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Entries in Field Recording (36)

Monday
Feb042013

Field Recording in Cold Conditions

A cold wind is blasting your face. Your hands are shaking and your teeth are chattering. Your legs are caked in white powder from trudging through the high snow drifts. And you have not even set up the gear yet... It's going to be a long day.

On a field recording assignment there are a million things to think about, both technical and creative. Sometimes you also have to worry about the environment in which you are recording as well, specifically the temperature you can expect to be working in. Both hot and cold extremes call for special preparations if you want to have a successful session. Extreme heat might come with the humidity which can wreak havoc on electronic gear and the inner workings of microphones. Heat can also lead to human error as a result of dehydration or even heat stroke. Today I am going to focus on what I think is the more difficult weather extreme, and the effects freezing cold can have on a field recording session. Plummeting temperatures can create obstacles that are difficult to overcome.

Living in a area of the planet that gets pretty cold for a good part of the year, I have had to prepare to record in cold conditions many times. The first thing you will notice in frigid temperatures is that you'll get dramatically reduced lasting-power from from any battery-operated gear. The power-producing chemical reaction that happens in a battery depends on extremely fast moving ions - and cold temperatures prevent this process from being efficient. The cold effect on batteries is no joke, the difference is drastic. So cold temperature sessions require first of all a comprehensive battery strategy if you don't have access to plug-in power on the shoot. You'll need more batteries than usual and you will also have to keep your extra/back-up batteries warm until they are put to use. If they're already cold when you need them, then their performance will be even worse. This can be tricky to overcome if you don't have a heated place to store them until they are needed. Using your own body heat by keeping batteries inside your jacket is usually the best way to keep your spares warm until they are pressed into service. And make sure all your batteries are fully charged before you head out into the cold. A half-charged battery in normal temperatures is a dead battery in chilly conditions. I find that “AA” batteries are affected quite significantly by cold temperatures and will drain much faster than the lithium-ion batteries used in some recorders (for ex: the Sound Devices 7 series.) So think ahead and stock up on extra batteries and organize and charge them up the day before. 

So your spare batteries are being kept nice and warm in your inside pockets, but you want to keep the batteries that are in use as warm as you can too. This can be done by having blankets to wrap your gear in. The blankets help in two ways, shielding the gear from wind and falling snow as much as possible. If there's snow on the ground I find it's extremely helpful to bring along a smallish sled. The sled can be used to help you transport everything to your location through the snow. It can also be used as a dry work surface for your equipment set-up.

You will have to keep yourself warm as well. The answer here is layers. When you're running around setting up all your gear you will find things a lot warmer than when you are sitting still waiting for things to happen. Having the ability to drop and add warm layers will allow you to adjust as the day goes forward. Lined boots, gloves and a warm knit hat, or a toque as they are called here in Canada, are extremely important. Gloves can make operating gear difficult though. They can make clumsy work out of simple scroll dials and button pushes. I find that gloves with with exposed fingers and a mitten flap are great to use on a recording trip. These gloves keep you warm when you have the flap over your fingers but allow you to easily push small buttons and accomplish fiddly tasks with the flaps back and your fingers exposed.

Although these gloves are good for using gear with small buttons and dials, if you are used to using any touch screen devices on a shoot you are better to leave those gadgets at home. In general they do not perform exceptionally well in the cold, and your small motor skills deteriorate as the temperature drops too. It's hard to work an iPhone's keyboard if your hand is shaking in the cold. 'Smart' gloves, which have electro-conductive thread woven into them, are becoming popular, allowing you to use touch screens with your gloved hands, but I still think that in cold weather using a paper and pen for notes is much better than a tablet, since you won’t have to worry about the batteries failing with a pad of paper (although it is possible for the ink in the pen to freeze!) and if your notebook falls into a slushy puddle or a snowbank you can just wipe it off instead of crying all the way to the Apple store at the end of the day.

