The Devil’s Horsemen Recording

After a show had been cancelled at pretty much the last minute, Chris, Ryan and I, along with Ellie and Max, two students who were on placement with us from Guildhall School of Music and Drama, were looking for ideas of things to do that would, if nothing else, be interesting. A bit like now, only with the ability to actually do things and not always two metres apart.

I contacted John to see if he had any interesting recording sessions coming up that we might join in with. The premise from our side was to try some different techniques, particularly with radio mics, to see what might be interesting and theatrically useful.

John’s recordings always seem to have the knack of being perfect for the storytelling required in theatre. Frequently you are creating sounds that don’t have a visual reference, so you need to be clear with what the sound is and invariably get that sound in (and probably out) reasonably quickly. Very few shows will hold the story up in order for a sound effect to happen.

John was keen to do some horse and cart recordings and with amazing timing managed to secure a morning with The Devil’s Horsemen team.

So bright and early one May morning, we left the stores in Sussex with a van full of equipment. We’d borrowed the Sound Devices 702T and Zoom F8 through the ASD loan scheme and had a selection of mics along with a rack of Sennheiser D9000 radios.

We managed to set up the following combination of mics:

  • 2 x Sennheiser MKH 8060 mics with P48 adaptors on SK 9000 transmitters at the end by the turning circle
  • Zoom H5 with Neumann TLM 170/ DPA 4006A MS pair, although not in the correct Rycotes, so a bit further apart that we’d have liked
  • 2 x MKE 1 mics with SK 9000 transmitters rigged about 2.5m above the ground (high pair)
  • 2 x MKE 1 mics with SK 9000 transmitters rigged about 1m above the ground (low pair)
  • Sennheiser Ambeo mic was recorded on the Zoom F8. This was covered in wind noise and so the only useable recordings from this were some specific carriage noises we used at the end
  • DPA 4006A and a Neumann TLM 170 rigged as a mid-side pair recording into the SD 702
  • 2 x MKE 1/SK 9000 on the rear of each carriage
  • 2 x MKE 1/SK 900 on the shaft of each carriage

All the transmitters with MKE 1s were on a EM 9046 receiver rack. The two transmitters with P48 phantom convertors were on a EM 6000 receiver rack. These were all recorded using Dante into Reaper running on a MacBook.

The onboard carriage sounds have been made the same length so that takes can be combined if required. Some takes ended up mono as various mics ended up without a Rycote, so way too much wind noise. As we had to park at one end of the dirt road, the radio transmitters on the carriages went out of range as they turned at the far end, so they’ve been edited together to make a continuous track.

And Ellie ended up being the mic holder in the carriage with John’s ambisonic recording system! All in all, a great day out.

Huge thanks to John for organising the recording and for ‘debird’ing the library; to the ASD for the loan of the additional recorders; to Sennheiser for the loan of the Ambeo and to the incredible team at The Devil’s Horsemen.

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