City Sound Effects: Listening To The City Through Microphones

Recording city SFX may be my favourite activity of all time. The challenges come with the environment itself, and it is difficult to match your pre-recording presumpti...

Posted on April 8th 2022

Recording city SFX may be my favorite activity of all time. The challenges come with the environment itself, and it is difficult to match your pre-recording presumptions with the end result. Managing and telling your artists (e.g. the pedestrians, kids in a playground) what kind of sounds you need from them is not as possible as if you were in a studio or a planned situation. Every layer in these recordings will be something that might happen, or not, out of your control.


The surprise element here may be frustrating for some cases, and you might need to arrange an isolated place and bring your artists, perhaps pick a windy/rainy/calm day for the shoot, etc. However, if you are out in the city, to listen, and see what is going to get into your recording, is entirely another experience.


It is not a controlled environment, so, what elements are going to interfere with the recording is not up to the recordist as it would be in a controlled recording space. The weather, the traffic, the human activity, each of these layers are only special to the moment they occur, and could not be performed again entirely the same.

This difficulty turns into an experience that is unique for that particular time and space. If we care to listen and pay attention to what is happening acoustically, capturing that moment becomes intriguing. During creating sound effects, there are times we need specific acoustic events and try to recreate those for recordings. And there are times, where we turn our listening experience into something that is captured and preserved through digital recreation.


While recording, listening the sound source with headphones makes our post-recording sessions easier and more reliable. Simultaneously recording and listening the streets you pass-by everyday, make the details more apparent to the ears, as if the sensitive microphones are your ears, and a whole new image is being performed.

Let’s enjoy this sonic experience with City Ambiences SFX, both as recordists, and listeners!

Saliha Turan / Sound Designer