Human ears were not designed well for cold conditions. They stick out, basically defenseless against the elements. Your ears are among the first parts of the body likely be affected by frostbite (along with fingers and toes.) You have to keep them covered in sub-zero temperatures. Yet on a recording field trip your ears are the most important tool you have. How can you get the most out of your hearing if there is a dense layer of fabric between your ears and the sounds you are trying to record? There is no simple solution here. If the temperatures are very low and you are planning to be out in the cold for a long time you have to cover your ears to stay comfortable (no recording is worth messing with the functionality of your ears!) I find that in short stints you can get away with using your headphones as earmuffs. That will only work for so long though, since headphones are optimized for sound reproduction, not heat insulation. The best way to tackle this issue is to wear a warm hat with the headphones over top. This will affect the sound from the headphones but not so much that you don’t have a decent idea of what you are recording. Every couple minutes you can pop the hat off your ear and listen for a moment to make sure all is still good. With experience you will find that the hat is not much of an issue.

Another thing to think about when shooting in snowy conditions is the noise interference you yourself are going to create. Every move you make will be noisy. Synthetic jackets create a lot of cloth movement noise with every little body shift. The simple act of taking a photo on the fly will ruin a take as you fumble around through your gloves and big winter jacket, generating a blizzard of nylon swiffling noises. Nope, you must stay as still as possible... not fun (or easy) when freezing your butt off.

You will also find that in the snow, every step you take can be really loud. Snow is an amazingly complex-sounding substance. Sometimes it's crunchy, other times mucky, while still other times it can be fluffy or even glassy. The temperature of the air will affect what the snow sounds like: the colder it is the more dry crunchiness you will hear, but there are lots of other factors at play too: 

How deep is the snow? 

What surface is under the snow? 

Has it been compacted down in tire tracks or footsteps? 

Has any ice formed in the snow from a fast drop in temperature? 

Is there any slush as a result of a fast rise in temperature? 

Has the area been salted? (rock salt is spread on pavement to melt ice)

Depending on these variables, and many others, you get remarkably different sounding snow under your feet. Yet they are all loud and distracting unless "footsteps in snow" is what you are actually setting out to record. So for this reason too, you will be forced to stay still once you are rolling.

Another thing to plan for is acclimatizing your gear to the cold before you start rolling. This applies mostly to the microphone. Most shotgun microphones work very well in the cold (DPA tests their mics to -25°C or -13°F) but issues can crop up as the microphone itself cools down to the ambient temperature. So ideally you want to have the mic out in the cold for an hour or so before you start rolling. I have not always been able to follow this rule and have actually not noticed any problems, but if you have the time it is a good idea to plan for enough time to cool down the mic in advance. The main thing you want to do is keep the microphone as dry as possible. Since water expands when it freezes you really don’t want any moisture in the mic that will cause a problem. Humidity in a mic can also interfere with the electric activity in a condenser mic. This really comes into play if you have multiple transitions between warm and cold environments. Condensation can develop when you bring a mic in from the cold, and if moisture has collected in and on the mic you won’t want to bring it right back out to freezing conditions. To avoid this, try to find a place to put the mic for a bit that is somewhere between freezing and normal room temperature. Then bring it all the way in to normal temperature after a while. Normally the car ride back to the city is perfect for this. The car will slowly warm up over the drive home, making for a good transition. Any condensation that has formed will have a chance to evaporate.

Another tip I can offer is to avoid recording near your vehicle unless you have lots of time to set up. If you drive to your location in a car or even a snowmobile you will be shocked how long it takes for the vehicle to become silent. As the engine cools it will sizzle, ping, and pop for a lot longer then you'd think. The hood will give little metal flexes as it cools, water will drip down and melt the snow below the exhaust. Lots of other little noises will continue on well after the ignition is shut off. If you are there to record a chainsaw, then this will not be an issue. But if you are looking to record blustery winds or the delicate ambience of a winter wilderness you'll end up with an editing nightmare when you go to master the file back at your studio.

