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F16 Maneuvers SFX Library – Behind The Sounds

Behind the sound of F16 Maneuvers SFX library

This past week has been an exciting week for us, because of the release of F16 MANEUVERS – a sound effects library which contains single jet high-speed passes and maneuvers, captured with traditional mics and contact microphones, as well as formation flights, designed with Sound Particles 3D software. In this behind-the-sounds post, we’re shedding some light on where we found this powerful machine, with what gear we recorded it, what drove us to record aircraft sounds with traditional and contact microphones and what you can do with those takes in terms of sound design. Let’s talk about all that!

A few months back

Past summer we got a chance to record Fighter Jet sound effects during an international airshow, held near our hometown. The event included formation flights demonstrated by six Aero L-39 jets and Fl 100 RG aircrafts, APACHE and HUEY Helicopters, some smaller single-propeller planes, the most famous among which was a United States Air Force F16 Falcon Fighter!


Recording aircraft sounds during an international airshow, held at Kavala (Greece)

Even though our original goal was to capture sounds of all the performing aircrafts and helicopters in the show, we ended up recording F16 sounds only – And that’s a whole different story we will probably share in a future blog post 🙂

Listen to the audio preview of F16 Maneuvers Library

Behind The Scenes

The event lasted three consecutive days, each one on a different location. Therefore we had the opportunity to test-use different mic-setups and techniques, depending on location and weather conditions. So, we packed all our microphones, portable recorders and accessories – a pair of AKG C314 and Oktavas MK012, two Oktava Figure 8 capsules, a Shure SM57 dynamic mic, the Sennheiser MKH8060 short shotgun, our Baby Ball Gags with their windscreens, the Rode Blimp with a Dead Wombat Windshield and both the Zoom F8 and H6 recorders.

By that time, the least “valuable” piece of equipment, we thought, had proven to be the contact microphone. After all, our aim was to capture the ambience around the aircraft maneuvers, as we knew we wouldn’t be granted any access to any of the aircrafts due to high security.

Recording F16 aerobatics performance with a pair of AKG C314
Waiting for the F16s to come. Microphone setup:
AKG C314 matched pair in ORTF configuration
Oktava MK012 omnis in spaced pair (A/B)
Recording F16 high-speed passes and maneuvers during an international airshow at Kavala’s harbor (Greece). Microphones used:AKG C314 matched pair in ORTF configuration
Oktava MK012 omnis in spaced pair (A/B)

The first out of three shows we almost missed (!), due to a last minute relocation that was ordered for safety reasons, but other than that, it was an overall wonderful experience. The sounds created by those powerful machines were something quite extraordinary and our ears would be ringing long after the show was over! We really felt like the skies were being ripped apart as these beasts flew over our microphones (sometimes at a very close proximity), and the earth shook as if by an earthquake at the sound of their turbines. The most impressive part, however, was the variety of sounds coming from up above, different every time with every dive and every maneuver… No words could do it justice … It was a truly exceptional experience!

Holy cow, it looks like he’s going to hit us!
Aerobatics, right over our head!

It was in that moment, after witnessing those impressive low flights that we came up with the idea of attaching a contact mic to a stationary object, to capture all the low- tone vibrations created by the carefully choreographed routines of the F16.

Contact Mics – A Great Sound Design Tool… After All!

And so we did. The stationary object we chose to use was our car! First we had to find a spot that gave us access to all the good sounds. After moving the car to the preferred location, we attached a Schertler Basik electracoustic microphone to the left door, as seen in the photo below:

This approach gave us some pretty good, unique drone takes that can be used to create original sounds and/or can be layered with the existing F16 recorded samples, found in the library, to create some very interesting eerie textures. Some of the sounds created layering the contact microphone takes with the F16 pass by recordings can be found below:

Capturing F-16 high speed passes with traditional mic and contact mics wired in a nearby car

Of course, there are innumerable ways you can use such material in your sound designs. Here, we layered them with a few other vehicle pass-bys, as shown below:

Or you can use them as a source material to design some newly, complex ones.

Aftermath

If we could have done one thing differently, that would be to use an additional portable recorder or mic in order to capture some indoor sounds as well, by placing them inside the car. Or at least, attach another mic on the car window…

We will be better prepared next time! We may even throw our newly purchased H2a hydrophone mic into the sea or in a water bucket and see what happens!

We hope the above examples inspire you to go have fun with contact microphones. Attach them to your car while revving the engine, to a container filled with debris, to a window, take them outdoors just to record city traffic or rainfall, place them on various machinery (just like we did on Analog Days or Vintage Telephones libraries)  to record the detail of the inner mechanisms or simply bring them with you to a basketball game to record balls bouncing, footsteps and thumping.

Sky’s the limit here.

Thanks for reading!