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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Recording and working with sounds of thunder

Of all the weather and environmental sounds I’ve worked with over the years, by far the most exhilarating is the sound of thunder. I decided to write a few words about this today, because it’s thunder & lightning season here in Norway and I’m looking out the window every day, hoping for a chance to record some great thunder sounds.

It’s difficult to record good thunder sounds. First and foremost because thunder doesn’t occur every day or even every week, or month, so on that rare occasion when lightning and thunder do come to where you are, you need to be prepared. It’s no good being somewhere away from your recording equipment when those 15 minutes of thunder passes by. You need to be where your equipment is, and it needs to be charged, propped up, and ready to record.

Another reason why it’s hard to get good thunder sounds is the fact that during a thunder storm, it also tends to rain a lot. And the rain makes a lot of noise – which you may, or may not, want on your thunder recording. Therefore, being able to catch the sound of a lightning strike with thunder rumblewithout rain – is frustratingly hard! I’ve found that when a thunderstorm approaches, you may get lucky and catch a thunder crack or two before it starts to rain. As the clouds are coming in from the distance, if a lightning strikes a little bit away, it may be far enough so you don’t hear the rain, but close enough so you get a good, well defined, thunder sound. That’s one of those “once in every 5 years” sound recording opportunities.

The sound of thunder and thunder storms is strangely invigorating to listen to. I think it touches on something deep inside of us, some primal respect and fear for the massively powerful forces of nature. During a thunderstorm I will – besides having my microphones mounted and recording everything of course – just stand there, perplexed, listening to it and watching the lightning strikes, with some kind of fear, combined with joy, exhilaration, excitement, nerve, and a strange inner peace. I think it has this effect on other people too.

Besides just listening, thunder sounds and weather sounds in general are of course often used in media productions. When you hear lightning and thunder in a film, it’s never from the actual scene where the actors are playing out the story. It’s far too difficult to actually get a good sound recording of thunder, weather, wind sounds etc. at same time as worrying about everything else, the acting, the direction, the cameras, etc. So these sounds are always picked up from a sound effects library such as ours, and then added to the film in post production. The same goes with the sound fx you can hear in computer games and other types of production. These are the kinds of people who get their sounds from our sound effects website.

Here at 1SoundFX.com we’re lucky enough to work with many great sound recordists all over the world, so we have tropical thunder storms as well as Nordic/Scandinavian thunder sounds and some pretty close-up lightning sounds from England, plus several other places. Spend a few minutes just listening to our thunder sounds – I think you will enjoy it!

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