Winter conditions make for a fantastic recording environment if you have planned properly and come prepared. Specifically recording in nature. The blanket of snow covering everything acts as massive sound insulation system, dampening distant echoes. As a result the sound of deep winter is very different. And also eerily silent. The leaves are all off the trees, so the wind makes very little noise in the woods. The vast majority of the birds have flown south taking their daily chatter with them. When the wind is calm, standing in a northern forest can be as silent as the most expensive acoustician-designed floating recording booth. It can actually be a little disorienting when you find yourself surrounded by such an enveloping quiet - it's not something we city folk are used to. Yet these conditions can be perfect for a field recordist looking to record clean takes of explosions, firearms, or anything else that needs a wide open quiet space. 

Just remember to stay warm, keep your wits about you and bring a lot of batteries.

Finally, just be glad you are not recording on the ground in this picture, which I took while flying over Greenland.  I have no idea how cold it would have been down there but I am sure most of us are dealing with much more hospitable conditions!

Thursday
Jun212012

Learning to Record Vehicle SFX

In my years of field recording I have been lucky enough to capture some pretty awesome sounds, but one thing I've never really attempted to record is vehicles.  I have not been avoiding them entirely though; I have recorded automobile passes and exteriors (some of which can be found as a part of the Sound Collectors Club "Car Passes" collection). Yet I have never tried to do full coverage of a vehicle, using multiple mics to gather various aural perspectives simultaneously.  I've been meaning to tackle a vehicle recording session for a while but I guess I've never seen and had access to a particular vehicle that really caught my interest. That has all changed.  I have been in contact with the owner of an Argo, a 6-wheeled all-terrain amphibious vehicle, and I have been given permission to do a full recording of this strange machine.  

Here is a shot of the Argo I will be recording, with its owner John Beumer and his grandson Simon.

One look at the photo above and you will begin to get an idea of how peculiar this vehicle is.   First of all it has 6 wheels - not something you see every day.  The Argo provides continuous torque to all three axles, allowing the vehicle to be propelled forward even if only one set of wheels is touching the ground at any given moment - as is often the case in rugged terrain.  Secondly, it's amphibious, meaning you can drive it right off the shore into water; it will float and keep going on its way.  Once in the water it moves painfully slowly though, unless the Argo is outfitted with the kind of outboard motor a normal boat would have.  A third distinctive feature is the steering mechanism.  Instead of a steering wheel it has something called "skid steering".   The steering is operated by two hand levers that can activate brakes to stop the wheels on either side of the vehicle, causing it to pivot.  This means if you have all the wheels on the right side of the Argo turning forwards while simultaneously having all the wheels on the left side on full brake the whole machine can spin on the spot.

Needless to say I am really looking forward recording this thing.

Since I really don't know what I am doing with regards to vehicle recordings I figured I should do a couple of practice runs ahead of time, just to get a feel for the process and see if I can get some of the learning curve out of the way before I am under the pressure and time constraint of the Argo recording session.  The vehicle I currently have full access to is obviously my own car, a 2006 Toyota Matrix.

My plan for the real recording day will be to rent a Sound Devices 788T, so I can have several mics recording back into the same device, but for this exercise I used my Sound Devices 702, which has 2 record channels, so only 2 mics this time around.

This is where I have to 'fess up to a sad truth.  I know absolutely nothing about cars, even though I have had a license for nearly 20 years.  I never owned a car until I bought the Matrix, used, in 2011, and it's been running in perfect condition since, so I have never needed to do any real maintenance on it.  I live in a big city, right near a subway station, and parking downtown is always a pain in the butt.  Having a car in the city has never seemed to me to be worth the hassle.  As a result I never learned anything more than the basics of how a car works (foot on gas = go, foot on brake = stop).  Because of this ignorance I was especially nervous about wiring up expensive mics under the hood of my car, for fear of getting cables caught up in the mysterious workings of the engine, overheating a mic, or any other potential mistake I could make.  I have a matched pair of DPA 4060s which I hope to use on engines once I know what I am doing but I decided that for this first attempt it would definitely be a bad idea to put such prized/expensive mics to use.  Instead I opted for a Naiant X-S Miniature Omnidirectional Condenser mic I picked up a while ago.  These are quite inexpensive microphones and sound amazing given their price point.  Unlike the DPAs, if one of these got destroyed in some unexpected bungle I would not spend the rest of the month kicking myself.....  only a couple of hours...... tops.

