February 15, 2019

Gators, Part Deux!

[UPDATE: For anyone having trouble viewing the SC player, here is a link to a Set of the sounds on SC: SoundCloud]

It has been a busy season! Things are finally starting to calm down a bit around here, so the blogging should be a bit more consistent!

About 9 months ago, the HartFX team headed over to Gatorland to try to get some gator sounds. We were able to get some jaw snaps, hissing, and some decent ambience – and we managed to feed a Rode Blimp to a hungry gator (most definitely not on purpose…). The sounds we ended up with weren’t really anything exciting though – a bit of a let down (considering the work that went into getting them). While we were there the first time, the lead “Gator Trainer” told us to come back in March – during mating season – if we wanted to grab some really crazy sounds. So we did.

I’ve been to Gatorland a few times, so I knew exactly where I wanted to go – straight to the breeding marsh. The breeding marsh is home to several hundred gators, all of which are fairly large – ranging from 6 feet to 12 feet long. This is where the gators are encouraged to mate and breed. That is why I’m there – it’s mating season – which means the gators will be bellowing. Bellowing is where a gator raises it’s head and tail out of the water, fills it’s lungs with air, and then forces the air out in a way that causes a violent vibration. This vibration creates a horrifying sound – two sounds actually. The first one is around 9 – 10 hertz, and causes the alligator’s back to shake. This infrasonic frequency causes the water all around the gator to do a little dance. That sound transitions into a very audible sound from the gator’s throat.

Here is a recording of one of the bigger gators bellowing. It’s an insane sound, and every gator sounds a little different. (Recorded with a Neumann KMr81i into a Sound Devices 702T at 192/24).

Here is a second recording. It is similar to the first one, but the gator made a different vocalization at the end

I have created a contest around the next sound! If anyone can guess the correct microphone / recorder that this next sound was recorded with, I will give them a free collection of the alligator sounds! I’ll keep the contest open for the next week or so, and if nobody has guessed it correctly by then, I will reveal the answer! Leave your guesses in the comment section below!

So this is a recording of the ambience of the breeding marsh. As I mentioned before, the breeding marsh is full of giant gators. All around it are thousands of birds that nest there every year (usually Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Anhingas, Ibis, and Storks.) The birds tend to nest there because the gators keep away the birds’ natural predators (mostly raccoons, snakes, and bobcats – all of which make good gator snacks!). It just so happens that gator mating season lines up pretty nicely with the time of year when all the baby birds are hatching. All of this going on at once causes quite a symphony of sounds! Some might call it a cacophony, but I think it’s a bit soothing 🙂 What do you think?

I had previously posted these sounds on Facebook and Twitter, and I have gotten quite an overwhelming response from people who would like to purchase the sounds, so I am looking at building a small gator library. I am currently planning some more trips to record a bit more material. The library will be small because of how difficult it is to get decent recordings, but I think the individual recordings will be quite valuable to any sound designer out there. More info on that soon, so stay tuned!

Bonus Bellow:

Side note: Out of curiosity and my need to always be learning new things, I’ve started playing around with Adobe Audition (CS5.5) as a sample editor. While I don’t quite like it’s multitrack features (I’ll give it some time to grow on me), and the way it handles files (destructively – doesn’t make copies – can’t find an option to do that yet, so I’ve been doing it manually) – it’s editing features are interesting. So these files were edited in Audition, and I plan on editing the entire library in Audition. Should be a learning experience!


  1. Can you give the direct link to the sounds on Soundcloud? I just can’t get these in-line Soundcloud players to work most of the time, I’ve tried both Safari and Chrome on the Mac, and they just don’t show up. Maybe it’s a Flash thing…

  2. Simon Lebel says:

    For this little contest, I guess this sound was recorded with a Sanken CSS-5 stereo microphone into a SoundDevices 702T.

  3. Very nice article Colin. The bird track you have in the background is actully really cool too. I’d say that you recorded those with your Sanken css5 into a 744t, just to be different from Simon.

  4. I’m just going to throw a guess out there for the BG recording, I think it was done on a Sony PCM-D50 with the built in mics.

  5. Olympus LS-10!

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