Recording Military Tanks

Here at Sound Ideas, you never know what is going to happen next in relation to our recording sessions. From the more mundane sessions like the sound of gift paper being unwrapped, to the more extreme sessions of recording explosions. Once you have worked here for a while, you learn to expect the unexpected.

Chieftain Tank

When we found out that there is a place in Minnesota, USA where you can drive real historical tanks, we knew that we had to be there. Four of our sound engineers packed their gear and hit the road. The 15 hour drive seemed to go on forever, the anticipation of arriving and seeing the tanks in action always sitting at the back of our minds.

Arriving at the DriveATank headquarters, the first course of action was to find out which tanks we would be recording. The plan was to record the FV433 Abbot and the FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier on the first day, and then the M4 Sherman E8, Russian T-54, Chieftain FV4201 and the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV – commonly known as the Humvee) on the second day.

Soviet T-54
Soviet T-54

The first day went extremely well, we worked out a good process for capturing what we needed. We drew straws for who would get to be inside the tanks for the day, and our sound engineer James was the lucky winner. The rest of the team either set up on the tanks themselves or walked beside them. We were able to get amazing recordings of the tanks going through all sorts of terrain, from large puddles of water, to dry dirt and gravel paths and everything in between. With the day declared a success, we pulled James out of the last tank of the day, and headed back to our hotel to rest up for the next day.

On day two, we decided to get the majority of the Foley recording done. Every button, switch, hatch and moving part was utilized. We didn’t want to miss anything, which means we spent a large portion of the day on this. By the time we felt we had accomplished what we wanted, it was getting late. Instead of rushing to get the remaining recordings done, it was decided instead to stay an extra day so we could do things properly.

With our planned two day trip now turned into a three day trip, we were more determined and excited than ever to record what we felt was going to be the coolest part of this adventure, the Chieftain FC4201 running over a car. The start of the third day had us recording the Sherman, Humvee and T-54 which all went smoothly with some fantastic takes. Then the end of the day rolled around, and it was time to crush a car under the 60 ton force of the Chieftain. We had the full team on deck for this recording. James once again got the task of riding inside the tank, and the rest of the team set up outside to capture the sounds from various locations around the tank. The whole spectacle was thrilling to watch! James later told us that he had barely felt the car as the tank had rolled over it, proving what an effective weapon these tanks could be during war times.

This was definitely an unforgettable couple of days in the ‘office’ for the Sound Ideas sound engineering team and will be a hard one to top!

Visit Military Tanks to hear our sound effects from this day!

Written by: Erin Dunt (@ErinAmber_D)

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