So on a lazy weekend at the cabin I started to mic up my Matrix.  I chose to put to put mic #1 under the hood and #2 at the back of the car to record the tail-pipe. I popped the hood and considered the engine...  Then I hemmed and hawed over where would be good place to fasten a mic.  Again I had no idea really what part of an engine really made good noises.  I was alone, without even any internet access, so I could not ask for help or look anything up. I decided to be ultra-conservative and I taped the mic to the windshield-washer fluid access.  This looked good because it wasn't too close to any moving parts, and was near a seam where I could feed the cable directly out from under the hood. I was worried about getting cabling caught up in a mechanism of some sort, so this seemed like a good spot.  I popped a wind foam on the mic, secured it with some gaffer tape and then taped the mic cable with more gaffer tape up the side of the car into the passenger-side window.

The mic can be seen on the left side of the photo taped to the white plastic of the windshield-washer fluid intake.

This photo gives you an idea of the microphone's aural point of view looking at the engine. Here you can see the cabling leading from under the hood into the vehicle where the recorder was stationed.

The second channel of audio I planned to record was of the tail pipe in the rear of the Matrix.  This would make for a much easier cabling job as I could simply go right into the interior of the car through the hatchback door and straight up to the passenger seat.  I was not too worried about the mic being damaged except that I was planning to drive on a gravel road.  It would be possible for a rock to get kicked up at the mic.  Since I had no plans for these recordings I figured why put the DPAs at any risk until I was really counting on the results - so I put another Naiant X-S Miniature on the job.

I guessed that wind would be my main problem with this microphone perspective, as the mic would be out in the open as the car moved at high speeds.  To combat the wind I got a little bit DIY, covering the mic in some foam padding and then putting a chunk of fun-fur over the the foam (see my full wind protection kit blog post for more info). I was hopeful this would do the trick, so I positioned the mic just above the tailpipe and got ready to take the car out on the road.

The tailpipe mic perspective shown here covered in foam, wrapped in fun-fur and taped to the vehicle exterior.

Since I was the only person around I had to simultaneously act as the stunt driver and the location mixer on this outing.  If you have never done this, I would highly recommend it... but also warn against it.  It's awesome because it makes driving your boring car suddenly feel a lot like a video game.  With the headphones on, monitoring the exterior microphones, every time you change gears, or step on the gas  it sounds hyper-realistic, just like a great racing game.  Suddenly, driving my beat-up old car was exciting and adventurous. It was a bizarre experience.  I would say it's also more than a little dangerous because I was not 100% focused on the driving, as I was keeping tabs on levels on the recorder next to me in the passenger seat.  Luckily I was in a pretty quiet and remote area, and never came across another person on the back roads where I was doing this. I would not have attempted this otherwise.  I do not in any way endorse driving with headphones on in a populated area!  That could be a disaster waiting to happen.

So what did I learn?  The tailpipe mic sounded fantastic at lower speeds.  My foam and fun-fur trick worked marvellously against the wind until the car hit about 80km per hour. At that point some wind and tire noise started entering the recording.  I had the car all the way up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph), so the air-flow over the body of the car would have been significant.  Since the Argo can not reach any where near those speeds I am not worried about this issue for when it comes time for that recording session.  The  Naiant X-S sounded pretty great back there.  It was able to pick up the tail-pipe growl really well considering it's a fairly inexpensive mic and it was wrapped up in multiple layers of foam and cloth.  In the end I was happy with this mic perspective and plan to follow a similar mic technique when I get my chance at the Argo.  Take a listen:

