admit it sure wasn’t first on my list.
A small example of what’s included in the Tesla SFX library
What sort of planning did it take to record the sounds you wanted? And what’s your recording setup?
It was interesting trying to find the right technique for recording the drive motors. They are of course very quiet. Using A TASCAM HS-P82 and multiple microphones, including a contact mic, I was able to capture some very interesting sounds of the motors. For the location sessions where we recorded the drive-bys and tire sounds, we set up the HS-P82 again, along with a Sound Devices 702 and a H6, using a matched pair of Schoep CMC6 mics, Earthworks MC30s, a Sennheiser 8040 and a Sennheiser 416.
It also took some effort to get our hands on the Tesla Model X. It was worth it though… the sounds of its gull-wing doors are amazing
It took some scouting to find the locations to record the road sounds. It was important to find spots with as little as traffic as possible and out of any aircraft flight patterns. It also took some effort to get our hands on the Tesla Model X. It was worth it though… the sounds of its gull-wing doors are amazing.
What’s one of your favorite sounds from the Tesla?
I personally love all the motor sounds. The sound of the drive motors torqueing up can be used for so many different sound design cues like sci-fi or robots. I also love the drive-by tire sounds on the various road surfaces. You get the sound of the tires with absolutely no engine noise. That’s going to make sound replacement a lot easier for editors.
Any surprises from the recording sessions?
We got a big surprise when we were on a remote stretch of road recording various tire movements. In the distance, I heard a strange rhythmic sound in my headphones. I looked up to see an entirely different kind of “horsepower.”
Out of the blue came a couple of ranchers in a horse-drawn wagon. They were nice enough to stop and let me record a few takes of the wagon and horses passing by. I try to never miss an opportunity to record new sounds.
Do you have any tips to share for other recordists who are looking to record electric vehicles?
Be patient and find the right mic and position to record each sound you are going after.
Just remember that while electric cars are much quieter than conventional automobiles, they still create an audio environment
What about people who are looking to add the sound of an electrical car to the project – any recommendations for them, in terms of how to use the sounds for maximum effect and/or realism?
Just remember that while electric cars are much quieter than conventional automobiles, they still create an audio environment.
If you are trying to make a scene with an electric vehicle authentic you should have the subtle sounds that an electric vehicle makes.
With the growing number of electrical cars in the future, what sort of challenges do you think that’ll pose for vehicle recordists?
It takes a bit of a different mindset to record electric vehicles. The quieter audio makes it even more important to start with a quality audio recording chain and record in a very quiet environment. The good news is that I don’t have to worry about burning cables while mic’ing the exhaust. I did that while recording a vintage Ford Mustang.
Now that the project is complete, perhaps you can answer the question: What does a Tesla really sound like?
I hope that after listening to the Tesla Electric Car SFX demo, everyone can answer that question for themselves :)
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