Adventures in the Field, Volume 2: Snowboarding

November 14th, 2012

While we were working on the skateboarding game back at Free Range Games, we were hoping it would take off and they’d ask us to do a snowboarding game (it didn’t, but as a stopgap we ended up making SummitX Snowboarding on our own).  Since the project would have likely happened in the summertime, I opted to make a huge sacrifice for the team and spend a lot of time up in Lake Tahoe recording snowboarding sounds during the winter.  I needed to get a gamut of various terrain types from the corduroy and packed powder of ski run groomers to spring corn to the neck deep powder of the backcountry and even loathesome sheets of ice and rocks.

Fortunately, I’m a much more competent snowboarder than I am a skateboarder, so I would be able to capture the sounds myself.  The challenge here was how to get quality sounds of the board carving through various snow types with minimal (and ideally no) wind. I decided to try two methods simultaneously and see what worked.  First off, I bought some little windscreens for my Core sound binaural mic.  I attached this to an Edirol R-09 stuffed into my pocket.  Over the course of several sessions, I experimented with several mic placements: taping them to the back of the board on either side (facing backwards to minimize wind), strapping them to the top of my boots, and taping them to the middle of the board on the left and right. I coupled this with a Zoom H2 with a windscreen stretched over the mics held in my hand as low to the ground as I could get it. Again, not the best quality recorders, but with a high impact sport like snowboarding I was only willing to risk my equipment so much!


Between the two, over a course of many days, I was able to get some decent sounds across multiple types of terrains.  (The schedule was a scant 2 months, so we ended up forgoing terrain types.  I experimented with changing the terrain based on altitude from powder to packed powder to ice, but it didn’t work very well without a visual or physical change to the terrain). I found the best results actually came from the mics on the inner (wind-protected) side of the binding and holding a recorder low behind me with the mic facing up the mountain (and thus away from the wind direction).

The bulk of what ended up in SummitX Snowboarding was from a bluebird day doing backcountry with my friends Sati and Melody Shah on Rose Knob Peak, near Mt. Rose in North Lake Tahoe.  It was perfect powdery spring conditions with very little wind.  We did see some bear tracks, but fortunately, no bears! To get the sound of your board riding over rock, rather than sacrifice my board, I ran the edges over a stone mortar and pestle and the results worked pretty well. The turns, carves, and powerslides were taken from some of my other recordings, and I made soundsets for more of the planned terrains, which have yet to see the light of day. For the snowboarder movement including clothing, boot sqeuaks and binding creaks, I recorded those in the comfort and relative quiet of my apartment, using Mackie Onyx pres and a Neumann TLM 193.

Here’s a composite from the game:


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