Recording the 1990 Toyota Land Cruiser

Last year I spent 2 weeks in the South African savanna attending the annual Sonic Mmabolela workshop (as mentioned in previous blog posts). I was pleasantly surprised to find fellow sound recordist and game audio-er Daan Hendriks among the 8 workshop attendees. We got along quite well over the two weeks and decided to work on a few libraries together.

While we were there we mainly recorded the local ambience and wildlife (more on this soon), but on one hot afternoon we managed to organize a vehicle recording session with one of the 4X4s that were used for game drives on the reserve. This was a 4-liter petrol Toyota Land Cruiser built in 1990 that still drove well, although it had seen better days as seen in the photos.

Wiring up the car took less than half an hour. Our job was made much easier by the fact that the Land Cruiser had no roof, doors or windshield to speak of, so we only had to find good places for the mics and then attach them to the car's body. We had 4 DPA 4060s, 2 Sennheiser Double MS rigs and a few other mics between us, but in the interest of keeping it short we decided to only use the DPAs.

I took care of attaching my 2 4060s to the engine compartment. I decided on two places on opposite sides of the engine block so that they wouldn't sound too similar to one another. Since this was a pretty old car there was ample space to attach microphones and a lot of bits I could tape these to.

That said, I had to avoid taping the mics or cables to any part that moved or got hot while driving. This was easier said than done under the scorching African sun that made everything in the engine compartment seem hot to the touch. In the end however, wiring up the engine of the Land Cruiser proved to be much easier overall than doing it on my Skoda Yeti for example.

Daan attached his two mics to the underside of the rear end of the car. He put one of them really close to the exhaust and the other one as close as possible to one of the tires. We made sure the exhaust wasn't blowing directly into the mic and that no moving parts would extend or otherwise move the cables.

Once both mics were in place we secured them to the car's body with plenty of electrician's tape. This took a significant amount of tape to accomplish but in the end all the cables were perfectly taut and none flapped in the wind. We then took our places and monitored everything while William took us on a game drive around the reserve. We even spotted a few Giraffes munching on leaves on the side of the road!

With regards to recorders, we used my Sound Devices 633 and Daan's Zoom F8. I was expecting the 4060s to be quite hot in terms of dynamic range but to our surprise the levels were never too bad. As you can hear in the demo the recordings are nice and clean with no discernible clipping:

You can check each discrete channel in the teaser video I put together for the library: