Ambient ASF-1: first impressions

Next week I’ll be travelling to a remote location on the Outer Hebrides of Scotland to record the sounds of Julie Brook’s captivating ‘Firestacks’, above and underwater. A very exciting project in many ways, not least for the quality noise-pollution-free time I will be having but also because I get to use arguably the best underwater microphone in the market: Ambient Recording's ASF-1 a.k.a The Sound Fish.

Close up on the ASF-1 Stainless steel body (centre) and acoustic sensor with NBR membrane (right).

I received the microphone yesterday and went straight to the closest water feature to give it a test. I will say straight away that I was blown away by the quality. From feel to looks it is apparently clear this is a superior piece of kit. It ships with a default (thick) 10m long cable and I also got a 50m one as the location I'll be recording in is subject to high tides.

The Arney river from Arney bridge in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

ASF-1 (left) and JrF D-Series (right) going for a dip.

To a Field Recordist, the opportunity of hearing something you’ve never heard before or just hearing it like never before, is the ultimate reward. The ASF-1, with its low noise and wide frequency response, enables just that. My experience with underwater recording so far always left me with a feeling that something was missing. Frequencies mainly but also the sensation that water was an adverse and somehow inaccessible medium for sound. This hydrophone completely removes all those barriers. It gives, allow  me the pun, a fully immersive experience. Here's a few downloadable samples:

To sum up, in case it wasn’t clear enough: I’m completely sold. And if I had the money I’d get it straight away, times two. The total cost including underwater accessories would circle around £1500 per mic, so for the moment we’ll stick to renting it from these lovely people

PS - a short comparison A/B file with the JrF D-Series Hydrophones can be downloaded here - I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Locke (2014) - A Film Review

Has anyone seen the movie Locke yet? My friend Isabel recommended it to me whilst I was in Spain recently, and it is a real cracker...

I am by no means a movie-snob. I love a big Hollywood blockbuster as much as art house cinema, and I am sure there is room to appreciate the whole spectrum of film making. But every now and then I feel completely nourished by a piece of cinematography, in a way that can only be achieved through subtlety. Steven Knight's Locke is simple and brilliantly executed. It has delicate touches of sound that really build an impressive atmosphere. There is so little visual movement in the film, that all your other senses as part of an audience come in to play; of course sound, but I also wondered if I was seeing things at one point. With some fantastic writing, also by Knight, this is really one to watch if you get the chance.

Engineer Ivan Locke has just received some life-changing news. You aren't sure what until a quarter of a way through the film, but you know the journey he is about to make in his car is going to be wrought with difficulty. On the surface, the entire film is about that journey, and set pretty much in real time you can feel the palpable pace as he drives from one end of England to the other. On a deeper level, we are witnessing one man's battle to redefine the precedent his father set, of being absent and unreliable, in the most difficult of circumstances.

The score is minimal, leaving a massive space for sound, mainly dialogue, to provide most of the tapestry. There are some great moments of low humming, passing cars- which you aren't sure are the beginning note of a sinister soundtrack, or if it really is the noise of another vehicle and you've just fallen deep into the tension of this man's situation. 

As a whole, it is the simplicity of the film which is champion. Tom Hardy is absolutely convincing. As are most of the off-screen actors; with just the faintest whiff of drama-school monologue. But the lead certainly grounds the film enough for you to be swept into his world. The restraint Hardy displays, in contrast with the brutal roles he is better known for playing, is impressive to say the least. Knight's subject of morality at odds with practical solution is explored entirely; as we journey through romantic, professional and paternal relationships via a very likeable character.

I really enjoyed watching this, I think from script to grading it is stellar. Did anyone else see it yet? Would love to know what you thought.

And if you've already seen and liked it, here's a couple of others you might enjoy...