September 23, 2018

Come on Irene

This past week, Hurricane Irene brushed up against the coast of Florida. There were a few small spin-off storms and whatnot, but it pretty much missed Florida altogether. I still wanted to head to the coast to try to record something though, so I packed up and jumped into the car with my recording buddy, Josh (Twitter: @JoshuaGladu), and we headed over to Cocoa Beach to see what it was like out there.

We drove through some pretty nasty storms on the way out, but to our surprise, it wasn’t even raining in Cocoa Beach when we got there. The sky even cleared up enough to see the sunset.

I knew the waves were going to be pretty big, and I was excited about recording those. I wasn’t quite sure what the wind would sound like, but I thought it might make some cool whistling sounds, and I made sure to come prepared to use extra wind protection for my mics! A quick tip – if you are using a Rycote WS4 or smaller system, or comparable Sennheiser system, the RØDE Dead Wombat fits perfectly over your existing “dead cat”, allowing double wind protection! Keep in mind it will muffle the sound a bit more, but I was able to use this in 50mph+ wind gusts with no problem.

I made sure to weatherproof everything I brought – the 702T went in a ziplock zipper bag, with the only opening being zipped snug around the cables. I then put the 702T in my Petrol with a rain cover on it. It could rain sideways and I’d be fine! Not taking any chances… Before I put on the wind protection (as described above), I covered the zeppelin in a layer of plastic wrap (saran wrap or similar). As long as you have snug-fitting wind protection over the plastic wrap, it won’t make any crinkling noises. I know I lost a slight bit of the high end response from everything covering the mic, but I’d rather do that than risk damage to expensive equipement.

So anyways, Josh and I went out to the beach to check out the surf. It was pretty furious out there (especially for this part of Florida), but we wanted a better perspective, closer to the big waves braking further out in the surf. We saw the pier about a mile up the beach and decided to head up there.

I was surprised at how many people were still at the pier (not your normal pier – it has bars and a restaurant, etc… on it). I guess I’m not the only one that likes watching mother nature :-). Anyways, we geared up and headed up the pier. We noted a few spots we wanted to record from, but most of them still had too many people still to get a clean recording, so we headed out to the end of the pier. There is a bar at the end, but I figured the surf would be loud enough out there to drown out the sound of most of them. I was wrong… Drunk people are loud! (And what’s with everyone always thinking my microphone is a camera? “Hey, can you put me on the news!?”) So we went back to the car and grabbed a pair of boom poles so we could get the mics further from the people and closer to the action. Bingo! It worked. A few storms rolled through as well, driving a bunch of the people away. Sounded much better, plus, I could pick up more of the low end of the waves crashing now that I got a better perspective.

Here’s what it sounded like: (CSS-5 into a 702T @ 24/96)

I like how you can hear some distant wind and waves in there. Makes for a nice, rumbly fill behind the waves crashing. You can also hear the waves hitting multiple pilons in a sort of rhythmic pattern as they go by.

We also stopped by this little staircase that led down into the water. I suppose it would be somewhat useful to someone had it not been 100 feet from shore… but it was useful to me today! I walked down as low on the staircase as I could without getting pounded by the waves and extended my boom pole out under the pier. Since we were closer to shore, there was a lot of noticeable undertow. The undertow was so strong that it was actually forming waves that were travelling and crashing backwards! Never seen that before… They sound cool though, sort of adding a trickling effect under the rest of the waves. I also like the complexity of the crashes because of all the pier supports.

Soon after this moment I had a small mishap… Everything was dripping wet at this point. Remember all that weatherproofing I did before? Well, apparently I forgot to check the condition of the O-rings on my XLR connectors, and one of the connectors on the boom pole started leaking, leaving me with a lovely static crackle. Ugh… the one think I didn’t thing of. Next time, I’ll be sure to tape up any external connections to make sure water doesn’t get in. No permanent damage done, but I needed to switch out cables before I could continue recording.

Overall, we had a blast on the trip – the wind felt great, and the whole pier was rocking from all of the massive waves hitting it. I wish there was a little more weather to record – winds weren’t much over 30mph, and there was barely any rain. Next time…

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