Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to spend a day at the track many, many years ago? Pick your favorite era… would you give almost anything for the chance to be transported back in time, even if only for a few moments, to completely immerse yourself in the experience?
While visual records like photographs, films, and videos are certainly wonderful ways to enjoy the past, they still lack that “immersive” quality that takes you back to that very place at that very time. But sounds, recorded and played back properly, can do just that.
Here at IndianaRacing.net, one of our goals is to somehow capture and share with our members the experience of attending an event. We do our best to take photos of course, and while we’d love to find a way to capture and replay the feeling of the sun on our shoulders, the sweet taste of a cold beer, or the smell of exhausted racing fuel wafting through the air, we’ll just have to rely on our imaginations for those things. However, we’ve been delighted to find that with a little modern technology, we’re able to create very accurate sound recordings. Recordings that are in fact, just like being there.
The device we use to create our recordings is the Sony MZ-RH10 Hi-MD MiniDisc Recorder. Just 3-1/4″ x 3/4″ x 3-3/8″ and weighing only about 5 ounces, the recorder is ultra-portable and can record a little over 90 minutes of high-quality uncompressed Linear PCM audio on Sony’s new 1Gb Hi-MD minidiscs (and up to 45 hours on a minidisc using compression).
The microphones we use are the Sound Professionals SP-TFB-2 in-ear binaurals. These omnidirectional microphones are capable of producing extremely accurate binaural recordings because they are actually placed at the opening of each ear. This allows us to create recordings that sound incredibly spacious and realistic. Listeners will literally hear what we heard when we were there.
To create the cleanest recordings possible without overloading the microphones or the recorder’s internal pre-amplifier, we also use the Sound Professionals SP-SPSB-1 Slimline Battery Module. This allows us to utilize the recorder’s line input.
After the event, the recordings are easily transferred to a computer via USB cable and Sony’s SonicStage software. The files are converted to standard uncompressed WAV files automatically. We then edit them and convert them to 128kbs MP3 files using Audacity (a free audio editing application) and the LAME MP3 encoder.
A few quick notes about editing: though our primary goal is realism, we do sometimes edit the files to improve the overall experience for the listener. For example, because of the extreme dynamic range of sounds at a race track, it can be very difficult to set recording levels correctly to capture both the very loud sounds of the cars and the quieter sounds of the track announcer on the public address system. In this case, and depending on the individual recording, we might amplify the sound of the announcer and compress the sound of the passing cars just slightly. However, we do not attempt to edit out all of the extraneous sounds: people talking, walking through the stands, coolers opening and closing, and all sorts of other miscellaneous noises. We want to capture exactly what we heard when we were there, and those noises are all part of the total experience.
If you have sound editing experience and can offer tips or suggestions to improve the quality of our recordings, please let us know.
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