In my back yard there is a giant mulberry tree that grows at an astonishing rate. It's crown had grown so dense with branches by mid-summer that the yard no longer received any sunlight at all and not a blade of grass could grow. Our neighbors started complaining that the tree was doing the same to their yards as well. Something had to be done. I decided I would take on the task of trimming the branches back and headed out to the yard with an extendable tree pruner. After about a half-hour of pruning away I had a pile of branches about 5 feet high and six feet wide. There was no way the city would take this much yard waste away, and worse, all my effort had not brought a single new ray of sunlight into the yard. I was thoroughly outmatched by this tree. I was going to have to call in professionals. The upside of bringing the pros was that I was going to be free to record lots of chainsaws, wood breaks and other unusual sounds. Bring it on.
On the morning the tree crew was to arrive I got all my gear ready. I had my shotgun in its windshield on the end of the boom pole and my recorder slung over my shoulder ready to go. When the crew arrived I asked them if I could record the work they were going to do and they basically laughed at me. They pointed out that standing under a tree as they cut giant limbs off of it is not the safest place to be. I was willing to admit they might be right. I went to plan "B".
As it happens, I had just received my new DPA 4060 matched stereo set in the mail, so I decided this would be a good chance to give them a test run. I set them up on the second floor balcony facing into the yard and towards the tree that was about to get trimmed.
If you look closely you can see the two cables going up to the rail. The microphone on the right is easier to see.
Then the project got under way and there was chainsaw madness. Lots of great revs and sustained wood chewing bursts, and the DPAs captured it all really well. In fact they sound fantastic!! Luckily there was no wind that day because I have not yet figured out a good wind protection scheme for the tiny mics.
My one disappointment was that I got very few wood breaking or falling sounds. The sound of the chainsaw motor pretty much over-powered any of the snapping and crunching sounds I was hoping for, and all the big limbs were tied up with rope before they were cut and then lowered carefully. So there were no big impacts of wood crashing to the ground to be captured . These guys were real pros and knew what they were doing. The main guy up in the tree seemed utterly un-phased by the constant balancing act he was doing while climbing around up there with a running chainsaw.
Here you can see them lowering a limb with rope after it had been cut free of the tree.
This guy got really high up there with his chainsaw hanging under him tied to his waist.
With the tree taken care of, their next step was to clear all the limbs out of the yard and bring them out front to the huge wood chipper parked on the street. The Chipper is one bad ass piece of machinery. It grinds the wood into mulch in milliseconds. It is also extremely loud. I could not get any closer then about 7 feet without overloading the SD702 recorder. All the guys pushing the branches into the chipper were wearing ear plugs, and I probably should have been as well. The whole time I was recording this giant mechanism of destruction I could not stop thinking about a certain scene from the film Fargo.
At one point a rope slipped a bit and a medium sized branch took a free-fall after it was cut. You can hear it smack into my deck at the end of this clip:
I am still really impressed by the clarity of the DPA 4060's. They are so tiny and yet capture sounds seemingly without losing any of the vast dynamics. For such small mics they manage to capture big sounds very well. I will be posting more on these microphones in the coming weeks as I use them more and get to know them better.
Finally here is a clip of the Wood Chipper doing its thing. I used a Rode NTG3 to record the chipper; not sure it was the best choice in retrospect as I don't think you can really feel the how terrifying this sound is live. I had to put an EQ on the chipper to cut out some low end, as it had a real big bass-y hum to it.