The engine microphone perspective was a different story.  Turns out my safe approach to mic placement under the hood was not a great choice.  I got a lot of sound from the engine but not much definition at all.  Basically, dirty white noise.  Also, I was not nearly prepared for the amount of wind that came through the front grille of the Matrix.  At slower speeds this was not a problem but once I got the car going faster, wind became a big issue.  Here is a sample of the engine recording:

All in all I would say that my under-the-hood mic was not a success.  But I did learn a lot from the process.  Now I know I need to think about wind protection even under the hood, and that I will have to do some more testing to find a better spot to place the microphone.  

Here is a mixdown of both mics playing togther:

I also learned a lot simply going through the process.  I still have a ton to learn on vehicle recording techniques but by getting my feet wet with this little practice exercise I am a lot more confident going forward with the Argo recording session in a few weeks.

Keep checking back over the next while as I post a few other articles on research and tests I will be doing to further prepare for my first full-out vehicle record on the 6 wheeled amphibious Argo.

 

Monday
Jun112012

Recording Hummingbird Wings (with Free Download)

Hummingbirds are amazing.  They are so tiny and their little wings flutter so fast. Fun facts: hummingbirds can hover in the air without moving in any direction.  They are also the only bird that can fly backwards!  Hummingbirds pump their little wings up and down so fast that they don't even flap... they buzz - or hum, I guess. They sound like big bugs.

I'm always thinking about capturing the interesting sounds that surround me... I've been familiar with the little hummingbird my whole life; it's about time I tried to record one in action. I headed up north to a family cabin one weekend this May and made it my mission to record some hummingbirds.   Now, before you get the idea that I was about to crawl through the mosquito-infested woods with my recorder and boom pole in pursuit of a bird no bigger than a cherry tomato... there is an easier way: to attract a hummingbird all you need is a hummingbird feeder filled up with a mix of sugar and water.  I set the feeder up outside the cabin and  rigged up my Sony D-50 with gaffer tape to the same porch brace the the feeder was hanging from, hit record and left the recorder running.  Hummingbirds can be a little shy about getting too close to humans, and since I don’t have a way to trigger record on the D-50 from a distance, I had to simply let it roll for a few hours in hopes that a few hummingbirds would come to take a drink.

The D-50 Lies in wait for the hummingbird to arrive.

Maybe they didn't like the look of that fuzzy thing hanging off the beam. After 2 hours of recording the feeder I ended up with only about 30 seconds of hummingbird action, but it was a glorious 30 seconds.  Take a listen:

The next morning I decided to take another run at recording the elusive hummingbird, but with a revised plan. This time I decided to use a shotgun mic going into my Sound Devices 702.  This way I would not need to be in record for hours on end since I could run a mic cable a few meters, take a seat and manually trigger record whenever a hummingbird made a move on the feeder.  The 702 has a pre-roll of 2 seconds in record mode, and this turned out to be enough to catch them on approach, since the birds swoop in with lightning speed.  

Rode NTG3 with a wind foam and furry ready to record hummingbirds

So I spent the next 3 or 4 hours sitting in a lawn chair with my headphones on and my finger ready on the record button. Sitting quietly in a comfy chair may not sound like a heroic enterprise to you but let me tell you, it was damn near a suicide mission.  This is northern Ontario, the month is May: the absolute peak time and place for murderous bloodsucking mosquitoes and blackflies.  I was almost eaten alive while sitting and waiting for the hummingbirds to come take a sip, and those little guys made me wait and wait.

While I was quietly waiting for hummingbirds I had other forest creatures come to visit and hang out, like that chipmunk only a few inches from my head.

