A multi-disciplinary journey in music, sound, and field recording.

Rattling Window Pane

Posted: April 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, sound design

While this isn't the rig used for today's recording, this window's cruddy construction and age yielded some interesting sounds!

At work one day, I noticed that a large truck on the street was causing one of our single-pan glass windows to rattle. I whipped out my Sony PCM-D50 and captured some of it – that’s today’s sound you can hear below.

The audio quality of this clip isn’t great (lots of bleed from outside noises, but hey, it’s a cruddy old window – and that’s why it was rattling like that!), but it brought to mind an interesting idea: Windows rattling in their casements are pretty strange sounding, and it is a sound I’ve not heard used in films (or if it has been, it’s rare and I don’t recall consciously hearing it before). It struck me as an interesting idea for future sound design in buildings under stress, or just for creepy interiors. I did a lot of shaking of the window manually, but nothing quite captured the high-speed rattle of this original recording, so I hung onto it for a reference.

It’s a craptastic recording, though. But it just goes to show you that sometimes pressing the “Record” button might not give you the cleanest sound, but can still capture a reference sound that you can try to emulate, re-use in different ways, or to suggest whole new concepts that you might not have considered before. In this case, it made me realize what parts of buildings might have deteriorated when they get to be a certain age, which can help to inform the design of such ambiences or effects in the future.

[Sony PCM-D50 recorder, 90° capsule spread]


4 Comments on “Rattling Window Pane”

  1. 1 tim said at 10:56 pm on April 21st, 2011:

    I’ve used similar sounds in a couple of films, but I generated my own controllable window rattles ( and wood, metal rattles etc) by lieing my subwoofer on its back & laying the things to vibrated on top of it. I then used an SH101 to make sub bass tones and by pending the pitch could find resonance in pretty much anything…. I re-recorded the clean sub bass & the rattles to split tracks and could then cut & sync/place them…

    Weirdly I tried the same process with my Trace Elliot bass amp & 15″ bin and it wasnt as successful, guess the sub from my JBL LSR speakers is way more accurate & created a purer resonance…

    I’ll dig some of the files out & post them

  2. 2 Nathan said at 8:13 am on April 22nd, 2011:

    Tim, thanks for sharing the technique you mentioned – super cool. I wish subwoofers were more portable. :-) I think everyone would be interested in hearing the results, if you do wind up digging out those files. Cheers!

  3. 3 Ryan said at 6:09 pm on April 22nd, 2011:

    Hey look at that! Nathan came back and posted an entry on his blog a day after my birthday! Thanks for sharing the sound – sounds awesome. I’m pretty sure it would sound awesome in any context in a horror film – wonder how it would sound reverbed and placed down a dark hallway in a film such as House on Haunted Hill, The Cell, etc.

  4. 4 tim said at 9:02 pm on April 22nd, 2011:

    Here you go


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