Certain recording sessions go smoother than others, but in our experience we have found that any session that has animals involved is always going to be a challenge. Over the years, Sound Ideas has done quite a few sessions with animals, so drawing on our hands on experience; we have put together some tips that may help you!
First tip: Give yourself a generous amount of time.
You are a foreign entity to the animals, so they are going to react to you as soon as you get anywhere near them. The most common reaction is them being afraid or uncomfortable with your presence, and going silent. It may be a long wait for them to adjust to you being there, and getting back to their normal behavior. When they do get used to you though, be ready because moments of sound happen very quickly and usually with no warning.
Second tip: Consider your location very carefully.
We recently had “Hands on Exotics” come to our recording studio with their animals, and we set up in the recording room to make sure we would get the cleanest sounds. One issue with this is that the recording room has been acoustically treated, which in any other session is great but for a lot of animals who have very sensitive hearing; this can throw them off completely. It is such an unnatural space for them, so they are more likely to be uncomfortable and it will take them a lot more time to adjust.
The other most common locations to record animals is either at a zoo/sanctuary/farm or in the wild and both of these locations come with their own challenges as well. On the sanctuary/farm one of the main considerations is that you are going to get a lot of background noise. If you are going into the wild to record, well….really all we can say is you have to hope that you have luck on your side. The wild is such an uncontrollable environment, so you will have to contend with a lot from background noise, to not being able to get close enough to an animal to even get any recording done. We wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but it will be extremely difficult.
Third tip: Your microphone is a toy.
You want to capture that low purr that lynx is making? The only way to do that is to get the mic close to her throat. As soon as she sees that mic coming closer, she thinks you are giving her a toy, so be prepared to have her reach out to hit it with her giant paws! Most animals seem to think the mic is a toy so they hit it, think it is annoying so they hit it, or think maybe its food so they try to chew on it. This will definitely be a test of your microphones quality, or a test to see if your reflexes are better than an animals (be careful of quick movements around some animals however). Just keep in mind that mics can also seem very intimidating to some animals as well. When we were recording a pair of Amazon Parrots, the mic made them noticeably uncomfortable. If you start noticing this, take a couple steps back and let the animals adjust.
All in all, recording animals is tough and you don’t always walk away with the sound you were hoping to get. It is all about being patient, and respecting the animals. In case you would like to just skip over all these difficulties or you are missing sounds that you need, we have been recording animals for years so we are sure to have what you need. We have listed our top 3 animal sound effect collections below for you.
Top 3 Animal Sound Effects Collections