For all my suffering I got quite a few good recordings of the hummingbirds.  I would have gotten more if it were not for the busy boat traffic on the river nearby and the construction of a new cabin down the road a bit.  A few hummingbird fly-bys were ruined by the noisy surroundings, but luckily a lot of the recordings happened to slip in between the cutting saws and speeding boats.  Here are a few of the birds recorded on day two:


I was fairly satisfied with the recordings I was able to get, and the weekend was over so I headed home.  The following week I was off to another cabin on a lake nearly 400 km (240 miles) away from the previous weekend's destination.  I got out my gear again and set up to record some hummingbirds at this new location. Jackpot!  This place was Hummingbird Central.  In a couple of hours I had recorded more of the little birds than I had in two full days the weekend before.  The downside was that it was much windier in this second location.  This made the leaves rustling in the trees much louder and since this cabin was on a lake rather than a river I had to contend with waves rolling in on the shore as well.  These things added up to a much louder ambient noise level in the recordings.  Despite those obstacles I was able to get a lot of great hummingbird wing-flutter.  Take a listen:

One of the challenges of this undertaking was setting proper levels.  Hummingbird wings are a fairly subtle sound, so I set the gain on my recorders fairly high.  To illustrate how quiet the birds are, here is a video taken with the camera about 5 feet away from the hummingbirds.  For the first few seconds of the clip you will hear the camera mic, then the audio will switch over to the Sony D-50’s mics.  

As you can hear, the hummingbird's wings are not even registering on the camera mic just a few feet away.  Yet the Sony was able to really zone-in on the flutter amid all the ambient noise in the surrounding environment.

I will keep trying to record these amazing little birds in future trips out into the wilderness; hopefully one day I will come across perfect conditions with no wind and calm waters so I can capture a pristine recording of the hummingbird's wings.  Until then, these will be the next best thing.

If you want to add some selected free hummingbird wing sounds to your sound effects library, please go to the Downloads page on this site and pull down the Hummingbird Wings SFX pack.  While you're at it, follow me on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed on this site and catch any new fx I offer through this site. 

As a bonus, also included in the free download is this recording of an unknown insect (it was blue, and was huge!) bouncing its body off the plastic hummingbird feeder trying to get at the sugar water inside.  It sounds amazing!

Here are some more photos of the hummingbirds feeding. They don't stay still for long so getting these pictures was even trickier than getting the sounds:

Just off the right side of the feeder's dish, a hummingbird gets ready for a drink.

If you look closely at the top right corner of this picture you can spot a hummingbird approaching the feeder.


This little guy decided to take a load off and land on the feeder while it drank the sugar water.


Here is another creature that came to visit while I was waiting for the hummingbirds. It is a baby Red Squirrel. The are insanely cute but eat the wiring inside the cabin if they find a way in.

Monday
Jun042012

Bouncing Knives! Free Sound Effects Download Pack

Today I am releasing the first new Free SFX Download Pack - Bouncing Knives.  The pack features the sound of various knives being attached to a wall mounted magnetic board.  As the knives fight off the pull of the magnet they vibrate and make a fantastic twanging sound.   There is not much to say about the recording process, as this was pretty much a "point and shoot" type of recording session.  So I won't blather on in this post about how the knives were recorded.  The hardest part of the shoot was pulling out the fridge to unplug it.  I did use a great tip I saw last year in a Ric Viers video tutorial that you might be able to learn fro as well.  I always forget to go back and plug in any appliances I had to unplug to keep quiet during a recording session.  So when I unplugged the fridge I put my car keys inside.  This way when I went to leave and my keys were not in my pocket, I was immediately reminded to plug in the refrigerator.  

I have found these sounds to be extremely useful in cartoon-y animation projects.  They have a familiar Wile E. Coyote type feel to them.  I have also used these sounds on knife throw impacts to get a great effect.  I think the applications are nearly endless for these sounds.

Below is a video showing the various knives rattling on the magnetic board.  I went back later to shoot this video, the actual files available for download allow for proper ring off with each knife.

