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    Recording electricity - sparks, arc's


    Hi there

    I am looking for tips on how to record powerful electricity noises - strong sparks, arc's, and the likes.

    Some points from the top of my head that I am seeking advice on:

    - How to avoid or deal with interference between the recording equipment and electric source that's being recorded? Is this a matter of keeping your distance? For instance, I would love to be able to hold a microphone as close as I can to sparks etcetera, to get a nice, up-and-close, clean recording.

    - On a similar note, how likely is it that in a situation described above (me trying to get as close to the source as I can, whilst holding a portable recorder and a microphone), this creates arc'ing between the equipment and the electric source?

    - On a creative note: how can one safely create lively sparks and other electrical noises? I imagine I would certainly have to do a recording session together with an electric engineer who knows what to do to create all sorts of varied noises from electric devices, cables, etcetera - without being electrocuted in the process...

    - What kind of clothing would be advisable for a session like this?

    - If anyone here has a bit of knowledge about sound equipment... Would there be a difference in using for instance solid state SD card recording devices, or devices with a hard disk, or something else?

    - Would I need specially uber shielded cables?

    - Microphone choices... Condenser microphones rely on a fixed constant voltage across the plates (48V phantom power, powered by the recording device). Dynamic and ribbon mics are different in that respect - is this something important to consider?

    Or perhaps synthesizing these kind of sounds is a more effective approach?

    Thanks very much

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    HWS_BASIC
    Or perhaps synthesizing these kind of sounds is a more effective approach?

    Synthesis is a lot safer and can sound very realistic ... http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=52597

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    You could try spark plugs, arc welders arc lamps etc without any danger.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spark_gap#Visual_entertainment

    Or make a Jacob's Ladder

    http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-Jacobs-Ladder-1/

    http://www.freesound.org/packsViewSingle.php?id=1186

    "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." Douglas Adams
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    Benboncan
    You could try ... arc welders arc lamps etc without any danger.

    Except from eye damage if you look at the weld arc without eye protection,
    electric shock if you touch the weld rod, not to mention the fire hazard from sparks & molten metal.

    So apart from risk of blindness, electrocution and burns there is no danger at all. :roll:

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    Yes should have added "with supervision from someone familiar with welders" for the welder I suppose. I forgot we are in a bubblewrap society. Sorry Mr HSE.

    "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." Douglas Adams
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    I suppose if you'd put your equipment in a Faraday cage, it'd be safe and possibly cut down any interference that way too. But I would mostly advise to find professional advice on this. Idk, I see MythBusters all the time in lightning labs.

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    Whatever you do, make sure whatever it is relatively low voltage, and certainly VERY low current. If you must record sparks or arcs close to the source, with a chance the arc will intersect with the equipment, I personally would use crap equipment that I didn't care about getting hit with a charge. There is no point in using a nice Schoeps microphone for this kind of work.

    Sometimes less exciting sources sound more exciting that the real thing. Here is a noisy ballast from my basement that I did for a sample request:
    http://www.freesound.org/usersViewSingle.php?id=230160&start=30

    Single spark events sometimes sound pretty lame. Just like the discussion around here on gunshots, the real thing often doesn't measure up to hollywood or our imaginations on how the real thing sounds.

    Another neat source is older Train Set transformers. Usually they are more hum than sparky, but they definitely have a electricity sound to them. Similarly, slot car race sets would sometimes have a transformer noise issue, and you can also get small sparks from lifting and touching the cars on the track completing the circuit.

    I am more than a little too careful, so I do not suggest trying to get close lightning recording under any conditions. (Not with you holding the rig or having it plugged into the circuit of your house anyway.) That has bad-news written all over it.

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    lonemonk
    Single spark events sometimes sound pretty lame. Just like the discussion around here on gunshots, the real thing often doesn't measure up to hollywood or our imaginations on how the real thing sounds.

    Yeah, loud sounds often yield weak results. It's because your equipment doesn't have the same dynamic range as your ears, so to record a loud sound, you need to turn the volume down. By doing so, you only really record the peak and everything around it, such as reverberations, are gone. I was taught at film school, if you want to record a loud radio, turn the radio down, you can make it louder in the studio, while a recording of a loud radio lacks the finer detail you'd want.

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    You can also record the electrical field instead. Look for VLF (like in http://www.vlf.it ) stuff on the web.

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    Well as far as synthesizing it goes FM synthesis is where you would start. Get an algoritm where all operators are linked through eachother. This gives you the best chance of good noises. Set the pitch to the same for all operators, and set the volume envelopes differently to get a feel for the sound. Then it is just experimenting wildly until you get a sound you like. And btw never ever underestimate the impacts accidents in synthesizing has. What sounds crap can turn into gold with just a right tweak at the right spot.

    Best regards Johan Brodd

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