January 24th, 2005


Blop, blop, pschit, plouf!

I spent a sunny Sunday walking around Hakodate recording sound with a couple of students. They had a video camera and were mostly videoing me. I had my little Fuji F601 digicam and was recording the buzz of generators in the market, the bubble of crab tanks, the rattle of toy trains at Hakodate station, the ghostly swoosh of cars passing on the elevated highway, the spongey slop of water at the docks.

The sound on my students' video camera was 44.1kHz stereo, whereas the sound on my little Fuji is 8-bit mono. So a rather absurd situation unfolded; the students documented, in gorgeous hi-fi, me recording sounds in crappy lo-fi. My recordings will be full of wind noise and scuzzy digital artifacts, theirs will be as beautiful and nuanced as these two fabulous recordings on Arte Radio, which you absolutely must listen to right away:

1. Geyser ("Blop, blop, pschit, plouf" -- the sound of a geyser in Iceland).

2. Appels de Tanger (a city, Tangier, Morocco, in full cry).

Hopefully I'll soon be making recordings as lovely and faithful as these. I've just ordered a new camera, a Sony Cybershot M1. It'll be delivered from Tokyo in a couple of days.

The Cybershot M1 is a very new camera, just released last month. It's a hybrid of a video camera and a still camera. There are stereo microphones and, thanks to MPEG4 compression and Sony's Pro Duo memory card, you can store almost an hour's worth of 30 fps video with stereo sound. I'm hoping the sound is in 44.1kHz format -- digicam makers never, ever seem to tell you their cameras' sound sampling rates, even in the technical small print. The lens is a bit slow, but the camera is sure to be an improvement on my ailing Fuji, which currently only takes photos if I give it a good slap. Don't tell me I've made the wrong choice please; I've already paid $564.44 of my Future University lecture fees towards the gadget. (That's considerably cheaper than the US price, and word is that the camera won't be released in Europe at all.)