Feel free to jump over to the Free Downloads page on this site to grab your copy of these great sounds.  They are delivered at 24/96 with Soundminer embedded metadata.  All I ask in return is that you either follow me on twitter (@azimuthaudio) or subscribe to the RSS feed for this site.  This way you can be in the loop when new Free SFX download packs are released.  

Monday
May072012

Istanbul's Spice Bazaar

In October 2011, I went on a trip to Turkey and brought along some field recording gear to capture some of the sounds of the country.  I have already blogged about recordings of paramotors at The international Air Games in Ölüdeniz, as well as the Islamic call to prayer.  This post is going to be about the Spice Bazaar located in downtown Istanbul.

The "New" Mosque is on the left and the main doors to the Spice Bazaar are on the right.

Istanbul is an old city, something North American's can have a hard time wrapping our heads around since our historical landmarks pale in comparison.  The building containing the Spice Bazaar is part of the large complex of the Yeni Mosque.  This mosque is known locally by the colloquialism "The New Mosque", because there are so many much older mosques in the area.  Construction on this "new" mosque began in 1597.  1597!  That's 23 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock...... and that's the NEW mosque! 

The construction of the Spice Bazaar began in 1597 and continued until it was completed in 1664.

Bazaars are some of the main pulls for tourists in Istanbul, imagine a high end flea market housed within a 400 year old building and you start to get the idea.  The Grand Bazaar is the busiest and most famous and is impressive in its size and diversity. Yet I much preferred the Spice Bazaar.  It is much smaller, maybe one tenth as big as the Grand Bazaar, and also feels a bit less like a tourist trap.  The Grand sells everything under the sun in its massive maze of shops, while the Spice Bazaar concentrates mostly on edible delights.  My favourite part was the amazing colours of all the various foods, spices and powders for sale. 

The people working in the shops had a schtick where they would try to guess where you were from, based on your accent.  I was consistently asked if I was American, and they were always disappointed to find out they had not guessed correctly, and I was Canadian.  When one of the sellers did guess Canadian I had a weird national pride well up and I ended up purchasing some snacks from the fellow.  They were very delicious, as was everything purchased at the Bazaar.  

Another interesting ploy that is used to keep you from moving on to the next shop is free tea.  Each shop will try to get you to accept a free turkish tea, or apple tea, to drink while you look around.  Since each shop is not much bigger than a small bedroom, once you accepted a tea you were in for the full pressure sales pitch as there was no where to hide.  The tea was made somewhere in the bowels of the old building and at the push of a button, in a few moments a boy would come flying out of the hallway with a tray containing little glasses full of tea for you.  These tea boys were very entertaining to watch as they navigated the busy halls at rapid speeds balancing the hot beverages.  I was constantly expecting them to crash or slip and send scalding tea all over an unsuspecting tourist, but these kids were pros and never spilled a drop. 
This is an example of the kind of tray the tea would be carried on through the busy corridors of the Spice Bazaar.
Another thing very different than in North America is the lack of music in every shop.  I was shocked to find the Spice Bazaar had almost no music playing in any of the stalls and shops.  This made for the possibility to record a great clean ambience of the environment.  So I got out my Sony D-50, with the rycote grip and windjammer, and did some semi-stealth recording.  Although the Bazaar is under a roof, the large ancient doors are left wide open and the wind can blow softly through the long halls making a windjammer handy to have.  I got a few strange looks as I roamed around with my recorder, but for the most part no one paid me any attention at all.
Along with me for this trip was my wife, Ehrin Albright, who was diligently snapping off some fantastic pictures with her camera.  Instead of just posting an audio clip with the ambience I recorded of the Spice Bazaar, I made a slide show of her photography.  Having it play alongside my ambience recording, it will also ba a virtual tour of the Spice Bazaar.  
There are a few places in this recording where you can hear glasses rattling, that is the sound of the tea boys whizzing past with the trays full of hot tea.  Also keep an eye out for the "Turkish Viagra" which we were told was a walnut & date based, all natural erotic stimulant?!?!  
Take a look and a listen: