January 19, 2018

Mortars and Microphones

About six months ago I purchased a ton of fireworks. Why? Because I like blowing things up. So combine that with a recorder and you have some awesome sounds. I never got around to actually using any of them until just last week, when I decided to bring a bunch of them out to a party at my friends house, which is in the middle of nowhere.

While at the party, we found this long drainage pipe and started throwing bottle rockets down it. The sound was absolutely amazing, and I decided that I needed to record the resulting sound. So a few days later, I returned with an arsenal of rockets, firecrackers, and my favorite, mortars. Armed with a Zaxcom Deva V and a locker of mics, my goal was to record thick, epic explosion sounds.

So we went out and recorded for about 4 hours. When we were on our last mortar (we only brought about 6 – cost about $10 per charge!) I said, “hey what would happen if I put the mortar in upside-down and lit it?” So I set up everything, got the cameras ready, found a good hiding spot, then hit record.

My friend, Mark, set up his camera to take a long exposure of the whole thing. This was hit result:

Click for full resolution - picture taken by Mark Hammer
(click for larger resolution)

Epic, eh? Wait till you hear the sound! Oh, BTW – we couldn’t find even a trace of the firing tube. Completely disintegrated!

Mics that were used:

MKH60 – Stand was about 10′ from the mortar, mic was 35′ in the air, aimed straight down.
CSS-5 – about 30′ from the mortar, 5 feet off the ground
MKH50 – about 15′ from the mortar, a foot off the ground

All recorded at 192k 24b straight into a Zaxcom Deva V.

Quick disclaimer about the sound: this is an edited sound, I did a little work to beef it up, but I only used the original sound. I did not add any sweeteners whatsoever!

Please feel free to download the sound. All I ask is that if you decide to use it in anything, you just let me know so I know where it goes :-)

Also, the sounds I collected from this session will be included in my upcoming library full of impacts and explosions over at HartFX! Stay tuned!


  1. Wow, that sounds freaking awesome mister Hart! I guess LowAir and some compression (+distorsion?) helped a bit, but it’s very beefy! Can’t wait for your next shots. Jed

  2. Colin, I love this sound! Did it leave a hefty crater in the ground? From the sound of it, I’m not surprised there was no trace of the firing tube! Looking forward to the library release. BTW, the photo is equally amazing.

  3. Matthias Fuchs says:

    Hi Colin, thanks for this wonderful sound! The bass is fantastic. Which mics did you use, and how many? How far did you place them from the explosion? Matthias

  4. this photograph is epic. really freaky. especially the fire trail that went straight by the camera. solid sound.

  5. Thanks!

    I wonder which of the mics picked up the bass so well. Is the Sanken that good? Or the MKH 50? Matthias


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shaun Farley, Colin Hart. Colin Hart said: New blog post! Mortars and Microphones! http://hartcol.in/hUjCjZ [...]

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